SEO Sales Guide: Generating and converting the perfect lead

I talk to loads of SEO professionals all the time and one hot topic of conversation is always around generating leads and how to sell SEO services. Over the past 15 years in the industry, I have made sales mistakes and spent an awful lot of money on advertising that never generated a bean. It is those mistakes though that make us stronger and at least, I know what not to do. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do as it allows you to invest your time and money into the important things within your business.

SEO Sales Guide

Now I want to make one thing perfectly clear, right from the start. This SEO sales guide is just that. It is a ‘guide’ of my own experiences and what has proven to be successful for me over the years. Depending on how you have structured your own business will depend how much of this guide you implement. If nothing else, it will provide some great useful information and a solid actionable process.

FEEDBACK I RECEIVED

Like any of my guides or articles. I only create things that people actually want and there is a real need for. Over the past couple of weeks I have been reaching out to SEO consultants and agency business owners to ask them if they would find an SEO sales guide useful, if I created one. A massive 93% of all people I reached out to said that it would be a fantastic idea.

Now I knew that there was a real need for this guide, I wanted to go one step further and ask my connections what questions they would like me to answer. I received loads. Below are the most common questions.

  • How do you find prospects?
  • How do you present SEO services?
  • How do you close the deal?
  • What have you tried that doesn’t work?
  • How do you calculate the ROI?
  • What are the different revenue models?
  • How much should I charge?
  • How do you first approach a new prospect?
  • How do you work out the price of SEO packages?
  • How do you find people who value SEO enough to pay your prices?
  • How do you educate people so they do value it?
  • How do you set the right expectations?
  • What reaction do you get from a prospect?
  • How do I put a contract together?

Now I am going to try and cover all the above questions but I also need to make sure that this SEO sales guide is universal so any SEO freelancer or agency in any Country can follow the steps I have documented.

DECIDING ON A CERTAIN CUSTOMER DEMOGRAPHIC

One of, or maybe the biggest issue I find when talking to some SEO agencies is that they don’t have a clue who their customers are. There does not seem to be a focus towards any certain demographic. When I ask them – “Who is your ideal customer?” – I usually get a reply that goes something like – “Anyone with a website”. No, no, no and no again.

If you sell low priced set SEO packages on your website. You will only attract a certain demographic such as start-up businesses with very little money to invest then your business model is ‘price low and high volume’ or as I call it ‘busy fools’. If however you want to build a brand that works with established companies who have a few thousand per month to invest – You are immediately turning away a certain demographic.

Customer Demographics

You can’t be everything to everyone so decide on a certain demographic audience to target and brand yourself and your website according to their needs.

UNDERSTANDING WHO YOUR CLIENTS ARE

Before we go any further. I want you to answer the following questions about who your ideal client is. Until you have solid answers to each question, do not continue. It’s not going to be easy for most of you but it is an essential part of the whole lead generation and SEO sales process. I suggest, you base your answers on your own key strengths. If there is a certain area of SEO you specialise in. Match that with your client demographics. There is nothing worse than being in a sales call or meeting and the prospect asks a question, you just cannot answer.

  • What are your target industries?
  • What are your target locations?
  • What company size (number of employees) matches your ideal client?
  • Who is the decision maker (the person who has the authority to sign your contract) within the company or business (director, marketing manager etc…)?
  • What level of revenue / turnover do your ideal clients have?
  • What are the similar business goals of your ideal target client?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are the deciding criteria’s for a potential customer to convert into a paying client?

Did you find that hard? I did say it was not going to be easy, but at least now, you know exactly who your ideal target client is. That’s half the battle!

WHAT’S THE RIGHT REVENUE MODEL?

Before we get stuck in to the actual sales process. Let’s discuss revenue models. There is not actually that many revenue model options when it comes to SEO. There are:

  • Price per set package / service (one-off)
  • Price per set package / service (monthly)
  • Price per hour
  • Set day rate
  • Total price per campaign
  • Monthly campaign price

These are the most common SEO revenue models that freelancers and agencies follow. Before you decide on which revenue model you wish to follow. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself.

  • How large do you want to grow? For me, I’m quite happy just being me. I have no interest at all with building a large agency ever again.
  • Do you need to employ people? If so, can you easily recruit new staff quickly?
  • If you are considering outsourcing the work. Do you have a top quality outsourcing team who are reliable, trustworthy and perform every task ethically?
  • Do you have the personal skills to complete any task? If you are let down by an outsourcing provider or a member of staff calls in sick just as a deadline hits, you need to have the skills to personally complete any task yourself so your client is never let down.
  • Do you have a ceiling capacity? How many clients do you need before you are at full capacity or need to expand your team?
  • Do you have the finances to maintain your teams salaries if you lose clients? It is hard enough to find decent staff in this industry so the last thing you want to do is get a ‘hire and fire’ name for yourself.
  • What is you out? By this I mean. What does your business plan look like? Are you considering on selling up within five years and you need to generate a certain amount of annual profit to make that happen or do you just want to make enough money to have a comfortable life with no hassle, securing that ideal work / life balance?

Your answers to the above questions will determine which revenue model works best for you. If you go down the one-off sales route, you will always be chasing that next order. If however you go down the route of building up a residual income, the pressure of generating sales is not as great.

Revenue Model

I would always suggest that you make sure your revenue model is based on building a good client base that pays you (on time) an agreed amount of money each month and who stays with you long term. In order to achieve this though, you need to be damn good at what you do, over deliver on expectations, ensure the clients business goals are at least met and provide a fantastic customer experience.

PRICING YOUR SEO SERVICES OR PACKAGES

If a director of a company randomly selected ten different SEO agencies to provide a quote, I guarantee that they will receive a total mixture of quotes. I have had conversations with prospects who have told me that they are in the process of requesting quotes which so far has been between £200 right up to £10,000.

So how much should you charge?

Now that is the million dollar question that every SEO wants to know. As far as I am aware, these seem to be the most common ways SEO’s determine their prices.

Packages – The reason so many SEO agencies stick to selling set packages is because it’s easy. They simply work out all the expenses, add a set percentage profit margin and hey presto. You have a package price.

Time – Most large agencies charge per time (usually per day) as they are able to grow, based on a time model. Their hourly rate is usually determined by what their competitors are charging as well as taking into consideration all their business and staffing costs.

Campaign – Some agencies just provide a set campaign price based over a set period of time. How they actually come up with that price is anyone’s guess. Most just pluck a figure out of thin air whilst the minority strategically base the price on a mixture of estimated time, campaign expenses, staff wages and profit margins.

As this is a guide that any level of SEO freelancer or agency can follow in any specific Country, I’m not going to tell you how much you should charge as prices dramatically vary determined on so many different criteria’s.

It’s no secret what I charge as it’s written in black and white on my website. As a SEO freelance consultant and SEO trainer, my price is a set £395 GBP per day. I have very little expenses and no staff. I never outsource anything and do all the work myself so most of this is pure profit and my wage. Now I know other freelancers charge half this amount but people come to me because I’m the best within my geographical area and they don’t mind paying a premium for quality.

If I was to look at what agencies charge here in the UK, their rate averages at £320 to £750 per day, depending on location and size of agency.

The best rule of thumb

The best piece of advice I can give you for establishing what you should charge is to do your research. List down all the SEO agencies and freelancers that service your target demographic client. Get a friend with a business to contact them for a quote. Drain as much information as you can from them. Things like, pricing and what they provide for that price is a good start.

It is so important you do this because this is exactly what your potential customers will do. Knowing what your competitors are telling your prospects is very valuable.

List down each agency. Note how long it took for each one to reply, their price / quote, pricing structure and everything they provide within that price. Once you have all this information, you can put together your own pricing structure that provides a lot better value for money than all your competitors. You do however still need to make a profit though. Makes perfect sense, right?

Set priced SEO packages

I was asked by a lot of SEO’s about pricing set SEO packages. I have provided white label SEO packages to agencies throughout the world for over ten years and found that the only way white label works was for me to provide set priced SEO packages. It’s not a strategy I would normally suggest for anyone selling direct to companies as what works for one business, may not work for another.

When you put a package together, it needs to totally relate to your ‘must have’ client. Do not confuse them by offering ten packages. Keep it simple and to the point with only three packages. I offered just three packages myself – ‘Local SEO Package’, ‘National SEO Package’ and ‘Ecommerce SEO Package’. This way prospects just selected the package that matched their business.

I’m not going to go into what you should include within each package as you need to decide that based on your own skills, capabilities and resources. Don’t put any numbers against anything and just list all the various tasks with a tick. You then put a ‘from’ price against each package. That way you are not seen as too cheap, plus you have the ability to up-sell if a prospect has a higher budget.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to pricing. As long as your prices fall in-line with what the majority of your demographic clients are willing to pay, that’s a good start. You do however have to think about your client. They are purchasing one of your SEO packages because they need to generate more leads and sales. If your package does not providing a return, they will soon cancel.

NOBODY IS PERFECT AND HERE ARE MY MAIN SEO SALES MISTAKES

I did say that I have wasted thousands of pounds on sales, marketing and lead generation ideas that has fallen flat. Here are just a handful.

Making Mistakes

Selling services I cannot do personally – When it comes to SEO, I like to think of myself as an expert but when it comes to graphics, infographics and general design, I’m totally useless. When you are sat in front of a potential client, you need to be able to answer any question at all without even having to think about it.

Buying SEO leads – I have spent many thousands testing all kinds of SEO lead providers on all pricing levels and although I did manage to convert some leads, I made a total loss. The reason being – These leads are sold to many different people so when you pick up the phone to discuss their requirements. They have been totally hounded and often you get a response like – “I’ve had loads of calls and don’t have a clue who anyone is”. Remember that they did not request a quote from YOU or your agency.

Trying to be everything to everyone – A few years back, I was just like most of you who think their client is everyone and anyone. My own thinking was, I could offer something to anyone, no matter how much or how little they had. I tried to capture the whole market. From your low cost start-up businesses to blue chip brands. What I actually ended up doing is creating one massive mixed message sales funnel. Well, in fact the funnel was not even being populated as nobody was enquiring due to the indifferent sales copy.

Purchasing email data to send sales emails – I very quickly learned that unless you are willing to pay a hefty price for a top quality email database, you very quickly get blacklisted. In fact I even tried to use a third party email that was not lined to my domain and just because the body of the email contained my website URL, my domain still got blacklisted and I just could not get myself removed. You can imagine the issues I had trying to communicate via email. Now, unless it is an email list of my own that someone has double opted into to receive information from ME. I just don’t do bulk sales emails.

Advertising in the totally wrong places – You name it. I’ve tested it when it comes to paying for advertising. Magazines, newspapers, Yellow Pages, banner adverts, the list goes on. The problem with all this is that it just was not targeted or it was targeted at the totally wrong audience. I spent a lot of money each month advertising in top web design magazines as I thought that people who read those magazines would also need SEO services. Totally wrong thinking. I learned the hard way that you should always advertise where your ideal client is and to do thorough research before spending anything.

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU – IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM

You now understand who your ideal client is. You need to relate every page on your website to match their wants and needs. I see so many businesses publish sales copy on their website full of – look at me – aren’t I just wonderful – WOW, I’m just super amazing.

Stop doing that shit. The truth is. Nobody actually cares about YOU. If a potential client lands on your website, they only care about solving their own pain points and making sure you or your agency are the ones that can indeed solve their issues.

As a very brief outline, each page has to do three things:

1. Provide the solution to their problem

By this I mean, besides ensuring your content matches the searches intent. They have landed on that page because they have a certain problem. As an example, if you have a page relating to local SEO services, there is a high chance they need help to drive leads and sales within their geographical area.

NOTE: Customers do not care about rankings. They only care about driving new business forward. They have not come to you because you might be able to get them to the No.1 spot on Google. To them, SEO is just one of the possible marketing engines that enable them to secure more leads and sales.

Your content needs to be written in such a way that it totally relates to them and solves their problems.

2. It needs to build trust

You need to put yourself in a position where each and every prospect is in the mind-set that you are THE person or agency to deal with. Not just one possible agency out of many, but THE one. You only get yourself into that position by building trust. You need solid proof that what you say you can do, is proven.

As an example, if the sales copy on your website states you WILL (not can) help them to drive new business on a National scale. You need to provide solid proof to back you up or at least state that proof will be provided upon request.

3. Call-to-action

It is so simple but so very underused. The fact is, you need to tell your potential customers (they are not just website visitors) exactly what you need them to do next. Depending on the purpose of the page, will all depend on what action you want them to make. Chances are, if you don’t, guess what’s going to happen? Nothing at all!

ALWAYS THINK! KNOW – LIKE – TRUST – BUY

Selling SEO is no different from selling anything else. As long as you have the solution to match their pain points, and you can prove you are THE only agency to deal with – job done. I recently attended a LinkedIn seminar, hosted by Neil Simpson and he summed sales up with the following saying:

  • In order for someone to buy something from you – They have got to trust you.
  • In order for them to trust you – They have got to like you.
  • In order for them to like you – They have got to know you.

This is the perfect lead generation and sales cycle.

THE VERY BIG NO, NO OF SEO LEAD GENERATION

Let’s discuss the absolutely big massive NO, just never ever do that.

Sending spam emails that do not even mention your name, which goes something like:

Hi,
I hope you are well. I was just looking at your website and despite having a good design, I noticed it is not ranking anywhere…….Blah, blah, blah…..

I must receive hundreds of these shitty emails each month. By any slim chance you are one of the people who are still sending these trash emails, let me explain what the recipient is thinking.

Hi, [HI WHO?]
I hope you are well. [NO YOU DON’T] I was just looking at your website [REALLY!] and despite having a good design, I noticed it is not ranking anywhere [WHO GIVES A SHIT AND BESIDES, I’M RANKING AT THE TOP ALREADY] …….Blah, blah, blah….. [DELETE EMAIL NOW. I CAN’T READ ANYMORE].

Do Not Email Spam

The days of ‘blast it out and see what we can catch’ attitude is long gone as a lead generation tactic. This email is just one example of the sort of crap that still happens. I can however give you tons of similar examples of where you just chuck your brand in people’s faces, even if they want to see it or not in the hope that by any slim chance someone and anyone contacts you.

RULE ONE, AND IN FACT THE ONLY RULE OF SEO LEAD GENERATION

You are more likely to make the sale if someone comes to you with a problem that you are able to solve than to drag them kicking and screaming to your website when they have no interest in what you provide or worse still – they have no need for your service.

ALWAYS think targeted! From the exercise we did above, you now fully understand what the demographics are of your target client. Now stop wasting your time doing things that will never attract your ideal client.

HOW TO GENERATE THE PERFECT SEO LEAD

The perfect SEO lead is always when prospects have contacted you. This may be through your website, via email, telephone or through one of your social media profiles. Your main focus must be to get them to contact you before you contact them.

I receive leads every day and am in a fortunate position where I can pick and choose who I want to work with. Yes, I do turn business away if it is not the right fit for me. This is the position you need to be in.

Here is how I do it

The number one rule of selling SEO services is to make sure your own website is ranking high for search phrases that your target demographic are likely to use. If you are offering local SEO based services, then you need to make sure you are ranking high locally in both the maps and organic. If you are offering National based SEO services, you need to make sure that you are ranking on a National scale for your target search phrases.

I’m reading and hearing a lot of so-called industry experts going around saying that a good SEO does not need their own site to rank high. Bullshit! Prospects need to feel confident that you have the ability to secure results and 85% will still base things on your own site ranking high.

Over the years, I have established that there are four top money keywords that companies use when they have already established that they need SEO and are looking for someone to make it happen. If you can secure top rankings for even one of these, leads will start to flow in. Also, make sure you are ranking for the related local terms as well.

If you are an agency with a team behind you:

  1. SEO Agency / SEO Agencies
  2. SEO Company / SEO Companies
  3. SEO Services
  4. SEO UK (or your own Country)

If you are a freelancer, your money keywords are:

  1. Freelance SEO Consultant
  2. SEO Expert
  3. SEO Consultant
  4. SEO Consultant [TOWN]

Because I am just one person. I personally focus on driving leads from within my local geographical area because I could not cope if I decided to go National. Because of this strategy, I need to make sure that I am THE best SEO in my area and that means securing the No.1 spot on both maps and organic for all my related local phrases.

SEO Expert Preston

There is no point in ranking for phrases that does not have the potential to turn into business. I see so many SEO’s get wrapped up in spending all their spare hours writing blog posts targeted to the wrong audience.

Social media is a gold mine

I generate more high-quality leads through my LinkedIn profile than I do via my website. In fact, over the years I have generated £1m+ worth of business through LinkedIn. If you are not working LinkedIn alongside your website as a lead generation tool, start now. It is a lead generation gold mine.

As always, you need to think targeted and don’t try and sell through LinkedIn. As an example, I posted an image on LinkedIn showing a screenshot of my top rankings along with a message that went something like – I’m hearing a lot of chatter about local rankings bouncing around. Well I for one am loving the new updates. It goes to show. Ethical SEO always wins in the end.

Now that one post generated five red hot leads and I converted four into new SEO training clients, as it is solid proof that I know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to SEO. I think of it as indirect lead generation. You are just casting the bait waiting for someone to bite.

Never spam LinkedIn

A massive mistake people do on LinkedIn as well as other social platforms is they send a connection request and as soon as it has been accepted they send that person a sales pitch via private message. Not cool at all and often results in you getting blocked by that connection.

You may gather from this guide that LinkedIn plays a big part in generating those all important leads. I cannot take all the credit for some of these lead generation techniques as I myself learned them in one of Neil Simpsons fantastic seminars. Even if you never attend any of Neil’s seminars, I would strongly suggest that you sign up to his LinkedIn Launchpad for great tips.

LinkedIn Launchpad - Neil Simpson

If you just can’t make it to a seminar, take a look at my LinkedIn profile to give you an idea how to structure things and follow these six simple steps:

  1. Make sure you complete as much of your profile as possible.
  2. It is not your CV. Make sure you relate your summary to your target audience, making it crystal clear who you work with and how you can help them. Remember, it’s about them and not you.
  3. Using the advanced search function find your ideal target demographic prospect.
  4. Look at each profile individually and make your connection request personal about them.
  5. Work your feed to prove that you are an expert. Again, do not post sales messages.
  6. Keep an eye on the ‘Who’s viewed your profile’ and send them a personal message just saying something like – Hi Mark, I noticed you was looking at my profile. Was there any specific reason?

This is a very basic step by step guide but it is just to give you an idea. LinkedIn and my own website are the only two SEO lead generation methods I personally use and together they provide a constant flow of hot leads.

But I need to drive SEO leads now

OK, it is going to take some time to accomplish the above so how do you generate SEO leads in the short term?

Simply find out where your target audience are looking or hanging out on the internet and make sure that your brand is on their screen.

I have a strong personal brand and a new client once told me that the reason he contacted me was because everywhere he looked, I was there. This is what you need to do. You will need to invest a bit of time if you want to generate quality leads but the return is ten-fold, at least.

I find that guest blogging helps me to drive visitors to my site and generates a fair number of leads because I write for the sites that my potential clients read. Most of you already do guest blogging as a link building strategy. Well if you shifted your focus from link building to lead generation and write for different sites, you will find that you generate an awful lot more leads.

FINDING PROSPECTS

If you are sat at your PC day after day with no inbound leads being received, you need to be proactive and go and reach out to potential prospects. Many SEO’s struggle with this process so I will explain how I would personally go about finding prospects and making that first approach.

Firstly, you need to have a really good database of people and/or companies that match your target demographic client. You can go to a data supplier and pay top whack for it or I will show you a nifty hack to generate any database you want with nothing more than three tools and $15 investment.

NOTE: ONLY USE THIS PROSPECT DATABASE LIST TO MANUALLY GO THROUGH, ONE BY ONE AND SEND A PERSONAL MESSAGE TO EACH PERSON. SENDING BULK EMAIL SPAM IS AGAINST THE LAW, SO JUST DON’T DO IT!

You will need:

  • 30 day free trial of LinkedIn Premium or full Premium account
  • Professional addition of Dux-Soup ($15 per month)
  • Chrome plugin – Email Hunter

Step 1 – Download the Dux-Soup Chrome extension and upgrade to the Professional edition.

Step 2 – Install the Email Hunter Plugin.

Step 3 – Login to your LinkedIn account. It is best if you have already re-written your profile.

Step 4 – Go to the search feature on LinkedIn and using all the various search options, select to search for your target demographic.

In the screenshot below, I have opted to search for all ‘Marketing Directors’ within my town of Preston that I am NOT already connected to and found 499 new prospects.

If you have a Premium LinkedIn account, you have access to really narrow your search down to your exact demographic (company size etc..). They offer a 30 day free trial so if you have not already taken advantage of the free trial. I would as you will generate a much higher targeted database of prospects.

Marketing Director Search

Step 5 – Click the Dux-Soup icon in the top right of your browser which will open a window with a few options. Click the ‘VIEW PROFILES’ button. The plugin will now automatically start to view each profile within the search results, notifying each prospect that you have viewed their profile. Did you know that 30% of those prospects will view your profile just because you have viewed theirs! This makes each prospect aware of who you are.

Dux-Soup Plugin

Step 6 – Click the ‘DOWNLOAD DATA’ button which will export a CSV file of all the profiles Dux-Soup has just visited.

Download Prospect Data

Even though you are not connected with any of these people, the information you receive is gold dust. Considering you have only invested just $15 to get this information. It is crazy brilliant if you think about it.

  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Company
  • Personal LinkedIn Profile URL
  • Company LinkedIn Profile URL
  • Company Website

Step 7 – As you are not connected with any of these people, their email and telephone data is hidden within the CSV. I do however have a way of finding their email using the ‘Email Hunter’ Chrome plugin. View the personal LinkedIn profile of the first person on the list and click on the orange ‘HUNTER’ button that has appeared.

Email Hunter

A popup box will appear with an email address and an accuracy percentage score (93% confidence). If the score is above 90%, you can more or less guarantee that this is their email address.

Step 8 – Repeat step seven for all the prospects on the list. Email hunter will not find everyone’s email address, but if you send a personal (always personalise) connection request to each person. Their email, telephone and mobile will be added to Dux-Soup download data.

This prospecting method has saved me many thousands of pounds, buying data. Please note: Do NOT abuse this prospecting method as LinkedIn filters will block your account.

Manually filter your prospect list

Now you have your prospect list. You need to go through it to make sure that each potential future client actually NEED your SEO services or packages. There is nothing worse than reaching out to a business, offering them SEO services only to find that their site is already at the top for all their targeted keywords.

Do your homework and research each company individually to create a short list of the companies you can indeed help. It’s quite simple. Just use Ahrefs or SEMrush to determine what online visibility they already have.

HOW TO SPOT HIGH VALUE CLIENTS

Once you have filtered your list. You need to pick out the possible high value clients and the ones who will need an awful lot of work to turn a profit.

Spot High Value Client

My stupid but simple rule of thumb is to look at the products or services they offer. You need to target the companies where their average customer is worth four figures. Think about it for a moment. If they generate an extra 20 sales per month and each sale averaged £2,000. That means, thanks to your SEO efforts, they had turned over an extra £40K per month in revenue. Considering that an average business will invest around 10% of their revenue back into marketing. You can quite easily work towards charging £4K per month and that client would be happy to give it to you.

Let’s turn this scenario on its head.

If you try to secure new clients where there average customer is worth £10. If you charged £1,000 per month. They would need to make 100 sales per month just to pay you and they would still be making a financial loss at that.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RETURN

When you talk to business owners and directors, you need to communicate in a language they understand. They do not care about rankings. They don’t even care about being No.1 on Google. What they do care about is increasing new business. No matter what you think. The fact is – If their investment in your SEO (marketing) services is not generating a profit. They will look at the campaign as a failure. It’s all about the return.

HOW TO MAKE THAT FIRST APPROACH

OK, so you have done a lot of filtering by this stage but it will save you a lot of wasted time in the long run and result in a higher prospect to client conversion rate.

Now you have to make that dreaded first approach. Something that sends shivers down grown men’s spines and starts the blood pumping and the heart racing. Unless you already have a good inbound lead funnel, it is something you need to do.

Sending them an email to ask if they want a free website audit will just not cut it anymore. Start being a bit more creative and put yourself in their shoes. What would make you listen?

Try to connect with all your prospects on LinkedIn. Once connected, send them free gifts. This is basically links to valued information that you have written. It needs to be something that if they followed, they would potentially increase new business. By doing this it builds trust and you have not even tried to sell them anything.

Once you have their attention. Send them a short message through LinkedIn asking them if they have five minutes free during the next week for a quick call so you can introduce yourself.

Research their company before the scheduled call and make the call all about them and during the conversation, get to know if they already work with a digital marketing or SEO agency. If so, is it working out for them?

That first conversation is a must and you have not tried to sell anything. It was a friendly chat in which you have established if there is an opportunity to do business or not. If they already work with another agency who they are happy with, cross them off your prospect list but still keep in touch as you never know what will happen in the future.

What if prospects just do not connect?

You will find that not everyone on your list will connect with you via LinkedIn. Don’t be offended. I find that a lot of people only check their LinkedIn messages once per month. It might even be that they just don’t accept connection requests from anyone they don’t personally already know.

If this is the case, I just bite the bullet and pick up the phone. Call them and ask them if it would be OK for you to post (yes, snail mail still exists) an introduction letter. The chances are, they are going to say yes. Make sure you leave your name before you end the call and thank them.

Now, write a letter personally addressed to the decision maker (the person on your prospect list) describing how they would benefit from setting up a call or even a face to face meeting. Make sure you don’t go over board and keep it to one page. If you received a letter yourself, what would make you sit up and take notice?

Trust me when I say that this approach works fantastic. It is just about starting a conversation and making each and every conversation about them.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS GET A BUDGET

So, you are at a stage where you have either received an enquiry or you are at a stage of talking business with a prospect you have warmed up.

The first thing you need to do is find out what their budget is. My prospect to new client conversion rate is very good because I always get a budget that they are happy to invest. This way I’m not wasting many hours each month writing proposals that fail because my prices are either too high or too low. By getting a budget means that price will never ever be the reason for you losing the sale.

I know exactly what you’re going to say. I can hear it under your breath.

“But prospects never give me a budget, even if I ask for one.”

I hear you and have gone through the exact same thing myself. This is why, over the years I have been testing and tweaking different ways of dragging a budget from prospects. Here is usually how the conversation goes:

Me: “Yes, I can help you to increase new business but first I need to know what budget you have to make this work?”

Prospect: “I don’t really have a set budget.” OR “I just want a proposal so I can look it over.”

Me: “The fact is, I have clients that pay me £500 per month and others that pay me £5,000 per month. The more they invest – The more effort I am able to put into their campaign – The more targeted traffic they will receive which all results in a higher return. There is just no point in putting a proposal together based on £4,000 per month if your marketing budget only stretches to £700 at most. This is just wasting both our time. With this in mind, which end of the scale are you at?”

WAIT FOR THEM TO ANSWER

Prospect: “It’s probably somewhere in between.”

Me: “Thanks. So if I put a proposal together based on £2,500 per month that demonstrated your return on investment, would you seriously consider it?”

Prospect: “Yes, I would.”

Me: “That’s great news. In order to calculate an accurate return, I just need to know what your average client is worth to you, in revenue terms that is. What your lead-to-sales conversion rate is and what you need to happen to see this campaign as successful.”

Prospect: “Well an average sale is worth around £1,500 and I convert about 20% into business.”

Me: “And what sort of return would you need to receive in order to make this work for you?”

Prospect: “Around the £20K per month mark.”

Me: “Fantastic. I don’t see any reason we are not able to help you. Give me a couple of days to put a proposal together and I will give you a call once you have had time to go through it. I’m free either next Tuesday or Thursday. Which day is best for you?”

This conversation works for about 95% of all prospect calls I make. If for whatever reason they just will never give you a budget, you either have to let them know that you are not able to move forward (which sometimes forces them into submission) or make a calculated guess.

CALCULATING THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT

If you are able to put a proposal together that demonstrates a solid return on investment, you are more likely to get your contract signed than if they received a proposal that is just based on rankings and technical jargon.

Calculating Return On Investment

I have a simple way of working out and documenting the potential ROI within a proposal and it goes like:

What we know

  • Your average customer is worth £1,500.
  • Your lead-to-sales conversion rate is 20% (provided by yourself).
  • You have stated that you need to increase revenue by £20K per month.
  • Your investment level to make this happen is £2,500 per month.

Over a six month period, we need to generate you 80 new customers to meet your target set above. [Calculation: Monthly revenue times 6 divided by average customer amount]

We know that you convert around 20% of all leads you receive. In order to secure those 80 new customers, you need to generate 400 leads over the six month period. [Calculation: 80 times 100 divided by 20]

A decent website realistically converts 5% to 10% of all targeted visitors into leads. If we use the lower amount just to be on the safe site, we need to generate 8,000 visitors during the next six months. [Calculation: 400 times 100 divided by 5] That averages out at around 44 visitors per day. [Calculation: 365 days per year. Half of that is about 182. Now 8,000 divided by 182]

That is how you work out the ROI for each prospect. Easy wasn’t it?

Within your proposal, you also have to demonstrate how you are going to generate (at least) the minimum number of visitors. You need to demonstrate that their market size is indeed big enough to realistically drive an average of 44 targeted visitors per day. This is basically an outline of your six month strategy plan.

You also have to explain that most of the target amount of sales will be generated after month three as it takes time to implement a solid sales funnel. If the prospects industry is highly competitive, just increase the timescale to 12 months instead and use all the relative calculation format.

Do NOT include anything technical within the proposal. You have been asked to provide a proposal as the prospect cannot do it themselves. Presenting a proposal detailing technical issues with their website will just end up in the bin as it might as well be written in a foreign language.

PRESENTING YOUR PROPOSAL FACE TO FACE

If at all possible, I always like to arrange a face to face meeting where I hand deliver the proposal and talk the prospect through it. That way, you can answer any questions they have straight away. This will put them at ease.

In fact, if it is a high value client, I even create a nice slide of the proposal and present it to the key decision makers within the company. I enjoy talking as I speak at quite a few expos and conferences so presenting is no big deal for me. If you just don’t have the confidence or your nerves start to go crazy at the thought of presenting, just stick to going through the paper copy only.

IF IT’S NOT POSSIBLE TO PRESENT YOUR PROPOSAL IN PERSON

Over the years, I have helped companies all over the world so distance sometimes makes it impossible to present your proposal in person. You just have to make a decision on the value of the contract versus the expenses to meet face to face.

The second best thing to presenting your proposal in person is to send it via post. Yes, snail mail again. I like to create a professional cover and bind the proposal between two sheets of plastic covers. You need to stand out make your proposal as professional as possible. I also add a small gift within the package. Usually it is a small booklet on the top ten ways to drive traffic to your website for free.

The reason I do this is because it shows that I am a professional person to deal with and they have something tangible in their hands. They are never going to action any of the techniques in the booklet as they just do not have the time.

SENDING YOUR PROPOSAL VIA EMAIL

For me this has to be a last resort. Even low value prospects need feel special so investing about £5 in total to send a professional proposal by post considering you will have a much higher conversion rate is a no-brainer.

If for whatever reason you decide to email your proposal, make sure it looks very professional.

CLOSING THE DEAL

By now, you will have built up a certain amount of trust and professionalism. Your proposal matches their investment level as they set it themselves so price is not an issue. It is also written in a way that they will relate to – facts and figures.

There should be no reason at all why the prospect should not agree to your proposal. You do however need to setup an update meeting or call to discuss their thoughts on your proposal and if they have any questions.

Once you have answered any questions they have. You need to get them to accept the proposal and sign your contract with an agreed start date and payment terms.

If at any time during this whole lead generation and sales process, you actually have to SELL your services. You are doing something wrong. All I do is establish a need and present the solution.

If you have to twist their arm or bribe them into submission, you really do not want to work with those clients as you are only going to run into lots of problems during the campaign.

BUT WHAT IF THEY SAY NO?

There will always be reasons beyond your control for lost sales. It happens to us all, so no point in crying about it.

Lost Sale

The important thing is, you ask WHY you lost the sale?

Receiving feedback as to why you lost the sale is much more valuable than actually making the sale. No, I haven’t lost my mind. If you don’t know a problem exists, you can’t fix it. If you never ask why you lost the deal, you will never increase your leads-to-sales conversion rate.

Over the years, I have received really fantastic feedback that I’ve used to tweak my sales process. All you need to do is ask the simple question – “It’s disappointing that I was not given the opportunity to help you push your business forward but I appreciate that you have your reasons. Please could I ask why you decided against us working together?” I have never yet come across anyone that would not tell me. In fact it shows you care and if anything goes wrong with their existing setup, you will be the first person they call.

GET IT IN WRITING

It does not matter how you structure your business. It does not matter if you provide SEO services or set packages. It does not even matter if you charge a one-off fee or have a residual payment structure.

Always get it in writing

Whatever you have agreed with your new client. Draft a document that states exactly what you have both agreed and any terms associated. Both parties need to sign it. If it is not in writing, you don’t have a leg to stand on and you open yourself up to all kinds of potential disputes. All you are doing is protecting both parties so both you and your new client fully understands what needs to happen and when.

I talk to a lot of SEO agencies (mainly smaller ones) who don’t do contracts or any kind of signed documentation as it slows the whole sales process down. It really does not have to. I use DocuSign for all my business documents and contracts. It’s so easy to set up and you can tell if a prospect has read the document and when they sign it. If you see that they have read it but not signed it, I simply give them a call and ask them if there is anything wrong with the agreement I sent them.

DocuSign

As legal documents and contracts differ from Country to Country and from time to time, I’m not going to provide a sample contract template. It is highly advisable to just pay a local solicitor or lawyer to draft up a sample SEO contract template based on your own business and payment terms which also match your offerings.

THINGS TO CONSIDER AFTER YOU HAVE MADE THE SALE

In order to grow your business. You need to get your clients to turn into your free sales team. An inbound lead received via a client referral is pure gold. I get people calling me up saying – “Hi Mark, I’ve been speaking to Bill from ………. and he mentioned what a fantastic job you are doing with helping him drive new business. Can we setup a meeting to discuss how you can help my company?”

You only get into this position by providing a fantastic customer experience and over-delivering on expectations. Once you have got that nailed, you have a client for life who will refer you. The more clients you have who are blown away. The more referral business you will secure.

EDUCATING YOUR CLIENTS

Part of the process of providing a fantastic customer experience is educating your clients. You need to keep them informed. I like to speak to my clients over the telephone, once a week to keep them updated. Your clients need to know what you have done, when you did it and what impact it has had against their goals and your targets.

I never ever talk technical with my clients. I explain everything in a language they can simply understand and relate to. They don’t need to know which piece of code you have tweaked in order to speed their site up. Obviously you need to talk about any issues you have found and the solution but explain it in non-techie terms.

CONCLUSION TO THIS MAMMOTH SEO SALES GUIDE

I’m not going to lie to you. When I reached out to my connections to ask them if they would find a SEO sales guide useful. I was going to write an article stretching no more than 800 words but as I’m so passionate about what I do and I love this industry, it has grown into over 8,600 words long. If it educates my fellow SEO professionals just a little and stops just some of the bad SEO sales practices, I will be happy.

Some SEO professionals and agency owners will call me totally crazy for sharing this knowledge as others will now start using the same SEO sales techniques. I have no problem with that at all. In fact, go for it. I am just one man and do not intend on growing any bigger. I have no problem at all with generating new business so I have no issues at all with sharing what has worked and what still works very well for me.

My lead generation and sales approach will not suit everyone and every SEO or digital marketing agency. All I am doing is sharing my own lead generation and SEO sales process. If you choose to follow any of it, is entirely your choice.

I know that I could have gone into a lot more detail about some of the steps but I have other things to do and if I detailed every tiny little thing, this guide would never have gone live.

If you have any questions at all, just get in touch and I will happily try and help if I can. Oh, one last thing. I’d really appreciate if you could help me share this SEO sales guide with any of your contacts within the industry who would find it useful.

NOW GO AND MAKE IT HAPPEN!

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