I found this forum by typing "Yellow pages sell seo" on google, it led me to a thread asking how to sell seo to local businesses. There was a ton of responses to the thread but none of them actually said: "Hire a professional salesperson".
I was burning to post that... but I figured I'd drop in and contribute.
Please note that I'm French and Lazy.
I'll avoid all the "do X and clients will come to you" and presume that you want to go out and get more business. Local chambers of commerce and other associations works great but the bulk of your business will come from soliciation.
So.. How do you sell SEO to local businesses?
I'm sure most of you know that it usually goes in that order:
Cold calls or Cold Walk-ins
Meeting / Pitch
Why do half of the people fail at it? They don't stay focused...
Let's put this again but with what should be your focus.
Prospection... Quickly and Efficiently get a list of Qualified Prospects.
Cold calls... Get a meeting with the decision maker.
Walk-ins... Get a meeting with the decision maker.
Meeting... Get to understand the prospect, his business, his needs.
Pitch... Sell yourself.
Close... Close with the prospects expectations as low as possible.
It's amazing how many people take hours to prospect just a few clients or how they start talking about their product, it's advantages and even the price on the phone. It is simply because they don't stay focused.
In our business prospection is easy, you have to ask yourself the following questions for each business:
Can they afford my services?
Can they benefit from my services?
Are they already doing SEO? If so, are the others doing a good job?
And then move to the next one.. It's all about being efficient with your time.
The biggest problem some people face is that they find a local business that could benefit from SEO, spends a few hours planning or gathering info and then goes to call or meet the owner.... A business owner who DOES NOT BELIEVE IN THE INTERNET.
Yes ladies and gents, lots of local business owners don't believe in the fact that the internet can bring them more business. I'm sure you've all faced the typical scenario where one of your client wants to pay as little as possible for anything web related. Remember that most successful businesses are still owned by the baby boomer (or previous) generation and that they understand little about the internet. So the goal is to spend time only on the ones who believe in it, forget the others.
Cold calls and Walk-ins
Ah, good ole Cold calling.. it sucks doesn't it? You have this crazy product, SEO, beats any means of advertising AND it's only starting.. yet that *%/" receptionist on the other end of the phone won't let you talk to the owner.
Cold calling is an art - It requires you to adapt yourself to the person on the other end of the line and has a lot of subtle elements to consider.
First of all, go on youtube and type "cold calls" - "cold calling" etc.. There's tons of videos teaching the basics and fundamentals of it - consider yourselves lucky, people had to buy books and videos on cold calling a few years ago, now you get all of this for free.
The second step is to calibrate your mind and body for success and enthousiasm. I know this sounds silly but take 30 seconds and picture something that you know will make you smile or put you in a good mood. Personally I used to picture clients for whom my services made a big difference, clients who told me thanks. Why would you do this you ask? Because there's three things that will come out when you'll be on the phone:
What you will say,
Which mood you are in,
The goal is to get in a good mood and be enthousiastic about your product and how it can help them. Trust me, people sell 2000$ sceminars just to teach you that it's important to smile when making cold calls.
Now onto the call itself... It's spit into several steps.
Sorry guys (and gals) but there's only one very efficient way of getting what you want out of receptionists and it's to suck it up and to put on the white gloves. You have to be polite, ongoing, flirt a bit, call them by their names, thank them often, make them feel like the center of the world. Oh and it has to be as authentic as possible, you have to feel it...
I would usually ask for the owner or person responsible for advertising. If they responded that they don't do advertising, I'd say it's about the website and I have 3 quick important questions to ask to the owner. The website isn't mentionned at first because half the time they'll pass you right trough and I felt like I was taken less seriously if I talked about the website. Some people tend to put you into the "geeky web nerd type of guy" when you start talking about their website and you want to avoid that.
Sometimes you'll end up on grumpy at the other end of the line and there's simply nothing you can do about it.
Once you got past the receptionist it's game time; putting yourself in the shoes of a business owners or leader helps a lot in theses cases. My pitch usually went like this:
Me: "Hello Mr.I_learned_your_name_from_receptionist my name is Philippe Labrie, how are you today?"
Prospect: "I'm doing well, thank you, you wanted to speak to me?"
Me: "Yes Mr.X, I understand you are a busy man (reinforce ego) so I won't take much of your time, I have three quick questions.."
Prospect: Go ahead..
Me: "Do you know google?"
Prospect: "Yes" (If no.. He probably doesn't believe on the internet, RUN!)
Me: "Do you use google?"
Prospect: "Yes I do" (If no.. does his staff use it?)
Me: "Do you think it's important for your business to be found on google when someone is looking for _insert his product or service_ in Ottawa?"
Prospect: "Of course!"
Me: "Well then, that's exacly why I want to meet you; I want to show you how to achieve theses results, how about I meet you at your office Friday morning?"
(Now, for the sake of this little guide, I'll make it tough)
Prospect: "I'd love to but our advertising budget is tight, can you tell me how much it costs?"
Me: "Mr.X I understand but in order for me to come out with a number I need to learn more about your business and where it should be positioned in the search engines. I promise I won't waste your time."
Prospect: "I'm still not convinced.."
Me: "See it this way Mr.X, two things can happen if we meet; either we come out with a deal and your wallet benefits from it or you'll come out much more knowledgable about search engine marketing and it's implications for today and tomorrow which in turns allows you to make better decisions in the future.
So how about Friday?"
It's very important that you stay focused and keep your goal in mind: To get an appointment. Some sales people I've worked with write it down on a post it and put it somewhere visible. So whatever works, as long as you get results.
Another way to help is to set yourself a goal; a number of calls to make, and stick to it. Cold calls can get frustrating and people without experience will sometimes stop after that 15th call because they didn't get good feedback. Someone with experience in cold calls will know the average success rate of his industry, in the case of selling SEO to local businesses it is around 1 meeting per 10 calls based on hundreds of cold calls. So don't let yourself get discouraged by a bad streak. You can only judge your performance after a hundred calls or so.
Walk-ins are a bit different, I personally am not a big fan of them but I did make some sells because of them. You can do that whenever your tired of cold calls or when you are simply casually shopping or w/e. The trick is once again to stay focused and get an appointement out of it, not explain your whole product or services. That way it allows you to come prepared and it puts you in control of the sale.
Meeting the prospect
When interviewing sales candidates I love to do this little test; I ask them to role play a bit and sell me my product and what they understand of it. Most of them start by pitching the product.. the really good ones start asking questions about my business.
The point is that good salespeople ask questions before pitching the product. It allows them to "tone" the pitch to the personality of the prospect and to make sure they don't step into traps along the way.
Ex. Prospect hates pay per click, spent lots of money on them with little results.
By asking questions you would know this before presenting what you can do for him so you won't include a pay per click campaign in your proposal. Nothing prevents you from reasoning with him afterward once he's doing business with you and have a well managed pay per click campaign done for him. But if you were to mention that in the early stages, before doing business together, you'd be losing points.
So start by asking relevant business questions; get to know them and their business. Some of the simply LOVE to talk about themselves and how great their business is.. the more they talk early on the better. I remember reading about the psychology related to sales and a basic aspect was that the more a person talks about themselves the more they are inclined to buy. I don't remember the exact reason nor could I formulate it in english but the way I see it, the longer the person talks about himself in front of me, the stronger the feeling that they "owe" me something.
I've had a security systems business owner rant to me for an hour of the good (and bad) shots he did in the 10 years he has been in business without even knowing what I was selling exacly. Once he stopped talking about himself he simply asked: "So, you're telling me this will help me make more money?" I replied "Yes" and he said "I'll take your word on it, what do you need from me". Sale was done.
Also, never ever play the tech guy unless you're dealing with a tech guy. If the person in front of you only talks about statistics and conversion rates, show him stats.. otherwise keep it simple.
Things like: "You agree with me that people are searching locally for your services on Google?"
Are much stronger than: "There's been a 32% increase in local searches for your services in the last 2 years"
If you are to use stats in your pitch keep them quick and simple; A very fun one to use that I've actually picked up on the net is the "how much you're losing" one. I would start a presentation by showing a simple number, pausing for a good 10 seconds and ask them: "Do you know what this is?"..
"It's the number of people looking for your products or services that can't find you right now." or "It's the amount of money you could be bringing in."
Visuals are important: I used to print out google results of a local query in their fields; the goal was to show them that they aren't there of course, but half the time it actually showed them that the COMPETITION is there.. now that helps you get their attention, trust me.
A simple sample of printed out results of what you've done for other customers is all you really need for your pitches, also I believe that using a computer (especially theirs) is to avoid. I can't count the number of sales I lost because a prospect started litteraly surfing right in front of me, typing down keywords related to his business (or his friend's business). They tend to get easily distracted and notice tons of stuff that is irrelevant with what you are trying to accomplish. Avoid at all costs unless they are YOU to show them on the computer.. That way you stay in control of the sale.
From experience, most local business owners know little about the internet (or they think they know) so play it very simple, talk about first pages not SEO. Talk about bringing in more customers, not driving traffic to their website. Now and then there's a guy who knows about conversion rates but it's pretty rare and that brings us on the importance of expectations.
Don't set expectations too high (or at least try not to)... You do not want to go in there and tell them how internet will completely change the way to do business and that if they do business with you they will become so rich they won't know what to do with their money. I saw a lot of people pitching web sites or SEO and talk about how insane it's going to be in 5 years and how they are going to make 10 times the money invested.
That's peddlers talk.. and that monthly they are sending you.. you can kiss it goodbye in 2 months.
You want to keep their expectations just high enough for them to spend the money on it. Once they start seeing results they will appreciate it. If you set the bar too high, even if they get great results, they will have expected more and you risk losing them. Just be honest about what results they should expect based on your experience, you won't just find a client, you'll find a new friend.
I could go on for hours on how-to's and what's important but instead I'll just remind you the simple and basic rules:
- Ask questions
- Ask more questions
- Validate and ask questions
- Keep it simple
- Don't set expectations too high
(A)lways (B)e (C)losing
The ABC of sales.. countless sales rep have been hammered by the phrase. It is untrue by the way, there's a lot of timing involved in closing a deal. Asking for a close too early and the prospect won't see enough value in your service, ask it too late and the enthousiasm in them will have dicipated. It has to be done at the right time, once "all the holes have been patched" like my sales mentor would say.
Now, there are countless videos on youtube about closing so I won't spend too much time on it. The best ressource on it i've had the pleasure to consume is the 24 techniques to closing the sale by Brian Tracy. The way I see it is a bit funky, comes from a gamer background but bare with me for a second:
Basically, there's two meters.. One is for CONFIDENCE and the other one is for ENTHUSIASM.
Your goal is to fill both up before asking for a close otherwise you'll get a negative response.
Confidence is the belief in you and your service from the perspective of the client - it includes the price, delivery time, value etc.. that one is easy to fill up, most people can make someone else feel good about them and their service and answer simple objections. Where it gets tricky is the enthusiasm meter because even if they trust you their interest might not be there... I'll give you an example..
Say you are doing a presentation and you can feel that the prospect is highly interested, he's smiling and he says stuff like: "Ok, we'll go ahead with it." - Would you stop and close?
A lot of people simply won't.. because the presentation is not over.. or they will tell the client they will come back the next day to fill in the papers with him.. guess what's gonna happen the next day: that enthusiasm is gone and you'll have to start over again.. except this time the client knows about the product.
If you have to come back in a few days it is because the CONFIDENCE meter was not full, you forgot something along the way, stuff like: the business owner can't spend the money right now but will be able to in a month.. but he didn't tell you. That is never a lost sale because if you find what's holding them back, you can come back and propose a solution and while you are there you get that enthusiasm meter up. On the other way around they can be entirely confident on you but don't feel like buying right now. That happens all the time when reps call back clients the next day, they get the "we'll think about it" or "I'll get in touch with you".. Too late.. 9 times out of 10, you lost that sale.
I believe that selling S.E.O to local businesses is no easy task if you compare it to other types of advertising sales because it's still not pictured like advertising and you know what? That's a very good thing, especially if you have some talent in sales and are willing to go out of your way and call thoses prospects because we all know that in organic positioning there can't be hundreds of businesses competing. The sooner you get them on board the better for both of you. That said, I hope my unorganised spewing of mistyped information will help some of you!
Go get them!