Please note that the tone of this blog post is intended for those pitching SEO to small / medium sized businesses. Pitching SEO to large businesses is a whole different ballgame. We’re talkin’ plane tickets, hotel rooms, projectors, and $10k in printing for the initial meeting.
Also note that pitching SEO with the experience of one site under your belt is way different than pitching SEO with 100 sites or being in the industry for 5 years.
None of what I am about to say matters unless you do good work. Most SEO companies that fail after 1-2 years do so because they use the money they should be spending on SEO work on fancy office furniture, sponsoring / attending conferences, and custom branded hooozywhats.
There are many consultants that do no sales at all, they rely strictly on referrals. While referrals do come in from trusted clients, if you are interested in truly scaling your consulting business or agency sales is a necessary evil. I’ve spoken about and have been both heavily complimented on and criticized for my post on cold calling SEO. No matter what industry you are in, you are going to need to worry about sales.
Years ago our company completely stopped selling the way we used to. We completely changed the way we opened new business. Sure we are constantly working on signing new SEO clients, but we don’t need to “sell” the way we used to. Clients are either going to partner with us, or they aren’t. The results are evident. We give all of our clients phone numbers of our past and current clients and ask them to call. If they don’t want to sign with us after that then there is very little we can do to change their mind.
Do great work, and your pitches will be 20 minute meetings followed by drinks on you at the local bar. Do shoddy work and you’ll constantly have to worry about getting new clients, dealing with merchants and chargebacks and living a very frustrating existence. If you are losing clients as fast as you are gaining them, you might want to reconsider SEO as a job.
Remember stuff your mom tells you
Make sure to show up 10 minutes early but above all don’t ever be late. For gods sake make sure your personal hygiene is in check. You don’t want business owners staring at your uni-brow the entire meeting.
Keep a positive outlook and attitude. Mind your manners and be a polite. Don’t gossip or talk about your co-workers / boss.
I am not a natural smiler. I am a very happy person but I just don’t smile a lot, I think it was the military that did that to me.
That said, I have to remember to smile sometimes. It really goes a long way when talking to someone.
Respect the gatekeeper
Be rude to the gatekeeper and kiss your deal goodbye. In most offices the secretary or office administrator is the glue that holds the office together. If you are being rude or obnoxious in the waiting room the gatekeeper will inform the higher ups of this, which is no good.
A bonus to being cool with the gatekeepers is that they will give you inside info. If they really like you, they might give you some tips like “don’t mention Vietnam” or “he just met with another SEO company…” so be cool and you might get gifted with some info.
Get freaking excited!
No one wants to talk to a standard Joe Schmoe about anchor text with a plain face.
Just remember: you have a solution to a problem they have. You are going to help them. You are going to bring more customers through their door and put money into their pockets.
But not too excited and don’t be pitchy. For gods sake don’t be pitchy.
Also don’t be a salesperson. Everyone hates sales people.
Come prepared and ready for war
Everyone has their own proposals, reports and other sales material. At the very least come equipped with:
- several business cards
- basic information about your company
- a detailed SEO report about their site
- competitive breakdown
- a contract / proposal ready to sign
If you are going to be pitching with more then one person (always plan on it) bring copies for them. Make copies for yourself as well, so you don’t have to ask them to borrow their copy if you need to reference something.
I wouldn’t go too crazy beyond that. You don’t want to overwhelm or confuse people with information.
I know a lot of SEO’s that come to meetings completely empty handed without any reports or anything like that.
Dress to impress appropriately
This doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit.In fact wearing a suit to a meeting can kill it from the start just as easily as a scrappy looking t-shirt can.
If you are going to pitch a coal mine, you don’t wanna show up in a suit.
Being overly dressed can be just as bad as being under-dressed. Don’t wear gaudy jewelry or overdo it on the cologne.
I’ve walked out of an office with a hefty check wearing a t-shirt and sneakers… it really just depends.
Tip: Personality mirroring
OK a lot of people think that this means if the person you are talking to has a Texas accent, talk with a Texas accent.
I tend to think of it as personality “matching.” Mimicking gestures, muscle movements, inflections, and phrases will make the person you are talking to feel more comfortable.
I do not consider personality mirroring as manipulative. I think it is just a tool to help people get comfortable around you. Don’t overdo it either, you have to be yourself.
If they complain about Obama, complain about Obama.
If they have a Miami Heat basketball in their office, talk about the Heat.
There are no precise rules to personality mirroring, it is something you have to learn over time and practice at.
Be clear about your offering
A lot of small businesses are looking for an all around tech solution. When I first got started in SEO that meant I fixed peoples email, did graphic design, and ran virus scanners on their PC. While I am always glad to help out someone in need, if you are scaling a business you need to focus your offering on what you specialize in: search engine optimization.
Let them know what you will and will not be providing. Be clear about this in your contract, but also talk to them about this during the meeting.
If you also do website design then make sure to spell that out.
You don’t want your client to have a surprise a month into the contract. Most of the times people don’t read contracts, and you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news when you have to tell them that something is “not included.”
Always have a list of trusted vendors you can refer your client to in the case they need hosting, website development, etc.
In the last year, the biggest problems I’ve had have been
Don’t fail at technology
Most small business owners will hire an SEO because they either don’t have time to do SEO or don’t know how to do SEO.
If you walk into the room and your PC / tablet / device crashes they are going to lose a lot of confidence in you.
It doesn’t matter that PC repair has nothing to do with SEO, it’s a fact.
Plan for their WiFi not to work and for your PC to break.
If you are going to do a PowerPoint presentation on a projector, count on it failing. Always have a paper backup.
If you have to reschedule a presentation due to technical problems, you may as well kiss the deal goodbye. Even if you do get the deal, it sets a really negative tone that is very difficult to turn around.