In this blog post I want to talk about prequalifying leads. In particular why it’s important and how to go about it.
Because look, if you’re not prequalifying your leads, chances are you’re just taking anyone on board and that’s stupid. Infact this is probably the biggest mistake most SEO consultants are making. It’s definitely one that I made, and it cost me big time.
So instead of running around the inter webs saying yes to anyone that even mentions SEO, be sure to take notes on what I cover below.
It will save you a lot of headaches, I can assure you.
I had unsuitable clients once, and it was my fault
Every now and then I look back over campaigns that I worked on in the past and think –
- “Shit, I never should’ve taken that on”
- “Christ, that campaign was a disaster”
- “Fuck that guy was a lunatic”
And the same recurring theme is always at play.
Either I didn’t prequalify properly, or they just weren’t my ideal client.
I made this mistake for far too long, much like a lot of people working in this industry, simply because I needed the money and would say yes to everyone.
I don’t do that anymore.
Infact, just recently I turned someone down that may have been worth $150,000. I won’t get into the reasons why, but I promised myself, that I would no longer just take any old client on simply because they needed help with SEO and had money.
I talk a lot about learning to say no in the training, and for good reason.
You’ve got to choose your lane, and stay in it.
Saying yes to everyone is fucking stupid
If you’re not prequalifying leads, chances are you’re just saying “yes” to everyone and that’s really stupid.
If you do this, you’re going to end up with angry clients. You’re going to end up with clients not paying on time. You’re going to find yourself with clients that are getting twitchy about rankings. Clients that are annoying you every five minutes – either calling you or sending you silly fucking emails. Clients that can’t afford your services or people who want to spend an hour on the phone with no intention of paying you.
So what you should be doing?
Pre-fucking-qualifying, that’s what.
Before you do anything with anyone, you should be asking a series of questions in order to determine whether or not the person you’re speaking with is a good fit. That’s right, before you do anything at all.
- Prospect wants to meet over lunch – Prequalify
- Prospect wants to come into the office – Prequalify
- Prospect wants to chat on the phone – Prequalify
Without sounding arrogant, I don’t meet with anyone in person anymore, unless I’ve prequalified them and I know where both on the same page. I’ve wasted far too much time setting my alarm, ironing my pants and driving an hour to meet with someone that sits down and says “Yeah, sorry we can’t afford that”.
I’ll touch on what you should be asking in a minute but for now, understand that it’s essential that you protect your time.
Know exactly who your ideal client is
There’s no point trying to prequalify an Elephant.
You’ve got to know exactly who your ideal client is, so that you’re not wasting time speaking with the wrong people. In order to do this, you should be clear about –
- The industry they operate in and how big it is
- Their annual revenue (approximately)
- The size of the organisation (number of locations, staff etc)
- How long they’ve been in business
- How much online marketing means to them
- How serious they are about their advertising spend and budget
I understand it can be difficult to know, so here’s a quick example.
- They work in the cosmetics industry, which is a $90B industry
- They do anywhere between $500,000 – $2M a year
- They have a minimum of 10 stores/locations and employ at least 25 staff
- They’ve been in business for longer than 10 years
- Online marketing is absolutely essential for them
- They’re already spending upwards of $50,000 a month on some form of marketing (PPC, SEO, FB ads, print media etc)
See, its not hard.
You just need to sit down and think it through.
Its all about positioning.
Go where the money is, instead of landing a $400 p/m client Bob, who is a wedding photographer, working as a soloist, his wife does the books and he makes $1,200 a month.
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10 Questions to help prequalify SEO leads
Alright alright, enough Tom Foolery, lets get to the questions.
Just be mindful that these are just a few of the questions I normally ask. In the training I provide you with all the questions you should ask, along with a slide deck for your sales presentations which will help you close fantastic leads. Also, it’s important that you understand during this phase of the sales cycle, you’re not trying to close the deal – just prequalify.
1. How did you find me/us?
Whilst this isn’t necessarily a qualifying question, I always like to ask this question because it helps me understand my marketing and outreach efforts better. If I’m spending money on Facebook ads, PPC, or have my team cold emailing, calling or sending letters in the mail, then I want to know which channel is actually working.
Of course, you should be tracking your efforts and monitoring that data effectively, but I like to ask the question regardless.
It’s also worth asking incase its a referral from someone and I need to pay them a referral fee.
2. Are you ready to start immediately?
This might seem pretty fucking obvious, but I’ve lost count of how many times, I’ve spent an hour with someone on the phone, only to have them say, “Great, okay well we’ll be in touch next year when we’re ready to go”
You don’t want to waste time with someone that isn’t ready to go now.
Infact most of the questions listed here are not only about prequalifying, but moreso about protecting your time.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be stuck on the phone all day chatting with tyre kickers that just want to “pick my brain”.
3. How are you currently getting customers/making sales?
I like to ask this question to get a feel for how they’re currently getting leads and making sales. The responses here can vary big time, but what I want to know is this…
Is there diversity in the way in which they’re getting customers?
A huge turn off is when I hear this ….”100% of our customers come from Google”
This sets off alarm bells big time because these are typically the types of clients that call every 15 minutes in a mad panic saying “Shit, things are slow here, you need to up the effort or we’ll have to start laying off staff”
I don’t want to work with a company that’s one Google update away from failure.
Instead, I want to hear that they’re being proactive.
They’re advertising across a number of channels.
Facebook ads, PPC, the radio, TV – whatever.
Something that demonstrates that the business isn’t single source dependent.
4. What does your sales process look like?
This one is always worth asking, especially when it comes to lead gen.
I want to know that they’ve got their shit together, and it’s not the plumbers wife answering the phone when someone calls.
I want to know that they have a sales process in place, they have a team filtering leads, qualifying those leads, and closing sales. Not to mention tracking and measuring their efforts with a good understanding of where those leads are coming from.
I don’t want to work with anyone that can’t explain their sales process to me, and I certainly don’t want to work with someone that responds with, “If I’m not too busy I’ll take the call but often I can’t so it might redirect to my wife and she’ll take care of it. I check emails occasionally when I remember to”.
5. What’s an average lead or sale worth?
In order to do the job right, you’ve got to know the numbers.
I find it quite strange when SEO’s celebrate vanity metrics such as increased visibility, more inbound links, and other stupid shit, yet they have no idea how the campaign is performing in terms of revenue.
That’s kind of important.
So you need to be asking the question, “What’s an average sale, lead or transaction worth to you?”
If they’re selling blue widgets for $20 a pop, then chances are they’re not going to be a good fit. Especially if you intend on charging $3,500 a month. They’ll need to selling a shit load of blue widgets in order for it to work.
Of course, if they are, and they’re doing big volume, then that might be where you make an exception.
Which brings me to my next question.
6. What’s the business’ monthly revenue? (net)
Again, you’ve got to know the numbers.
Otherwise you’ll be just like everyone else – celebrating stupidity.
Ask them how much the business is generating monthly, and be sure to get that figure, NET, after all expenses.
If the business is doing $80,000 a month and they’ve got $4,000 left as profit, then it’s going to be a struggle. Especially if you intend on sending them a $5,000 invoice.
Ideally, you want to work with healthy businesses, that are established, that are doing $50,000, $200,000, $500,000 a month.
That way, you’ll be able to charge appropriately, you’ll be working with professionals that have got their shit together and you’ll know that your efforts wont be wasted on Bob the plumber who whinges during an end of month strategy call because he’s not first in Google for “blocked drains.”
Another advantage of working with businesses of this size is that they make less noise. They’re too busy running their actual businesses, rather than being on your back every 5 minutes. This is where small business owners can be a nightmare – especially soloists, because they’re the ones sitting at home Googling themselves or sending you links to Whiteboard Friday videos.
7. What’s your allocated budget?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to fuck around with someone for an hour on the phone that wants me to work for $4 an hour. I have absolutely no problem in asking what their allocated budget is, because it helps to quickly identify if we should even be having a conversation.
I’m not asking this question to see how deep their pockets are, or to try and gouge more money – I just want to know we’re on the same page.
If they refuse to answer the question then it’s likely I’ll give it a miss, however if they’re unsure, at the very least, I’ll get a range.
You should know in advance what you’re intending to charge, so getting to a quick yes or no here in terms of suitability should be easy.
8. What are your objectives?
This is definitely a question you’ll want to ask because it should give you an insight into where their heads at. I say “should” because you’d be surprised how many enquiries I get for SEO where I get vuage or completely meaningless replies.
Usually it’s, “We’re not sure, we just want to be first in Google for chocolate colly wobbles”
Listen, this is really important.
There are objectives, and there are objectives.
When a prospect is clear about what they want, and those objectives are realistic, then that’s a beautiful thing.
However if they say “First page in Google”, that doesn’t mean anything at all.
In most cases, I’ll find myself having to help guide the prospect to a response that actually means something.
- We want to be first in Google for XYZ
- So we can get more traffic
- So we can sell more products and make more money
- Right, perfect. So tell me… How many products are you selling right now? Whats the value of a sale? What are your conversion rates? How much revenue are you generating? Explain your sales process to me. How many customers are coming back and buying again?
Obviously this is just a rough example, but as you can see, I’m touching on those things I just covered above.
Ideally, when asking this question, you’ll want to hear is something like …
- “We’d like to get an additional 100 customer enquiries per month within 6 months”
- “We want to increase our earnings by 30% within the next 12 months”
Not “We want to be first in Google” because that means fuck all.
9. Have you invested in SEO previously, how did that go?
Before engaging with anyone, I want to know what they’ve done previously.
I want to know if they’ve been outsourcing cheap SEO to India, or if they’ve run several Fiverr gigs, or if they’ve been paying their brother in law $299 a month to “build some links”
Essentially what I want to know is this….
Am I about to inherit someones else’s mess?
I don’t know about you, but i don’t want to be on a call with a client after working together for 12 months and have them say ..”Yeah, sorry I probably should’ve mentioned it sooner, but our site was penalized for unnatural links”.
You need to know about problems like this before you start, not after.
Most times you can pick up on problems like this but not always.
Ask the question ahead of time so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
10. How many other people are going to be involved in this project?
This might seem like an odd question to ask, but honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve had a campaign grind to a halt because of –
- No decision makers
- Too many decision makers
- Web designers that want to fight and argue with me stupid shit like plugins
- IT support companies that refuse to grant logins, or restrict my access to the point where I can’t get anything done
- Third parties that need to sign off and approve on work before it can be implemented
When I start on a clients campaign, I want to know that I can do my job. Without interference. Without interruption, or objection or constraints.
I’ve had a number of campaigns like this in the past and they’ve been incredibly frustrating.
These days, I’d rather just give it a miss.
Pre-qualifying your leads correctly will mean all the difference between working with winners or struggling with clients running broken businesses. It will mean the difference between running an efficient SEO business or crying yourself to sleep at night because Bill the electrician called you 35 times over the weekend.
When the phone rings, have your shit ready. Be prepared. Be organised and remember the rules.
- Go where the money is
- Know who your ideal client is
And lastly but most importantly of all – learn to say no.