On this week’s Lunch Break, Ron Garrett, sales executive at Distilled, joins Mike King, Brittan Bright and Tom Harari to discuss the challenges of selling SEO, objections Garrett encounters when selling SEO and how his approach to selling SEO has changed.
Check it out below!
Transcript by Speechpad
Intro: And now, live from the I Acquire Offices from New York City,
it’s Lunch Break, with Michael King.
Michael: Welcome back to Lunch Break, ladies and gentlemen. Today we are
joined by Ron Garrett, Client Development Executive,
Distilled, in New York, Awesome Guy, Fantastic Friend.
We’re happy to have you today.
Ron: Pleasure. Thank you for having me over.
Michael: We also have our Director of Client Strategy, Brittan Bright.
So Ron, how are things?
Ron: Things are good, man. Things are good. I just got back from a two-
week stint on the west coast, so I was over there in San
Francisco at a startup conference, which was super-cool. I
got to meet a bunch of VCs, Angels, incredible
entrepreneurs that sold their companies, so that was fun.
And then, I went up to Seattle for a week, hung out with
Brandon [SP] in Geraldine for a bit, came to Whiteboard
Friday, and then hung out with my team, so it was a good
Michael: We were just out there as well, and Britain taped her first
Brittan: Yeah. Thanks man, was that your first one?
Ron: Yeah, I was so nervous.
Michael: What did you do it on?
Ron: How to position your business and brand for the future of SEO. So,
it’s more or less a checklist for business owners, on how
to utilize your resources and assets to create self-
awareness and how, once you have an understanding of your
strategy, and the direction that you’re taking your company
and how you’re going to position your brand, how you can
communicate around that stuff.
Michael: It’s funny you did a checklist, because she also did a
Ron: Wait, check the Whiteboard!
Michael: That’s funny. We have questions for you, but I want to
immortalize your Microsoft Story. Would you be comfortable
Ron: Yeah, I’m more than happy to. When Mike and I first met, we’d go out
for drinks and hang out. He would ask me what my story and
background is. To be honest with you, when I started my
career, in my early twenties, I didn’t know anything. I
didn’t know what I was doing. But, I knew that as long as I
could garner the trust of the people that I worked for, and
figured everything else out, that I would be successful;
and so, one of my first jobs was at an IT consultant
company, as an engineer. I always loved tinkering with
computers, growing up, and building things, and figuring
out what it looked like, but, all of a sudden when you’re
thrust into a server room with forty different racks, and
you’re managing forty clients 24/7, it’s a completely
different ball game. You’re no longer tinkering, they
expect up-time, quality service, and all of these things. I
quickly figured out, because there many things that I did
not know, that we were a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner,
and pretty much what that means is that you can call in to
Microsoft with this partnership program, and as long as you
meet this specific criteria, and it’s an outrageous
criteria, but as long as you’re willing to put any engineer
on their support staff on the case 24/7 until it gets
solved – they’ll bring anybody in. I figured out how to
route myself through that, so that no matter what problem I
was running into, I would navigate their customer support,
and then I’d say “Hey, this is my first time tackling this
problem. I’d love to be able to watch you remotely, and if
you could send me a log afterwards, that would be great.”
So, that was literally my study material. While I was
fixing clients and taking care of everyone that was also
what I’d go home and study at night, which is how to solve
these problems. So it’s just being resourceful in trying to
figure these things out. Thankfully, over the years, I’ve
picked up more tools and tactics on how to be successful
than just “Winging it”, but It’s been a fun ride.
Brittan: Fake it ’till you make it.
Michael: I mean, that’s one of my favorite stories that I know of. So,
that’s a good lead-in: How did you go from faking it until
you made it, to getting into SEO and being an awesome sales
Ron: For me, I’ve always tried to surround myself with really smart
people, people smarter than myself. The good thing about
that is, that I’ve always tried to be open to my weaknesses
and my flaws, and I’ve always tried to take risks, and put
myself out there and figure things out. I’ve found that
when you surround yourself with really smart people that
are willing to give you candid feedback and who really want
to see you succeed, and that you’re always willing to put
yourself out on a limb to try stuff out, you’re going to
succeed more often than not. So, when I was at that IT
consulting company, I realized very quickly that there were
people who were more technical than myself, and that I
would never achieve the levels that they had achieved, so I
considered simply move into account management and Sales,
make a ton more money, and just explain really complex
solutions to people who don’t care about them. They just
want to know “Who are you? What are you bringing to my
attention? Can you get me what I want? Can I trust you?”
and “When does that stop?” And as long as I can walk into a
board room and schmooze them, and let them know that I’m
going to take good care of them and that they have a vote
of confidence, and that I can actually deliver, that’s all
that they cared about. That really segued my time in sales,
and I really wanted to get out of Vegas and move into the
Internet. I had worked in infrastructure for quite some
time, and I wanted to work in the Web, and when I heard
that Distilled was opening up an office in New York, I
looked at it as a great opportunity, not just to sell and
get clients, but I’ve always been extremely passionate
about building great companies, building infrastructures,
scaling businesses, hiring the best people, training,
shaping the culture of the company, and so, I figured that
that was an amazing opportunity for me to be able to do
that, and so New York has been my playground ever since
I’ve been here. We’ve been trying to get the coolest
clients, the coolest consultants to work with us, and
trying to make sure that it stays fun, and that people find
purpose in what they do.
Michael: You have the best answers.
Ron: I don’t know, man. I watched Evan’s [SP] video that you guys shot,
and he was much more funny than I am. He talked about Jedis
and shit like that.
Michael: Your answers are very informative, and very exhaustive. Britain
usually has tons of things to say, and she hasn’t even had
anything to add yet.
Brittan: I don’t need to.
Ron: You’re like “Yep”.
Michael: What are some of the challenges you face when selling SEO to
people, and what are some of the common questions that come
Ron: Definitely. One of the biggest challenges that I realize – when I
first came into SEO, I didn’t know what it was. I knew more
than the average person, but I really wanted to be well-
versed in SEO, and not just what means today, but what it
will mean tomorrow, and what key stakeholders they
integrate with, what are their considerations, how do they
think about successful SEO – The way that I look at SEO
today is that it’s an ongoing conversation that you’re
having, both, internally testing things out and seeing what
works for your clients, seeing what that means for them,
and seeing how we tie this back to their business
objectives. I would say that one of the biggest challenges
that I’ve had is making sure that we allot enough time for
education in the process, because at the end of the day,
the clients understand their business, their goals, and
that they have a set of resources that they can work from,
but they don’t know how to orchestrate that, and so, coming
in as an educator with an end goal in mind, and being able
to tie everything together oftentimes proves to be really
valuable. I think that if you can execute that properly,
people end up seeing the value and will continue to invest
Brittan: Wouldn’t you also say that if you can execute that without
being condescending or just making people feel that you’re
on their level that you understand where they’re coming
from, that they’re not stupid, you know what I mean? That’s
a big piece of it, speaking their language.
Michael: What are some of the biggest objections you hear, to spending
money on SEO?
Ron: One of the things that I think… When I come into companies, I put
myself in their shoes, first and foremost. I think a lot of
times when people are looking to invest in SEO, that
because they don’t know what it is or what it takes to be
successful, they’re oftentimes in over their heads. When it
comes to objections, or “I’m going to need a certain amount
of money, resources, and time, and Oh, not provided is not
going to allow us to tell you a lot of things about how
we’re going to create ROI for your business in the short
term. Our goal is to help you build up assets internally to
create great content, to create a better indexed website,
to build a brand, and those things tend to be less tangible
for a lot of brands, so they want to see ROI. It’s trying
to bridge the gap between very ROI driven people and people
that are looking to build great business online, and
finding out how you can create metrics around that to get
enough buy-in to do what you need to do, without them
dropping off. I think that that’s one of the biggest
challenges. It’s tough to invest in something where you
don’t know when you’re going to get the end result that
you’re looking for.
Michael: True indeed. So, we have to take a break real quick, and we
will be back after these messages. And we’re back. Brit had
to skedaddle, so we brought in Tom Rusling , our SEO
Manager. I just want to jump back to these questions
because Ron was giving such insightful responses. Given the
recent shake-ups in algo changes in the last year or so,
how has your approach to selling changed?
Ron: Oftentimes when clients come to me and they’re struggling because of
the types of investments that they’ve made into their
digital assets, and it’s put them in a position where
they’re not getting as much traffic as they used to, and
they’re trying to figure out what that looks like you know
– the first thing that I try to do is to be understanding
and listen very intently and try to understand where
they’re coming from, and to get a sense of clear examples
over the past twelve months of how they’ve invested into
their digital presence. If you ask questions that are too
pointed, they’ll never give you the information that you
need to understand what actually took place, but when you
try to unpack it with them and say that we’re just trying
to align our understanding so I can understand what you’ve
been through, then I can start the education process and
find out where it is that we’re going. Ultimately, one of
the things that I try to look out for when clients come to
me with “Oh, I got hit and lost 70% of my traffic” is that,
often times in that education process, if I’ve identified
that they’re just investing for the now, rather than the
future of their brand and business, then that is the
project, rather than just going and doing the work,
shifting their mindset is the first project. I’ll spend as
much time being very consultative in the pre-sales process
with them to make sure that they’re at a point to
understand how we’re going to do this successfully going
forward and what our methodology is to do that, and how we
can hook into the organization to help them get there. And,
if they can’t get to that point, I’ll oftentimes, say hey,
it’s probably not a great fit, or if there’s someone else
that specializes in being able to help people at that spot
in their business, I’ll try to get them over to those
Michael: That’s awesome. I saw a short video that you did, there was a
series of Distilled shorts you guys did, and the tip was on
active listening, and it seems that you approach this from
a standpoint of developing empathy for this prospect first,
and really getting an understanding of what it is that
they’re looking to do, and how you can help, rather than
just powering them through some pre-defined sales pitch.
Ron: Exactly. I know what it’s like being a business-owner, and struggling
to try to figure things out. There’s no one right answer to
doing business, and it’s really tough. There are a lot of
shady characters out there, who are willing to promote
their own agenda, and push their goods on you. The quicker
that I can show them that I’m not that person, and that I
do have their best interests at heart, and that I took the
time to deeply understand where they’re coming from, the
more buy-in I’m going to have to do the things that are
necessary to make them successful. So, when I say Active
Listening, it’s exactly what you said. It’s listening from
a very empathetic standpoint, really trying to understand
what things they truly value, not just the things that they
say they value or are investing into, but what’s really
going on here. It’s like the SEO whisperer, or an SEO
Michael: The SEO Whisperer. That’s hot. As a successful SEO salesperson,
how much do you believe that an SEO sales person needs to
understand about SEO.
Ron: At least from my experience, I don’t think a sales person needs to
know as much as a consultant when it comes to being able to
execute the work. I think that it’s important for every
sales person to have access to tools that will help them
get access to information that can be really valuable in
the pre-sales process. I know that Tom, and a couple of
other people wrote a post on Quick Java Script applets that
you can have in your browser. There are two tools, so I’ll
use those, and I’ll use Reportive, in my Gmail. what that
does is that once I have their email address, I can over
over it and see all of the social networks and blogs that
are associated with it, and I’d take a look at their
profiles, and try to get as much of a sense of who this
individual is, the things that they do and are interested
in, and from an SEO perspective, I’ll start up OpenSite
explorer, trying to take a look at what the Domain
Authority is, and whether they’ve been around for a long
time. I’ll do a Site Query against their domain to see how
many of their pages are being indexed by Google, and then
I’ll use that information in the first conversation with
the person to get a sense of whether these things are
matching up. Is what they tell me matching what I’m seeing
here. So, being able to help those quick-access tools can
be really valuable in making sure that you all stay on
track, and that they’re not feeding you something that
isn’t necessarily representative of the project that
they’re going to be doing, but I don’t think that you have
to be an expert, but any point.
Michael: I definitely agree with your approach, because you’re diving in
enough that you understand the background of the client or
prospect, and you’re savvy enough that you get what’s going
on, and you’re not really depending on the consultant too
much. You’re reverse-engineering the picture yourself.
Ron: Exactly, because there are two scenarios that I’m trying to avoid in
that situation. Number one, I never want to go into a
meeting with someone and realize that I’m incompetent.
Then, the deal is done. They want to deal with smart
people. Oftentimes engineers or highly technical SEO’s make
the best salespeople. If I can at least talk confidently
enough to be able to have those conversations and sit at
that table, then that’s really important. The second thing
that I’m trying to avoid is selling a product that’s not in
line with what the project actually is, because then I just
piss off all of the consultants, and they don’t want to do
the work, and then I’ve lost all rapport and track record
with them. Those are the two major things that I’m trying
to avoid by being savvy and having access to those tools
and making sure that I’m doing my due diligence.
Michael: So Tom, as someone who typically interfaces with a Ron-type
person, what would you expect to get out of his sale?
Tom: I think exactly what he said is spot-on. The consultants want to make
sure that they’re getting a project that was sold
correctly, that expectations were set correctly, so that
they’re not going to be putting in time and effort only to
ultimately fail regardless, because the expectations
weren’t set at that sales level.
Michael: I think I already know the answer to this, but this question is
a hot topic. What’s your take on picking the right clients,
and firing the clients that prove to be a bad fit?
Ron: I’m very opinionated when it comes to this, but I’m going to preface
this by saying that it’s up to the company that’s selling
the project. First and foremost, you have to ask yourself:
“Who are we as a company? What is our mission? What are our
values? What do we sell our consultants on?”, and for the
clients that are going to get us closer to our mission that
adhere to the kind of values that we have, to make sure
it’s a good cultural fit and that are open to doing
business. We don’t necessarily need the clients to be super
savvy, we don’t need them to have a ton of assets to be
able to work with them: We just want them to be open.
Open to understanding, learning, figuring these things out,
which gives us the opportunity to get their buy-in and
trust, which is really important in being successful. Where
we find clients not being open, or saying that they’re
open, but their actions are not as open, we’ll try to go
back to education and say “these are things that are
hindering us from being successful in this project, this is
where we’re going, this is the company that we’re trying to
build, this is a very give and take relationship, I
understand that you’re paying us money for a service and a
need that you’re trying to fulfill, but ultimately if it’s
not good for the both of us, if we’re both not growing in
the direction that we need to with this, let’s figure out
an alternative solution. Whether that’s sending them to
another company that’s more in line with what they’re
trying to do. The term that I use internally is Client-
cycling, because I think it’s important, depending on the
rate at which you scale your business, you need to be
honest with yourself. Does this client fall in line with
where we’re at today as a company, and we’re we’re going.
If not, you need to have someone that feels comfortable
having that conversation with the client and saying “We’ve
had a great relationship up until this point. This is not
me kicking you to the curb as a client, this is me coming
to the table and saying “How can we think about this moving
forward.” Let’s discuss this together. Having access to C-
Level people that can have those conversations can be very
valuable, as well.
Michael: I think you said that way more eloquently than I ever could.
I’d just be like “Yo, fire those guiys. Ron, thanks for
Ron: Of course, thanks guys.
Michael: It’s been awesome. I’d love to hear more about client-cycling.
Maybe we could get a blog post out of you somehow?
Ron: Maybe. Let’s work on it. Thank you so much.
Michael: Until next time…