Rick Elmore of Simply Noted: “Understand boundaries and do not stop following up”

Understand boundaries and do not stop following up. I have heard of salespeople who will call and call and call until they get someone on the phone. This can come off as pushy and irritating to a potential client. Have situational awareness, understand why they are not getting back to you, also be self-aware enough […]

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Understand boundaries and do not stop following up. I have heard of salespeople who will call and call and call until they get someone on the phone. This can come off as pushy and irritating to a potential client. Have situational awareness, understand why they are not getting back to you, also be self-aware enough to understand when you are crossing a line. I believe in being professionally persistent and will follow up with clients until they flat out say do not call again.

As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Elmore. Rick is an entrepreneur, sales and marketing expert, and former college and professional football player. As Founder and CEO of Simply Noted, Rick developed a proprietary technology that puts real pen and ink to paper to scale handwritten communication, helping businesses of all industries stand out from their competition and build meaningful relationships with clients, customers, and employees. Founded in 2018, Simply Noted has grown into a thriving company with clients of various sizes across the country including in hospitality, real estate, insurance, nonprofit, franchise, B2B, and others.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

Following my professional football career, I translated my competitive drive to medical technology sales, where I received multiple honors and rankings for top-level performance. It was during this time that I discovered the power of a handwritten letter, a tactic I successfully utilized to create and build relationships with leads and customers. Later on, while listening to a lecture in Business School while studying for my MBA, a professor was talking about success in marketing, and everything was nominal. Then the professor said handwritten notes had a 99% open rate. I had an “aha” moment at that time and began to think about how I could help those in business better utilize this marketing strategy to build relationships and find greater success. After developing the right technology, I launched Simply Noted as an automated and scalable handwritten notes service. I knew that things were going in the right direction with my first time sending out 100s of marketing letters, when I received a 18,566.7% ROI.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Everyday something new surprises me, that is the life of an entrepreneur. That being said, I can’t just pick one thing. The one lesson I have learned and wish every entrepreneur learns and accepts early is that you are not in control no matter how hard you try. My worst months I worked the hardest I have ever worked, and some months things work out better than expected with less effort, and you do not understand why. Learn to love that, it will challenge you but do not let it break you. Overcome it and grow, as every day is a new challenge and you have to have the stamina, endurance and grit to stay the course no matter what.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m currently working on launching our Salesforce and HubSpot integrations to improve our services. We are also getting ready to launch a revamped design of our website with some new native features. We will have new Birthday and Anniversary automation tools. We will also have a flexible card design tool, and the ability to attach gift cards to each order. These new tools will help our customers continue to build better relationships with those in their networks.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife was the one who helped me make the leap into fulltime entrepreneurship. I was finding a lot of success in my medical career that provided a very comfortable lifestyle for us. If it wasn’t for her, Simply Noted wouldn’t be the company that it is today.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

I’ve spent a portion of my career in medical technology sales, where I employed my tactic of handwritten letters to reach the President’s Club four years in a row. I was also recognized with the MVP award in my first year of sales, with no prior sales experience before starting in this position. Today, my company helps those in business and sales build relationships and close deals on a daily basis.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I truly believe the best things in my life came after the most difficult challenges I ever went through. Though while going through these challenges is hard and painful, if you attack them full speed and do your best to rise above them, you will grow and become the person you never thought possible. If I were to talk to those feeling anxious or nervous, I would try to talk with them about their perspective and help them see the opportunity they have in situations like this. Challenges are gifts.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

I think most major universities avoid teaching sales because of the stereotype that goes along with it. Sales gets little (if any) respect in the university system which makes it hard for a school to offer it. Also, I believe selling skills are best learned by doing, which makes it hard to transfer specific knowledge consistently to all students within a classroom setting.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

I neither agree nor disagree, no matter what we do in life there is always an element of sales that goes along with it. Bad salespeople can be pushy and salesy while good salespeople have a genuine interest in helping people and are great at building relationships.

From courting a partner, closing a sale, or trying to convince your children why they need to brush their teeth, we all have to sell products, services, or ideas at certain times in our lives.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

I would say follow up; I do not quit. I have always been relentless in everything that I do, and it has helped me be successful at multiple stages of my career. I feel like the best things in life take time and in business it is no different. The longer you spend time on something the better the end result should be.

While I was at Stryker, I called on a doctor for over 2 years who had worked with the same sales representative for 30 years. There was virtually a zero percent chance of converting this account, but for 2 years I walked into the doctor’s office and built relationships with the office staff and the doctor’s family. Eventually, the doctor gave me an opportunity and I converted him over to using our products. By this time, it wasn’t about the products it was about the relationship.

Slow and steady wins the race. Also, how you win business can also be how you lose business. I would rather go slow and build great relationships knowing that most people will not take their time to do this.

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously, every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

We send handwritten notes weekly to potential prospects. First, it’s a great way to showcase our technology but the engagement rate is the best in the industry (up to 99%). I believe in order to be successful in today’s business era you have to be well-balanced in your marketing efforts. We use social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn daily. Also, email marketing tools like constant contact and woodpecker are great. There are several other software automation tools like Zapier, IFTTT, Integromat, Phantombuster to name a few that every entrepreneur should master using. Lastly, have an online strategy with your organic traffic and following with strategies like SEO, PPC, Content Creation and Content Based Networking.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

I think people in general do not like feeling uncomfortable and overcoming objections can put both parties in an uncomfortable position. If you have the ability to take your time and sell the right way, by the time you come to the close there should be no more objections and the close should be easy. Great salespeople will overcome objections slowly and get the customer to a position where they are excited about buying the product or service.

A book that I read every January is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I believe he lays out a great road map that can help any salespeople overcome objections.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

  1. Take your time
  2. Diagnose before you prescribe
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want for your product or service
  4. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  5. Get the other person used to saying “yes, yes” by asking easy directional questions

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

Understand boundaries and do not stop following up. I have heard of salespeople who will call and call and call until they get someone on the phone. This can come off as pushy and irritating to a potential client. Have situational awareness, understand why they are not getting back to you, also be self-aware enough to understand when you are crossing a line. I believe in being professionally persistent and will follow up with clients until they flat out say do not call again.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

I believe the best way to sell is in person, and nothing else beats it. When you have the ability to sit down and do business face to face it gives both parties a sense of security. I believe closing through email or text are ultimately setting yourself up for failure. It’s impersonal, it’s cold, and it leaves opportunity for miscommunication or expectations to not be properly set. At the very least, a phone call should be made, but still face-to-face is the way to go in my opinion.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would challenge more people to send more handwritten notes. Simply Noted aside, handwritten notes convey a level of sincere appreciation that email, text, social media, etc. cannot do. Handwritten notes leave powerful lasting impressions that can last days and weeks as the recipient is constantly reminded of the gesture since the note often is saved and displayed in the home or office. Make someone’s day and change the world one smile at a time by picking up the pen, paper and forever stamps.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find out more information about our services at simplynoted.com. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SimplyNoted1 and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/simplynoted/.

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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