Here Comes a Sales Rep: Consultant or Cowboy?
First, a disclaimer: I am proud to call myself a professional salesperson and proud to sell Internet products that meet my clients’ needs. That said, the sales of online advertising can sometimes have the look and feel of the Wild West. It can be hard to determine what and whom to believe, who will be with you for the long term, and who is in the game to make a quick buck.
Having a laptop and a lot of fast talk and promises does not turn anyone into an online marketing expert. My clients are constantly bombarded with e-mail solicitations promising untold riches and first-page rankings. Most of my clients are busy professionals, and they simply cannot afford to make a mistake with their marketing dollars. A sales rep should be a marketing consultant and partner in helping you build your business, not a fast-talker pushing for instant decisions before dashing onto the next customer. Here are some warning signs and suggestions for how to deal with them.
Never fall for the high-pressure sales pitch.
The online yellow page sales rep is giving you the full-court press. “Only one listing left in the online directory and your competitor down the street is just waiting to buy it if you are foolish enough to pass it up. Don’t let a good opportunity pass you by. I can only hold this open until 4 p.m.”
How can a busy attorney or CPA deal with a deadline like that? Even if you had the time to do proper due-diligence, how can you? Salespeople who use high pressure sales tactics such as creating artificial time lines are serving themselves and not you. One way to avoid the temptation is to announce early in the call that you will not be able to make a decision this week. You were likely a successful attorney before the sales rep came into your office and you will continue to be despite not buying their “practice transforming listing.”
Never share your budget or financials with a sales rep.
One of the main goals of an initial sales call is to determine a prospect’s budget. The savvy salesperson will try to engage you in a discussion “to better understand your business” and determine what return on investment (ROI) is required. “So Mr/Ms Attorney, what do you charge for an average divorce?” or “What would two extra cases mean to you financially each month?”
The answer to any of these questions should be an emphatic:” It’s none of your business!” By answering this question, you are only helping to determine what you will be charged. The meeting should focus on what they can offer in regard to Internet visibility, not on how much you can afford to pay. As an attorney, you are smart enough to determine what a good ROI would be. Think about it, why in the world does a salesperson need to know what you charge for a divorce? It’s like the car dealer who wants to know what monthly payment you want instead of focusing on the car and your requirements.
Demand traffic figures.
Targeted online legal directories can be a great place to drive targeted traffic to your firm. However, not all directories and listings are created equal. The salesperson needs to supply traffic figures. Any directory worth its salt will have historical data on the number of impressions and click-throughs to expect for each listing. If the salesperson says he/she does not have access to those numbers, run! In some cases, the traffic is so bad that salespeople are never told the true statistics. If they did, they would never sell them. If the numbers don’t add up, contact me.
Never buy a guaranteed placement program.
There are a number of pay-per-click programs (PPC) that you should always avoid. One of the most common (and tempting) is the guaranteed placement program. It works like this: a salesperson calls and guarantees first-page placement in PPC for 5-10 of the most popular local keyword phrases for a set monthly price regardless of the number of clicks. It sounds too good to be true. The rep claims the company has a “cozy” relationship with Google that allows them to buy keywords at a very low price. (Anyone claiming better online results because of a “relationship” with Google should be avoided.)
Don’t fall for a promise of guaranteed organic search results.
Organic searches are those that are generated when the content of your website answers the queries put into a search engine by people looking for a lawyer. The slick cowboys with aces up their sleeves may try to convince you that they know the “tricks” and magic keywords that will get your site found. That simply is not true. There are no guarantees and no magic beans. Google and other search engines change their algorithms to fit the needs of searchers. And searchers, your potential clients, are putting their own words into the search engines. Successful Internet marketing is not a mystery and not dependent on tricks. Every meeting with your rep should leave you feeling more educated, not more confused; more in control, not more dependent on magic.
Do the online searches yourself.
Showing up high in the various search engines for important keywords is very hard to do and it’s hard to fake. A common sales tactic is for a salesperson to only show you searches in which their directory or website(s) appear in the results. I once sat in on a sales call when a competing salesperson actually told the attorney to search “well respected lawyer Orlando FL.” Clearly this is not a search that will get you many clients.
Do searches in each of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and do so on your own computer since Google now incorporates personalized search into their results. This means a salesperson could potentially have the sites he frequents more often show up higher on his/her computer.
If the salesperson is selling a directory, make sure it shows up consistently in local and national searches. If they don’t, this is a huge red flag and the directory should be avoided. No matter how much online directories advertise, people do not eschew the search engines and go directly to online yellow pages or online directories.
Avoid a Conflict of Interest
There are many search engine marketing firms that are comfortable representing many attorneys within the same practice area and metro. I am not. Red Falcon Web Marketing will only work with one firm in a given practice area and geography. Despite an SEO company’s best intentions, it is impossible to be a true marketing partner if they are also representing your direct competitor right down the street.
Talk to at least five other attorneys before making a decision.
In my opinion, this is the most important thing you can do. Talk to your colleagues about their experiences with various Internet directory and website companies. Ask them about the service and about the results they got. Ask, too, about the sales rep. Was the rep interested in a quick sale or in long-term business growth for the law firm?
Demand no pressure and no fancy tricks with statistics. Demand results.
You want to do effective marketing, and you are in this for the long term. You are not betting all your money trying to get “one big case,” but rather you are focused on the big picture and building a bigger and better practice. (That’s where the big cases come from.) If a decision has to be made by 4 p.m., pass it by. Check references. Ask for proof. Do your own quick searches. Depend on a company and a rep that will keep delivering service and improving your Internet presence day in and day out, long after the contract has been signed. You need a consultant, not a cowboy!