I was born a salesperson. Growing up in Texas, my father put me to work in his village of traders, selling everything from belt buckles to hat pins.
I didn’t need to know much about the product. I needed to know how to negotiate the price.
Selling SEO services is different. You must have a good understanding of the product/service you represent. And very importantly, you have to understand how your SEO efforts will (or might) benefit the prospects you’re talking to.
If your agency isn’t sending out briefs outlining the various SEO packages they offer, you’re looking to customize your approach to prospective clients. In my opinion, a little heavy lifting needs to be done before making the first call with a prospect. This article offers some thoughts on how to approach the first call.
First question to ask a prospect
First, it’s a good idea to ask the prospect to provide some initial information so you can do the homework for the first call. Useful if you have already provided an RFP detailing your availability. If they haven’t finalized his RFP, you can download his SEO RFP on my company blog to rebrand or use as a template for what you want to offer.
Instead of such information, start by asking (at least) the following four questions:
- What do you hope to achieve with this SEO effort?
- Who are the competitors you think are doing well?
- What internal support do you have for this effort?
- What have you been doing for SEO historically?
With this information, you can dig into things and decide how to shape your call.
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I start by looking at the prospect’s website. I want to check if there are any habits. Let’s call this a “mini-audit”.
Should I provide a “work product” on the sales call? To be honest, I’ve debated this issue over the years. People still don’t trust SEO, and I’ve settled on the idea that I need to do a little more to establish (and educate) that trust. So I think of this as “you must give before you get”. Good karma.
What does a mini-audit include? A few things:
Run a crawl on your prospect’s website
I am using Semrush. I limit crawls to 500 pages. That’s enough to get an idea of how “broken” their website is.
Run site queries on your own domain (and competitors’)
When doing a site query, search Google for site:www.sitename.com and/or site:sitename.com if you’re unfamiliar. A URL known to Google will be displayed.
An example of what you’re looking for is finding subdomains by searching outside of www (that is, staging.sitename.com). You may see other strange URLs or subdomains in your results, so check them carefully.
Highlighting these opportunities to clean up search results and make your brand shine can lead to new customer relationships.
Explore organic performance
Run a Semrush organic overview report on your prospects and their competitors.
Filter to exclude mentions of your brand.
How much “traffic cost” do they perceive compared to their competitors? Compare Travelocity to Expedia:
The “Traffic Cost” metric is Semrush’s attempt to provide a “Cost of Exchange” metric that gives you an estimate of your organic presence (i.e. if you have to pay for this traffic via Google Ads, it will cost you 1 month Potential cost per) )
How many keywords rank in the top 10 (vs. competitors)? Are these “good” keywords or crap?
Run a domain comparison report (I use Ahrefs for this) to determine if your prospects are competitive with those websites/domains.
Suppose you see a competitor doing well with a link. If so, run a quick site explorer report via Ahrefs and check out some “better links” (sorted by domain authority) and see how your competitors are getting those valuable links I need to see a specific example for If you have something relevant to the prospect, share it on the phone as an example of what the prospect might want to consider doing.
Why does Expedia have links from CDC.gov and PrivacyShield.gov and Travelocity doesn’t? At least you can create a dialogue to learn more about them.
The purpose of doing all of the above is to help you decide if investing in SEO is viable. You may find that many of your competitors have a significant presence in organic search (more than your potential customers), yet their domain authority is roughly the same. In that case, you can argue that it has potential. They need to build a better website, create better content, or fix any technical issues that stand in their way.
receive a call
What many marketers consider to be the “dark arts,” the clearer the better. The more you understand how SEO works, the more likely you are to invest in it.
If the confusion persists, you are more likely to opt for the cheaper (1-seat) SEO plan.
For this reason, I usually host these calls via GoToMeeting. I share my screen, share my research, take their questions and answer them in person (perhaps doing additional research over the phone).
The purpose of a mini-audit is not to give up everything. The idea is to give examples of how to research things you might want to address during an SEO engagement (and show that you can find opportunities).
I recently received an inquiry from an e-commerce company. They were sure they were affected by Google’s July 2021 core update. We have confirmed through Semrush that we have lost a significant presence on Google. We also confirmed through archive.org that we made significant changes to the website’s navigation structure at the same time.
So was it a Google update? Or, as is often the case, they The navigational changes they made affected organic beings.
I gave them this free advice.
If they don’t do business with us and just accept free advice and run away, I think they’re the kind of people I wouldn’t want to work with anyway.
At least I did my part to spread the positive mojo. Give before you get.
Summary: SEO selling starts long before the sales call.
Be prepared when selling SEO. Preparation is one of the keys to winning new clients. Here’s how:
- Understand your prospects: Their wants, needs, resources, SEO history.
- Do your research: Find SEO problems and opportunities.
- Show your professionalism: Your expertise, integrity, process, and curiosity.
After successfully selling these SEO services, the real work can begin. Get out there and help your clients succeed!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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