No Games Required with Rick Elmore
Rick Elmore, Founder and CEO of SimplyNoted shares the secret to effective incentive structures and how to keep sales folks engaged in normal day-to-day activities.
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Andrew Phelps: Today my guest is Rick Elmore, the founder and CEO of Simply Noted, where his proprietary technology makes it easy to scale and automate meaningful handwritten notes. Before starting his own company, Rick was an accomplished medical devices salesman. He also played football at the university of Arizona before being drafted into the NFL by the Green Bay Packers. Rick, thanks so much for being on the show.
Rick Elmore: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Andrew Phelps: So, Rick, we asked you here today because you are sort of a master of designing the right incentive program. So, we talk a lot about games on this podcast and games are a great way to sort of get things over the finish line at the end of the month, you know, break up the day-to-day sales monotony. But the reality is you don't always have to break something up if your system works really well. And if your compensation system and your incentive systems are well-designed you can have a very successful sales team without the need for a ton of creativity. So, do you have sort of the two-minute version of what you do to design great incentive programs or what's the secret sauce?
Rick Elmore: Yeah, so my background in athletics really gives me, you know, that competitive desire that I grew up with to kind of go after the chase of the sale and the people that we bring onto our team are very similar. They played high school and college athletics. They have that competitive spirit kind of woven into their DNA so it's kind of natural for them to already be you know, self-incentivized to be good salespeople. But I think as you know, athletes or you know, sales professionals, you like to be recognized and you like to be rewarded for your efforts. And I think it's important, you know, for teams or organizations to recognize those individuals and make it fun at the same time in order to build a good culture and to make sure everybody's enjoying themselves, you know, while they're at work. And that's what we do here at Simply Noted. We try to take what we are already naturally good at and being competitive and being self-motivated, but at the same time we try to incentivize our sales reps to go out there and do a good job, take care of their clients because, you know, at the end of the day, if they're doing that, they're having a good time. They're having fun doing it. And our clients are happy. Our business is going to be successful. So, I think it's very important to make, you know, take the monotony out of the job, but at the same time, you know, make sure they're having fun and enjoying it as well.
Andrew Phelps: Yeah. So, a lot of sales folks come from an athletic background or are naturally competitive. You know, I come from a design background, I wouldn't say I'm naturally competitive, much more collaborative and empathetic. You know, what tips do you have for someone like me you know, to get the most out of a competitive team where I'm not always just wired for a doggy dog world?
Rick Elmore: Yeah. So, I think every person, you know, at least I think it's like on any team or any organization, every person's different, you have to sit down, understand what motivates them. And, you know, it may not always be financial maybe time off, or maybe getting a lot of fulfillment out of what they're doing, but you really got to understand, you know, per person and how to incentivize them individually. There's a great book by, you know, I went through sales training. My first year in sales was Dale Carnegie is basically how to win friends and influence people and it really talks about how to work with people individually and not treat them as a group, but treat them as an individual person. And that's what we do here. You know, our ops team, we incentivize them as well because if we need them to operate at a hundred, 110%, and if they're not doing a good job that, you know, hurts everybody else. So, you know, with our ops team, we incentivize them with time off or, you know, getting an extra day off or leaving work early but it's all about being efficient. But, you know, for somebody who doesn't have that super competitive edge, now I would just sit down and learn about them, you know, their wants their desires, you know, what really gets them going and just ask questions and, you know, give them the for it. And then usually they'll tell you, and it's really easy, but a lot of people don't need to take the time to ask.
Andrew Phelps: It's true. And that's another lesson from the design world. It's unbelievable what you can learn and how much you can improve by just getting feedback from the people you work with, you know, on a product basis and on your team. So, I really like that. I resonate a lot with that. So, people have different financial motivations also might want time off or a long lunch. You know, what are some other things, more unique things that people might be into in terms of getting rewarded?
Rick Elmore: Well, I think, again, it goes back to saying you have to have some fun with it. One of our sales reps or our other lead sales rep, he's in Arizona State grad, I'm a university of Arizona Grad. So, we're obviously I'm from two competing rival schools. And one thing that we do just to kind of keep it fun is every month, whoever got the most sales, the person who lost has to keep the other person's mascot on their desk. So, U of A, is Wilbur the wild cat, it's like a little five-inch mascot that he literally has to keep right in front of his computer. So, it's a constant reminder, you know, if you're an ASU grad and you have Wilbur on your desk, that's pretty motivating to, you know, get that off your desk. So, it's more for fun, but at the same time you know, it's a little small reminder for him. It's like, Hey, if you want this off your desk, you know, you got to beat me. And again, it goes back to that little competitive spirit of the athletes as well.
Andrew Phelps: I love that because it's such a small detail, so easy to do, but means a lot to both of you. And, you know, I'm a wild cat too. Maybe you guys need a new metrics, so he has to have a Wilbur sitting there too.
Rick Elmore: Yeah, exactly. I don't ever plan on having Sparky on my desk. So, he has his workout for him. That's for sure.
Andrew Phelps: Is there a female Sparky? I don't think I've ever seen her.
Rick Elmore: I don't think so. I've never seen her. No, I don't think there is. I have been to a lot of events. Yeah.
Andrew Phelps: That's the definitive evidence folks that the University of Arizona is just a little bit better.
Rick Elmore: Exactly.
Andrew Phelps: So, you know, these are great ideas in terms of little things to work on the individual level. Obviously, when it comes to compensation or incentive programs you know, there's a lot of different ways that you can do it and those probably do have to be more standardized across the team. What can you tell us a little bit about how your incentive structures work and how you came to those numbers?
Rick Elmore: Yeah, so my mentor growing up, you know, I learned a lot of great things from him. And one of the things I remember him telling me early on, because I always wanted to start a business and I was really starting to think about how to build a successful business a business that makes money because a lot of businesses, you know, they can look great from the outside but if you're on the inside that you know they're kind of a mess. But I remember him telling me early on is like, you want your salespeople would be the best paid people in your company, because if they're happy and they're making money they're going to take care of your clients and they're going to keep selling. And the organizations I've been a part of in the past that, you know, they're really big companies, striker and traumas, huge medical companies and they're, you know, publicly traded been around a long time. Their incentive-based programs change every single year. They're confusing in ways it gets harder to make money. And that was something I wanted to change when I started my business, I wanted my employees or my sales reps to understand very basic you know, 10% commission on all sales. You know, from dollar one so they know what they're making. It's not complicated, it's not off a draw or anything like that. And then we're really about building partnerships at Simply Noted so we're not about transactional one-time orders. We want to develop that relationship and work with them long-term. So, if we have a client or they have a client that works with us for six months, you know, they'll get a two and a half percent increase in commission for all months, over six months and once they get over 12 months, they'll get a 5% increase. So, we really incentivize our sales people by making our comp plan very easy to understand. And then you know, incentivizing them to take care of that customer, follow up with them, make sure things are good, ask questions, fix problems, earn their trust, earn their confidence, build that partnership and relationship. So, they have the competence to come back and continually work with us because so many people don't do that. They just really just get that first sale and they look for the next and they don't really find their deals are always hunting and that can get exhausting and it's going to be really hard to scale a business that way. Some take pride on hunting, closing, and farming and building those strong partnerships.
Andrew Phelps: Yeah. You're preaching to the choir here. So, I love the idea that you have to be able to do it all. You know, some people have stronger hunting instincts, some people have straw better, you know, farming, more account management type skills. You know, I would love your tips on how do you make a Hunter into a farmer or the reverse, you know, because there are situations where you do need someone who does it all?
Rick Elmore:Yeah. So, I'm a naturally a Hunter and I think you are naturally one of the other, and it's really hard to become a little bit of both or a really well-rounded version of both, but I played outside linebacker, you know, basically my whole life. So, I was chasing and hunting down quarterback. So, chasing and hunting down prospects or you know, potential clients was just something that came natural to me. It really didn't hit me until it's like three or four years into sales, you know, how much better your business can be is if you farmed your current business versus going out and just trying to get new business. And when I was a part of these medical companies are all about new dollars, new dollars, new dollars. So that was a big focus on is getting new clients. So, you often were just filling a leaky bucket. So, we're trying as hard as we can to fill this up, but we're losing clients because we just weren't taking care of them and it's, more prevalent or it's more obvious not being a business owner because I see all the financials from bottom to top, I get everything. So, I see that and I know how hard it is to bring in new clients. So, I think one thing is if you're going to try to blend, you know, a Hunter to a farmer, you really got to show them, you know, what a farmer's day looks like, because as a Hunter, you're, you're, you're out there cold calling and knocking on doors, you're trying to set new appointments. You're trying to just get them to say yes. And as a farmer, you're trying to earn their trust and you're trying to earn their confidence, fix their problems, educate them on the product, show them how to use it and get them the most value, you know, out of that partnership. So, I think a lot of great sales people start out as hunters, but in order to last, you know, 20, 30 years in this industry in the business sales world, you have to be able to transition eventually from a great hunter to a great farmer, because at the end of the day relationships is what matters in sales. And that's what's going to help you go the long run.
Andrew Phelps: I think that's a great observation because sales and design are both cutthroat industries and that they chew people up and spit them out. Not a lot of people last past 10 years. And so, you have to have strategies that keep you in the game and keep you at the top of the game without burning you out. I love those ideas. And I think you're right. I think so many of the things, you know, we need to solve are just about education. Hey, this doesn't come naturally to you. Let me show you how I do it. And you could even pair up, you know, a farmer with a Hunter, so they could learn from each other, just Hey, on for Friday. You know, you show your morning, then you show your afternoon and they could learn a lot from each other, but I do think that your instinct is right. You're kind of one or the other, and you probably need some help in learning how to do the other activities, but they are all simple activities and they just take a little bit of practice.
Rick Elmore: Yes.
Andrew Phelps: So, Rick I got a couple of takeaways from our conversation and I'd love to go over them and you can correct me if I got anything wrong.
Rick Elmore: Sounds good.
Andrew Phelps: So just like what we've learned from sales games discussions, the best incentive plan is simple. And in addition to being simple, it has to be totally transparent. So, in the structure you described, it's really clear what I get from day one. And it's also totally transparent in what you want me to do. You want me to be farming the accounts as well as hunting for new ones. You also said that the best sales team comes from folks who are naturally competitive and come from competitive backgrounds. And so, when you're looking to hire folks, most of us probably already know that are already thinking that way, but just a reminder that we're in a competitive environment and we have to kind of feed that hunger is a really important thing. And finally, I love the trophy from desk to desk, a little bit of friendly competition that's absolutely free. You know, it goes to the points of inside jokes we've talked about on other podcasts, but those little things that build your culture that are absolutely free, you know, they really make work special. And they're the things that are irreplaceable and the things that people will remember the most. So, I love that. You'd like to have fun with it as well. And finally, I love that you said that salespeople need to be the happiest people in your company. The folks who handled the most rejection are the folks that you need to take care of because it's hard. It doesn't matter how tough you are, who you are, how resilient you are. If you hear no all day, every day, it starts to get to you and taking care of the people who are out there getting all the nos for you so they can get the yeses you know, need to be taken care of. And I liked that you prioritize their happiness and fulfillment. Did I miss anything?
Rick Elmore: No. You did a great recap. Taking notes or is that just all by memory?
Andrew Phelps: Definitely. No notes. Never take notes.
Rick Elmore: Yeah. That's great.
Andrew Phelps: No, I rely on any tool I can to make me a little bit better. So, Rick if people want to learn more about simply noted or want to get in touch with you online, where's the best place for them to find you?
Rick Elmore: Yeah, so I'm really active on LinkedIn. I built a pretty good network on there so anybody wants to reach out to me. I'm pretty good at getting back to them. Also, we have a website it's just simplynoted.com and you know, you can connect with us on there and yeah, that's basically where I spend most of my time online each day. So that's where you guys can get ahold of me.
Andrew Phelps: Well, thank you so much for coming on the show. I hope that you come back in the future and share some more nuggets with us.
Rick Elmore: Thanks for having me, Andrew. Appreciate it.
Andrew Phelps: Take care.
Rick Elmore: Bye.