For most SEO consultants, it would be fair to say they don’t have a sales process. When it comes to pitching and trying to sell their services, it might look something like the diagram below.
Infact, this is fairly typical, and I’m sure for many of you that are struggling with sales, this timeline will surely resonate.
Now, as you can see on the left-hand side, we start with the initial inquiry, and this is where the problem begins. The initial inquiry comes through and you spend the first 15 to 20 minutes, or potentially maybe even longer, 30 minutes or even up to an hour talking in circles trying to explain what it is that you do, your service offering, what the client gets, answering questions, overcoming objections and going way off topic.
And in many cases, and this is something that I used to struggle with many years ago, finding myself doing a website audit over the phone, and it’s completely inefficient and messy. Now, in and amongst that, usually that results in the prospect or the lead rather asking you to put a proposal together. And this leads to the next stage, which goes on to cause even more problems, in that you agree to do the proposal and then you waste potentially a few hours, maybe half a day, maybe even a day or two putting a big, fancy proposal together in hope that you can win the prospect over and get the project. You then go about emailing that proposal over and then finding yourself in a situation where you’re playing the waiting game, you’re sitting around waiting, haven’t heard back. So then you get into a situation where there’s constant follow-ups.
You’re having to constantly call and follow up, and many cases that results in you getting ghosted. But if they do get back to you, there’s usually these ongoing questions, these never ending questions. What do we get? What’s included? How long will it take? How many hours are you going to spend? What are the costs? And in many cases, even though you’ve covered a lot of these items in the proposal, they’ll still ask questions. And this step here in particular, you can waste an enormous amount of time just going around, and around and around, and this is where you end up playing email and telephone ping pong where you’re just going back and forth, back and forth. And then maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll get the project and you can start work. The problems with this approach are numerous.
Firstly, it’s slow, it lacks structure and it’s completely inefficient. Secondly, you can waste a lot of time preparing proposals and getting caught up in follow-ups, as I just covered. Next, your close rates suffer because it’s confusing and lacks cohesion. If you are not clear about your sales process and what needs to be said and actioned at each step, then the prospect is going to be even more confused. And lastly, there’s a lack of control, which creates inconsistency and unpredictability. Thankfully, there’s a better way, using the two stage sales process. Now, stage one is where the inquiry comes through. And the whole purpose of stage one is to essentially control the conversation by asking a series of predetermined questions in order to determine as to whether or not the lead is a good fit. In other words, pre-qualify.
If the lead pre-qualifies, only then do we move onto stage two, which is where we pitch our services using a sales presentation. And of course, we go on to close the prospect and take them through our onboarding process. But it’s at stage one where the magic really happens, because as I said, we need to determine that the lead is actually a good fit, and if they are, we move onto stage two. But if they aren’t, then we don’t waste any more time. So let’s take a closer look at stage one, the pre-qualifying stage. The objective at this point is to pre-qualify, as I said, to ensure a good fit. And secondly, to protect our time, because we don’t want to be doing a proposal, we don’t want to have lengthy meetings. We want to avoid any sort of back and forth. We want to avoid long discussions over the phone. We want to try and avoid all of that. So in order to pre-qualify the lead, we need to ask, as I said, a series of questions in order to determine suitability.
Firstly, and this is just a short selection of questions that we can ask, what niche or industry the prospect operates in? How well established they are? The value of an average sale or lead, because that ties in with revenue focused SEO? Monthly or annual revenue? And a whole range of other questions, such as current marketing efforts as sales process? The size of the company? And so on. But most importantly of all, we’re upfront about our rates and what we charge. We have to be upfront with this now at the beginning of the conversation, not later, because you don’t want to go through hosting a presentation, doing a proposal, doing all of this work only to find that you get to the end of your pitch and they say, wow, that’s too expensive. Okay, stage two, pitching. Now remember, this should only take place if they’ve pre-qualified. They’ve answered your questions, they understand your rates and everything is clear before you go anywhere near hosting the sales presentation.
So our objectives at this point are to present our offer, and of course, sign up a new client. However, it should be noted, and this is critically important, the sales presentation is an opportunity to not only present and pitch your service offering, but an opportunity to clarify your processes, set expectations, demonstrate results, and provide proposed solutions that give the prospect confidence in moving forward. Now, if you pay attention to what I just said then, I want to bring particular attention to clarifying the processes, setting expectations and everything else, because by doing so, you prevent all of those questions, and objections and everything else, all of that noise that comes about when sending a proposal via email, you get caught up, like I said, in this back and forth, never ending questions around what do we get? How much does it cost? And it just gets really messy.
By clarifying or outlying that in the presentation, you eliminate all of those questions and everything else, so essentially, by the time you get to the end of the presentation, you should only hear one question, and that it, that was brilliant. How do we get started? But of course, most importantly of all, we sell. We finish the presentation and we ask for the sale. Now, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the two stage sales process. Firstly, it’s efficient, procedural, professional, and most importantly of all, it has structure. Secondly, it prevents time wasting and ensures we only engage with high quality leads. Next, it increases close rates and maximises our marketing spend. We don’t want to be spending a fortune on paid ads, for instance, and then not have a sales process in place. You’re just going to waste an enormous amount of time and money.
Secondly, we can build a sales team around it and scale, because it has structure, it’s set processes, we can systemize it. And lastly, it ensures control throughout the sales cycle. We’re not going to get pulled in several different directions with the client, with the prospect rather, asking us to do an audit of their site, or looking at their competitors, or getting bogged down doing keyword research and all of this other noise. Okay, so let’s now take a look at our sales process timeline. As you can see, much fewer steps. We start with, of course, the initial inquiry. And as I said, this is where you go about pre-qualifying the lead to ensure that they’re going to be a good fit. We go about doing two things, asking questions and also covering our rates upfront in advance.
Now, if you think about it, pre-qualifying the lead here is very similar or comparable to, let’s say, applying for motor vehicle insurance. When you call a motor vehicle insurance company, they will run you through a series of questions, and this is an analogy that I use all the time. They’ll ask you a series of questions to determine as to whether or not you’re a suitable candidate for them to take on board. They’ll be asking questions like your age? What type of motor vehicle? Is the vehicle modified? Where it’s kept? Does it have an immobilizer? What’s your driving history like? They’ll be asking you all of these types of questions, as I said, to determine as to whether or not you’re a good fit. So that’s the way in which you should approach this stage of your sales process. Of course, if they aren’t a good fit, well then you pass it on. You can refer it over to someone else who you can simply say, no thanks, this is not a good fit.
However, if it is a good fit, we then and only then go about preparing the presentation. And remember, there won’t be any surprises around cost, or timeframes, or anything else because we’re going to cover that during the initial pre-qualification stage. Now, I should point out here that during the pre-qualification stage, you shouldn’t get bogged down trying to explain your processes, what you do, how long it’s going to take and everything else. If they start asking questions at that point, then you say, hey, all of that’s going to be covered in the presentation. So you just keep it simple here. You ask questions, you cover your rates, you pre-qualify and you move to this next stage, which is preparation of the presentation. Then of course you go about hosting the presentation. And the whole point, as I said, about hosting the presentation is to clarify, set expectations, present your proposed recommendations, you cover your pricing, your timeframes and everything else. Then from there, of course, going about closing the deal.
Now, if you’ve done this well, you should close almost all of the presentations that you host, but it all depends on how well you pre-qualify at the beginning. Now, I should point out lastly that I’ve been using this two stage sales process to sell SEO for the past 10 years. And I’m not selling low end, $300 a month SEO, I’m selling 5, 7 and a half thousand, $10,000 a month SEO. So this process works. And I can assure you that if you implement it within your own SEO agency, that you’ll see similar results. And I want to lastly point out that all the necessary documentations, the run sheet, the pre-qualification questions, the slide deck, the sales presentation and everything else, all of the documents and resources required to work your way through this sales process are all included in the SEO Accelerator program.