Making The Pitch
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.