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The secret sauce has spilled! Sales prospecting tools and techniques are revealed to help Conquerors Conquer Local.
Chris Montgomery, CEO of Social Ordeals, has come a long way since he first started using Vendasta’s products. Chris is proud to be a Vendasta Partner and ready to share his wisdom. Chris and George explore different sales prospecting methods, how to attract the right kind of salesperson, and a few tips for the agencies and entrepreneurs of the world. Chris is a serial entrepreneur and knows what to do and what not to do when it comes to building a successful digital agency.
Chris is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur with over twenty-five years of sales, marketing, and digital advertising experience. He has worked with companies from their early stages of development, as well as late-stage ventures. Chris was the founder of 411web.com, co-founded Digicities, and was responsible for the sale of the company to AmericomUSA. Chris is an innovator and uses his experience to take a realistic approach to how businesses unfold in the marketplace.
George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local podcast, and joining us on this week’s episode, Chris Montgomery, the CEO of Social Ordeals from Burbank, California. I’ve known Chris for a number of years, he’s one of our strongest agency partners around the world selling the platform and working with customers. Boy, I’ll tell you, he really gets involved in the day to day operations of his business and he understands his clients very, very clearly. I can’t wait to dig in to what makes a successful agency with Chris Montgomery, the CEO of Social Ordeals coming up next.
George: It’s the latest edition of the Conquer Local podcast. We’re coming to you from the beautiful Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California as part of Conquer Local 2019. These are special editions of the podcast because we get a chance to corral some of our attendees that I’ve been wanting to talk to for a while. Joining us in our makeshift studio is Mr. Chris Montgomery, the CEO of Social Ordeals. Chris, thanks for joining us.
Chris: Yeah, thanks for having me.
George: You know, we’ve known each other for a number of years. I will say that Chris is probably the most successful agency that we have in the United States using the platform, and congratulations on that success. It’s an interesting story how you arrived as a Vendasta partner about three or four years ago.
Chris: Yeah. You know, I kind of took a break. I sold the company, thought I was semi-retired there for a little bit, got bored and made some bad investments, had to get back into the marketplace. I came across Vendasta literally on my couch one night and then turned around and became a partner. Sold my first customer from that exact same seat about a week later.
George: You know, you and I met face to face at a restaurant in Marina del Rey, California here a few years ago. In that meeting you said to me, “I’m not following you on Linkedin. I’m not going to connect with you on Linkedin.” What was going on with that?
Chris: Well, that’s a funny story because I had a lot of Vendasta people want to connect with me on LinkedIn, and I felt that, you know, I didn’t want anybody knowing what I was using to get the success I was getting with my clients. The success that we got at Social Ordeals was solely off Vendasta products. That’s all I sold. So I didn’t want anybody to know the secret sauce.
George: So interesting. That’s changed a little bit. You know, what changed?
Chris: I realized how hard it is to do. These sales aren’t easy. At that point, it didn’t matter to me if they knew about Vendasta because I’ve been doing this now for six years and you’ve got to be dedicated and make sure that you’re putting your all into it.
George: So I really like that we were able to have this conversation because I think what you’ve identified, and I’ve been saying this for quite some time, we have a white-label platform. That means you put your brand on it and it becomes your own thing. But the software is vitally important to help solve the problems of the customer. But it’s all in the way you position it and feed it as an agency to those clients and the level of service that you provide and the way you set the expectations and the way that you understand the solution.
Understanding the Technology You Sell Is Essential
George: The one thing I’ve always admired about you is you dig deep into the software. Like you know that thing inside and out, and we’re hearing from you on this isn’t working right or this could be better if we do those kinds of things. How important do you believe it is for our audience to understand the technology that they are selling?
Chris: I think it’s really important. I think understanding how the products work, how it’s going to unfold in each industry, ’cause it will be different for each industry. I think it’s important. I think the flip side of that is if you’re understanding the product, you’ve also got to understand your client and understand their needs. If the product’s not working properly, and I’m going to a client and saying, “I’m the expert with the best strategy,” then I think I get a little stressed out if the product’s not working the way I need it to work.
Chris: So Vendasta has been phenomenal with that and the product has always been strong. So that side has been easy for us to manage.
George: When I arrived at a software company, my background is in media sales, I owned my own business for a while and I didn’t really understand agile software development and what that whole concept was about. I have a much better, you know, thanks to Dale Hopkins, the CTO and the folks in the R&D department that I get to work with on a daily basis. I understand it. I think iterative improvement is a really cool thing because we’re saying, “Okay, here’s the thing that we have and we get feedback from the customers.” You being the customer of Vendasta, but then your customers are giving you feedback too saying, “Hey, I’m a veterinarian. I want to do these things. It doesn’t quite work properly for me,” but yet we’re able to iterate on that with that feedback loop and to continue to improve that.
Chris: I think that’s strong for on the agency level to be able, if we don’t have the solution, to be able to have … I always say that I have the best technology partners behind me because I feel like I have my own programming team. If there’s something that my client needs or it can work better, that’s a powerful thing for me to be able to relay that to my client.
Going Up: How Products and Passion Pair to Offer Solutions
George: You’ve got a great story, and I don’t know if we want to dig into specific solutions, but I do want to tell a story about the elevator repair gentleman that you’re representing. So it’s one of your clients. We went for lunch here a few months back and you told me the story, and it’s really stuck with me. To be able to rank for elevator repair in Los Angeles, California on the first page, how are you able to do that? Maybe give us a little background with the client.
Chris: You know, it started with the fact that we are utilizing all the Vendasta products, and he quickly rose up in his first nine months into his number one position in San Dimas, California. The client was happy for a while until he realized he couldn’t really put ROI on what he was doing. He said, “Chris, I love everything you’re doing here, but guess what? There’s no two-story buildings in San Dimas, so it doesn’t matter. Nobody’s searching for me in San Dimas.” So he’s like, “I want Los Angeles. I want Pasadena, I want this.”
Chris: So what we did was searched Vendasta’s marketplace. We found a great product. One of their SEO products, SEO Network, and we turned around and just took the keyword that Google uses, what I call their proper search. So elevator repair was their category. There’s no other category underneath that. What we realized by taking Elevator Repair Pasadena or Elevator Repair Los Angeles, that it rose up all of their keywords and all of their markets. Within three weeks we were number one on Google, Yahoo and Bing and all of those markets.
George: You know, it’s an amazing story. When you speak around working with your customers, I noticed something and I’d like our listeners to take this one piece away. Chris is super passionate about helping those clients and I think that’s a big reason why you’ve had that success.
Chris: Yeah. I love seeing a problem and then being very confident that the products I have will help solve that problem. That’s the biggest part of sales is when you have something that you sell that doesn’t really work, with these products it works. So all I have to worry about at that point is just understanding my customer and getting them to trust me to be their digital adviser, and the rest is going to fall into place because the products work.
George: So this story of how you found Vendasta on the coach, technically eating some potato chips too I think is part of the story, and now 2,000 businesses that trust your agency. It’s an amazing story but it definitely hasn’t been easy.
Chris: It hasn’t been easy. I’ve gone through a lot of sales reps training. I still sell on a daily basis. I’m constantly in sales meetings. I jump on save calls if it’s a customer … I think you have to take the passion into it. If I have a client that I know the products are helping them and working them, and they’re canceling, I’m the first guy that I’ll get on and get onto a save call, but not just a save for a client that’s spending a couple of hundred dollars. The fact that we’re losing a relationship bothers me, and I want to understand why. If they’re going somewhere else, I want to explain to them, “You’re not going to get anything different going to anywhere else. The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. Tell me what your needs are and let’s figure out what we need to do.”
Road to Success Paved with Trial and Error, Hard Work and Long Hours
George: Well, it’s a great lesson for those that are … maybe you come across the podcast and you’re considering getting into digital marketing. Like, hey, this looks like a great thing that I’m going to do. I think it’s important that people understand that there is trial and error. There’s no silver bullet that’s going to just make you a millionaire overnight. The other piece is there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it and a lot of long hours. If you are prepared to make that investment, there definitely is a profitable business model there and a great business. When we’re talking about your customer base, how important are strategic partnerships?
Chris: They’re a big portion of my business now. What I’ve realized is that there’s a lot of businesses out there, either web hosting companies that aren’t offering upsells, website companies that want to offer upsells, but they don’t have the manpower to do the work on the back end or even membership groups that want to add value. Once you strategically partner with them and give them a piece of the action as you’re going along, you’re going to get a consistent lead source coming from them. I think it’s the future. It’s basically a paid referral coming through.
George: So membership groups, the first thing that comes to my mind is Chamber of Commerce. In my immediate career, I’ve always worked with Chambers of Commerce. A great thing, I actually was President of the Chamber of Commerce in my hometown for a while. That’s not really what we’re talking about though. We’re talking about other sorts of organizations rather than a Chamber of Commerce.
Chris: Right. So we’re talking about businesses that are offering, that are selling products, that could be a company that has eye doctors that’s selling them their products to do their glasses or dentists that they’re selling the teeth whitening products or supplies for them to be able to do that in house.
George: So in our largest survey of local salespeople that’s ever been conducted, and nobody’s told me that they did a bigger one, so we’re just going to call it that. But we just recently completed this survey of the number of salespeople that we have inside the platform and the listeners to the podcast. We sent it out, we got the survey back, and the number one thing that salespeople were having a problem with was cold calling. What this membership group does for you in the strategic partnership, and I’d like our listeners to really understand this. It’s not called anymore now because when Chris makes the call to these customers, he leverages that membership group to warm it up a little bit.
Chris: That’s exactly what we do. Now we’re going in from that cold call. It’s not a cold call. We go into a warm call with introducing yourself and we’re being referred in, so now they’re already open because they have a great relationship with that strategic partner. So they opened their doors to us. A lot of people don’t trust the digital side of things because there’s not a lot of people that are giving them great products out there. So when you have a great product that’s offered over here at Vendasta and the marketplace products that are there, you’re able to go in with some confidence and gain that business.
George: Well, let’s cover off that other piece a little bit where you hit on something that I think is really important for people to understand. There is a ton of snake oil out there, and when we go in to talk to a prospect, they’re a little jaded and they’re testing you. They’re really looking for somebody that’s going to stand behind what they’re doing, are you going to be here in six months, are you going to be there to answer my questions if I have them. That’s been a big part of your success as well because you’re standing behind the solutions that you’re selling.
Chris: Yeah. You know, I stand behind the solutions, but I focus on my own reputation. Like I make sure that I go out there and if I’ve got clients that, you know, as they’re utilizing the service, I want them to give me reviews. So we pride ourselves that we’ve got several hundred reviews, five-star reviews online. I tell a client when they ask me about a competitor, I usually pull it up online and notice that they’re at a 4.3 or a 4.4. I tell them like, “Hey dear customer,” if they question a contract or whatever, I’d come in and say, “Listen, you’re not going to be my first bad review. I’ve gotten nothing but five-star reviews online and I’m not going to bring you in the door, I get it that there’s businesses out there that have taken people for SEO and they’ve taken them on different things,” so we pride ourselves on our reputation. We get past that because-
George: I think it’s a really important point. I have said for a long time, it blows me away the agencies and media companies that are selling digital marketing services, and when I Google them and I have a look at them and do a little bit of research of late, you look horrible online. You guys have done a great job of that. I also noticed in your social posts you’re amplifying the positive comments of those customers and highlighting them, you’ve got their permission to do it and everything else. It’s a great marketing tactic, it’s the old testimonial in a brochure thing, but you’re just using online and all the tools that you say your customers should use, you use yourself.
Dedication and Experience Make All the Difference
George: If you were to give advice to a new entrepreneur, there’s been a number of new entrepreneurs at this event, but for the first time, the last couple of conventions that we had, we invited customers. In this one there actually are some prospects that have been in the pipeline, and I’m sure you’ve talked to some of these folks that are thinking of getting into the space. If you were to give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur that’s entering into digital marketing, what would that be?
Chris: You have to dig deep and make sure you have the dedication. You’ve got to come into it for the right reasons. If you’re coming into it thinking that you’re just going to have a $1 million business tomorrow, it’s not going to work. You really have to care about your customers.
George: I’ve got one more for you. You covered that off. Is this a million-dollar opportunity if you run it right?
Chris: It is if you put the dedication in, you have to put the dedication in. If you’re not doing that, you don’t care about your customer, then it’s not a million-dollar business.
George: Piece of advice that you would offer when it comes to attracting the right talent because you haven’t done this on your own. You’ve built a team to do this. You have advice on some tactics to find that right group of people?
Chris: You have to find the passionate sales rep out there that’s not necessarily worried about a commission because the rest will come. You’ll get those good people as you get down the road and you find the passionate people that enjoy sales.
George: So we hire a rookie salesperson and what I’ve found is that they have a tendency to rush the deals. You spend a lot of money getting a great lead in the door, and if that rep doesn’t have the experience to make sure they set the proper expectation, you might burn the lead and lose the value there. So how have you overcome that? What sort of training regime do you have in place for the reps?
Chris: I now go after seasoned sales reps. I don’t go after rookie sales reps. I recently hired a guy that came to me. He had been selling rocks for 13 years, literally selling rocks and sand to construction companies. I quickly hired him, my COO, my CFO was like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “This guy has been selling rocks for 13 years with the same company and turning million-dollar deals.” I go after nothing but seasoned reps now, and I spend the extra money for it. I don’t want that $30,000, $40,000 a year guy. I want that $60,000 to $80,000 a year guy that’s going to bring me results and I don’t have to train him how to sell. I just give him a good product that he can stand behind and know it works. So I don’t go after the rookie sales reps anymore.
George: So the reason being, I’m reading into this, I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m going to ask the question. It’s cost you too much money to go after rookies, or has the business reached a point where you can just buy those reps rather than build them?
Chris: Yeah, I mean it’s easier to get that rep, that experienced rep than to train rookie sales reps to try to figure out the process.
George: You’ve been at this for a while and I know that you are selling on a regular basis. What sort of prospecting tool or method are you using to go out and talk to those new customers?
Chris: The snapshot, the snapshot’s everything, without the snapshot you’re setting the stage now with these customers with a snapshot tool, but what I like to do, and I teach all of my sales reps to do is we don’t go out there, I don’t look at a snapshot until I have that client ready to go. I want to discover the snapshot and what’s in the snapshot with the client in front of me. It’s more organic. So I teach my sales reps how to go through the Internet and to be able to go and find the things that they’re going to look for on Google, but we do it in real time and discover it with the client. So sometimes I’m surprised, I’ll get a client that may be great. I had a veterinarian the other day that was number one for veterinarian in their market, but then I turned around and said, “That’s great, but what about dog vaccinations or cat vaccinations?”
Chris: They weren’t part of that mix, so I completely go off the cuff with a client and I really want the client to understand that I’m coming to them from an organic place and a truthful place, and let’s go discover it together. How can I help you?
George: Well, I really appreciate you taking some time out and joining us. There’s definitely some learnings inside our conversation for those that have been in this space for a while. You can learn from Chris because he’s been doing it for the past number of years, or if you’re a newbie and you’re just getting started, you can learn from some of those hard lessons that you’ve had over the last few years. But congratulations on your success, and we really appreciate the partnership and looking forward to the upcoming next four years if we get to work together.
Chris: Yeah, I’m excited. I love Vendasta so I’m excited for the next four years. I will definitely be here.
George: What a great episode. We could go on and on and on with Chris. It’s really interesting hearing his stories from the front lines. You know he understands the products and solutions that he’s delivering to his clients probably better than most. He’s dogfooding those products. He’s using them on a daily basis. He knows what works and what doesn’t work, and he’s not afraid to say, “That’s not the right tactic. We’re going to move or we’re going to adjust.” That analogy around the elevator repair company in LA and wanting to get ranked in the market and what they had to do. You know, you really can tell that Chris loves seeing a problem and knowing that he has the products and solutions to solve those issues. So we’d like to thank Chris Montgomery, the guy who’s doing it every single day and he just keeps growing his business year over year. It’s actually quite impressive.
George: More episodes to come. We release every week right here on the Conquer Local podcast, but not just that, we’ve got this amazing new community, and the Conquer Local community is living on Slack. Go to conquerlocal.slack.com to join today, and the community continues to grow pretty much on a daily basis where we get new members and then those members are able to create channels or to answer questions or ask their own questions of the Conquer Local community. So join today. It’s at conquerlocal.slack.com, we’d love to get your feedback. Talk to producer Colleen or myself on Linkedin. We really appreciate those comments. Keep them coming as we continue to help salespeople around the world in the local space conquer local. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.