For most businesses around the world, purchasing SEO services can be quite challenging, mostly because the sale is founded on a promise that something will happen in the near future: they will be more visible in search, they will drive more traffic to their website and they will convert more clients. On the other hand, for any agency or freelancer that hopes to grow and thrive, the challenge is keeping SEO a measurable, reliable long-term objective.
Why Do Clients Say “No”?
There are two core elements that govern any buying decision. While the first one is related to the more rational side of the buying process, the second one is an emotional attribute, nevertheless fundamental for any reliable business relationship:
- The Perceived Value for money (which results from your proposal)
- The Trust in getting what you promised (established during the sales process)
There is a thin line between winning and losing a pitch, and it all depends on how much trust and value you bring to the table.
If the perceived value for money is low, even when the trust level is high, the client will most likely drop the offer.
Clients tend to say “no” when they can’t see the outcome of your SEO campaign or it does not make any sense for them. Many times, you will be told the budget is too high, when in reality, the budget is too high for the impact that the promised results would have on their business.
If the perceived value for money is high, but the trust level is low, they will usually delay the response, but still end up refusing.
In this scenario, the client wants to take you up on your offer, but you haven’t managed to build enough trust during your sales process. This could mean a lack of focus in understanding what is important to them and how they evaluate future partners. You should be able to show your prospects some insights on how you managed to obtain results for other companies.
If the trust level and the perceived value for money are both high, the client will most certainly accept the offer.
If there is this “recipe for success”, why is it still so difficult to make them say “yes”?
Selling services is hard enough as it is, yet SEO comes with its own specific challenges. Most clients don’t understand “robots.txt”, “404s” or any other technical aspects. They know “ROI”, “revenue” or “conversions”.
You need to speak their language.
To increase the perceived value for money, you should be able to correctly estimate and measure the impact your SEO efforts will have on your client’s bottom end results. But one of the biggest challenges nowadays is related to measuring SEO value. Since Google has decided to hide keyword data under (not provided), SEO professionals have been unable to segment brand from non-brand keywords and subsequently measure SEO performance.
Building trust when talking about SEO is harder than ever, with Google constantly changing algorithms and bringing the entire “zoo” in the game. The constant need to adapt to changes breeds high levels of uncertainty on both sides. You simply don’t know “who” or “what” you are going to run into.
How to Craft the SEO Offer No One Can Refuse
This should be the starting point of your beautiful partnership. Prior to your first meeting, find out everything there is to know about who your clients are, what they do, what they’re after. Once in the meeting, always listen to what they have to offer and what their expectations are. Hear their story. Ask questions. Dig deep and connect. At its most basic level, any relationship is built on some kind of common ground. In the end, this information will be the stepping stone for your offer.
Here are some principles that can guide you through the meetings with your clients:
- Always look for a win-win situation, where you bring enough value to the client for the given budget;
- Ask questions and find out what success means to them, what their objectives are, what their pain points are. If you listen carefully, you can adapt your proposal according to what’s really important to them. If they are looking to increase rankings for some keywords just because their competition ranks higher, then this is the perfect opportunity to include competition insights in your proposal.
- Whenever you can, show them that you have the skills for the job, but without over doing it. It’s important to mention how you managed to overcome difficulties or achieve certain goals in previous projects.
- Show them you know their market, their competitors and the trends.
- Always request access to their Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools accounts. This will not only save you a lot of time and provide you with more accurate data to create a starting point, but it is also a sign that you managed to create trust during your first conversation.
Deliver a High-Value Proposal
Presenting the client with a valuable offer depends a lot on the particular characteristics, expectations, and objectives the clients have; you won’t find “a one size fits all” recipe, but you can follow a thorough process and always look to include key elements that will eventually increase your chances of closing the deal:
1. Evaluate the Number of Monthly Google Searches for Your Client’s Products / Services and Their Visibility Level
Searching for hundreds or even thousands of keywords is not an easy task, but it’s fundamental in crafting a valuable proposal. This research will give you the opportunity to show your prospects what their real SEO market is and how much of this market they currently own (their visibility level). This can be a powerful factor in building trust. You let them know you understand their market from an SEO perspective and that you can provide valuable information (they were unaware of).
2. Include Competition Insights
By correlating the client’s website visibility level to that of their competitors, you can now paint the complete picture of the market, which will position you as a trustful advisor.
3.Measure What Matters
With almost no solution for measuring SEO traffic (non-brand organic traffic) and so many misleading metrics for keyword performance, determining SEO performance has become one of the most challenging tasks for SEO professionals. When evaluating an SEO proposal, clients need to see what they will get: “hazy goals” just aren’t an option.
Non-Brand Organic Traffic
A solution would be to unlock the (not provided) data and set non-brand organic traffic goals. You can still find the missing keywords in Google Webmaster Tools, but you’ll have to correlate that data with the information in Google Analytics. You can use Landing Pages as a common element to eventually extract the keywords that brought visits, conversions and revenue. By eliminating the branded keywords, you’ll get access to the information you need for understanding the current traffic level and estimate a realistic goal.
Visibility in Search Engines
When you are negotiating with a manager, it’s better that you adopt a measurement approach that is both reliable and easy to understand. A Visibility metric can be very persuasive in this case, because it gives an overview of keyword performance. When your campaign involves measuring thousands of keywords, this becomes useful. However, bear in mind that search volume is key in understanding keyword performance, thus the visibility score should be calculated by correlating rank changes with impressions.
4. Set Milestones
This is the most important aspect of your proposal. It will create both value and trust and will help you close the deal. Bear in mind to always check for seasonality, if you are aiming for high traffic values and be realistic about what you can provide. If you have the know-how and experience, you can commit to reaching 10% of the total monthly searches within one year time and adapt your monthly growth according to the website’s historical seasonality or keyword search trends.
5. Provide Insights on How Will we Reach Those Goals
Talk about the strategy and tactics you will use to get there and what the plan looks like: what you need to work on and also what the resources they need to allocate. Let them know how you will be working together and what your workflow looks like.
6. SEO vs. PPC
Show your prospect how much they would pay to get the same results with Google AdWords. The fee you will charge for their SEO campaign will certainly be smaller and their acquired visibility will continue to produce results month after month. This comparison will help them see the real value of your services.
7. Budget and Terms
A monthly fixed fee along with a success fee – instead of a flat fee on a yearly commitment – creates a higher level of trust with your prospect, because the client will feel you are confident you can deliver results month by month. Otherwise, they could easily end the collaboration. Bringing a success fee to the table can increase trust even more, since you show them that you are willing to share the risks.
As a final consideration, keep in mind that in order to overcome the challenges in selling SEO, you need to master both the rational and the emotional part of the process. On one hand you need to craft an irresistible SEO proposal that increases the perceived value for money. On the other hand, you need to build that powerful relationship during the sales process that ultimately convinces your client to trust you with delivering what you promised.