This post reveals:
A) An effective approach I use that eliminates "hard selling."
B) The type of conversational language to use in your first client meeting to close the deal without even trying and build rapport in doing so.
I see so many "offliners" struggling with the actual pitch or 'closing the deal' when it comes to marketing their services to business owners, and I started to get a number of messages and emails asking me how exactly I pitch my offer when doing the hard selling bit, so I decided to just make a thread about it.
This is an idea I had when starting out that I have come to take for granted, as it is now second nature to me. I imagine there are plenty of folks out there using this same technique, if it can even be called a technique, but apparently there are also many who are not.
This approach can be utilized with many different monthly retainer services and can be adjusted to work for one-time sales also. Personally, the technique I'm about to mention applies to my ongoing SEO service where I help maintain clients' page-1 rankings. I also apply it to my web design offer (building websites for businesses that don't have them).
Everyone knows unique selling propositions, or USP's, are important. I see this technique as my USP, and almost as a form of a money-back guarantee. The beauty of this approach is that it allows whatever service you apply it to to really "sell itself," as I like to say. It virtually eliminates having to actually try to sell your service.
So here it is. The technique or approach, as I've been saying, in general terms, is just performing your service for FREE until the client sees verifiable results.
Now before everyone hoots and hollers, let me explain in more detail in specific relation to SEO.
Let's face it. The vast majority of folks have no clue what SEO is, what it involves, or even what it stands for. This is why selling it as a service can be a huge battle, simply because no one wants to pay for something they don't understand. People fear what they don't understand. As a side note, this is why I never even mention the terms SEO or 'search engine optimization' at all the first time I talk to a potential new client. I just tell them about how I can "help their website show up for specific targeted phrases, which allows for more visitors to the site, which means more prospects, leads, customers, conversions, sales, appointments, profits," etc. - that's the type of lingo business owners understand. Their end goal is more profits.
They don't want or need to hear terms like SEO, backlinks, keywords, HTML, title tag, algorithm, PageRank, etc. - at least in your initial contact or meeting. Psychologically, throwing around terms like this during an initial meeting could potentially scare them and even make them feel inferior to you. Those terms will emphasize the fact that you are trying to sell them something. You want to just appear to be like a friend helping them out by growing their business. What people tend to forget is that they will automatically view you as an expert in your field simply because you know a little more than they might about internet marketing. Because of this, you don't have to use big technical SEO terms that they don't understand.
Get on their level and discuss the easy-to-understand flow of visitors -> sales -> profits. And watch their eyes grow wide with interest and excitement.
So back to the technique...
By performing your services for free until they see results, they have absolutely nothing to lose by hiring you. This is exactly what I do when pitching my SEO service:
I use the language I discussed above and tell them to let me get them to page 1 of Google free of charge. Then I tell them that once they reach page 1, they have the option of paying a monthly retainer for me to check and attempt to maintain their rankings on page 1, or they can walk away, no questions asked, without having paid a dime. This may seem like a scary proposition to some of you, but I have used this technique every time I pitched my service, and for those who agreed to let me give it a go, after getting them to page 1, I have not had a single person take the second option and walk away. Everyone stayed and started paying.
This is a very powerful approach when you think about it. Trust and reciprocation are huge in business relationships, and you are offering an extremely valuable service for nothing, so human nature dictates that they will at least feel somewhat obligated to begin paying you, and they will trust you more than they otherwise would have. Not only that, but trust me on this, once they see themselves on page 1 of Google, they get very excited and want to hang on to that for dear life.
I know what you're thinking: "That's a huge investment and a big risk to take!" :confused:
It is, in a sense, but think about the residual effects and the future value. It presents them with an offer that is literally too good to turn down, and gets your foot in the door to potentially sell them other services down the road. You will easily make back your initial investment (for me in the first month's charge) in future payments from the new client. Also keep in mind that they think this is hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of work, but for most of the local businesses I do this service for, the SEO is honestly not that difficult, and not expensive by any means. Sometimes a few on-page tweaks are all that's needed.
"But what if they walk away after you get their site to page 1 ?!"
That's part of the risk, but like I said, every client I've gotten to page 1 has stayed with the service for at least a few months, more than enough to cover my initial out-of-pocket investment. Their site may stay there, it may drop, who knows... Or if you do the 301 tactic you can simply switch it off and their site will drop - personally I don't do the 301 thing, but I've thought about trying it sometime.
By using this approach, you have now gone from a salesman asking for money to a nice friend who wants to grow this person's business for free. There is a huge difference there.
Taking the analogy further, consider these 2 statements:
"This SEO and backlinking service costs $1000 up front."
"Let me bring you more traffic and more sales for free."
Which one do you think sounds better? The second one!
Obviously, to protect yourself, you can draw up some simple contracts about charging them monthly and how you cannot control Google's algorithm, things like that...
A concrete example:
I currently have a client that is a local medical facility. I knew their keywords would be tough and would take a larger-than-usual investment up front to push their site to page 1, but I decided to still do the free-until-you-reach-page-1 offer. It took me 4 months to get them to page 1 for the phrases they wanted to target, but that client now pays me $1200/month. I say that not to brag, but to show you the ultimate ongoing value of retention here. The initial investment I made was a small price to pay to get that check every month.
The other thing I do to "soften the blow" of them getting onboard is I tell them they can cancel at any time; no 6- or 12-month contracts. Some may feel differently here but I believe it gives them more confidence in signing up with you.
This entire approach also makes for a better overall relationship. They will feel comfortable paying you instead of wondering "Is this really worth it?"
If you implement this approach, you will literally have potential clients contacting you without you ever having spoken to them. I have gotten about half my clients simply from word of mouth, because people love the "unbelievable offer that is too good to pass up." Getting contacts and clients through referrals is the best way, in my opinion. It adds yet another enhancement to your trustworthiness as the service provider if your potential client's friend recommends your service. He or she can show them what it did for their business, you explain the free-until-results setup, and that's all the "selling" that ever needs to take place.
For this reason, I also implement a referral/affiliate program in which people get a 20% ongoing commission every month for each new client they refer. That may seem like a huge chunk to give away, but I see it as getting business I otherwise probably would not have gotten. This gives them a huge incentive to refer you to someone else! I even have a friend who uses my referral system as one of his main sources of income. He just enjoys going out and talking to people, so I let him do his thing and he brings me new business, and I'm happy to pay him for it.
I feel like I'm starting to ramble, but this can also apply to web design in a slightly different manner. I don't build very many websites nowadays because I have found it to be quite a headache for a number of reasons, but for the ones I have done, all I did was tell them they didn't need to pay a dime until they were satisfied with the finished website. Again, they have nothing to lose.
Whatever service you may be selling, consider offering some sort of pay-nothing-up-front scenario until the potential client sees verifiable results.
I have never enjoyed cold calling or hard selling or any of that stuff. I suppose no one does. That is why I love the approach I use - it all but eliminates the need for selling tactics. You don't need to memorize a script or use fancy statistics or anything. Just let your offer be the basis of your "sale" and build a conversation after and around that point. Like I said earlier, let it be a friendly conversation that exudes the sense that you are genuinely interested in helping them grow their business, and they will love you for it. And not to state the obvious, but when they view you in that manner, it gives them an incentive to stay with you and also to recommend you to friends and contacts. See how this all ties together...
Through this type of "friendly" exchange, I have literally become good friends with several of my clients that have been paying me for my service for over a year now. And because of that, when they run into anything internet- or marketing-related, who do you think is the first person they call?
Now go make some money!
To your success,
John T. Williamson