You can’t sell SEO to the C-suite. You simply can’t.
Think about it for a second, because this is probably something you already intuitively know but just haven’t consciously considered. When you buy something, there’s a sense of immediate wish-fulfillment and gratification that isn’t delayed.
SEO, on the other hand, isn’t a purchase, it’s an investment. This means you can’t talk sales when you’re trying to pitch SEO to a potential client. Instead, you have to convince them that this intangible thing has value and ask them to invest in their own future by investing in your services.
And — somehow — you have to do this without sounding like you’re selling high-tech snake oil.
Listen to Your Executives
Nobody is going to invest in something they don’t believe they need. Later, you can use your magic SEO powers to show the C-suite what else they’re missing, but right now focus in on the metrics and terms they’re using.
Some common metrics and terms you can expect to hear:
- Brand Identity — It is a buzzword to many executives’ ears because they have become more educated about its importance over the last decade.
- Awareness — Many executives are frustrated by their inability to break past the first-page barrier with Google search results. It seems like they’re doing everything just as well as their competitors, but their competitors keep finding almost mystical favor with the search engines.
- Volume — Closely tied with awareness is volume. How can a company get more unique visitors to its website? How can it get them to stay longer? How can it get them to look through more pages?
- Conversion Rates — This is probably the biggest term that your executives are going to focus on — converting “clickers” and “browsers” into buyers and returning customers.
- Cost — What does SEO cost them per lead and per sale? Is it really worth the money they’d have to invest?
The most important skill in a pitch to a new customer is to listen to what that customer is saying and focusing on those subjects.
Use the Right Language
You can’t get someone to trust you or your ideas if you can’t speak their language.
When you’re talking to other SEO pros, you can throw around all the terms like “schema” and “alt text” all you want, but when you are talking to executives, you need to try to communicate in everyday terms:
- Avoid Acronyms — Reach back into your memory and realize that “SEO” once meant nothing to you. Use whole words.
- Add Knowledge — Every interaction with a potential or actual client should end with that executive a little more educated (and maybe a little more excited) about SEO than he or she was before. You can start explaining keywords and anchor text and work your way up to web crawlers and meta-data as time goes on.
You need to be the SEO expert — but you don’t want to talk over your client’s head.
Demonstrate Keyword Rankings
Go in strong with something that most executives can understand: short-tail keywords. What keywords matter the most to your executive? Data that gives the executives insight into where they’re ranking on search engine results will give your prospect something tangible to examine.
It’s also a great way to show them where their competitors are failing (or succeeding) and educate them on open possibilities that competitors are missing.
Plus, if you land the client, it’s an easy way to provide a progress report your executive can understand when the rankings change a few months later — and you can use it as a launching point to discuss other types of SEO that can benefit the client now that you’ve proven your worth.
Define Your Difference
What makes you different than all the other SEO firms out there? While you can’t be all things to everyone — and shouldn’t try — you are different than your competition. Make sure that you know how to define those differences:
- Do you offer tiered SEO systems designed to grow with the executive’s needs and understanding that allows you to demonstrate your abilities for a low initial investment?
- Do you simply have the best technological edge? Are you just the fastest at keeping up with the ever-changing demands of the profession?
- Are you a specialist in the market? For example, do you have writers who have specific experience in the legal or dental field and market your teams accordingly, knowing that gives them special insights?
Here’s the best thing that you can keep in mind when making your pitch: it doesn’t really matter how you make yourself stand out from other SEO firms. What matters is that you do stand out in some way.
Demonstrate Your Value
It’s important that you don’t overstate what your client is going to get for his or her investment and when. SEO takes the long view of things. It will take time to see the ROI. Explain this to your prospective client.
However, don’t be vague. Have a plan and link it to your executive’s larger goals. Help your executive understand that the cost for SEO services actually goes down with time as results rise.
Consider offering two different formulas that will allow your executives to gauge the results they’re getting with your services. That gives them the power to make informed choices and more control over the situation.
Know When to Stop
You don’t have to land every potential client to be successful — and landing a bad client can actually hurt you in the long run if one executive begins to bemoan your “ineffectiveness” to others.
If the executive is the perpetually unsatisfied sort, wants something for nothing, or is convinced that he or she can do the job just as well as you can because a book from Amazon explains all about SEO, it might be time to walk away.
Building a network of great clients isn’t easy — but healthy working relationships are easier, last longer, grow faster, and make your work more rewarding in the end.