Having an efficient sales process in place can be the difference between a high-performing and an underperforming sales organization. 48% of participants from underperforming sales organizations said they didn’t have a strictly structured and enforced sales process (Source: Harvard Business Review).
Chris Ochs is a sales process optimization expert. He’s currently the VP and head of sales at Factoreal, a marketing, automation, and customer engagement platform. Chris is also many other things. He is an entrepreneur, senior sales executive, public speaker, and endurance athlete with 20 years of management experience in companies ranging from organic food, software-as-a-service, online event planning, and email deliverability.
Chris is also the managing partner of CK-HS Consulting, a management consulting company. His company works with small businesses to improve operations and finances and increase the customer base. He has completed more than 50 triathlons, including two Ironman races.
An Early Sales Journey
Chris started hustling as a kid. He sold Girl Scout cookies for his sisters. When he got into Junior High, he made $200 a week selling lollipops. He was selling so many lollipops that the Dean of Boys suspected he might be selling drugs. That was when Chris realized he liked making money.
However, his real enabler was his first job. Right after college, he started selling Cutco knives. The job helped him make lasting connections but more importantly, it made him realize that he hated losing in sales. One day after he lost a sale, he called his manager frustrated to tell him about a customer who couldn’t see how valuable the knives were. His manager told Chris he would teach him so that this would never happen again.
This was the start of Chris’s sales education. He started learning about sales as a process, science, consumer psychology, behavior, and methodology. When he left the company 12 years later, he was one of the top managers in the history of the company.
Building Sales Processes for Start-ups
Chris spent the next 2 years helping a friend with a new companyーReturn Path. It was also one of the first companies in the space of digital marketing and data analytics. Even though he had no understanding of the technology, he built out their entire sales process till the company had achieved great success.
Chris’s next stop was at ACTIVE Network, a global marketplace for activities and events that connects participants and activity organizers. When he first joined the company, Chris had a sales team of 24 people covering the U.S. and Europe, but they had not implemented a sales process. He was shocked when they told him it was taking them 3 days to respond to a sales lead.
He developed and refined a sales optimization process and strategy. By the end of the year, the company implemented it. Chris managed to increase deal velocity and the average order. The following year, the company witnessed $3 million of growth.
Despite the fact that the entire events industry began to shrink after that, Chris’s department was the most profitable in the company. They were able to contribute $4 million of profit to a company that only posted $2 million of profit. In other words, the company would have had a $2 million loss without Chris’s division.
After Chris left ACTIVE Network, he worked with a friend to develop and implement a sales process for an organic food company in San Diego. Once again, Chris found himself in a business that he knew nothing about. But, this didn’t stop him from implementing a sales process and shifting the company from one that lost $50,000 a month to a company with 12% growth month over month for the following year.
Business School and a Sales Consulting Company
Chris started business school at UCLA where he specialized in finance, international management, marketing, and entrepreneurship. After he graduated, he looked around and realized that not many people in Los Angeles knew how to sell. So, he started his sales consulting company that specializes in driving sales through market analysis and sales force effectiveness.
Chris helped more start-ups get off the ground until most recently he joined Factoreal as Head of Sales. He feels that he has come full circle with his current job where he can put to use everything he’s learned over the years.
Sales Optimization Strategies
I asked Chris to tell us about some of his sales optimization secrets and strategies.
Sales is a Science
Before Chris started business school, he always looked at sales as a science. We would also benefit from looking at sales this way, and viewing it as a process with inputs and outputs. When we do a presentation well, we’re building value. We’re presenting a solution that solves a problem. That’s when we get a “yes” and close the sale.
Understand the Customer’s “Why”
We should ask ourselves “why would our ideal customer buy our products?” If we’re not sure of the answer, then we haven’t done enough probing. That’s when we need to go back to the process before we can move any further. It’s too expensive to neglect those steps because if we continue, we will get a “no” and the sale will be lost. We need to focus on providing value first.
Chris believes it’s important to know what drives our customers. When there’s an objection, we need to dig deeper and try to uncover this objection. He recalls when he used to work with the organic food company selling goji berries to the Category Manager at the Whole Foods Market in Venice, California. Chris’s customer cared much about leaving work at 3 pm to avoid the traffic jam, so he came to work at 5 am every day. Chris understood this, and when his customer asked for a meeting, Chris told him he would meet him at 5:20 am. His customer was so impressed, and it made him see that Chris took his work and their business seriously.
Chris showed his customer how buying his product would help reduce his customer turnover, increase his revenue, and become more profitable. Above all, Chris told him he wouldn’t have to justify why he had to leave work early anymore.
Customers Asking for a Discount
When the customer asked for a discount, Chris moved the conversation to another value proposition, offering to do a promotion for him in his local area instead. It would help drive more people to his customer’s store, hence increase the traffic and sales.
“The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.”
Build Rapport Before Asking the Tough Questions
We can’t approach a customer and ask them about their marketing budget before we’ve broken the ice and provided value first. After they’ve seen the value we can offer them, they’ll be willing to answer some of the tough questions.
Thank you so much Chris for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. An efficient sales process can be the difference between a high-performing and an underperforming sales organization.
2. Sales should be regarded as a science. The output we get is the result of what we feed into the process.
3. It doesn’t matter if we don’t understand a certain technology or are working in an unfamiliar industry. These things can be learned. What matters is having a solid sales process.
4. Before we can uncover our customers’ objections and passion, we must first build rapport with them.
5. Strive to understand the core why’s of our target audience.
Connect with Chris Ochs
If you enjoyed this interview and want to connect with Chris Ochs or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/chrisochs, visit his consulting company website www.ck-hs.com, or Factoreal website www.factoreal.com.
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