Todd Malicoat invited Calum Coburn (from Negotiations.com) to write a blog article on ways consultants could convert prospects into sales. I particularly enjoyed this article because we don't often hear about business component of search marketing in blogs. In the article Calum offers some tactics for SEO negotiations. Now, I agree with the premise and many of the assertions in the article, but would like to offer some additional thoughts.
Herein lies the typical process most consultants encounter with searching clients. The phone will ring (usually the phone) and the prospective client is 'streamed' through some type of 'pre-plan'. Generally you've been through this process so many times before you know the questions you'll be asked and what responses you'll give. Rather than the 'here's what I can sell' Calum suggests the 'reverse sales' approach. He even goes on to suggest prepared answers and questions to help steer your conversation in this direction.
I agree with his approach, however, would argue with semantics. 'Reverse sales' should be called 'reverse marketing'. You see, it benefits your business when you move away from sales focused activities to marketing focused activities. What's the difference? Frankly, one is more concerned about the needs of customers, and the other tries to 'sell things'. Clients don't want to be sold to, but rather, they want to be enticed, romanced, and drawn into a process that they can call their own.
Personally, I like to chat with clients until a point where both company and consultant have articulated and identified the correct needs and benefits. From this process an action plan and solutions are created to make their dream reality. This of course takes time that many of us don't have. Calum Coburn's article suggests a certain degree of 'confidence' right off the bat, to create a first impression that says, 'I don't need to sell you anything cause I'm the best at what I do.'
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Again, I like the approach. Obviously it's harder to pull off if you aren't confident in your services, but it certainly gives the impression you have a solid handle of your business. This gives you a certain level of legitimacy, however, it also brings up some problems.
Firstly, you have to be ready to loose clients. Some prospective clients (although the number is quite a bit smaller nowadays) want to be sold to and don't want to be asked questions about why they chose you. Approach them the wrong way and your 'reverse marketing' may turn into an interogation. Identify who the quality client is early and be ready to loose a few in the proposal. Frankly, there is a market out there for client's better suited for the low low prices of the ESL SEO.
Secondly, a good SEO firm will ensure client's feel completely immersed in the planning and analysis process, and they generally complete this process for free of charge. Why free you ask? It serves two functions:
- 1) Helps the client feel a part of the overall solution that makes them more inclined to go ahead with action (since it was 'their' solution to begin with :D)
2) It builds trust and ensures the SEO knows what is really needed for the web site in your specific industry.
It is at this point that I would engage Calum and ask him to shed some light regarding ideal timeframe with clients. I got the impression through his article that there is an expectation clients will choose to love or hate you in one phone conversation. I do agree first impression are crucial, but I don't think it is wise for prospective SEO clients to choose any consultant based on one phone conversation, nor do I think SEOs should judget clients on the first call.
My experience suggests 3-5 conversations is what it takes to move to the action stage (the signed proposal). Investing the time necessary will turn prospective clients into lifelong clients. And I mean this seriously, invest time into the right client, show them genuine concern for their goals, and deliver on those goals, and you'll create a long term relationship that will put money in your bank.
To sum up: be confident in your approach, try the 'reverse marketing' be ready to loose prospective clients, be prepared for 3-5 conversations to close the deal, and use cheat sheets to help lead your phone conversations.
[tags]seo negotiations, negotiating seo, how to negotiate seo sales, marketing negotiations[/tags]