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How to be Great at Sales
That hard sell is a terrible idea. Badgering prospects with pushy, obnoxious sales tactics that attempt to make it hard for them to say “no” just doesn’t work anymore (if it ever did.)
Modern, successful salespeople employ a soft sell that attempts to build a relationship with prospects based on mutual respect and trust. This approach takes longer than the hard sell, but it’s consistently more effective by a wide margin.
That’s the approach we take here at Simply Noted. Our founder, Rick Elmore has been perfecting it his entire sales career. In this paraphrased interview with Authority Magazine, Rick discusses the benefits of the soft sell and how he consistently closes sales without being “that sales guy.”
But first, a little history.
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How I Learned to Sell
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.
I employed this tactic 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 the position.
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 have 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 an 18,566.7% ROI. Today, my company helps those in business and sales build relationships and close deals on a daily basis.
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Sales Skills Can Be Learned, But They’re Hard to Teach
Sales is one of those skills that are infinitely useful, both in business and in life. You might be trying to sell a product, but you could just as easily need to sell your children on brushing their teeth. But unless you’re in business school, it isn’t a skill people are generally taught. 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.
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The One Life Lesson Everyone Should Learn
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. In 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.
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Ask For Help When You Need It
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. When you need help, ask for it. My wife was the one who helped me make the leap into full-time 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.
Following Up is Extremely Important
Follow-up is the most important stage in the sales cycle for me. 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.
It’s important to 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.
While I was at Stryker, I called on a doctor for over two 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 two 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.
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How I Generate Quality 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, and Phantombuster that every entrepreneur should master using.
Lastly, have an online strategy with your organic traffic and follow with strategies like SEO, PPC, content creation, and content-based networking.
How to Overcome 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.
If I had to list five things that someone can do to close a sale without being perceived as pushy I’d say:
● Take your time
● Diagnose before you prescribe
● Arouse in the other person an eagerness for your product or service
● Become genuinely interested in other people.
● Get the other person used to saying “yes, yes” by asking easy directional questions
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Consider Challenges to Be Gifts
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.
Always Close in Person if You Can
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 is 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.
But along with that, 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.
I would also suggest using Simply Noted, but I may be a little biased.