Friday, 18 January 2013

How to sell SEO Services to Hard Clients?

If you are a sales executive or a business Development Specialist, or an SEO consultant working for an Online Marketing Agency, you might have met that savvy client who has SEO background and cannot accept your “we will make your site better” speech, but needs professionally explained procedures and techniques without being too jargoned at the same time.

The language of an SEO consultant is different from that of the business decision maker buying SEO services. To more successfully sell SEO services, consultants can become more fluent in both languages. More directly addressing the points above will curry favor with business decision makers and likely result in more, and higher value, sales.

Hence, here are some statements, I read in article, you might hear from hard clients, when you are approaching them with your sales proposal or during your presentation’s meeting, to put in mind doing your SEO Sales Pitch

1.  SEO budget and SEO results

Please don't ask me my budget first thing in the conversation. If you can work with us to deliver ROI, I can deliver budget. If we can't work together to deliver ROI, I can't deliver budget. Since you're unlikely to discuss results this early in the conversation, I'm unlikely to discuss budget this early in the conversation.

While you are unlikely to guarantee results, you probably want me to guarantee payment. Let's discuss how we can structure an agreement that will work for both of us. Unless you've made a very strong case for results, I'm more likely to hire you on a project/deliverable basis than a monthly retainer basis, although various structures are possible.

2.  The SEO Mission and Vision

Ask me about my business goals and objectives. If you don't understand them, dig into them with me. If you have suggestions or recommendations about my goals, feel free to propose alternative business goals. But before moving on, let's make sure we're both aligned here.

3. Be a family member

Ask me about my existing results. These may be confidential, but I'll tell you what I can, or ask you to sign an NDA, and then tell you what I can. Plus, based on the questions you ask, I'll have a better understanding of how you approach SEO. And of course, knowing such confidential data will make you part of the family.

4.  SEO Services

Let's get clear on whether this is an SEO project, or an SEO/conversion/usability project. Although the teams need to work together, each of these areas requires different skills. I often have teams working on these other areas already, and I am looking to add specific SEO expertise into the mix, not broad web site optimization expertise. If you want to pitch me on these other areas, let me know early. In general, I'm looking to bring your SEO expertise into the mix and really want to focus on SEO.

5. No hats please!

I told you our numbers and stats. So please it is your turn to discuss your tactics. Don't tell me "it's a secret". Secret means black hat. Black hat means trouble with google. Trouble with google means I won't hire you. I'm not going to hire you because I hope you know what to do. I'm going to hire you because you've convinced me that you know what to do. Tell me which tactics you've had the most experience and success with and which will most likely be applicable to our situation. You'll qualify yourself by working openly with me and gaining my trust about your tactics. Once you've gained my trust, you have to show me you can operationally execute these tactics.

6.   SEO methodology

Discuss your methodology. Tell me what steps you'll be going through during the engagement. Bring samples of the reports and deliverables you'll use and provide during the engagement. You probably have planning and measurement reports that baseline current results, address keyword selection, plan on-page factors and track ongoing results, among others. A sample project plan would be nice too. If your only competitive advantage is your methodology, and you're unwilling to discuss it, I'm less likely to be convinced that you'll be able to deliver positive results, and less likely to be able to interally sell your capabilities. And I won't know if your methodology is better than the one we're already running internally.

7.  Who is the SEO team?

Tell me who is going to do the work on this project and put them in front of me. No sense in having the A-team pitches me, and delegating the work to the C-team.

8.   SEO in-house training process

Tell me about your in-house training process. This helps me understand that you (a) have a sustainable business that can withstand employee turnover and (b) have a method of keeping up with any of the latest changes in SEO tactics. It's okay if you're a one person shop — then only (b) is important.

9.  SEO speaks numbers

Without breaching client confidentiality, liberally use examples in your discussions. Statements like "we changed X on a commerce site, and that drove up traffic by Y, and we think a similar tactic could work on your site" helps me better understand the experience upon which you're building knowledge. Be specific about which knowledge is based upon your teams' testing, which knowledge is based upon reputable third party testing, which knowledge is based on accepted folklore, and which knowledge is an educated guess (that you think is worth testing).

10. SEO estimates

Estimate business impact. Let me know some of your initial thoughts or recommendations, and the upside we might get from implementing them. Tie this into past improvements you've seen. I know there are no guarantees — there rarely are. Google may change (a little bit). So, when you provide estimates, estimate low. Under promising and over delivering always makes everyone happy.

11. The SEO Cost Vs. Return Formula

Engage me in a conversation about our costs of implementation. Some high impact recommendations may be very expensive for us to implement. Some will be less expensive. I need your inputs on the return side; you'll likely need my inputs on the cost side.

12.          Seo Action Plan

Prioritize. Let's run through the ideas, prioritize those that have "big impact / low cost", and execute those first. Together, we'll create a top 3-5 list to help me see the fastest, largest ROI, up-front.

13.  SEO expectations and realizations

Tell me when you expect to see positive results. You might say some version of "I need to look at your log files to see how often the pages we are working on will be crawled; we'd expect to see results within 2 weeks of the pages being crawled, which may happen 1 month after the changes launch". Or you might say "With a previous client, we used a similar strategy and generated results of X within Y weeks of launch."

14. Criticize SEO wisely

If you point out shortcomings in our current SEO efforts, do it constructively. You're going to have to work with the people you're talking to. Good: "You guys have done really well with your in-house efforts. I have some ideas on how to build further on them." Bad: "I don't know how you missed these really basic things". You're selling not just your expertise, but also your ability to make friends with us and work with us. In the medical profession, they call this "having good bedside manner". All other things being equal, good bedside manner trumps.

15. When you talk about such shortcomings, please also share the results we can expect from addressing them. You may find that we already know these shortcomings exist, but have chosen not to prioritize addressing them because of poor ROI. Or, we may learn that you've identified some new areas that do have upside opportunity, which further bolsters your credibility.

16. When is a good time to talk about cost?

Generally, you want to sell the business value you can deliver first, then talk about cost. Once I'm confident about the business results we are likely to achieve, I can start estimating value and ROI. Is (Probable Value of Results) > (Cost of Consultant + Cost of Managing Consultant + Cost of Implementing Changes)? I am responsible for allocating limited resources and money to areas that will deliver business results. Having discussed the above with you, I can start comparing the return Cost of Consultant will give me in SEO with the return I can get from other marketing or conversion generation activities. Now I'm ready to think about allocating budget and to talk about money.

17.  Catch the Small fish that can Catch the Big one:

Sometimes you will find yourself, as an Seo consultant, not addressing a decision maker, like CEO, CMO, or a marketing director. You may be pitching an influencer who could be a junior SEO technician, or a marketing specialist, or maybe someone from the technical guys who created the website or designed it. These guys might get interested quickly but unless you give them a strong reason focusing exactly on the benefits their websites will have if they recommended you and spoke on your behalf to their decision makers.