Virtual Sales Assistant: Why Do You Need Them?

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What is a virtual sales assistant? In the US there are around 3.6 million employed sales assistants, but if you search for this term in Google, you’ll see varying job descriptions: from retail cashiers to business development and administrative assistants.

This is because, unlike accountants, PPC managers, or cleaners, assistants’ position implies different functions, depending on the type of business (offline or online), industry (eCommerce or SaaS), organizational structure, company’s scale, goals, and so on.

A sales assistant can be an in-house full-time staff member, or – what’s more common – the company may choose to hire a virtual sales assistant. Below we explain how to hire and organize cooperation with virtual sales assistants, and when it is advisable to engage them. 

How Virtual Sales Assistants Support Your Sales

Virtual sales assistants (VAs) are outsourced specialists that a company may hire for an exact range of works or a specified term. A virtual sales assistant isn’t an occasional contractor or freelancer – he or she is part of one’s Sales team. Although these employees aren’t in staff, they can work either several hours per week or be wholly employed for a single company’s projects and spend 40+ hours per week on them. You can renew service agreements and cooperate for years with virtual sales assistants, so they become irreplaceable team members.

For a company contracting virtual sales, the assistant is reasonable in case of:

  • business and sales develop fast, and it doesn’t have extra resources to hire more staff immediately

When an organization transforms into medium- or big-sized, it faces an immense number of challenges. More clients, new competitors, capital restructuring, ownership changes – these are just a few to mention. At this point, it may just not be that into investing too many resources – time and money – in hiring junior or even mid-level professionals for new job openings. Nevertheless, sales operations, e.g. mailings and phone calls with leads, are to be managed daily. An outsourced assistant may be a “busy bee” who will assist the in-house team.

  • the company is either new or small and can’t pack the Sales team fully

Skilled sales ops may request $60,000 per year for their services, so hiring a team of such specialists can be unaffordable for startups, private entrepreneurs, or industry newcomers. A way out may be – to hire one skilled salesman and contract several virtual assistants that will perform jobs under the manager’s supervision.

  • the company plans to expand on the new geographical market.

When you plan to enter new markets, one of the difficulties is to find employees that can speak with local customers in their language. This isn’t a big issue with English-speaking countries or where this language is common, say Mexico or India, but if you decide to dive into the Middle East or Asia, the language barrier may become a baffling barrier for sales. It is recommended to look for VAs on local employment platforms and contact them for mailing, in-person communications with clients, or content proof.

  • it’s cheaper to outsource some jobs than to regularly pay overtime.

Every business has easy yet very time-consuming and boring tasks, for example, manual data scraping from the Internet. It may be cheaper to hire 1 or 2 virtual assistants than to pay extra working hours for in-house professionals. Many people today even hire an online trading assistant to help them with their financial management.

  • the team is already 100% remote or distributed worldwide.

If the company doesn’t have a physical office and its employees are located all around the globe, contracting virtual sales assistants makes even more sense. The only question is to hire employees from the same or close time zones. Otherwise, when some seat in Japan and others in South Africa, it will be quite bothersome to schedule calls or online team meetings. 

What Does A Virtual Sales Assistant Do?

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The amount of work you can assign for a virtual sales assistant depends on his or her skills and how you manage to come to an understanding. VAs can contribute to every stage of the sales funnel and pipeline, in particular:

  • perform prospects’ research

Looking for clients isn’t easy, and there are many ways a company can go: manually examine users’ profiles on social networks, launch lead gen campaigns, skim through aggregators, company’s registries and directories (relevant for the B2B market), check out to whom do competitors sell, read comments on YouTube, check out podcasts’ listeners, buy contacts databases (a bad option, but still), or – all these at once. Although browsing routine isn’t hard science, it consumes a lot of time, so sales assistants with data-scraping experience will do a favor. 

  • perform competitors’ research

This information is essential for adjusting both strategy and tactical selling activities – promo campaigns, creatives’ or sales presentations’ designs, mailings, and content distribution. After you’ve compiled a list of major competitors, sales managers can work out a research methodology and assign virtual assistants to perform fieldwork.

  • participate in market research

The analysis includes studying customers’ perceptions of a company or brand, market trends research, prospecting, and so on. Although this is a marketing responsibility, sales specialists can contribute to market research as well. For example – distribute questionnaires among prospects or buyers, collect feedback, organize focus groups, and so on.

  • create and handle lead databases

Data management is a grueling task. Not only does it require accuracy, attention, and diligence – working with information implies that a VA uses tools, e.g. Tableau, Azure, knows SQL or other query languages, and can independently write simple requests to extract the necessary information (preferably). This is what Data Analysts typically do, but if you can’t afford a dedicated specialist to process sales data, you may hire a tech-savvy sales assistant for this job.

  • set up and maintain CRM

Handling CRMs is a distinct field of sales-related work. Above all, you have to map the customer journey, sales processes, and decide on necessary data fields, labels, etc. Virtual salesmen can assist significantly – study major POCs, use Google Analytics and monitor website traffic sources, prepare summaries about lead gen campaigns, calculate funnel’s duration, the average time to close one deal. Then – aggregate the information and upload it to the CRM.

  • Set up Sales Automation

There are many instruments on the market: tools for lead generation and nurturing, email drip campaign launchers, data finders, content scheduling, and distribution systems, etc. But without integration and correct settings, they are useless. A sales assistant who knows how to “manipulate” all of these tools will save a lot of your time and boost sales operations significantly.

  • address prospects

Outreach is one of the most common reasons why companies hire VAs. Communication can be automated, but only up to a point. Dialogs with “human face” and customer care are still important in sales – sometimes, even more than advertising or expensive automation software. Virtual assistants can contribute a lot in building relationships, e.g., performing cold mailings, nurturing leads with highly customized content, following up on deals, and providing after-sales support.

  • Participate in client retention

You’ve probably already heard that even a small increase of a retention metric grows business profits by up to 95%. Even if it’s half true, caring about customer retention is worth money, agree. VAs can contribute to customer LTV, for example, by sending personalized engaging emails to them and collecting information upon which the loyalty program can be established.

  • Compose Reports

Data processing results in all other analysis attributes – composition of tables, charts, notes, summaries, briefs, or even chapters of sales reports.

  • prepare selling materials

The one who once created a sales presentation knows this is a daunting task. Not only should it be consistent and persuasive, its visual parts, e.g., text alignment, fonts, pictures, and effects are no less important. VA can help to structure the information, so the client will receive a good-looking presentation, instead of messy slides.

Why Should You Hire a Virtual Sales Assistant?

We’ve already established that VAs can do a lot of tasks of varying complexity, but this is only when the workflow is well coordinated. Thus, you should:

  • work out onboarding “package” – write down VA duty descriptions and provide them with corporate mailing accounts, a list of tools, whom to contact to get access rights, procedures for cooperation with marketing, reporting rules, etc.
  • set clear tasks, KPIs, and deadlines – ambiguity and uncertainty kill trust and productivity, so know what exact outcomes you expect to get from VAs.
  • agree about time reporting – while some are okay with installing and using time-tracking software, others may think it’s humiliating; because you will pay an hourly rate, in most cases, it’s better to agree on a tracking method with a virtual sales assistant.
  • give feedback – both appreciation and criticism are better than silence; the only point is to find a fitting way to express recommendations so that VAs will stay motivated and willing to improve their performance.

If you succeed with these easy preparations, cooperation with a virtual assistant would result in the following benefits:

  • Reduced labor expenses – you’ll pay for specific pieces of work and hours spent, rather than the full day that includes breaks, small talks with colleagues, etc; moreover, your expensive in-house specialists won’t waste time performing labor-intensive manual tasks
  • reduced workload – you can contact more virtual sales assistants during busy seasons
  • Outsource one-time jobs – instead of hiring new salesmen, you can outsource specific tasks like CRM setups
  • Automated processes – you may hire a skilled VA for a week or two who will purchase licenses and integrate software.

To find a virtual assistant, you can refer to all popular employment websites, like Workana, Upwork, or Indeed. In the job posting, emphasize in the copy that you seek for a “digital sales assistant”, otherwise job seekers may confuse your company with a physical store. Please include the following responsibilities to make this even clearer:

  • submit new sales orders into the sales system {mention CRM}
  • Monitor key account performance
  • Coordinate information about clients for Account Executives
  • Handle paperwork relating to sales
  • be an intermediary between clients and sellers 
  • and don’t forget to mention that the position is fully remote and can presume a fixed-term contract.

Also, consider mentioning these qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, Management, Marketing, Business Administration {or other that’s relevant} from an accredited institution
  • experienced with {mention CRM and/or database systems}
  • proficiency in MS Office in particular, MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • proficiency with G Suite.

Additional Tools for effective virtual sales assistant’s work

Time Doctor

snapshot is taken from Timedoctor.com

Here’s a time tracker with some advancements: CRM, screen capturing options, auto-prepared timesheets, payrolls, distraction alerts, etc. You can integrate Time Doctor with project management software, like Jita or Trello, or use it as a primary PM tool – create tasks and track their performance. Individuals can start with a $6/month subscription plan.

Snov.io

Snapshot taken from Snov.io

This is the ultimate software to automate email search and outreach. Snov.io will conduct email searches and verifications, schedule regular mailings, store email content, and launch drip campaigns completely autonomously. With this tool, you can either form a lead database from scratch or validate the pre-maided one, so that non-invalid email addresses will reach out to the mailing list. The subscription plan starts at $33 per month.

Slack

Snapshot taken from Slack.com

Slack is a convenient communication platform for both in-office and remote teams. You can use its library, called Bolt, to develop your own applications and keep corporate communication safe. Dialogs are organized within workspaces, and you can invite new users by sending links to the workspace. Slack, but for more opportunities you may pay from $6.67/month per 1 user.

MeetEdgar

Snapshot taken from Meetedgar.com

This tool will help your VAs manage multiple social accounts. Here, they can schedule sharing new publications and track content performance – see views and clicks. MeetEdgar works well to find and preview potential customer profiles, so salesmen can use it as a component of lead gen activity as well. Prices start from $19 per month.

ContentStudio

Snapshot taken from Contentstudio.io

You can fully automate content management with this tool, e.g., search for trending topics, manage prepared articles, and share publications among all of your corporate social profiles. For virtual sales assistants, ContentStudio has a special offer – aggregated information from all Inboxes. Thus, they can find new direct messages from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and so on in one place. Paid subscription starts from $49 per month.

Calendly

Snapshot taken from Calendly.com

Calendly is a shareable availability calendar, so it’s useful to agree on appointments with people outside the organization – investors, customers, suppliers, and so on. To schedule a meeting, the VA has to share a calendar with the lead and mention time options. The target, thus, will choose the most convenient slot. Calendly has free and paid subscriptions, with the letter starting from $8 per user per month.

PicMonkey

Snapshot taken from Picmonkey.com

This tool can be a temporary replacement for a designer. With PickMonkey you create and edit visuals, e.g., branded images for publications, blog posts, website cover images, ad creative, and more. The basic plan totals $7.99 per month.

Conclusion

Hiring virtual sales assistants is a good option for both small companies and big corporations – while the first may benefit from lessened labor expenses, the second can unload their in-house teams and achieve greater scales in sales. If you manage to organize convenient cooperation, the virtual sales assistant will become a valuable member of your sales team.

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Elizabeth Sramek
Elizabeth is a Senior Content Manager at Scaleo. Currently enjoying the life in Prague and sharing professional affiliate marketing tips. She's been in the online marketing business since 2006 and gladly shares all her insights and ideas on this blog.
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