You find an SEO lead, develop a pitch, and then close. But, you’ll soon find yourself needing the extra push to start scaling like clockwork when selling SEO. With the combined expertise of sales thought leaders such as Jeffrey Gitomer, Joe Girard, Brian Tracy, and Chet Holmes, we came up with an extensive guide for agencies on how to sell SEO services.

Selling SEO to local businesses isn’t rocket science, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park either. Even our partners’ most seasoned sales teams have their challenges: no defined sales processes, lack of tools or sales training, and a lack of prep before a sales meeting that can cost them business.

What may be stopping you from closing that pitch is not having the cadence that instructs your sales team on the best way to sell SEO services. If there’s no repeatable process, how then can your team consistently close? You need to do something about it – now.

These are battle-tested and proven tactics—not just by us, but also by the agencies we work with.

We’ve gathered actionable steps to help you maximize your sales efforts and, ultimately, drive more business to your agency. These are battle-tested and proven tactics—not just by us, but also by the agencies we work with.

Following the Pareto principle, the steps outlined in this post are designed to help you focus 20% of your sales efforts to get 80% more close rate. If more business is what you’re looking for, this post is for you.

Before You Sell SEO

“Be prepared…or be prepared to lose prospects.”

If you meet a prospect with a half-baked pitch, you’re diminishing your chances of closing the sale by (ill) design. The more you study your lead and their industry, the easier it will be for you to talk them through their pain points and why they need your SEO services.

Dedicating time to prep allows you to discover information on who you’re talking to, as well as their pain points, needs and wants, who their competitors are and whether they’re doing better.

Prep is an important part of the sales process. It sets you on the right foot and ensures every move you make will lead you to get that client onboard.

Doing Your Prep

Selling is a skill, and like all skilled work, there are tools of the trade. Some of the things you’ll need before you begin on your sales journey are:

  • A CRM – A tool that allows you to be mindful of every lead, so nothing slips between the cracks. Without a CRM, you’ll fall victim to the limits of your own thoughtfulness. CRM’s allow you to massively scale the ability to care, follow through, and allocate your time to the most promising relationships you cultivate.
  • A professional email – Nothing screams “amateur” like a generic @gmail or @yahoo email.
  • A Website – Your pitch time is limited. You’ll never be able to tout all the virtues of your brand on a call or meeting. So, why not have your value proposition permanently on the web, where it can be accessed by your prospects – anytime! And not to mention, all the marketing goodies you’ll be able to add on later as your business grows.
  • A shortlist of people from your Network
  • A few thoughtful questions to break the ice

1. Knowing your prospects

Don’t treat your prospects as just another deal. Show your prospects that you truly care about their business, and this starts with taking the time to know more about them. The more you become familiar with your prospects, the less likely you’ll be treated as a stranger.

  • Know their business – Diving deep into how they do their business, who and how they get customers, what industry they’re in, and what their products or services are can help you better position your SEO services.
  • Research their competitors with an advantage – Show that you’re looking at every angle to help their business. This includes detailing what their competitors are doing and how their business can get better leverage.
  • Find out about the current state of their digital marketing/online presence – Know if they’ve done SEO in the past, and if so, what their experience was like working with their agency.

2. Is the prospect the right fit for your agency?

When you sell SEO to small businesses or even to large enterprises, understand that every client has a specific need. It’s important you know how your agency fits into their needs, so you can pay attention to the right prospects.

That’s where qualifying comes in. As you qualify SEO leads, there are four factors you need to keep in mind: Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe.

  • If you had to choose between time and budget, which would take priority? (Budget)
  • Would I send proposals and all the materials to your personal or work email? (Authority)
  • Why do you feel that your business is digital ready today? (Need)
  • How soon do you want to see results for your SEO? (Timeframe)

Asking the right questions and getting the right answers will allow you to focus on the right prospects instead of wasting time and resources on projects that are a) not within your price range; b) not within your agency’s capabilities; c) not about to start anytime soon.

3. What type of client are you talking to?

Know their customer profile

In sales, you will encounter different types of clients. We refer to these as Customer Profiles, and they are the:

  • Amiable – Clients who are likely to purchase to avoid offending. They are the ones who will buy if your service solves a problem. They love the win-win situation.
  • Achiever – Clients who always talk about results. You will need facts and evidence to convince them to buy. They are clients who are likely to buy if the purchase makes them feel good or improves their image in the eyes of their peers.
  • Skeptic – Clients who will need a lot of convincing in the form of figures, such as statistics and results from previous campaigns. The more you show them evidence, the better. You will need to keep selling to them every month.
  • Alpha – Clients who must feel control at all times. They must be made to feel that the sales were an independent decision.

It is important to match your sales approach based on the type of client you’re facing. Our advice is to research your client and prime them with the right questions.

4. Top questions you need to ask

As part of your prep, you need to have a set of SEO intake questions (probing) that will help you unearth the needs of your prospects.

Here are some examples:

  • Have you worked with an SEO agency before?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how satisfied are you with your current agency?
  • How would you rank price, quality, and timeframe to fulfill the service in terms of importance?
  • What challenges did you encounter in your business? What steps did you take to resolve them?
  • Do you have a set marketing budget?
  • What’s your measurement of SEO success?

5. Identify who you’re going to sell to first – Prioritize

Selling SEO shouldn’t be a guessing game; otherwise, you’re wasting time, effort, and resources instead of getting more business. Ideally, you should use a CRM to keep track of your prospects, organize their information, and essentially, identify who’s moving through your pipeline.

Your CRM may also act as a filter to manage and prioritize your prospects, letting you know who to nurture and who’s ready to do business with you. Some of the great CRM’s out there are SugarCRM, SalesForce, PipeDrive. But, we’ve also developed a great nimble CRM that you can use to close more sales without breaking the bank.

Use a CRM

Treat prep as your homework. If you feel that your knowledge about the prospect is still lacking, don’t jump into a sales meeting with them. This is key in the fundamentals of prospecting.

The Sales Experience

Now that you’ve done your prep, let’s get down to selling your SEO service.

How Do You Reach Out?

1. Selling SEO over the phone

You don’t want to waste time calling every prospect, so the best way to go about this is to talk to the decision maker. Can the person you’re speaking with make the executive decision to “go all in” with your services? But, remember that talking to them on the phone isn’t where you drop your closing statement. Your goal is to set an appointment with them – this is selling the “test drive”.

Your sales team should have a script when they’re contacting prospects. You can start with something like this:

Hi! I’m looking for {Name of Prospect}

I’m {Your Name} from {Agency Name}. I’m a digital marketing professional and I help local businesses improve their visibility online. I would love work with you by helping you gain more customers to your site. Is this something we could chat a bit on?

(If they answered “Yes”)

Great!

(Proceed to probing questions)

  • How do your customers usually find your business
  • What was the motivation in creating the website?
  • Have you heard about SEO and improving your visibility online?

(If they answered “No”) Do you already have someone doing this for you?

(Proceed to probing questions again)

  • What are the results you’re getting right now?
  • What was the goal for the campaign?
  • Are you happy with the service?

I can prepare a report to look at the status of your website right now and show keywords that could be important to your business.

Should I send this to your personal or work email? I also have some free time to help you understand it. Is {Day: Monday, Tues, etc.} at {Time} work for you?

Note: Calls requiring a commitment are best done during mornings, ideally around 10 AM to 11 AM.

While it’s good to have a script when selling SEO over the phone, never read from it!!! Use the script only as a guide to keep the conversation flowing and natural.

2. Setting a sales meeting and selling in person

Be prepared when setting a sales meeting

Selling in person requires a great deal of prep – apart from the first steps we’ve outlined above. You need to:

  • Dress to impress – show you mean business. For some, it sounds rudimentary, but you’ll be surprised that some salespeople pay little attention to how they look when facing clients. You want them to trust you with top dollars, so you need to look top dollars material.
  • Bring impressive marketing material to leave behind. This should include material like a comprehensive site and link audit, a pitch deck, and a proposal with all your contact details on it. You should also prepare case studies or white papers to demonstrate the potential impact of your SEO service to their business.
  • Don’t be afraid to defer tough questions to a later phone call. It may happen anytime when you’re talking to a client. If there’s a question that you may not be able to answer, tell your client that you’ll review and consult more with your experts (us), then get back to them. Your honesty will be appreciated, and this also creates an opportunity for another touchpoint.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS…Shoot them an email. Your email will act as a receipt of their buy-in. When you send an email, make sure it serves a purpose.

Breaking the Ice

If you’re talking to prospects over the phone or in person, small talk is essential to establish rapport. To break the ice, ask questions that will make them pause. These are questions that they don’t usually get in conversations. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Do you have anything exciting planned for the weekend?
  • I saw your website, and it looks great! Did you build it yourself?
  • I’m curious about your business’ name. Did you come up with it yourself?

Rapport Building Techniques and How to Use These

When you have a strong rapport with your prospects, you’re in a better position to influence them in their purchasing decision. This shows that you’re both focused on what the other is trying to say. This is called the “Liking Bias”, and if you believe sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer – “All things being equal, we are most likely to buy from our friends.” There are different techniques to build rapport with your SEO clients, and these are:

  • Cheerleading – Be the first to initiate contact. Be the bearer of good news – all the time!
  • Common Ground – This is the easiest and most effective way of accelerating the relationship-building process. Identify one or two things you have in common, and use these in your conversations.
  • Humor – Inject humor when talking to your prospects. If you can get them to laugh, you can get them to buy.
  • Mirroring – Easier to apply when you’re doing face-to-face conversations; mirror their posture or how they talk or match their pace when engaging them.
  • Me-Talk – Give airtime to your prospects rather than you taking the spotlight in the conversation. The trick is 50%. He who talks more than 50% of the time is losing the sale.

Building Desire

The most important step when you’re selling SEO is to let your prospects know how they will be successful with your agency.

1. Send them a website audit.

Provide them with an audit of their website to show areas of improvements, what their competitors are doing, and what their next steps should be. Your website audit should be easy to use and explain to your prospects – here’s a sneak peek of a sample website audit:

Send an audit

Sending prospects a website audit not only positions your agency as the expert but also shows that you have the technology and tools to find and fix the issues affecting their website.

2. Prepare a proposal that sells itself.

To win prospects, you need a great looking proposal. But, what should be in the proposal? The SEO proposal should include information about the client, details about your SEO process, the proposed solution, the timelines, and deliverables.

Proposals should always be in your sales pitch kit, so be sure to have a template prepared to avoid spending too much of your time creating an SEO proposal.

Prepare your SEO proposal

The most effective way to build desire is to offer a solution to their problem. Don’t end the pitch without reinforcing the value of your SEO service to their business.

3. Reinforce what they need.

After you hit their practical heartstrings, start pulling on their personal heartstrings. This technique is called “Selling the Personal Need.” Now that you’ve helped them visualize your expertise, help them visualize their potential positive experience and their peace of mind when they work with you.

Gaining Commitment

You should be guiding your prospects into what they need to do next. The goal here is to create a momentum that will ultimately move them forward and get them to close. Gain commitment from your prospects by:

  • Getting them into a “Yes” frame of mind – Prime them with three questions that will get a positive response. The third question has the most weight.
  • Checking for understanding – Be sure they understood what the service is all about. If there is any confusion, don’t hesitate to go back and explain again.

Gaining commitment is like softly checking on someone’s “yes” without “popping the question” directly – yet.

Overcoming Objections

Know how to overcome objections

It’s rare for a salesperson to meet no resistance when they’re selling SEO to a business. But, if you encounter any objections during your pitch, it probably means a portion of your sales process was weak up to this point. Here is the guerilla guide to overcoming sales objections:

  1. Acknowledge – The most powerful phrase you will use in overcoming objections is “I hear you.” Our primitive brains are subconsciously receptive to this statement, and is very powerful at diffusing tension.
  2. Isolate – Don’t let an objection tailspin into 2, 3, or 4 issues. You can do this by saying “So if I’m understanding you correctly, your primary concern here is (Blank). Don’t say “issue,” or “problem”.
  3. Own – The most powerful phrase for ownership is “I will…” – don’t disempower yourself by saying “I’ll check with the boss” or even worse – “I’ll escalate this to…”
  4. Act – Follow through on the commitment. If you don’t, the trust is lost and you will have lost the sale

Here are some of the most common objections you might encounter with SEO:

Objection 1: “We’re already working with another agency.”

Rebuttal: “I can’t speak for other SEO agencies out there, but what I can say is that there will be no other group of people that will take care of your campaigns as personally as we will.”

Objection 2: “I don’t see the potential of SEO for our business’ ROI.”

Rebuttal: “I can respect that view, especially if you’ve not had luck with a good provider before. But did you know that according to Marketing Sherpa, the ROI for SEO is $22 per $1 spent.”

Objection 3: “I don’t see what SEO could do for me.”

Rebuttal: “I understand. A lot of people begin that way until they realize customers are looking for their business 24/7. 93% of buying experiences begin with a search. If you’re not the first on the first page, it’s a missed opportunity for customers to do business with you.”

Objection 4: “It’s too expensive.”

Rebuttal: “I hear you. And if I were in your shoes hearing for the first time, I might too. But, I‘m in this industry for a reason. After having seen dozens of campaigns perform and happy business owners discover how positive SEO could be to their business I feel it’s important to help you make an informed decision by seeing the potential benefit you might miss out on so you can make an intelligent and informed decision.”

Objection 5: “I’ve gotten burned by a previous SEO agency.”

Rebuttal: “I understand, and I’ve also heard a few horror stories from some of our clients. We have worked with businesses that had been burned by their previous SEO agencies, but we have a 100% batting average in cleaning it up. Here’s what we did to help them recover…”

Closing the Sale

Now comes the hardest and most important part – closing. This is your make or break moment, so you want to make sure your sales team is using the right phrases to ask for your prospect’s business.

There are three ways to close a sale:

1. Selling the Benefit

Address each of their needs with a benefit. An example closing pitch for this is: “I can book the work for you now…”

2. Assertive Close

This is you assuming the close, but ending it with a question that offers a limited choice. An example of this is: “I can book the work for you now. Would you like me to send the invoice to your personal Gmail account or work email?”

3. Assumptive Close

This approach assumes the close, with the closing line talking about the next scheduled conversation. An example of this is: “I’ve booked your work and sent the invoice. Will you be available to discuss the intake next Monday?”

In every master’s sales book on how to sell SEO, you’ll find one very important tip. Once you’ve done your closing pitch – STOP TALKING! He who speaks first loses.

The Post-Sale Experience

Successfully closing a client doesn’t mean the end of the sales. Seasoned digital marketers who know how to sell SEO packages are those who go to great lengths to maintain a smooth post-sales experience.

At this point, you have to think of two things: selling additional value and getting clients to stay.

Additional Value: How Do You Cross-Sell and Upsell?

Cross-sell and upsell for additional valueThe problem with most salespeople is they bombard their clients with additional products that they may not be inclined to purchase now. Clients, especially the Skeptics and the Alphas, can see right through these attempts. You don’t want to be the annoying salesman; you have to be savvy in upselling or cross-selling any product. It’s not about getting more buck for your bang – (yes I meant it that way). If your other services add value to SEO or the prospect’s business, it is your moral obligation to pitch it.

How do you go about this? You can drop an opener, such as “By the way,…” or “Last thing…”, but make sure to keep in mind the following:

  • Only offer to upsell or cross-sell when it’s reasonable. The “additional value” you’re offering should address the exact needs of your client at the very moment.
  • Keep them updated on any upgrades or additional products. It’s better to feed them with information and show how these can benefit their business in the long run.

Getting Clients to Stay

Your relationship with clients doesn’t stop at Month 1. It’s your job to create desire continuously, so they have the reason to stay with your agency. We maintain a code of being proactive in the business, and this is one value that we also push to our partners.

You have to be the bearer of news – whether it’s good or bad, let your clients know. If there’s a big spike in their rankings, be the first to tell them. Highlight positive results by comparing their current stats with past reports. This will provide your clients with a baseline of improvements and show the value you’re delivering to their business.

Pro-tip: Clients want a consistent experience with their SEO agencies, so remember ABC = Always Book your next Call.

Ready to Sell SEO?

Defining your sales process is just the start. The process we’ve described above doesn’t have to be set in stone. It’s all up to you how you plug this into your daily grind. But, one thing we can tell you from our experience – it’s a process that takes away dependencies, helps you align your agency’s goals, and make your sales team better and more efficient at selling SEO to small businesses and enterprise-level alike.

If you’re ready to change gears and get those clients to say yes, we invite you to try this process. You’ll find additional action points on how to sell SEO in our webinar below – it’s FREE for you to watch!

Plus, there are materials on the Resource Center that you can use to supplement your sales pitch. Sign up, check them out, and tell us how it goes.

One last tip! Find your most critical friend and try your pitch on them. If it works on them, you’re ready.