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Negotiations and Client Sales for SEO Consultants

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 14 years and 97 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

I asked Calum Coburn, who is an expert in negotiation training and business leadership to do a piece for the site on helping SEO consultants to be better at sales and negotiation. After all, we are naturally GEEKS, and generally only forced into sales by default. Big thanks to Calum for taking the time to write a nice piece that should help those that want to get better clients or are considering doing SEO consulting as a full time job. Managing client expectations is such a critical component of SEO consulting, that it should be considered throughout the entire process (including sales). Here’s Calum’s take on what may help many consultants to manage expectations more effectively, and acheive higher sales with BETTER clients.

Reverse Selling

by: Calum Coburn

So a prospective client emails or calls you, and asks why they should pay your premium rates rather than get Internet Marketing services across state for half the price – or worse, in India for 20% or less. Assuming you’re putting in all the hard work of keeping up with the forums and blogs and attending conferences when you can, how do you use your in depth knowledge to convince this business person that your services are worth more?

Trouble with SEO / Internet Marketing is that many clients consider your field as black magic or voodoo. So before you rush out and buy a wand and (black) hat (or a white hat) to fit the part, lets step into your prospective client’s shoes for a moment to consider your smartest and fastest route to conversion.

A significant challenge Internet Marketers face is client ignorance. If you have tons of time on your hands, you can educate your prospect. You can explaining the services you offer, you can do a partial analysis of their site, you can get your head around their business model and explain in detail how you could support their business goals, you can prepare a detailed business proposal and hope that they sign on the dotted line. But I’m guessing you don’t have tons of time to chase after prospects. So how should you convert them?

I suggest you stop trying to persuade, you stop trying to influence and convince. Have some fun and increase your conversions with a great new method that’s proven very successful for professional salespeople. Ask your prospect why they think they need your services. That’s right, make it their task to convince you that they need your services. We’re talking about “Reverse Selling”. The structure behind why it works so well owes its success to your subtly and cleverly switching roles. The prospect has to sell themselves to you.

Lets face it, the only people who like being sold to are salespeople – and that’s only if you do it well! What do you do when you know or even suspect that someone is trying to sell to you? Your internal drawbridge is raised, you ask critical questions and are suspicious about the answers you’re being fed. This makes it hard for you to be convinced, and very hard for the salesperson to create the trust that’s necessary for any of his words to be persuasive.

A prospect called me up saying:
“I’m thinking of coming on your negotiation course, so tell me why I should come on your course”.

My reverse selling response was simply: “I don’t know, what was it about our site that you liked enough to call us?”

I’ve also used the more pointed: “I don’t know, what made you call us?”. My conversion rates go up when I use the reverse sell, and the calls take less time. My response is similar when prospects ask why they should go with us instead of our competition, and also when they call up saying they’re interested in negotiation training course.

Here’s an outline of the thought process and essentials to successfully turning the tables on prospects using reverse selling:

    You come across as confident, not needing to prove yourself to them.

    They automatically assume that you know what you’re talking about, and they trust you. (If you don’t believe me yet, TRY IT)

    They volunteer the core information that motivated them to call you in the first place.

    You’ve set the “frame” from the rest of the conversation, and if you do it right – for the rest of your relationship with them. This frame is that of you being the one asking the questions and directing and controlling the direction of the conversation.

  1. This info gives you the opportunity to talk about their problem (isn’t it funny how it’s usually a problem?) or their opportunity (if they’re enlightened) – the best conversation you could have. You want to talk about the final result, not hold a class persuading them that you know what you’re doing, that others who guarantee them no1 spot in the SERP’s are liars and cheats.
  2. They’ll feel comfortable if you guide the conversation with intelligent questions. So it helps to have written down your top 10 questions beforehand.
  3. At some stage in the conversation, a few of the prospects will ask you to tell them more about who you are or how you do things. Be very careful, you don’t want to undo your good work here by selling to them. So write down the core areas of your competitive advantage over your competition, and mention them briefly in a relaxed manner. (I use humour to lighten the atmosphere and show further confidence).
  4. They may also ask you why they shouldn’t go with India. Keep it short, ask them whether they would mind 2 or 3 typical disasters occurring that can be associated with unprofessional SEO work. You want to focus on risk and the avoidance of loss, this is far more powerful than any blue sky picture you can paint in their mind.
  5. If they haven’t given you buying signals by this stage, and you think that they want to shop around still, insulate them against going across state. This is best done by your suggesting that they talk with a number more Internet Marketers before making their mind up. Most folk don’t want to spend more of their precious time shopping around, especially when they feel confident and comfortable with you. They may just think that they should. So by your pushing them in the direction that they think they should move in, they usually don’t do any more homework and will go with youinstead.

Think about the value of the conversation you end up having together. They cut straight to the core reason they’re looking for your service. If they liked a testimonial from a client of yours who praised a result that they would love to have, they’ll mention this and you can then ask them how this result would benefit them.

More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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  • Brian Provost

    That’s 100% on the mark. Let’s face it. Most of us who are any good can make enough jack on our own that lots of consulting doesn’t make much sense. So, even if the prospective client hasn’t figured that out, you can screen the really good client projects by having them qualify themselves rather than be on the defensive during the whole conversation.

    It’s like college bars. The quickest way to knowing if the hottest chick in there is going to talk to you is to go up to her and call her a whore. She’s either going to slap you (not a good client) or she’ll feel compelled to tell you why she isn’t (you now have conversational leverage with the gal who probably wouldn’t have noticed you in the first place). Not that I recommend doing this or anything.

  • kid disco

    Cool article! Reverse selling probably comes more naturally, anyway, to legitimate SEO consultants who have the luxury of picking and choosing their clients. I can’t see a n00b having the balls to do this or pull it off.

    Tom Sawyer is my hero.

    I’m gonna start telling women in SEO that Brian told me to call them whores. That way they will slap Brian instead of me AND I’ll obtain conversational leverage.

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  • Barry

    Yes, it’s so nice to hear about the business side of things for a change. I posted a bit of a rebuttal in my blog …. actually, it’s more accurate to say I ‘engaged Calum’ in dialogue.

  • DanielthePoet

    Good tips. I’m wondering how you would flow from the first question to the rest of the conversation. And what about situations where you are the one initiating contact? How would you use this method if you’re the one making first contact?

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  • AussieWebmaster

    Some solid insights and something I needed to show a friend having problems closing clients for decent numbers.

  • tmoney

    Really liked the bit about services from India. I lost one client recently to that exact thing, they found a company in India who offered my services for a fraction of the price. Will see how I go next time using this advice.

  • Calum

    Trying to imaging using Reverse Selling on Cold Calls: SEO: Hello, why do you think you need SEO services?
    Prospect: SE…what?!?
    SEO: Why are you talking with me and not my competition?
    Prospect: Because you called me, who are you?
    SEO: The question isn’t who I am, it’s what’s motivating you to talk with me!
    Prospect: Look buddy, the only reason I’m talking with you is that I’m intrigued to know what sort of nutcase calls with your wierd questions, and I’m a little scared that you know where our office is and that you’ll key my car outside.
    SEO: Well if you can’t tell me why you need our services, I suggest you do more research and then come back when you’re sure of why we’re better.

    Cold calling is about getting to the right person and then rapidly putting your finger on their area of pain or problem and telling them that you can solve it – but don’t tell them how. The sizzle, not the steak – just like any other marketing call.

  • Zach Katkin

    A lot like the sandler sales institutes seven steps to selling… you can’t teach a kid to ride a bicycle at a seminar! Great advice and it does work, it requires practice, but concentrate on people’s pain, and you be the one asking the questions and listen.

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