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Damon Burton of SEO National: “Providing beginners with actionable items”

…Yes, I agree. You can make sales without being “salesy,” and 100% without being “pushy.” I cringe every time I heard or read a coach puking sales talk about how “if you don’t make someone buy, then you don’t believe in your product or yourself enough. You should believe so much that your product is the […]

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…Yes, I agree. You can make sales without being “salesy,” and 100% without being “pushy.”

I cringe every time I heard or read a coach puking sales talk about how “if you don’t make someone buy, then you don’t believe in your product or yourself enough. You should believe so much that your product is the best solution for your customer that their life is worse without it. You are doing them a ‘favor!’”


As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Damon Burton.

This search engine marketing expert has beat billion dollar companies at their own game and has proven strategies to grow your business.

Over a decade ago he beat a billion dollar company by outranking their website on Google. Since then, he knew he was onto something and has gone on to build an international search engine marketing company that’s worked with NBA teams, and Inc 5000 & Shark Tank featured businesses.

Having started his business right before the 2008 recession, Damon is familiar navigating and growing a business through times like today. Never before has there been so many people needing something to focus their attention on… AND the time to do it.

Since founding his company SEO National in 2007, he writes for Forbes, has been featured in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, BuzzFeed and USA Weekly, and has helped high-profile clients make more in a month than they used to in a year.


Thank you for doing this with us Damon! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

Who would have thought you could build a multi-million dollar business in marketing… without doing any paid marketing? Well, I’ve done exactly that.

In my twenties, I started a car enthusiast website in 2001, EliteRides.com. Little did I know that it was the first step towards launching a multi-million dollar business over the upcoming years.

I still own the domain, but the content is archived and there is nothing to see. How did this site launch my career?

The purpose of the site was to showcase aftermarket cars. I’d build profiles and feature local cars that had modifications done. As the website’s popularity grew, I asked myself how I could make the website better for users. That threw me into the rabbit hole of improving my web design skills.

After improving the site design, I became curious how to monetize the ever-growing traffic. Voilà. That’s how I got started in internet marketing.

For a while I did design on the side. Once I built up enough clients where I could take a calculated risk of cutting my income in half, but freeing up 80% of my time… I jumped.

That was in 2007. Fast forward nearly 14 years later and I have a team of twenty, and we’ve optimized websites with NBA teams, billion-dollar international real estate agencies, businesses featured on Shark Tank, INC 5000 companies, and so many other cool businesses and people.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

You know those scenes in CSI crime shows, where they string a piece of yarn on a pin board from one clue to another? I can do that with nearly all of my historical clients. I can connect nearly 90% of every client we’ve had in the past 14 years to a satisfied client that came before them. Transparency and honesty go a long way.

Short cuts may bring short-term gains, but they’re not sustainable. Genuine care about what you offer builds a legacy company.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, thank you. After working on a book for two years, I finally published it in 2020 and it was a fun journey. The aftermath is even more rewarding than expected.

The book is titled Outrank and was quickly one of the best selling marketing books on Amazon. I tried to write the book with stories first, to keep attention. Didn’t want to vomit technical SEO out the gates and check people out. But all of the stories emphasize the potential of SEO, including the story of how I outranked the billion dollar company, ABC. Then I transition from stories into breaking the processes down and gradually acclimate the reader to technical insights.

I had two readers in mind when writing this book:

Audience #1

Providing beginners with actionable items. Those willing to invest time on their own in exploring SEO should have some clear paths to start if they’re willing to commit that time.

Audience #2

Business owners that value their time, know that SEO is a good option, but don’t know where to start. They, too, deserve to be armed with the right questions to make sure they are not taken advantage of.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve learned WAY more from seeing what others did wrong so that I could do the opposite and do right.

  • Some of my previous employers were straight up a-holes (plenty were awesome too). Huge turnover, toxic work environment.
  • So I learned instead to greatly appreciate my team’s contributions and them as individuals. From that?… Zero turnover… ever.
  • Saw entrepreneur friends constantly “drowning in opportunity.” Chasing everything, all while miserable.
  • I stuck to one thing, SEO, and ignored everything else.

That bad you see in others can become the good you see in yourself. Inspiration is everywhere when you know how to look at it the right way.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

  • Sold millions in SEO
  • Been focused on exclusively SEO for 14 years
  • Worked with billion dollar companies
  • Outranked billion dollar companies
  • Wrote an Amazon best selling book on SEO
  • Worked with Shark Tank-featured businesses
  • Worked with Inc 5000 companies
  • Forbes contributor about SEO

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

There is no single right answer. The only way we’ll come out on top in 2020, together, is compassion. Shout out to those trying to make it work.

  • to those not picking fights
  • educating, not polarizing
  • not “picking sides”

… but understanding both sides.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

This question applies to other areas of life, like financial planning. Why don’t we teach our kids how to open a bank account, how to manage it, investment options, etc.?

100 years ago, we were largely a world of laborers. That spawned education systems with a curriculum that encouraged laborers. Clock in, “yes sir,” clock out. But times have changed, and dramatically.

I do think that the curriculum of last century was intentional, but it wasn’t intended to support what followed 100 years later. The world evolved faster than our education system could. That quick evolution applies to nearly all avenues of humanity.

While bringing education up to speed is a different, lengthier topic, I do think that sales and the education of sales can adapt more nimbly.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

Yes, I agree. You can make sales without being “salesy,” and 100% without being “pushy.”

I cringe every time I heard or read a coach puking sales talk about how “if you don’t make someone buy, then you don’t believe in your product or yourself enough. You should believe so much that your product is the best solution for your customer that their life is worse without it. You are doing them a ‘favor!’”

Lines like that make me feel like the 1980s and ’90s had a baby with ClickFunnels, and it was named Glengarry Glen Ross.

People need human connection and personal attention. And we, as a society, are becoming more aware of that. Even further, COVID accelerated that awareness 1000%. So many people feel like they’re just trying to survive, and they realize they’re not alone. We’re all going through something, so that’s made people more compassionate. That compassion has, thankfully, started to bleed over into sales.

As the chasm between AI and human touchpoints continues to get larger, that provides caring people an amazing opportunity to grow and sell without being salesy or push.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

Presentation and Closing are what I love because I love educating my clients.

I pride my company’s operations on my team’s ability to set expectations and my willingness to educate clients on the process. The more that I can educate clients, the more it helps us help them drive a return.

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

7-figures later, and never spent a dollar on advertising or lead generation. The secret? Give without expecting anything in return.

People buy from people. They may pay your company, but they buy because they trust you, your product, or someone on your team.

While the world is changing, obvious aside, it’s not all bad. Never before has there been so many people needing something to focus their attention on AND the time to do it.

No one likes to be sold to. Instead, I give advice freely, regularly, no strings attached.

“But what if they take my free advice and run?” Good. At least you helped someone.

You can’t lose because the three types of people that will read your content will either find it helpful and become a customer, find it useful and send you referral customers, or were never going to be a customer anyway. You can’t lose.

This attracts a loyal audience, breaks down the sales walls, and fosters a productive relationship for those that do reach out to work with you. And given the pandemic, building trust this was has proven more effective than ever.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

You’re not an expert until you’re an expert. Perfect your product. Perfect your understanding of it.

Objections are only challenging if you don’t know your product well enough or you’re not confident in its ability to help your customer.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

I’ll take the opposite approach. Not everyone needs your product. And you shouldn’t be in a rush to take food off of someone’s table to make a sell.

Focus on educating your leads/customers. When you educate, it makes closing easy and eliminates the need for follow-up. Everything else will come naturally and easily. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t be selling it to that person anyway.

As I mentioned in this Forbes post, “Through your genuineness, you can become your audience’s go-to when they’re ready to buy.”

“But Damon. Why would I give away my expertise for free?”

Because you can’t lose.

Three types of readers who will consume your content:

1. You help someone, and they don’t become a customer.

Good. You helped someone. Besides, this type of consumer was probably never going to be your customer anyway. So you never “lost them” to begin with. Yet, at least you helped someone.

2. They found your content useful and will remember you when they are ready to buy, or they’ll refer someone to you who needs you now.

Win.

3. They become a customer.

Win/win.

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

There is a fine line between follow up and looking like a stalker.

Over time you will better understand the appropriate closing cycle for your product. Use that as a general compass of how often and how many times you should follow up. Focus more on the personality of each individual than a definitive timeline.

Some people are ready to close, but they want it to sit on their conscience for a few days. They’ll pull the trigger, but they want it to settle subconsciously. If you interrupt that natural settling, bye-bye sale.

Other people need reassurance. They want to know they can trust you.

More often than you’d think, I turn down clients that are ready to sign. Why? Because I know that my service is right for them… but it’s not the right time. Their cash flow would be better reinvested into other channels to build up their reserves. I may lose a sale in the short-term, but they almost always close later. The few that don’t close? They refer their friends anyway because I had their better interest at heart. They know they can trust me, so they know their friends can trust me too.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

Everyone is different, so their communication preferences will vary.

For me, never text me. To protect my family time (and sanity), I don’t give my number to anyone. So if you get it, don’t abuse it.

However, others are the total opposite of me. They want immediate communication now, 24/7. As you read, you should feel out the proper closing cycle for a lead, you’ll also want to tap into a sixth sense of understanding your lead’s personality. Once you begin to sympathize with the variations in every leads’ lives, you’ll be unstoppable.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to encourage confidence in more people. That’s something I’ve taken to lately, is encouraging others — especially good-hearted people.

It has been really interesting being more introspective the last year or two and seeing how most people have insecurities. Often, they’re so simple to the outsiders but so huge to the person. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudging at the right time from the right source of caring, and amazing things happen.

How can our readers follow you online?

Personal blog: https://www.damonburton.com

Business website: https://www.seonational.com

Free Copy of SEO Book: https://www.freeseobook.com

https://www.facebook.com/damon.burton
https://www.linkedin.com/in/damonburton/
https://www.instagram.com/entrepreneurdamon/

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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