Luxury Travel on a Shoestring Budget – Money Saving Travel Tips

Love to travel but don’t have the thousands of dollars to do it?

You can get luxury travel on a shoestring budget by planning your vacation or trip just a bit more carefully.
Read a few of these tips, and then go on your well-deserved getaway without burning a hole in your pocket.

Always remember: When planning your trip, timing is key.

For example, school vacation weeks are the worst times to plan trips. Most parents have no choice but to travel at these high-peak seasons, so school vacation periods in any country are always going to be crowded. The airfare is always sky high – no pun intended.

If you’ve traveled during these peak seasons, you may noticed that coach seats during a school vacation week could cost you more money than a first class ticket during the off-season. So remember, unless you MUST travel during these peak periods, avoid winter and spring breaks at all costs.

Here’s another important tip: Regardless of how you decide to book your luxury travel arrangements – either through a travel agent or through an online travel website – make sure that you know exactly who you are working with. For example, your best bet to save on a hotel and car rental package is probably going to be with Priceline.com’s “name your own price” option. However, Priceline.com is not the best choice for international airline travel. You’d be better off with an agent. Either way you go, try to use the same travel agent or service. This makes sure that you build a solid relationship with the company you’re dealing with. If you are loyal to them, they will be loyal to you. Always remember, they want your business.

Think about how frequent flier programs work: if you choose their airline consistently, they’ll reward you by giving you a free flight. Granted, you’ll need to do a lot of flying if you’re just going to earn points sitting on a plane, but with a little research, you’ll find ways to make loyalty programs work in your favor. When booking online or with an agent, make sure you always ask questions. You will never get anywhere from being silent.

If for some reason the company you’re working with makes an error, be sure to take advantage of it. Most companies want to keep up a high level of customer satisfaction, and they rely on their guests to provide them with information on how to achieve that. See if they could possibly upgrade an aspect of your trip. Your coach tickets could turn into first class, or maybe your suite could turn into a deluxe version. Don’t be scared to ask for upgrades. If they say no, then you’re no worse off than before. Your criticism will ensure that yourself (and other travelers) will have a satisfactory luxury vacation.

When you’re looking your vacation online, you should search travel review sites for agents or an agencies who have shown they willing to work with unhappy customers, an have proven that they excel at customer service. Many times, customer service representatives get aggravated with customers who complain, or the service reps are based in a foreign country and can only read from a script. And you probably already know that scripts don’t cover every possible customer service issue that a traveler may encounter.

You’ll find just about any travel service rated on a review site somewhere. Just keep in mind that people like to complain about bad experiences, so you’ll find many more complaints than good reviews for even the most well-known travel services. So take the complaints with a grain of salt. Look for the most commonly re-occurring complaints (like bad customer service). Most bad experiences are not usually the fault of the service. Rather the experience occurred because of the traveler’s misunderstanding of the travel site policies.

* * * Read your travel site’s terms and conditions BEFORE you book reservations * * *

You want to consider all aspects of your deal; not just the price tag. Quality wins over quantity in some cases. You find a rate online offering a room at $20.00 a night. It may sound appealing, right? Maybe you’re taking your family to Disney World and you figured you just need someplace to rest your head at night. But when you check-in, that’s when you discover the bathroom is shared with everyone on the floor, there’s police tape strung across the the door to the room next to yours, and you see prostitutes wandering in the parking lot. Maybe this deal WAS too good to be true.

Do your research. There’s plenty of information available to educate yourself on discounted travel mastery. Most of it is available for free; some of it you may have to pay for if you don’t want to do the research. Go to travel websites and forums specific to the type of trip you’re planning to take: Cruise, adventure tour, etc. If you are itching to take a trip that you don’t want to pay full price for, and you opt to pay for money-saving travel information online, I’d recommend that you only consider offers that give you a 100% money-back guarantee. If you don’t get great money-saving travel tips, at least you can get your money back.

Sales Principles & The Mental Health Profession – Strategies That Lead To Success In The Marketplace

CHALLENGES FOR THE PROFESSION

Mental Health issues make their way across the newswire at an alarming rate. We hear about teenage suicide, random acts of violence, an increase in depression and anxiety across all ages, substance abuse, complex trauma at home and abroad. Even more alarming are societal maladies that are rarely discussed. Children forever lost in chaotic homes where violence and sexual abuse is pervasive with national and local systems ill equipped to effectively address these tragedies. Such is the world a mental health professional finds herself/himself thrust into as part of a calling to serve and help those suffering psychological and emotional pain.

A mental health career is a noble and courageous endeavor, which can come at a significant price. We see state governments use mental health services as a scapegoat for poor financial management and planning, choosing to balance their Medicaid books at the expense of community based mental health programs. As a result, mental health practitioners are asked to serve effectively with few resources, little pay and even fewer options to grow professionally.

Mental health services in the private sector are equally challenging. Insurance companies devalue these services as evidenced by limited reimbursement rates, few behavioral healthcare plans for employees, and the implementation of complex and convoluted systems that test the most patient and saint-worthy of practitioners.

In spite of all these challenges in the mental health marketplace, there are specific business strategies and approaches practitioners can adopt in an effort to overcome these obstacles and ultimately triumph in the profession. In this article I discuss many of the key strategies and will expound on them in greater detail in future publications. The understanding and use of best-in-class sales and marketing principles will serve to complement an already rich skill set that will help mental health professionals succeed in ways they may not have imagined possible!

SECRETS OF SUCCESS & THE SALES STIGMA

The business world is changing at an incredibly fast pace and many of these changes have a profound impact on the way people do business. Most of us in the mental health field, however, remain blissfully ignorant and unaware of these subtle but powerful events. Those lucky few who become aware of some of these changes (e.g., technological advances that decentralize and empower people at all levels; new concepts in sales & marketing that enable you to grow your business at hyper-speed using a sophisticated multimedia approach) are presented with a window of opportunity that can lead to tremendous growth and independence. Opportunities abound for those who are open to some of these new ideas and willing to integrate new concepts into their mental health service model. The key lies in how highly skilled mental health professionals approach the marketplace and what tools they choose to use in order to succeed in a competitive environment. As a licensed clinician and mental health consultant for over 15 years I have seen many success stories that were the direct result of the effective use of the key principles I discuss in this article.

A key area most mental health professionals are sorely lacking and unaware is in understanding, utilizing and integrating sophisticated sales skills within their practice! Did you say sales skills?! Yes, indeed I did. Clinicians receive heavy doses of clinical training in graduate schools and continuing education programs. However, very little is offered in terms of how to succeed in the profession from both a financial and career development perspective. There are business seminars focusing on billing practices, business systems, and various administrative tasks but few if any discuss the power and importance of sales skills in our profession. This area is often so untapped that adopting even some of the more basic principles will immediately distinguish you in the profession and give you an extreme economic advantage in the mental health marketplace.

At first glance the idea of adopting sales principles conjures up images of self-serving, manipulative tactics and ploys. As a result, a sales approach is often the furthest from the mind of a mental health professional. However, this position is misguided and comes from a limited understanding of sales theory and practice in general. First and foremost, selling and the sales process is a critical element in all areas of commerce. No business takes place without a sales transaction of some sort or another. Mental Health services are not utilized unless a sale is made and someone chooses to use a specific service, you are not hired into a clinical position unless you effectively sell yourself to the hiring manager, a private practice does not last long without consistent sales for services, and funding for community programs is not awarded unless a government entity is sold on the need and importance of those services. As a result, our first step here is to acknowledge and accept that sales are a critical part of the process in the mental health business.

Once we come to recognize this fact we must also dispel the myth about sales being a sleazy and unethical profession that utilizes manipulative and self-serving tactics at the expense of others. Like any profession, there are theoretical frameworks and people within the business who would no doubt support these negative stereotypes. However, when we take a closer look at the sales profession we find that it can also be a highly sophisticated, philosophical and value driven profession that is perfectly suited for the helping professions.

UNRAVELING THE SALES SKILL MYSTERY: ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES TO HELP YOU STAND OUT

Having taken a closer look at the importance and scope of sales our next logical step is to explore sales theory and application in greater detail. I have grouped various sales skills/approaches into 4 Core Principles in an effort to help clarify and organize these concepts in a way that makes sense. I must also emphasize that adopting these principles will quickly position you ahead of your competitors! They are extremely powerful principles in that they all contribute to a fundamental shift essential to success in business. What is this shift? The shift I am referring to is a movement away from participating in the selling process to becoming an important/critical part of the buying process. Lead sales experts such as Dale Carnegie, Frank Rumbauskas, and Jeffery Gitomer all emphasize the importance of this paradigm shift in order to achieve high levels of success.

So what does it mean when you talk about moving from the selling process to the buying process? Simply put, your current efforts to sell your services can be a difficult and unrewarding process. At its core it is a process whereby you are not in a position of strength, where you tend to focus on your own interests and where you must seek out others and convince others to use your services. Now what would life be like as a mental health practitioner if people recognized you as an authority in the field or as someone who adds tremendous value and can help them with their needs? When a change occurs where you are viewed as a valuable resource and partner people begin to seek you out without any soliciting on your part. Business comes to you and you find yourself in what sales professionals refer to as being a key part of the buying process. The best thing about this approach is that its foundation is based on integrity, honoring your unique attributes, bringing value and helping others – all hallmarks of the mental health profession.

Let me offer an example to clarify my point. Let’s say you are a mental health clinician who has been in the field many years, you have an expertise in family/child issues and you decide to offer a group on parenting skills. You attend networking events but find that everyone at those events is pitching their own service and not seeking services to buy. Attendees shower you with praise and tout your service as “much needed” and “long overdue”, however, you generate little to no business from those events. You advertise your group to doctors offices and through basic networking channels such as local counseling chapters and school systems. Still no one comes.

The issue here is not necessarily missing the mark in terms of community needs nor is it an issue of skill and competence. People are not coming to you because you have not tapped into the buying process. In the buying scenario, you have built a level of credibility in the community and positioned yourself in such a way that they must go through you in order to access these specific mental health services. Your sales approach and philosophy prompts those in the community to recognize you, talk about you and value you as an important resource. In addition, you create communication channels/systems and remove barriers/obstacles that encourage and allow others to take the next step toward utilizing your services. If you can create this shift your ability to grow as a practitioner multiplies exponentially and with half of the effort! The principles outlined here all contribute to making that change.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these principles.

Principle 1: Be Solution/Customer Focused

Many people in all areas of business mistakenly take an approach where they sell their services versus selling solutions. A distinguishing factor for most people who are successful in their industry is that they are customer focused, meaning they sell the way the customer wants to buy. They focus solely on the needs, problems, wants of the customer and work to find solutions that will help that customer. This concept sounds basic and simple, however, it takes dedication and a high level of skill to be customer focused in the way I am referring to here. Below are some key factors associated with this approach.

  • Sell the way customers want to buy. (Take time to understand customer needs, concerns, problems and wants. Show them you understand them and offer solutions even if it means referring them to someone else who can help.)
  • Give Value! (Use an altruistic approach. Deliver something to potential customers without any expectation of something in return.)
  • Recognize the only way you get others to do something is if you give them what they want. (Manipulative tactics and high-pressure sales tactics do not work. Be persuasive not manipulative and know the difference!)
  • Go above and beyond and be remembered! (Over-deliver on services, give of yourself to the community in unique ways, follow-through in ways that highly impress.)
  • Create a buying atmosphere. (Study customer needs, business systems and their unique market. Provide solutions and remove barriers/obstacles that gives them permission to buy.)
  • The Power of Presence: Listen First, Talk Last and Ask Excellent Questions! (It is the rare individual who truly focuses on the customer in the here and now. Use your clinical skills to understand the needs of the customer.)

Principle 2: Build Credibility & Legitimacy

Do you want to attract high quality referrals for your business? Develop a plan that will position you as an expert in targeted areas within your profession.

  • Become an expert in something. And share that knowledge for free!
  • Understand and study social dynamics and the psychology of power. (Know its role in the sales process and in your profession. Use this knowledge to be in a position of strength with regards to the buying process.)
  • Build credibility and attract what you view as “high-quality referrals” by giving yourself to the community. (e.g., free advice, free services, helpful hints/tips.)
  • Become Published. (Opportunities abound to become published – See Mark Joyner’s e-book “Rise of the Author.” There is tremendous power in being published.)
  • Study the art of presenting and find opportunities to present. (This is perhaps the best value proposition for you as a mental health professional! It builds credibility and creates powerful networks.)

Principle 3: Think Long-Term

Too often we focus on short-term immediate business needs and neglect longer lasting more powerful methods that lead to much greater growth. Focus on relationships and you will create solid sales processes and networks that will enable you to reach much higher levels of success.

  • Stop focusing on the short term and work to build lasting relationships that will lead to referrals and other opportunities.(Sales expert, Jeffrey Gitomer, in his great sales book, The Little Red Book of Selling, says it this way, “Think End of Time not end of Month.”)
  • Focus on others first.(Help colleagues, community members and prospective clients without expectation of something in return.)
  • Always be a resource! (Offer assistance and solutions even if it has nothing to do with your area of expertise. Leverage the expertise of others and share the wealth! Helping professional colleagues will also lead to your long-term success.)
  • Let go of the need/want to benefit yourself and act with the intent of helping others. (In today’s self-serving world it is the rare individual who functions in this manner. And yet, it is a distinguishing factor in a competitive marketplace.)
  • Long-term strategies are equally effective in one’s career development as they are in business development.(Strategies such as informational interviewing and volunteering often lead to significantly better career and advancement opportunities.)

Principle 4: Use Intelligent and Technically Advanced Marketing Systems

Top sales performers in all businesses create effective systems that free up their time for more value driven activities and help create communication and buying vehicles that produce a powerful buying environment for the customer.

  • Leverage technology to market yourself and to create a buying atmosphere.(e.g., website development, public relations & media opportunities such as e-articles, e-books, audio programs, video snapshots.)
  • Automate business activities that are non-essential to your core growth opportunities. (Use technology to automate key activities and identify personnel that can help you work more efficiently.)
  • Build communities that allow for sharing of ideas and networking opportunities. (e.g.,online forums, lunch & learns, supervision meetings.)
  • Understand marketing principles that will effectively brand you.(Social marketing and Viral Marketing are two powerful concepts that leverage the incredible growth in technology. Learn these and others to increase your growth as a successful mental health practitioner and businessperson!)
  • Know the sales cycle for your profession and be persistent with your value messages. (Market Research tells us it typically takes 6-10 exposures to your message before a buying decision is made. Create vehicles that give you a high level of visibility.)

IN CLOSING

The material presented here is merely an introduction to the powerful concepts of selling and how they can be effectively utilized and integrated within a mental health practice. Each of the areas outlined above contain a tremendous amount of depth and richness that require further discussion and clarification in order to gain the full benefits. In the coming months I will look at each principle in greater detail in an effort to clarify concepts, introduce new tools and offer excellent resources from some of the experts in the world of sales and marketing.

Positive Financial Habits Will Get You an Auto Loan Even With a Poor Credit Score

Do you have a Poor Credit Score?

Reasons such as the innocence of youth, a few late payments on bills, loss of employment or a maxed-out credit card can lead a good person to a poor credit score. It doesn’t mean you cannot buy a new car. But, it means that you need to put in extra effort from your end to avail an auto loan with a poor credit score.

Lenders give a Hard Time to Borrowers with a Poor Credit Score

Poor credit borrowers suffer because the lenders charge a high rate of interest and offer larger monthly payments in order to balance the risk. If your credit score is not good, the lender may deny you the auto loan.

Developing Positive Financial Habits can be liberating

When you have a poor credit score, getting approval on an auto loan can be a real problem. So it is important to be prepared. It is wise to educate yourself and do your homework. By educating yourself, you will improve your score and also develop positive financial habits.

Here the question arises: ‘Can you still buy a car?’ The answer is ‘YES’. When you convert your negative habits into positive ones, it is easy to improve your score and thereby increase the chances of getting easy approval on an auto loan.

Take Control of your Negative Habits. Take Control of Your Credit Score

· Late payments have a negative effect on your credit score. Set up an automatic payment option to ascertain timely payments.

· An auto loan is secured with collateral. It means the lender can repossess your car if you miss the payments.

· When you spend more money than you earn, it will affect your credit report. If you continue the practice, you will be bankrupt in the near future.

Positive Financial Habits can get you Easy Approval on An Auto Loan

· By using an auto loan calculator, estimate the monthly payments beforehand. It is important to figure out how much you can pay for a car.

· Don’t assume that you have a poor credit score. Obtain your credit report and check the score.

· Set a budget first. A budget should lead the planning of car buying process, especially when it involves high monthly payments.

· Don’t go alone. It is better to take your friend along with you. It will help you in understanding the critical loan terms easily.

· Shop for a shorter loan term. Don’t get distracted by promises of smaller monthly payments spread over a longer period of time because it will definitely harm your financial situation.

· Stick to your price range. When you have already made your budget, paying a little extra may cost you a lot in the end.

· Educate yourself. You should read all the loan terms before signing the dotted line. Ask questions, if needed.

· Always keep a copy of your loan contract with you. It should contain all the signatures and the details regarding the loan.

· Try to negotiate. As you have bad credit, you won’t be able to negotiate the terms of the auto loan, but you can always negotiate the purchase price of the car.

· Develop positive financial habits. You can do so by making regular payments towards the auto loan.

A poor credit score doesn’t mean that the lender will deprive you of an auto loan. It is possible to get an auto loan with such score when you develop positive financial habits. Remember your positive financial habits can help you build your credit score if you pay the full amount on time, every time.