Your SEO agency could be costing you sales if they aren’t talking to the right people in your company.
- The sales team has information that is very valuable to your search engine optimization success, but quite often the SEO company does not speak to the sales team
- The sales team should be involved in the key milestone activities of any digital marketing engagement, especially search engine optimization planning
- SEO agency team members need to ask more people in the organization more questions about the definition of success
As a business owner, at some level you care about your search engine rank, your overall digital brand presence and your website traffic volume. These are all important things to monitor and measure, because they all are paths to the things you really care about: sales and return on your digital marketing investment.
But there is a little-used SEO tactic that can dramatically improve not only your online goals, but your overall business goals, sales and ROI.
And it can also improve your vendor relationships if you use an outside SEO firm, and make your internal marketing team more productive.
That tactic is this: make sure your SEO team is talking to your internal sales team. A lot. As often as possible.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can be an effective method to drive sales and leads into your company via your website.
But SEO and sales are even more closely tied than you might realize. Not only does SEO drive sales opportunities, but sales should influence your SEO process and strategy.
As a business owner or executive in charge of your company’s digital marketing program, you should know if sales data is being shared with the SEO team.
Do you know if your digital marketing agency is asking enough good questions of the sales team? Has your SEO company ever spoken with your sales people?
Your Digital Marketing Agency Should be Best Friends with Your Sales Team!
Your SEO agency or internal team should be talking to all of the people in sales: the director of sales, VP of sales and perhaps most importantly, the sales reps themselves.
Your sales team executives have strategic insight into the business and therefore should be a part of keyword selection and web content planning. The SEO content strategy needs to align with the stories your sales team tells your prospective clients. If not, you are telling two different stories to the market.
But too often, that fabled wall between marketing and sales is at play. Companies allow an SEO firm to build pages and pages of content without anyone on the sales leadership team providing input.
And the sales executive should not be the only players.
The sales reps are the ones who are directly in contact with decision makers every day. They are on the front line and have gobs of great information for your digital marketing programs. More on that later.
Ask yourself these questions:
- When was the last time someone on the digital marketing team met with your vice president of sales or with one of your salespeople?
- Did the SEO agency suggest that the sales team be part of the kickoff meeting?
- Do they send your sales people any reports on what they are doing and the impact it is having?
- Does your SEO account manager even KNOW a single salesperson at your company (besides yourself)?
If not, it’s time to make some introductions. Or find another SEO agency.
Practical Steps to Take, Top Questions to Ask
It’s time to take a meeting with your agency and your sales staff. Make sure the agency is asking these questions. And make sure your sales staff has the answers (or at least access to the answers):
- How many total leads have come from the web in the past month? And how many leads came by each channel – search, social, direct, email etc.?
- What was the quality of those leads?
- Can you provide 2-3 quality lead examples? Include as much information about the lead as you are comfortable giving me. Location, exact day and time the lead came in, and the product/service in which they are interested are critical.
- Can you provide 2-3 poor lead examples, along with the same information?
- What are some key questions your prospects have asked? How did you answer them?
- What are some sales hurdles you deal with, and how did you deal with them?
- What specific words and phrases have your prospects used when speaking with you?
- What are some specific problems your prospects have brought to you recently, and how have you answered those issues?
- If you have lost deals, who do you normally lose them to? Why do you normally lose them?
- What type of people do you engage with? What is their education level? Do they use the web often? Rarely? At what level do they use web content? Do they consume content while at work or at home? Do they view it on a desktop or a phone or both? Do they use video or primarily text?
- What have your clients, contacts, prospects said about your current web presence?
Here are some questions that might get a little sticky.
- What do you like about our company’s web presence? What do you dislike?
- How has the website helped or hurt you in the sales process?
- What pressure do you feel, what demands are on you? How can we help you meet that demand, or your quota, or your personal goals?
- What else can the digital marketing team do to help make YOU more money?
You can see that this might be a somewhat lengthy conversation, and it might get a little personal at times. Try to set personal feelings aside so you have the best chance of winning.
Important: these conversations should happen regularly, and especially at the beginning of an engagement.
Two other tips that will help your digital marketing team be more successful at lead generation:
- Have the SEO team sit in on sales calls with the sales team to hear the pitches, the questions and the answers.
- Have them do competitive research by shopping for your competitors’ offerings.
- Get them involved with customer service as well. Ask the same questions and have the same discussions as you did with the sales team. Customer service reps are on the front lines as well and often pick up some high quality data.
SEO and Sales Are Siblings, Not Rivals
Another often overlooked strategy is whether your sales team understands and is on board with the strategic value of your digital marketing efforts. Do they buy into the value of your web site and social media presence?
Do they really understand what your digital marketing agency is doing and why, and how it can benefit them?
I recently spoke with a team of salespeople who, when prompted for an honest answer, stated that they never send customers to their company’s website. They didn’t like the site, and they did not believe it helped them close deals and earn them commissions. And the executive team did not even know this.
Sometimes the sales staff does not believe that the SEO work being done is having a positive impact.
This might be because they perceive the web and SEO as a threat rather than an opportunity. Maybe they don’t get compensated for web leads as much as they do for leads they create. Or perhaps the quality of leads from the web doesn't line up with their sales strategy.
Digital marketing and SEO should be driving leads into your company. And you should have a willing and excited sales team on the other end that is glad to take these calls and close these deals.
If sales cannot affirm that the web is bringing high quality leads to them, then it is time to re-examine your search and social marketing strategy because it is missing your target audience.
If the sales team doesn’t know where web-based leads are coming from, it’s time to put someone on the task of pinpointing lead origination.
Sales people should know the "first touch" channel for web leads. They need to know if customers are first finding the company via organic web search, paid search, social media, email or some other means.
And sales people should be given an opportunity to develop web content, or at least, content ideas. They will have ideas for keywords that target the best customers. They will know the pain points better than anyone else, because they talk to people first-hand.
BONUS: Tips for SEO Agencies
If you are the director or owner of an SEO agency, and you are not keeping clients as long as you would like, here is a little advice based on my decades in the business...
Get Deeper into the Organization
Oftentimes the SEO team will work with the marketing department, meet their goals and bedazzle them. That’s good!
Unfortunately they typically stop there. That's like a man asking a woman to marry him after only knowing her favorite color! Your SEO team should be working to drill deeper into your clients’ organizations.
Tell your SEO staff that just because they are making the marketing department happy, that doesn’t mean their job is done.
An SEO professional should be constantly learning more about who else in the company cares about the project. They should ask the marketing person who else cares. Ask them what pressure they are under to perform on the web. Ask them what pressure their BOSS is under. What does their boss want? And their boss's boss? How can the SEO/web team make everyone look like heroes to their boss?
If your agency is working with a smaller business and is making the owner happy, it is beneficial for them to go lower down the chain. Who else at the company stands to gain from your relationship? The customer service clerk is important. The sales guy that handles all of the incoming calls is important. The IT consultant is important.
That's because each of these people can benefit from a great web strategy. And each of them could be your next cheerleader.
If you never get to know these additional people, you can never help them. They might help convince their boss, the owner, that YOU are too important to fire. Or they might leave the company and recommend you to their next boss.
When everyone starts sharing information between sales, marketing and digital strategy, everyone wins. From top leadership to the agency stakeholders.