Selling PPC: Stop Pushing, Start Listening

By Kirk Williams | @PPCKirk | Owner of ZATO

“Why should we let you manage our PPC accounts? This is your chance to brag on yourself, go for it.”


Have you ever heard this question before? If you are an agency owner or agency rep then you most likely have. In fact, if you’re in-house trying to get a job you’ve probably heard this question during an interview.


It’s kind of like that first date question, isn’t it? “Tell me why I should go on a second date with you?”


Option 1: “Wow, I couldn’t wait for you to ask that, I’ve prepared this list of 47 memorized reasons of why I rock and I can’t wait to talk about myself. Get comfortable, here I go…”


Option 2: “uuhhhhh…. think think think… *take another sip of drink* …well, you know… *minor brain failure* …panic”


Neither of these options are great, which is why I have always historically dreaded this question (dates and jobs). I have never taken any classes or lessons in sales, so I always cringed when it got to this “crucial” part of the interview. Maybe it’s also because I know that people tend to over or under-represent themselves. I feel like I can’t really trust someone if I were to ask that question to them. Whatever the reason, I always stressed out about this part of the interview.


Then, I realized something.


This question isn’t the most important part of the interview process.


I mean, don’t get me wrong, there needs to be some sort of solid, cohesive response to this question. But this question is not the most important part of the process. Far from it. Sure, it’s a needed part of the whole and you should be prepared to answer well, perhaps with some prepared client stats or data that your agency uses to convince prospects of your value. However, it’s not the most important part of the interview.


What is the most important part of the interview with that potential PPC business (either as you are applying for the job or hoping to get their business as a client)?


I would suggest that the most important aspect of selling yourself or your agency in PPC is getting the person on the other side of the table to like you.


Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely more multi-faceted than this. The word “like” definitely includes variations of “respect”, “enjoys”, “trusts”, “is pleased to be around”, and many other positive concepts. Some people respect the laser-focused somewhat awkward data geek, some trust the genuinely nice, intelligent individual, some like having a positive person who they enjoy meeting with in the midst of a stressed-out week. But at the end of the day, in an interview, you need to be less concerned with presenting every one of your memorized facts, and more concerned with establishing a genuine relationship with the client.


Here are a few ways I foster mutual respect.


(1) Listen to them.


People don’t like to be talked over. Introverts hate being run over, and extroverts would rather do the running over, so they resent it if you are running over them instead. One of the biggest things I would suggest when interviewing for a PPC job or prospective client is to listen. People can tell when you are listening.


Example: I was being interviewed by the local business editor of the Billings Gazette about PPC. I know, nothing glamorous, but it was free press. He made a comment about a previous job he had held towards the beginning of the interview (I asked him about how he got where he is now). At a later time in the interview, I off-handedly mentioned something like “oh that’s right because in 1974 you were doing ____.” He literally stopped his train of thought with a surprised look and said, “yes, that’s right… you were listening!” Do this to a prospect (or future boss), and they will think “here is a person who will listen to my needs if I were his client.”


(2) Ask Lots of (Good) Questions. Lots. Of. Questions.


Questions are my favorite part of the interview. They do two things. First, they keep you from talking too much. They allow you to listen because you keep pushing the conversation back to them. People generally LOVE to talk about themselves/their business. It’s amazing how you can walk away from a conversation in which they talked most of the time, and have them think “wow, I really liked that person” even if you didn’t really say much at all!


Second, questions actually allow you to (shockingly) learn more about their business. The more you know about their company, and this person, the more you can relate to them and figure out what they actually need. Maybe they already know something about PPC so they don’t need a lesson on basics, they just want to know if you’re the right agency. Asking good questions will accomplish these two things.


(3) Listen Some More.


Seriously, when people walk away from an interview in which they were able to talk about their concerns and questions, they feel great. This isn’t about you stuffing info in their face, but rather about them getting to know and trust you. It’s amazing how much this happens when they do most of the talking. It may sound odd, but I often know an interview has gone well when I walk away from it knowing I talked far less than the prospect. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule (that one biz owner I talked to who didn’t want to talk about his business and didn’t want to ask me about mine… there were lots of awkward pauses during that call), but generally people feel good when they believe they’ve had a chance to talk about their concerns and questions.


(4) Insert Stats/Data-geek Points at Minimum (but Insert Them).

ppc graph for selling ppc


At some point, I do think it’s good to show off your geeky self. They need to know you’re more than just good looks and awesomeness. Save it for a question they ask and then let them have it. Be understandable and speak clearly, but don’t be afraid to let them see how much you love the data part of your job. They don’t have to understand every bit of it, they need to see that you understand it, that you are a pro at it, and that there is a reason they should hire you in terms of skill level.


(5) Smile.


Even when you are on the phone, smile (people can hear when someone is smiling). Be genuinely pleasant. This may sound odd, but it’s amazing to me how many salespeople or interviewees either don’t smile, or paste on a fake smile. Usually the fake smile is there because they are too concerned about getting their information across, and have no concern for you… and if you see that, you tend to resent it if you are on the receiving end of that fake smile. The more you think about your prospect and their needs, the more you will genuinely want to help them which will help you genuinely smile. You have a great smile, I know it. Use it!


(6) Laugh.


See above. In your next interview, try setting a goal to have fun on the prospect call. Try cracking a joke to lighten the mood. Stay away from jokes that cut others down (that can communicate to them that you would joyfully cut them down someday, too). It might not be in your nature to joke, so definitely be yourself, but communicate to your prospect (or possible future boss), that you enjoy life and can find humor in the mundane. Find ways to talk about PPC points that can be changed to be funny (but avoid goofiness… a fine line!).


(7) Think Long-term.


Finally, keep in mind the forest for the trees. I think pushy sales often happen because of deadlines/hard-core commission. I’m not saying commission/deadlines are bad, but the danger is that they cause you to see the here and now and toss out the lifetime value. No sale? Throw it out and keep looking, plenty of fish in the sea!


I’ve never sold for other agencies, so I honestly have no idea what it’s like for them. My experience so far has been that there is about a 3-6 months length on my sales (I’m actually curious to hear what similar agencies experience here). When I start a conversation with a new client, I will likely not sign a contract with them for 3-6 months. Keep in mind I am dealing almost exclusively with SMBs. Admittedly, a corporation or bigger business who needs PPC Management NOW will likely look for an agency and then hire more rapidly. I’m not really sure what is normal, but I definitely didn’t expect this long of a process when I started!


Again, it has been my experience that, were I to focus on that first interview and toss them out the window if I didn’t get a positive response, I likely would never have landed any of them. This is why it’s so important that they walk away from that first meeting positively influenced towards who you are as a person, rather than on what you know. To be clear, I’m not trying to pit these two against each other, but I think we tend to over-emphasize the “what we know” aspect so I’m trying to shift us in the other direction.


Example: I have a client now who I had a terrible first call with. Possibly one of my top 2 worst calls of all times (nope, didn’t get the other of the Top 2). I was stuttering, I tried to give data examples and wasn’t communicating clearly, he was struggling to understand, etc. He had already been burned by poor PPC management from different agencies and had little trust to go around. It was honestly a train wreck. However, apparently I communicated some level of trust because only a month later he called me (!!I was just surprised as you!!) and said. “Let’s go, I’m ready, where do I sign?” Apparently, even though I did a horrible job of communicating facts and convincing arguments, there was something about our call that told him to give it a try and we’re going strong today!


In other words, stop getting so stressed about that “one call”, be yourself, listen, smile, get to know them, and be more interested in building a long-term relationship than just communicating PPC factoids.


Don’t get me wrong, this formula isn’t perfect for getting a client every time. Life is complicated. Sometimes people have such a distrust of PPC that you could make a great impression on them and hit it off, and they would still choose to “wait”. Sometimes other factors weigh in. I’m a small agency so I’ve had great interviews where at the end of the day, the person said “we really, really like you, but we’ve been burned by small agencies before so we’re going to go with this big well-known one because they are big.” There’s not much I can do in those instances. However, those are the minority. The rest of the interviews are yours to win or lose.


What about you? What other aspects of PPC Interviews (both in-house or agency) have you found helpful in selling yourself/your agency to a prospect?