Owning or working at a startup or small business on a growth trajectory can be an exhilarating ride full of exciting opportunities. But business growth has its fair share of headaches and challenges, too.
One of the most common challenges that growing businesses face is capacity. There’s just so much to do and only so many bodies and brains to do it. Hiring is usually an option, but you typically have capacity constraints there, too. From office space to operating budget, you just can’t make unlimited hires.
Not to mention, every new hire must be onboarded and trained, creating yet another capacity constraint. There’s only one of you (or whoever trains the new hires) to go around, and your day-to-day responsibilities don’t stop when the new hire arrives.
For decades, busy business leaders and executives have turned to secretaries or administrative assistants to take many relatively simple tasks off their plates. And in the past decade or so, we’ve seen the rise of the virtual assistant, or VA.
Virtual assistants do similar tasks and more, typically on a freelance basis. They might help a busy solopreneur with low-level business tasks, like answering calls and scheduling meetings. They might also help with personal errands: disputing a credit card charge, scheduling a home repair, and so on.
All this work happens remotely, as well. It’s essentially the democratization of the admin assistant role: now those functions are available to anyone with the funds, not just executives with plush corner offices.
So what does all this have to do with sales? There’s another new related role called the virtual sales assistant. Take the idea of a virtual assistant and place it in a sales and business context, and you’ve got the idea. If you have products or services to sell, you can use a virtual sales assistant to grow your business.
In this guide, we’ll look at what a virtual sales assistant is and how this differs from a general virtual assistant role.
We’ll also walk through these areas:
- Top benefits of hiring virtual sales assistants
- What kinds of tasks they can take on
- How to find and hire them
What Is a Virtual Sales Assistant?
A virtual sales assistant is a person who works remotely in conjunction with your sales team to execute or assist in the sales process. In uncomplicated sales funnels, a virtual sales assistant may run the entire sales process, but this is not as common.
What’s more frequent is for a virtual sales assistant to take some tasks off the plate of your in-house team, allowing your sales employees to focus on high-value work. (We’ll circle back to what these tasks are later on.)
If it suits the needs of your organization, it is possible to hire virtual sales assistants as full-on employees. That said, most of the time, virtual sales assistants are freelancers or independent contractors rather than employees. Your relationship with them tends to be very task-based: you’re paying them for results. Nothing more, nothing less.
This freelance arrangement is desirable for many reasons. For example, it will help your business avoid some onboarding costs and give you a greater flexibility in handling and paying for some sales functions.
The main goal in hiring virtual sales assistants is to increase sales. Sometimes this happens directly, but often the effect is more indirect. The virtual sales assistants allow you to free up yourself or your in-house resources to focus on the high-value work.
Top Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Sales Assistant for Your Business
Hiring virtual sales assistants brings a wide range of potential benefits to your business. Which ones you’ll see depends on how you use your assistants, but you can expect to reap several of the advantages below.
Enhance Your Staff’s Productivity
Everyone on your staff has tasks they don’t enjoy, aren’t good at, or that aren’t worth what you’re paying them. This is just the nature of getting work done.
Here’s an example. Suppose you have a highly motivated, high-performing salesperson who isn’t so great at data entry or keeping CRM software up to date. In that case, that person will spend a disproportionate amount of time on these tasks or do them poorly, leaving others to pick up the slack.
When you contract with a virtual sales assistant, there’s no good reason to demand that your high performer do those tasks. Offload those to the virtual assistant and watch your high performer’s productivity soar.
Save Time for Yourself and Your Team
The smaller your business, the more hats you’re likely to wear. When you’re just getting a business off the ground, it may make sense for you to handle sales, accounting, marketing, and more all yourself. As your business grows, it may be tempting to keep more of these hats than you should.
The problem is, you’re not superman (or superwoman). You can’t do everything equally well, nor do you have the time to do it all. (And if you’re a little bit further down the growth trajectory, neither does your leadership team.)
Outsourcing some functions in the sales realm to virtual sales assistants saves you time and lets you take off a hat or two.
Gain Workday Flexibility
Have you ever encountered a need for more capacity that didn’t add up to a 40-hour FTE? This happens frequently in small businesses, and it’s a logistical problem that virtual sales assistants can solve. Because they work on a contract basis, VSAs can easily take on responsibilities that don’t add up to 40 hours a week.
Extend Responsive Hours
Similarly, your VSAs aren’t bound to a traditional time clock (and they may not even live in your time zone). If you’re looking for a way to extend phone service hours, outsourcing may be the answer. This is an especially smart strategy if you sell in distant time zones and need to place calls well outside of normal operating hours.
Reduced Costs and Overhead
Lastly, virtual sales assistants can help you reduce costs and overhead. They don’t take up your office space, they provide their own equipment, and you don’t offer them benefits. You also don’t deal with recruitment costs or significant employee training. Virtual sales assistants come to you already knowing the basics of their trade.
Tasks You Can Assign to Virtual Sales Assistants
Using virtual sales assistants can bring many benefits to your business. But what should you have them do, exactly? Truthfully, there are hardly any limits beyond your comfort level and their skill sets. That said, here are some of the top ways many companies are using VSAs.
If your sales funnel is simple or you don’t yet have a dedicated sales team, consider outsourcing the entire sales process to a virtual sales assistant. You might be amazed at how much more effective your sales efforts become when you add a VSA.
Cold calling and lead generation
Your top sales performers don’t want to be doing cold-calling or lead gen, and neither do you! You all have more critical tasks to perform, and a VSA can typically handle these tasks with ease.
Data entry and updating CRM
Data entry and CRM maintenance are two additional time-consuming tasks that don’t require much autonomy and that your in-house team likely isn’t crazy about. Sounds like the perfect recipe for outsourcing!
In some legacy sales models, the inexperienced salesperson sets the table, and the hardened closer comes in to seal the deal. Empower everyone on your sales team to focus on closing deals by outsourcing the menial scheduling tasks to a VSA.
Contacting leads (old and new)
Lead nurturing takes time and effort, but it also tends to be pretty predictable and scripted. If you hand this task off to virtual sales assistants, all you have to worry about is setting a schedule and script. Your VSAs can nurture your leads for you and then funnel the who are ready over to your sales team
Finding and Hiring Virtual Sales Assistants
Finding a virtual sales assistant is pretty straightforward. Finding the perfect one can take a bit more work, though.
There are all sorts of sites and talent marketplaces where you can find a virtual sales assistant. Upwork and Fiverr are two of the most well-known general talent marketplaces, and there are plenty of VSAs advertising their services there.
Some sites function like a job board and let candidates bid on your job. Others function more like a talent gallery, where you choose from a range of options. Still others provide concierge service, seeking to pair you up with vetted candidates that fit your criteria and budget.
Whatever route you choose, make sure you lay out clearly what you’re expecting your virtual sales assistant to do. Not every VSA has the same specialization, so make your post or offer as clear as possible.
Virtual sales assistants can reduce costs at nearly any stage of business growth. They can also save time, increase productivity, and increase your presence with customers, prospects, and leads. You can outsource a wide range of tasks to your VSAs, from lead nurturing to cold calling to data entry and CRM management.
Implemented properly, virtual sales assistants will improve business outcomes and quality of life for your in-house staff.