Since 2012 I have been working as Head of SEO in Searcus Swiss Sagl , an SEO and PPC agency of Danish origin with two offices in Denmark and one in Switzerland, where I work.
In 2015, when the founding partner and thoroughbred startupper moved to the USA, I became the majority shareholder of the Swiss office and followed the development of this small business from scratch together with my partner.
After a positive 2015 and 2016 in terms of turnover and profits, we have devised different strategies to grow the company. The first idea we evaluated was to hire new commercial agents by investing time and money in the training of these figures. I put training in bold because we do not sell toothbrushes but consultancy and professional services at a cost of thousands of euros. Customers have no way of assessing the quality of the product by touching it with their hands, so it is critical to be able to present the services offered in the best possible way.
The potential customer must trust you, believe you and see you as competent, for this reason it is important to train sales people so that they know well the services they will sell, the technical terms and the implications that every operational activity will have in their company.
Being a commercial agent is a difficult job
Selling SEO is difficult , especially if done in push mode (the salesperson introduces himself and proposes the services to a potential customer who hasn’t asked for anything). Selling PPC campaigns is already easier since everyone knows this promotional channel for better or worse, but SEO is something intangible for most.
The prospects that close more easily are those that come from leads, or requests for information, because they come from people who know you, because they follow your blog and read your articles, because they have already heard of you, because they trust you.
When, on the other hand, we are the ones who go knocking on the door of a company then it is a whole other story . Getting ahead of the secretary is often an exceptional feat , not to mention explaining to the entrepreneur or manager the importance of online marketing or why he should choose you over the other agency that does the same thing at a third of the cost. Not to mention when the cuggino enters the scene .
We therefore understand why selling SEO with the push model becomes really difficult, especially when you aim for the highest quality by offering services that are certainly not cheap. Finding a customer who does not know you and who is willing to give you tens of thousands of € on trust is something very rare, extremely rare.
The classic commercial agent is useless in some cases
Despite these considerations, which my partner and I already knew very well, we still decided to take a risk: between 2016 and 2017 we tried 3 salespeople with different ages, backgrounds and professional experiences. The result was disaster, time and money lost with no return.
The salesperson is the face of your company, it is he who introduces himself to customers and his mistake becomes your mistake: a superficial proposal will make you appear unprofessional, approximate answers will make your company seem imprecise.
One of our agents once said over the phone with a lead:
… the logarithm of Google has penalized your site …
I wanted to sink 10 meters underground. That person was no novice, he had been selling SEO for several years now.
Do you want a tip? Always check the operation of your agents: read the emails they send, read the proposals they send (perhaps before they are sent), if you can go with them to visits from potential customers. Those who pay for errors of this kind are you and your company.
Then? It changes direction
After this negative experience we decided to try the opposite way, increase investments in ADV and completely remove the pure commercial figure from our agency. Now it is we, the technicians, who follow up on the leads, explain the basic concepts: how things work in the SEO and PPC world , what expectations they must have, our efforts and everything the customer needs to know before signing the contract.
The result was astounding : in 3 months the lead conversion rate went from 15% to a fantastic 60%. We invoice more, have much less costs and work more peacefully and with greater satisfaction. Who would have ever expected it?
I remember the sentence that some time ago one of our salesmen told us:
without me you will fail in a month!
My partner and I were honestly afraid this statement might be true. Well now I sincerely thank that salesman , without him we would never have been able to choose this path and discover that behind every new challenge there can be a great opportunity.
Make a bundle of all the grass? No, it’s not like me
It must be said that there are commercial and commercial, there are professionals with very important networks and contacts and critical knowledge to bring certain turnover and TOP customers. These professionals are rare and very expensive (rightly so), we unfortunately have not found any. The best SEO commercial in Italy I know is Duccio Lunari .
In this sector in 90% of cases there are improvised sales people who see the web as the new frontier of business and jump into it without having a minimum network and the bases to be able to manage technical arguments. These people at the corporate level are, as far as I’m concerned, money down the drain .
Of course the Searcus case is singular, I know many SEO and PPC realities that are based entirely on the commercial aspect and could never think of doing without it, but the beauty is that each agency has its own peculiarities and characteristics. There are agencies with ranks of low-cost commercials who have the daily task of making at least 100 phone calls or are turned away. With 10 agents and 1,000 calls a day, statistics are king, they play on volumes instead of quality, but there is, SEO agencies do not all follow the same logic.
We prefer to have a small group of customers, loyal and well paying, so that we can follow them to the best of our ability without limits of time and commitment. For example, in an agency where I worked many years ago I had the timer on customer calls, after xy minutes I had to say hello and put down. I didn’t like this modus operandi and today I certainly don’t follow this rule in Searcus, on the contrary, dedication and quality come first.
In our case, it worked well to remove the pure commercial and dedicate part of our time to being commercial technicians . We know how to explain concepts much better, we know how to go into detail, we are able to answer questions where salespeople didn’t know what to do, and potential customers like this and we are happy to have overcome a moment of uncertainty in the best possible way.
What experiences does your agency have with commercial agents? If you want to tell your case, leave a comment!