ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | CHRIS OCHS
Chris Ochs is an entrepreneur and senior sales executive with 2 decades of experience in leading a variety of organizations to achieve success across multiple industries. His expertise is in transforming company’s sales processes to create a lasting pattern of achievement. The foundation for Chris’ sales expertise came during his 12-year tenure with the Cutco/Vector Marketing sales organization, where he succeeded in both sales and management. He truly believes that “Everything Is Cutco,” meaning the skills and strategies to succeed selling Cutco are directly applicable to any sales business and even many facets of life. Chris is an Honors Program graduate of the University of Houston and UCLA’s top-ranked executive MBA program. Today, he’s the Vice-President and Head of Sales – Americas for Factoreal, a marketing automation software startup within Tech Mahindra, a $20 billion global technology company.
Q&A WITH CHRIS OCHS
Q: Take us back to 1993 and how you got started with Cutco.
- I had just graduated from the University of Houston with a typical degree in Spanish. I was living the lovely “just graduated college” life in San Diego and played golf a bunch. My dad said, “look you can’t play golf, so you might want to get a job.”
- Looked through an actual physical newspaper and saw this tiny ad and thought this is the best job ever, so I called in. I had an interview with Sid Jeffcoat and he let me cut the rope. I am still to this day genuinely impressed with how sharp the knives are.
- He brought me back first, which obviously meant he knew I was the best candidate, and said, I’d like to offer you a job.
Q: You’d graduated from the University of Houston before you started with Cutco?
- Correct, graduated and doing other things during that summer. Was working in surgery research at UC San Diego and doing some really interesting things. I was taking some classes in organic chemistry and I loved it, but I needed a job in between classes.
- A couple of my friends were in medical school at the time, which was kind of what my ultimate goal was and they told me how much debt they had in medical school.
- I’d never taken a business class. My entire sales experience was in 8th grade when I sold lollipops and sold so much that the Dean of Boys called me in and said I needed to stop because I was distracting.
- I found out later, the reason I was called in was because I moved so much money as an 8th grader that they thought I was selling drugs. I was making $200 a week.
Q: So, you advanced quickly in management. You became a District Manager in the San Diego area. You were in La Mesa originally?
- The next summer, I wasn’t doing branch training. Wes Goddard and I ran the San Diego Fair and sold knives left and right.
- I went through branch training, ran an office in La Mesa. I was the #1 branch in the San Diego Division. I was District Manager there for a couple of years. In December 1998, I moved the Bay Area.
Q: What do you feel like were some of the most memorable or favorite experiences on the job?
- There’s something amazing about someone giving you money when you use words. I had a decent first weekend and sold like $770.
- Sid invited me to SC1 and there was an end of conference contest. I had like 4 demos booked up and I resolved I’m going to have a grand day. I sold a couple of sets and won the most valuable thing ever distributed in the history of Cutco, a Vectorized t-shirt. That was the first thing where I thought this is something I’m going to do and do it well.
- I also remember winning this recruiting contest. I had the most recruits in a 3-week period and won $10,000 in a drawing at SLC.
- The 3rd most memorable thing I remember when I was looking to move. I wanted to breakout from San Diego to expand my horizons and not be the guy who lived in San Diego forever. I had fantastic choices. I could go work with Scott Dennis out in Florida or there was also a chance to work in Berkeley.
- Kudos to Dan Casetta who expanded my thinking. He said what about a $100,000 push period? Vector got people to believe more than they believed in themselves. Getting that to translate and execute. Performance.
Q: What other lessons do you feel stand out that you continue to apply in your life up until now?
- Vector instills skills for life. It was learning and really treating sales not like something to do and tell but as your career. Sales is a process. You have the objection cycle, learning and applying it just comes to mind.
- There’s also the scoreboard. You either sell knives or you don’t. It’s not a bad thing if you didn’t because there’s something to learn from that. It’s okay not to succeed, it’s just what you do in place of that. Excuses are the nails that build your house of failure.
- Another one we had in Berkeley was the difference between greatness and mediocrity isn’t apparent to the average person.
Q: I would love it if you could share with the audience some of the highs and lows of your business experiences after Cutco.
- I got a job in email marketing, digital deliverability and analytics. This was the most opposite thing from Cutco. The main thing I knew was how to work hard, follow the process, and how to do things that are repetitive. I was learning about digital and email, and I applied my knowledge to their sales processes.
- I then got hired by an organic food company, which was the opposite of email and digital. I remember one end of the month, we were about to miss payroll. The CFO told me we needed to generate $50,000+ of sales in the next 3 days.
- There were 2 dozen people who were relying on me to get paid. They brought me in and it took about 2 months. There was nothing technical about it but creating these personal relationships again with the buyers.
- We sold a $25,000 order which was the largest single sale in the history of the company. We sold them a product we hadn’t created yet. Went back, developed it and got the order delivered.
- Being able to do those things gave me the confidence to say any challenge I face, as long as I had the technical skills or resources of people to do that, you can accomplish anything.
Q: What was another successful example of a build or re-build that you experienced?
- There was 250OK that was another email deliverability company and was actually the competitor of the company I previously worked for. They were having some struggles. We needed to compete with this behemoth of our previous company.
- Our typical sales deal was like $8,000. Mine was like $40,000 – $41,000. We got this going from $1-$2 million to when I left well over $5-$6 million. The company got purchased within a year after I left.
- The company I’m working for now is a marketing automation platform and shares space with 4-5 dozen competitors. Marketing automation has been around for quite awhile and there are giants in the space.
- We are building a product from scratch. Most competitors are using legacy systems that aren’t innovative. We’ve put these smart people together to build this amazing enterprise level platform.
- We’re having someone get exactly what they want and there are tangible savings of $50,000, $20,000, $10,000. With what’s going on with this pandemic, that’s hard dollars businesses have to find a way to save.
Q: I know we’ve talked about this. You shared the concept that you believe in what you call “everything is Cutco.” Let’s talk about what that means.
- It’s been 15 years since I dragged out the old sample kit, since I’ve had to ask for references from people. What that comes down to as we’re looking at things is everything is Cutco. I have sold deals worth millions of dollars, and there’s always the common thread of Don Freda’s 7 Steps to a Sale.
- These are the things you have to do. All the fundamental things. I was doing the hard work, communicating with people. I still think of what I do as a manager. I think in my DM period, I’ve shaken hands with over 10,000 applicants. If I taught people in Oakland how to sell knives and it worked, I can teach anybody how to do anything.
- For me, with all these Vector skills, you can make people be great. I’ve made a lot of money after Cutco because of what I learned in Cutco.
Q: You’re well connected in the Cutco community now even 15 years after you have left. What is it about the Cutco culture that is so special that you think people could build in whatever they are doing right now?
- First and foremost, it’s the product. People, products, program. You have fantastic people you’re working with. Cutco continues to develop people. The program that is successful. When you have success, you want to continue to do that.
Q: Our podcast theme is changing lives, and as you look into your own future, how would you aspire to change people’s lives through what you do?
- I model personal growth. Don’t let excuses stop you from doing things. When you think of changing lives, that’s how Cutco has changed my life. It’s taking that and instilling it in other people. Don’t let anyone defeat your goals of what you want to do. When you do that you aren’t just changing lives, you’re empowering others to change their own lives.
- Everything is Cutco. Sales is a process, it could be like a science.
- The scoreboard mentality. What to do when you don’t succeed, to create success in a business.
- People, products, programs. Summed up, the Cutco culture with those 3 words. Cool to think how we can apply those 3 words, concepts in our current team whether in or out of Cutco.
- Attracting and developing the right people. Making sure we’re representing a product worth our time and energy and, of course, bringing successful programs to help create the results we want.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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