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How to Sell SEO: Don’t Sell, Educate!

“Ask Chris” Webinar Q&A

Below is a summary of questions and answers from the “Ask Chris” sales webinar, part of our ”Ask A Reseller” webinar series. (The questions/answers are paraphrased from the content of the webinar.)

When you started, you focused on large accounts. What made you pivot and decide to go after small businesses instead?

Big box retailers was the thought process of our business model at the time. With a big business, you’ve got a long sales process, lots of decision makers, they’re very protective of their brand (getting things approved is difficult). The money was there but it wasn’t what we wanted to do. We weren’t growing as fast as we could. In 2010 we started looking for small businesses. It’s good to have elephants (i.e., big clients) on your client list, but, at the end of the day when you factor in the time it took to close the sale, to get something done, to get something approved—you’re not making as much as you might think.

We realized we had 20 years experience working with big companies and we could use those same techniques for small businesses. We make less per account. But, if you make small amounts on a lot of accounts versus a lot on a handful, you’ll end up making more money in the long run. If you lose one or two small clients, it doesn’t hurt. If you lose a 10k account, it hurts. It’s a much better business model to target local business owners.

How do you overcome the problem of having no clients and therefore, can’t demonstrate that you’ve had success with SEO/digital marketing?

Prove you’re an expert at showing how the internet works. When you’re talking to people, you’ve never met them face to face, the trick is to say: “Are you open to the possibility of me showing you a way that I can help you increase your business?” (That line will make you lots of money!) Suggest you meet one day this week or next for 30 minutes. You simply want to gain agreement that they’re open to the possibility of you helping them grow their business. Meet them anywhere they want, and make it not interfere with their daily schedule.

You need to educate people on how Google works. If you don’t understand why they need a blog, why they need links, you need to educate yourself. You have know and be able to explain in layman’s terms. Your enthusiasm needs to pour out. Don’t go into this knowing just about how to build a website. Once you identify a good prospect, there will always be resistance and rejection. Don’t take it personally. That’s OK. Keep pounding it out. You will get some yeses!

How do you find leads?

The Lowes Idea - Contractors are going to Lowes (i.e.home improvement/construction products stores) early every morning. The parking lots are littered with plumbers, painters, electricians, carpet guys...all the guys in the business will be there to get what they need before they go to the job site. Get up early in the morning and go. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. Believe in yourself, that you have something that will help people. Have confidence in your product. Don’t be afraid of rejection. If you see a website mentioned on their truck, look it up. If they have no website on their truck or van, that’s even better. If they don’t recognize in this day and age that they need a website, that’s a pretty good candidate. You also get an idea of the value of the revenue the company is making—one guy in a Ford Ranger with a ladder hanging over the roof of the cab is probably not someone you want to call. You see a guy with a nice truck, graphics everywhere—definitely worth trying to get an audience with that guy.

The Starbucks Idea - You see people at Starbucks giving sales presentations; the person getting the presentation is a business owner. Once the presentation is finished, go up to that person hand them your card. You have nothing to lose. I've literally picked up business that way by people getting pitched by someone else—I noticed it, waited until they were finished and handed them my card and said “give me a shout if you want to talk about another option.” You have to refuse to be outworked! You have to want it bad enough.

The Business Card Idea - Coffee shops (and other shops) have business cards all over the place (i.e., bulletin board where they let people advertise their business cards). Pick up the cards, look up the website and see if they’re ranking for their keywords—if they’re not, that’s a prospect.

The Google Search Idea - Type in keywords for any vertical, see who’s on page 2-3-4, (not page one) and call them. Build a list of prospects and give them a call. Never randomly call people before you do some research. Make sure they’re a good candidate. Don’t waste time if they’re not a high probability candidate. (*See How to Qualify, below.) Look at all their services and see if they’re ranking on page one for any of them. If they’re not ranking on page one for anything, then they need what you’re selling.

The Phone Book Idea - Companies that used to advertise in the phone book, and are not ranking on keywords, are good prospects

Community Networking Idea - Think out side the box. You want to be active in your community in trying to meet business owners. It’s very easy to start meetings and even join existing groups. Look on the internet—there are groups for just about everything you can imagine. It doesn’t even have to be about marketing. Join a bike riding group, for example—groups in which business owners would have a probability of having time to do. Don’t go in there trying to sell. That’s the biggest mistake you can make. Meet people. Network. Once you get to know people in the groups, ask, “Are you a business you know any business owners?” Establish relationships. People just start talking. Next thing you know you can hand out your business card. You get a lot of leads that way.

What size contractor is better to go after?

Make sure he has employees, a payroll. Talk to guys with the nice truck, who look like they are established. Not the one man business. One guy in a truck is probably a waste of time. Contractors want to show the world they have a big company and a team. Too small won’t be able to afford you.

What do you say to someone who says something like, “My cousin built my website and is doing the SEO?”

Say to them, “That’s great, that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about.” Tell them what they have is an online brochure, that tells people about their business. Tell them “No one can find your online brochure. When people search on your keywords, they don’t find your website. If someone happens to see your website on your truck or looks at your business card, maybe they’ll find it. That’s not what we build. We build OPTIMIZED websites. What I want to do if you give me 30 min of your time and I will show you the difference. I will compare you to your biggest competitor. I’ll show you the difference between a brochure website and an optimized website.” Let them know that all this info is going to be left for them for free. You do the research for free. You do the report for free. Tell them “Whether you do business with me or not, you’ll know what’s wrong with your website and you‘ll know why no one’s calling you.”

Who does your accounting, correspondence, delivery? How are you structured?

In the early stages, I wanted to know everything. My partner didn’t want to know anything but sales. I wanted to educate myself about everything about the business, via books, YouTube, seminars. I would find out how to design website, logos, edit pictures, social media, blogs...

Trying to do things myself, I had no time for sales. Once I understood enough to be dangerous, I could sit down with anyone and my confidence was off the charts. Read The 4-Hour Workweek—You make more money hiring people to work with you to free up your time. I wanted more time for sales. I partnered with HubShout. I have lots of offices doing lots of stuff. If you think you’ll save money by trying to do all these things yourself, you’re missing the boat. If you free yourself up by outsourcing, just bring in the business, get new clients, the money will come. Find people to handle things so you don’t have to wear so many hats.

When it comes down to price: the big box client at 10k monthly vs. 100 month for 100 small clients. The “Large elephants,”—if you calculate the time it takes time to close the sale, get something done, get something approved you’re not making as much as you might think. On paper, money is coming in but, if you use the same techniques for small business accounts, you make less money per account, but you make more money in the long run if you have lots of small accounts. And it’s not so painful to lose one. It hurts to lose one account if you have a handful of big ones.

If you close enough deals, it may take a couple years to get 100, don’t get greedy, hire people to help you, choose clients wisely and focus on the recurring revenue stream.

Can you speak to the “hard core” sales training viewpoint that you got at Yellow Pages, that mind set and skill set that set you up to win?

*Number one: you have to qualify effectively. There are four questions for qualifying:

  • Does the prospect need what you’re selling?
  • Can the prospect use what you’re selling?
  • Can the prospect afford the product?
  • Does the prospect want the product?

If you haven’t identified a high probability prospect before you pick up the phone to talk to them, you’re wasting your time. I never randomly call people just because I see that they’re not on the first page of Google. I always go to their site first, look at their products and services—just because they don’t show up on one key phrase, they may be #1 on all the other services. Look at all their services and see what they’re ranking for. If they’re ranking for pretty much anything across the board, you already know they need what you’re selling.

And can they use what you’re selling? That’s a pretty easy one to answer. Everybody can use tools and ways to help them grow their business. Business owners don’t have the time to do what we do.

Affordability - you pretty much have to with your gut feeling on that. Someone can have a dynamite website and not have a dime. I wish there was a magic trick on qualifying affordability.

In the early stages and this comes from Yellow Pages training, you can go to Google, type in a keyword, and you’ve got a whole entire vertical. Home services for example— plumbers, electricians, floor installers, plumbers, HVAC guys... any one of those, in any market, there will be hundreds or thousands of them. Before you call, make sure they’re qualified. Don’t waste time if they’re not a high probability candidate.

Should you focus on a geographic market or a vertical?

If you’re just starting, I highly recommend keeping within your local market. Once you make a sale in a vertical, you get two roofing companies to rank on Google, you can go to any other market. When you’re new in the game, just starting, keep in your local market, network with local businesses. Once you make a sale in a vertical (roofing, for example) and get them to rank, you can go into any other market. It doesn’t matter what city you’re in, if you can demonstrate success, it doesn’t matter where you’re located—that’s the beauty of the internet.

Once you get enough clients and start making money, you want to go after professionals who will stick with you and pay bills (doctors, lawyers…). Contractors aren’t as reliable. The good thing with contractors, their number is usually their cell and you can get through to them without gatekeepers.

How do you close a sale?

One thing I tell people all the time, I learned this as a sales trainer: 51% of closing effectiveness comes directly from enthusiasm.

Your excitement about your product/service has to transfer from your words to your prospect. If you don’t believe in your products, you don’t believe that SEO is where they need to be, that ‘s going to chime through when you’re talking to people. Before you strike up a conversation, you have to believe in your heart that what you’re doing is going to help them. If you know that, you don’t have to sell. That’s the trick, don’t sell, educate—establish yourself as a thought leader. Once you can do that and you’re proud of what you’re doing, then the sales will come. If you educate people, they’re going to want to buy.

What should you do if you’re having trouble closing?

If that’s the case, start to drill down on what it is you’re doing that’s preventing you from getting a sale.

Are You Too Timid? - One of my pet peeves is when the customer tell you to “Leave them the info or send it in the mail” and the salesperson accepts that. You have to ask the person: “Is it OK if I drop off personally this afternoon?” They’ll usually say OK and...You’ve got an appointment! Even if the owner isn’t there when you drop off, the gatekeeper has seen you, met you, and shaken your hand. Next time you make a call, you got a friend on the other end. That makes it easier to get your foot in the door.

Have some Creative Ways to Make a Close - During your presentation, you can ask questions like “What do you think so far,” “does this make sense,” “do you think this will be an improvement on what you’re doing now” See where they are as you go along. If they say no, you can begin eliminating some objections as you go along.

Make it Clear: You’re There Personally to Help - You want them to feel like you really want to help them. Dress the part. Look the part. Don’t waste their time. It’s not salesperson to business owner. It’s professional business owner to professional business owner. Tell them, “You’re a business owner, I’m a business owner. Once I saw what’s going on with your site, I wanted to personally sit down with you. I’m the owner of my company. I could have sent my salespeople but I wanted to do this personally. What you have isn’t working. This will be an investment. If you let me lead the way, I will help you.”

One More Thing, Before I Leave... - (This is also known as “The Columbo Close.”) You can literally be in the process of leaving. Say, “I was just’re not going to buy today...this may not be what you need, what was the real reason why you didn’t want to buy today?” Shut up and let them tell you what the real objection is. I’ve closed many deals that way.

Still No Sale - You’ve, shown them everything they need to see and they’re not buying. I don’t try to get a credit card then and there. I leave my pricing and everything with them. Don’t be afraid to leave the info. If you’ve done a good job in educating, it should be a no brainer of what they need to do.

Follow up skills - Put dates on your calendar to check in if you don’t hear from them.

What types of businesses would you avoid?

Stay away from a business with a brand new domain, which makes it very difficult to succeed.

Avoid something that’s so new, no one’s looking for that type of business (i.e., no keywords to target).

What is the best selling point?

Provide a layman’s illustration of how Google works. Educate. Make them know you’re the expert. They know you can build a can write content—show them you know how the internet works.

How do you pare down your service offerings and price to be able to work with a small business that has little money to spend on SEO?

We do everything. I tell clients, “I diagnose your website, your business..we’ll provide everything you need, turnkey.” I’ll bundle SEO, website, social and charge them one price. 80% of the time I sell them a new website. By the time we try to update the existing site, we can build them a new site. I tell them, “I can provide everything you need, I can make you a player in your industry. Turn over your keys to me and I will be the driver.”

How long do you make them commit to for the program?

I used to make it a 12 month contract (because that’s what Yellow Pages did). Naturally people don’t want a 12 month contract. You’re not Yellow Pages! People believed in that brand. If you’re just starting out, you have no clients, have no proof of success, people won’t want a 12 month contract.

I educate, tell them it’s going to take 90 days before they notice momentum in their campaigns. They won’t get credit from Google until next month, for what’s been done this month. The goal is to show momentum in visitor traffic and show rankings movement. After that, I tell clients to decide if they want to keep the momentum going. Once we’ve established this thing is moving, we don’t believe in 12 month contracts anymore. We believe that what we’re doing works. After a 90 day contract we do a “handshake”—I do a good job, you pay me, I don’t, you don’t pay me. THEY (clients) LOVE IT. But, there is a 30 day cancellation.

In closing, Chris recommended:

1. The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource by Jeffrey Gitomer

2. For inspirational purposes, Google: “Will Smith, I will not be Outworked.” Watch the YouTube video and use that work ethic/mindset in your sales.

Click here to watch the “Ask Chris” Webinar.

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