We have never had salespeople. And yet we have grown from one guy working out of his bedroom to almost 20 men and women working out of their bedrooms. We want to keep growing; to support the innovative tools and services the team has created, to give our people more opportunities for career growth, to take advantage of the post-COVID demand for SEO, and of course to build a more valuable, profitable business. We also want to make sure that we have enough predictable pipeline as we will soon have 20+ mouths to feed. Which led me to thinking we should hire some salespeople. But then it occurred to me…Does an SEO agency even need salespeople?
Here’s how sales works at LSG. Someone contacts us, typically via the website, LinkedIN, or email. Often the person contacting us is either an old client, someone referred by someone we know, someone who saw us present at a conference, or someone who found us via Google. I looked back at referrals over the past three years and these types of inbound leads are surprisingly consistent. But surely the missing piece of the puzzle is outbound sales right? If only we could get our foot in the many doors that currently are closed to us, wouldn’t we be able to crank the growth? Probably. At least that’s what I was thinking when I started putting my plan for world domination together.
I called all of my friends who were in sales for advice. In general, the advice can be summed up as follows:
- If you’re going to run sales in-house, hire a few inexpensive recent college grads who are hungry to make a lot of money. Give them a list, a playbook, incentives that align with your goals, and 90 days. After 90 days, keep the ones who could get you the most/best SQLs and can the rest. Brutal.
- If you don’t want the hassle/risk of running your own sales team, hire an outside appointment setting company. They can develop target lists and playbooks based on your criteria. They will do cold outreach out to prospects via email, phone, etc. They have an incentive to get you quality leads as you will drop them quickly if after a few months they don’t, or they might drop you because they have better clients they could be spending time on.
I started thinking the appointment setting route had the best risk/reward opportunity, that is until I started thinking about how much cold outreach I received on a daily basis, and how much anti-joy it gave me. Did I really want to be part of the problem?
I did not.
That’s when it occurred to me that the fact we had grown without having a single salesperson might be a big hint as to what our approach should be to generate more growth.
Back when I launched LocalSEOGuide.com in 2007, I used the site as way to express what I was experiencing as a fairly new SEO consultant, and to share what I was learning. I blogged pretty regularly for several years and I am pretty sure that via blogging I got a lot of clients and made a lot of great connections. But somewhere along the line I got a bit burnt out on it. I still managed to write something every once in a while, but it was not a priority for the business. I had plenty of clients so why kill myself to keep publishing?
If you look at our rankings, we rank for some good queries, but our rankings have been declining for several years. Why? Because we haven’t really been trying. That’s the amazing thing about our growth. We really haven’t tried all that hard to grow. A few interesting posts now and then plus some snarky tweets. Add in a conference speaking slot on occasion and that’s about the sum total of our marketing effort.
Looking at our organic traffic, it dawned on me that if a client with a similar traffic pattern hired us, I don’t think the first thing we would recommend is that they hire salespeople. We’d tell them to do some damn SEO.
“If you’re so good at SEO, why don’t you just SEO your own sites and make millions instead of doing it for clients?” I always found that question tiresome, but today I am asking myself, “If you’re so good at SEO, why don’t you just SEO your own site and build your pipeline that way?” Just the idea of building the business via practicing what we preach already feels a lot better to me than smiling and dialing.
I don’t know if we’ll ever have salespeople. But I do know that if we can put together content production processes to enable hundreds of client websites to grow revenue via organic traffic, I am pretty sure we can create some pretty great content to help us grow.