Jin Cunningham

Founder, Engagemental

Jon Cunningham

Introduction from Hike – this is a guest post from our friend Jon over at engagemental.co.uk. Jon is an expert in outbound prospecting and business development. Here, Jon discusses how to sell your SEO services.

So without further ado, enjoy this guest post…

If you’re an agency looking to sell SEO services, how do you go about selecting, identifying and contacting your ideal audience?

How will you position yourself to stand out from the crowd and talk to them in a language that they understand and identify with? How will you give them the confidence that you’re the company for them – and then follow up in order that you can turn that cold contact into a warm customer?

In this blog, we’ll touch on some of the factors you’ll want to consider – from selecting your target audience – to identifying the decision makers, working out what they’ll care about – and then contacting them in a way that gives you the very best chance of delivering on your objectives.

First, a caveat

My experience is very much centred around contacting people via telephone, email and other outbound means – but I do not want to detract from the value of using other inbound methods including social media activity, PPC or even SEO to find an audience.

Obviously if you can find yourself in position 1 of Google for relevant SEO related keywords you’ve already fought a significant part of the battle in demonstrating your SEO prowess to potential clients – it’s just not my focus, so I’m not going to talk about it!

How to choose possible SEO clients

Before you start looking for customers, you need to consider who your ideal target audience is and how you might identify them – you need to look at the sector or niche you want to target.

Why choose a niche?

Well, you could say “everyone is our potential customer” but this lack of focus can act as more of a curse than a blessing, as you ping from industry to industry with a generic high-level offering – the likes of which they may well have received before from other, less-able agencies.

Niching allows you to have a much higher level of relevance to a (smaller) target group. If you have a BMW car, for example, you’d probably feel much more comfortable taking it to a BMW specialist than to a general garage – and the same is true of your SEO offering.

Whilst you may be an absolute expert in SEO, there are many competitors who are either experts – or claim to be – and choosing a niche in which you have significant experience or expertise and being able to speak to that audience,  can be a strong competitive advantage. 

The advantages don’t stop there – once you start to gain clients, you’ll have the benefit of having relevant case studies to be able to share with new clients rather than a confusing portfolio of disparate clients.

On the flip side, you need to ensure that the niche you choose is not so much of a niche that you are competing against yourself for the same keywords for different clients – that’s a bad situation!

Choosing a target audience

You’ll probably want to consider a number of factors in choosing your target: who can you deliver best for, what do they care about and are you aligned, what’s your track record with that audience – and what proof do you have?

You might like to look at where you or your team members worked before you started your agency – and what audience that track record best supports.

You should also consider why they would choose you over another company and how you can differentiate from the other SEO agencies in your market.

What role should I target?

It’s also important to think about the specific buyer – who is the one making the decision about SEO in that business, is it the CEO, the marketing director – or someone else?

How easy are they to reach and engage – and how many people are vying for their attention? Even if they’re being targeted by a business that is not competing for SEO services, you are both competing for a target prospect’s time.

How to find possible SEO clients

Once you have decided which audience you’re going to pursue you need to identify relevant companies and the people (in the right roles) to contact.

Sourcing data

Buying or renting data

There are plenty of companies that will offer you data lists on a rental or sale basis – unfortunately their definition of ‘decision maker’ is not always the same as your target clients’ definition – and you may find you end up with lots of CEOs whose details have been sold to lots of other companies across sectors who would defer the decision to someone else in their business.

Whilst there are probably some excellent data providers out there, I have found much of the purchased data we have seen to be out of date and a little inaccurate – and whilst they may offer a refund or generous swap for any duff data, the time involved in trying to sell to the people in this erroneous data means this may not be the best option for you.

Prospect data subscription services

As web technologies continue to evolve, there is an increasing number of online businesses writing intelligent algorithms to analyse public sources and provide subscription-based services.

DIY Data

I personally find hand-collating data provides the best quality – but sourcing data from one of the providers above can be a quick shortcut in this process.

Whatever route you choose, in my experience, if you’re buying/renting/sourcing data from a third party, I would always advocate running this data through an additional level of scrutiny and analysis – yes, it takes time, but it means that you end up with people that are more likely to become clients, and, if you write a decent checklist to qualify data against, this doesn’t need to be an activity that has to completed by a senior member of your team.

How to approach potential SEO clients

Before you start email or phone outreach

I would advise that you either seek legal advice or conduct adequate research to ensure compliance with relevant laws/regulations in the jurisdictions in which you operate – bear in mind that these will change from time to time and should be reviewed regularly.

As well as national or international laws including The Data Protection Act 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS), you should also consider any industry/in-house rules and regulations.

Planning your approach: work out what you want and how to get it.

Whether you are calling or emailing it’s worth taking the time to plan what you want to say, to think about how it will be received and to plan for all eventualities.

Call flow vs SEO pitch script

Draft out a rough call flow based on what you hope will happen, what you think could happen – and what might happen.

Do not script your approach per se, because such approaches sound – well – scripted. And nobody likes talking to a robot – nobody.

Objection handling

Prepare for objections; what might they say? How can you address these objections in a friendly way that moves the conversation forward?

Try to be positive and collaborative rather than negative and combative.

Planning your approach: Your SEO sales pitch

So let’s assume you’ve done the world’s finest piece of audience profiling and research – planned out your call or email – you now want to reach out to that audience in a compelling way that’s going to forward your cause.

You now need to work on how you’re going to contact them and what you’re going to say to them.

Again, my experience is very much centred around contacting people via telephone, email and so on – so I’m not going to talk about other methods – but consider all channels and methods including networking on- and offline, blogging, PPC and, of course, SEO.

If this is your first time trying to undertake outbound prospecting for SEO please ensure you apply a very high benchmark to your research and messaging – these people – no matter who you chose – will almost certainly have been inundated with offers of SEO (and PPC, and digital marketing) from companies from all corners of the globe.

My recommendation is to be more human, more personal, more different – more weird even – than everyone else, because you really want to stand out in a thick and busy sea of vanilla…

Planning your approach: How to position yourself

I would recommend that you work hard to not be seen as a commodity service – all SEO agencies are not created equally – niching will help you in this; a quick Google search showed me that “SEO agency” returns 1840000 results, “SEO agency London” returns 104000 results whereas “SEO agency for accountants” returns 11 results.

Now obviously  “SEO agency for accountants” has many fewer searches than “SEO agency” – so the opportunity is smaller, but again you can see that the level of relevance for an accountant looking for an SEO agency is much higher.

Also, focus on what pain you solve – move away from “we’re an SEO agency” and move toward explaining the benefit you can bring to your target audience.

Making your approach

You may find that your approach is intercepted by a gatekeeper – someone who vets inbound calls or emails.

However, it’s worth understanding that gatekeepers are not created equally – whilst some gatekeepers will help you progress forward if they understand your offering, others are much more transactional and if they consider you to be ‘selling’ will simply try to block you.

If – sorry, when – you manage to speak to your prospect, understand that you are not top of their list of priorities and, if you’ve called them out of the blue, they may well have other priorities to handle.

Respect their time, make your intent clear and sew some intrigue to encourage them to engage in a discussion with you.

Once you’re given the opportunity to talk, explain your motivation, deliver a clear, coherent and powerful message that has as much relevance as possible – and try to demonstrate credibility, knowledge and authority.

Planning the shape of your call and having a clear goal will help you in this regard.

How to drive next steps and when to follow up

Excellent, you made your call, you sent your email – they said ‘yes’ now what’s the next step?

People often ask me when they should follow up and I almost always say the same thing: it completely depends on your prospect.

If you’re engaged in a discussion with your prospect, ask them – “I’m keen to help you with your SEO, if you want my help – when should we pick up this discussion next?”

Try to start a collaborative journey with your prospect now – try to work with them towards the same common goal – THEIR success.

Then make sure you do what you said you’ll do – when you said you would; opportunities are hard to find, so do what you need to do to keep them.

In summary

Take the time to consider things from the perspective of your prospect – serve rather than sell, be human and you’ll find sales isn’t half as hard as people think it is.

Author bio: Jon is the founder of engagemental.co.uk, a company that helps businesses to generate more opportunities and sales from their outbound prospecting and business development efforts.

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