By Jacob McMillen

Making The Pitch

By Jacob McMillen

It’s easily my least favorite part of the job.

I’m most comfortable sitting peacefully behind my computer screen, chipping away at some delightfully frustrating snag in my otherwise perfect code, poring over my sites’ Google Analytics pages, or perhaps browsing Reddit in between addressing the various tasks my clients pay me to perform.

I have literally no desire to be sitting in an office with a business owner, discussing the reasons he or she should be interested in the web design, SEO, or server backup services I offer. I like money, sure, but I like doing the work I’m getting paid for a lot more than convincing people they should pay me for my work.

Is this a bit cliché of me? Perhaps, but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. SEO can be a hard sell. You’re selling a service you cannot guarantee will work, and if it does work, may not be visible until several months down the road. The person you’re pitching to probably has zero context for the various concepts you’re discussing, and moreover, if you wanted to be a salesman, you wouldn’t have gotten into the web technology industry to begin with.

So what can you do to make this less-than-enjoyable experience more manageable? I can’t promise you’ll ever look forward to your sales calls, but here are a few tips to help you master the pitch.

Get Your Head in the Game

Half of sales is presence. If you are confident and excited about your services, your prospective client will be too. You have to master your mood before you make your pitch.

Focus on the exciting opportunity that has been placed before you to make money doing something you love (or at least reasonably tolerate). You could be in an office, at this exact moment, slaving away for some tyrant of a boss who only acknowledges your existence when he or she is simultaneously dismantling that existence into undignified pieces of shame and misery. You have your financial fate in your own hands, and that is something to be proud of.

If your prospective client fails to bite, no sweat; you are that much closer to pitching someone who will say yes. Solid business is about offering quality products and services while keeping costs manageable.

You’ve handled that. The sales element is simply a numbers game, and the more you pitch, the more you’ll sell.

Make a Connection

As human beings, we are hardwired to seek out connection with our fellow man. People like to connect with people. Use this to your advantage. Connect with the individual you’re pitching to on a relational, rather than business level.

Take the time to read your prospective clients. Are they the type that will be more impressed by you or by the numbers you can show them? Most businesses owners won’t be purchasing a proven SEO method, they’ll be purchasing a likeable individual who can offer them quality references, desirable timetables, and realistic results.

You don’t have to be a master conversationalist. Simply make time to demonstrate that you are interested in the person, not just the person’s business. The easiest way to do this is by asking questions. How long have you lived in the area? How do you feel about the local school system? What nearby restaurants do you recommend?

People like to talk about themselves, and they enjoy being listened to by authentic individuals. Once they like you, they will want to do business with you.

Cover Objections Before They’re Brought Up

This might be the single most effective sales technique I’ve ever learned. Determine what objections your prospective client might bring up and address them BEFORE you make your pitch.

There are plenty of weak points in the argument for having a client pay you to boost his or her search rankings. What if Google’s next algorithm change eliminates all the work I’ve just paid for? If results aren’t typically visible for two or three months, how do I know you aren’t just grabbing my money and running? Why should I pay $3,000 for you to build my website when my cousin’s friend’s older brother can make me a website for free?

These points are like a scale and the weight goes to whoever addresses them first. If your client thinks about and then brings up a point first, it has much more weight in his or her mind, and you will have a hard time recovering. If, on the other hand, you bring the objection up first, attached to an answer, that same objection will often end up as no more than a glancing consideration for your client and can actually serve to your advantage.

It Won’t Always Suck

Making a sales pitch is no different from anything else; the better you get, the more enjoyable it is. You may never be able to say that you like having sales meetings, delivering pitches, or making calls, but you can at least learn to appreciate these activities and anticipate using them to your advantage.

Become a force of confidence and excitement as you learn to get your head in the game, make a point of establishing a relational connection with your prospective clients, and finally, cover your client’s objections before they are even brought up.

This stuff still isn’t my favorite, but I promise you it gets better.

  • Kenth Hagström

    I feel the same. Good advices!

    • Thanks Kenth, if nothing else, it’s a transferable skill. No matter what we do, we’ll always have to know how to sell ourselves.

  • Zach

    John Tabita said in the article below to not answer questions your client isn’t asking. I understand he didn’t fully mean this, but do you have any recommendations for a balance between “covering objections”, “never answering a question your client isn’t asking”, and “giving away free information”?


    • That’s a really good question Zach. And I agree 100% with John’s article. The ability to anticipate client objections only comes from experience, either your personal experience or aggregate experience shared online or via other forms of distribution. The SEO industry makes it very difficult to find a standard set of universal objections, since every potential client can fall within a wide range of technical expertise. One client’s objection might be as ignorant as, “Why should I pay for SEO?” and another client’s objection might be as knowledgeable as, “What’s your link building strategy and have you modified it since Panda?”

      This is why the “Connection” part is so important. You should be able to get a feel for your clients by talking with them about who they are, their vision for their company, their past strategies, etc. The goal with covering objections is to anticipate and answer the key issues in the clients’ minds that are standing between them and a purchase decision. As John pointed out, you don’t want to give away any more information than you have to in order to make the sale. As they say in sales, ALWAYS BE CLOSING! You should never out-talk a sale. Connect with the client, get a feel for his or her technical expertise, and then, with time, you’ll have a feel for what type of objections this client will probably bring up, and you can answer those ahead of time with saying one more word than is necessary.

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