One common problem that many SEO agencies and consultants run into is converting leads into clients. We have covered plenty of training on how to acquire leads.
Whether that’s running media buying campaigns, Facebook ads, or lumpy mail. There is an infinite number of ways to generate leads for your business.
But leads aren’t enough.
You need clients, and that’s where most SEO’s go wrong.
They are good at ranking. Good at marketing. But they suck at selling.
I’m not a sales expert myself. I am constantly practicing to improve my skills.
But I have figured out how to close high-end clients without physically meeting them, and repeated it on several occasions.
If you’re anything like me when I started, you have problems convincing prospects you’re an expert. You may have awkward silences on the phone. The client has trust issues and wants testimonials and examples. And you can’t manage to close.
In this training I’d like to walk you through my personal process for selling and closing leads, which completely changed my business.
When speaking to friends that also run very successful businesses, we noticed that we were using a very similar process after testing and refining it individually. Which shows how effective this is.
So let’s go through it…
1. Respond to the lead
If they have reached out to you, this is the easiest stage.
If you are cold emailing though, it can be a bit more difficult. You need to judge how good of a lead they’ll be.
Here is an example of a bad response from a cold email:
This may be confusing because it looks like they’re showing buyer intent, which in a way they are, but this lead is bad because they are most likely going to be very price oriented.
No point eliminating a potential prospect here though. Just be careful with how you respond. I’d focus more on the value, and seeing it as an investment, than I would on the “cost”. So I replied to that prospect with this:
It doesn’t cost anything because if you have your website & marketing setup right, it’ll bring in more customers and make you more money than you invest.
If you want to go through what you can do and the value it can offer your business, let me know and we can have a quick call some time next week.
In the above example, he responded to my email and we moved onto the next stage…
2. Qualify the lead
In previous training we referred to this as a consultation call. It’s the same thing, the idea is to qualify the client and see if you’ll be a good fit to work together.
You should do this on the phone, there is absolutely no need to ever meet someone for this, but an email isn’t sufficient.
Your intention on this call is to see if they are a good fit for your services, find out their pain points, and close them on having a proposal made.
Newer sales people, including myself, have a bad habit of missing out this stage. The problem is though, without qualifying them, you have no idea what they want – so you can’t sell it to them.
Remember people saying, “Do NOT sell SEO”, and instead focus on results like more clients, more time doing their passions, expanding their team, etc. Well, this is where you find out what they truly want.
I’ve been doing this for a while now, but one great book I was reading recently, SPIN Selling, covers choosing the questions in an interesting way, the author (Neil Rackham) breaks questions down into 4 categories…
A situation question is intended to get facts about the prospect and their business. These are important because you will need facts for creating your proposal, but try to use as few of these as possible.
Here are a few example fact-based questions you may want to ask:
- How long have you been looking to work with an SEO agency?
- Just an estimate, how much is an average client worth to you during their customer lifetime?
- Which areas do you cover?
These are questions designed to dig into a problem or difficulty your prospect has.
The first example question we used “How long have you been looking to work with an SEO agency?”, can potentially be a problem question, for example if they responded by saying…
“About 2 months now, we were working with an SEO agency before but it didn’t work out, so we’ve been searching for a new one”
Now your problem question is simple…
“Why do you think that was the case?”
Here are a few more examples of problem questions you can ask:
- What made you decide to reach out to us? (May need to dig deeper to get into the problems)
- What’s preventing you from expanding into X area? What’s preventing you from hiring someone for Y position? What’s preventing you from reaching your revenue goal of Z?
- Why do you feel you aren’t receiving enough enquiries from your website now?
Once you understand the problems, you can use implication questions to cover the implications of these problems.
Here are couple examples you could ask:
- Would you say being on the third page and having a poorly setup website is losing you many customers to your competitors?
- What are you giving up by putting time into X, when you could hire someone to do that?
Notice how we are using the pain to dig further and find out what is happening as a result of that pain.
Here is another example: we know they have a pain of not being able to expand into a new area, next we want to find out what are the implications of that, maybe they won’t be able to grow the revenue enough to sell it and retire.
These questions focus on the needs of your prospect. We want to know what they feel they need, then along with their pains, we can sell it to them.
Here are some example questions you could ask:
- If we were talking here 12 months from now, what would you like to have achieved from working together?
- Just by being top, do you think that will convince your prospects you’re the better company to deal with?
- Could a more high-end looking website attract more higher paying clients for you, rather than price oriented ones?
- What would 15 new qualified leads per week do for your business?
3. Close on the proposal
“Well John, based on everything you’ve said, this sounds like the perfect fit for you.
What we’ll do next is put together a proposal for you to explain exactly what you can do to achieve your objectives, then we can walkthrough it on a call next week.
Which day works best for you?”
This is the easiest close you’ll get to do. Nobody has ever turned me down at this stage. If people are interested enough to get on the phone and go through the qualification stage, they’re at least curious enough to see what you propose.
With that said, I have turned people down at this stage. If we go through the qualification call and I decide they aren’t a perfect fit to work with us, I simply let them know this is the case, and we end it there without any time wasting.
4. Follow up
Don’t wait until the proposal day to speak to them again. Immediately after that consultation/qualification call, send them a quick email to reconfirm the details and thank them for their time.
The more contact they have with you the better. You don’t want no shows.
5. Deliver the proposal live
It’s a big mistake to send your proposal over an email then sit, wait, and hope they get back to you. That will definitely work, but it drastically reduces your chances.
To get the most out of your proposal, you need to walk them through it.
For me, I use a mixture of join.me (it’s free), and a phone call. You could also use GoToMeeting, though I haven’t used it for this before.
Your proposal needs to walk them through what you’ll be doing for them. Don’t be vague, or give them a big list like a pricing table. Actually have a step-by-step walkthrough of what your service and strategy involves.
I recommend using Keynote or Powerpoint for this.
There is no need to worry about your strategies being grey hat. A good prospect will have no idea what is Google approved or not. If they do, it’s probably a sign they’ll be a pain to work with.
I even explain the whole process of buying expired domains that have trust and authority, and using them to build links to the clients website.
Make sure to relate it to them, and explain how it will apply to them only. Generic training and advice will only bore them. Keep them engaged throughout the presentation, ask them if they understand something, if they’ve heard of it before, etc. You need them to be paying attention.
It takes me about 40-50 minutes to deliver a proposal.
This part is the selling. You’re building value with the prospect, establishing credibility and expertise, and gaining their trust as a result of both of these.
Trust me, after the proposal, outside of the main ideas, your prospects will forget most of what you actually do. And that’s fine, the reason we are doing it is to sell, we don’t want them to do it themselves.
Once they’re sold on you, your company, and the service, you can move on and…
6. Close the deal
You need to ask them for the sale. People often wussy out at this stage. They qualify them, sell to them, but can’t manage to ask for the sale.
Asking for the sale can be as simple as saying, “Have you seen enough information to make a decision?”.
Remember one thing though…
Most people are not going to say yes to the first attempt at closing them.
Take the above question as an example, you may find someone will say something like…
“Yes, that was great thanks, I just need to think about it now”
At which point, it’s easy to panic and say:
“Okay great, well I’ll let you think about it…”
Or you can continue the conversation and try to close again later…
“Ok, that’s fair enough. But do you like the idea we’ve covered?”
And remember to bring up the notes from the qualification call, for example:
“John, do you believe me that this strategy is going to get you the 15 additional leads per week you’re looking for?”
At this point it’s important to focus on the things brought up during the qualification call. You know their pain points, the implications of those pain points, and what they are looking to achieve – don’t sell them SEO, sell them the solutions to these things.
Walking them through the strategy in the proposal is to make you stand out from your competitors, and position you as an expert that knows what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter how well they understand it, they just need to have a rough idea of what you do. But that isn’t how you close them, that’s one of the big differences between selling and closing.
If you’re anything like me, the closing part is going to make you feel uncomfortable.
But remember this…
If you don’t manage to close this client, they’re probably going to buy from some awful agency that uses blog comments, article directories, and 80% exact match anchor text to rank – just because they know how to close. You’re likely one of the best SEO’s they’ll find (since you’re a reader here!), so you’re doing them a disservice by not closing them.
7. Get paid or Follow up
Once you close them, it’s a matter of receiving the money, and beginning your ranking process. If you haven’t fully invested into learning SEO yet, now is a good time to start studying. Check out our PBN guide, that will get you the basics done, enough to rank most clients.
Alternatively, if you don’t close them on the phone, remember to follow up.
Send them case studies and content afterwards. You want to make sure they are thinking about you. First thing, as before, send a follow up email immediately after the call and recap things.
There you go, 7 steps to converting your leads into SEO clients.
There are a lot of skills that will be useful for running a successful SEO agency.
The obvious one is knowing how to rank, but truthfully, that’s the least important thing to focus on until you have clients.
Another skill is the ability to generate leads. But generating leads is useless if you can’t close. And being able to close drastically reduces the amount of leads you need.
My advice is to focus on becoming great at selling and closing.
This is why I often say you don’t need to be good at SEO, or have any experience, to build an agency. I don’t mean this in an unethical way, you should always strive to deliver the absolute best results for your clients. If anything, it’ll make your business much more lucrative. But you don’t need to be an actual SEO expert until you have the client.
First, learn how to get clients. Otherwise knowing how to rank is useless to you.