Virtual sales assistants: Why do you need them?
Written by: Hrishikesh Pardeshi, Founder at Flexiple, buildd & Remote Tools.
Last updated: Jan 19, 2023
Hunting for good employees is not easier than for suppliers or promising clients. According to statistics, 42% of the US business owners have at least 1 vacancy that can’t be closed. Lack of full-time employees slows the pace of all business processes, and above all - selling.
In sales, the speed of reactions does make a difference. Consumers become more and more impatient, with around ⅓ claiming that they are ready to wait for a response from a company no longer than 1 hour. Hiring a team of virtual sales assistants may become a way out for businesses. Outsources specialists can perform various jobs - from email search and drip campaign building to leading prospects right up to the deal.
How Virtual Sales Assistants Support Your Sales
What is a sales assistant position? Speaking of physical stores, sales assistants are employees who serve customers face to face - welcome them, answer questions, do product demonstrations, explain setup rules and other relevant information, etc. But today, as increasingly more businesses come to digital, this job description is related to what SaaS companies, B2B companies, online retailers, and other businesses are looking for. That is - lead generation.
Say, a company develops custom software and has 3-5 regular clients who come back with new orders, occasionally. In the long-term, this state of affairs is not desirable, because every lead accounts for 30%-20% of the revenue that a company might earn. To evolve and grow, it has to diversify and acquire more leads. Thus, there shall be a responsible employee - a sales assistant - who will perform all the lead gen routines:
- do pre-research, e.g. skim through LinkedIn or Facebook profiles
- launch and manage lead gen campaigns
- reach out to a prospect with cold emails
- nurture leads and timely follow up
- provide managers with inputs that they can refer to during the decision-making.
Virtual sales assistants (VAs) do all the same as in-house sales specialists, but with one difference: they work out of the company’s office and are contracted on either part-time, e.g. for a few hours per week, or full-time conditions. In other words, a company may choose to outsource services and establish a contract with a sales assistant - either directly or through a specialized hiring agency.
A virtual sales assistant is a full-fledged Sales team member, even though he or she may be a freelancer sitting halfway around the world. Although an organization signs a fixed-term agreement, say, for 2-3 months, it can be endlessly renewed, if cooperation turns out to be beneficial for both sides.
What Does A Virtual Sales Assistant Do?
Sales assistants are in charge of major routine tasks related to dealing. They find new clients, manage existing ones, collect and analyze information, and prepare materials - product or service presentations, unsolicited business proposals, etc.
The exact set of job functions and duties may vary, depending on the company and the expertise of a person. However, the range of responsibilities typically includes:
- data scraping
Sales assistants do R&D and fieldwork - they hunt for prospects’ emails or social profiles, collect demographics and firmographics, skim through aggregators, like Upwork or Clutch, in the hopes of finding promising deals, and so on.
- data organizing and validation
A sales assistant is a person who continuously copes with data tables. In this sense, the position may sometimes resonate with “Data Analytics” or “Data Entry”. Also, his or her duties imply work with CRMs, email, or marketing automation tools.
- communication with customers
These specialists are the ones who send cold emails and follow-ups, schedule calls with clients, nurture them, and accompany them through all steps of a sales funnel. Also, they may be responsible for creating sales presentations and participating in proposing.
These employees transform facts and numbers into accessible and usable business intelligence. They provide sales managers and the Marketing department with on-demand figures, briefs, and summaries.
Why Should You Hire A Virtual Sales Assistant?
Hirings VAs gives companies 2 major advantages: flexibility and cut labor expenses. A company can contract for exact works and pay for them, e.g. for every 100 prospects or a successfully closed deal. Once the need for services comes to an end, cooperation can be terminated and then resumed - just as easily. The company doesn’t spend extra money on regular payments as such and is neither obliged to pay for corporate insurance, cover accommodation or transportation expenses, or pay off a leave package.
For start-ups or businesses with small sales departments, as well as for well-established corporations, contracting VAs has the following benefits:
- SMEs can contract top-rated professionals and pay a per-hour fee, instead of a full-time salary.
- Big companies can delegate labor-intensive tasks, e.g. research; as such, they unload the day of full-time specialists, so that more experienced employees don’t waste their expensive hours to perform preparatory work.
Worries about cooperation with 100% remote employees discourage many from hiring VAs to the staff, mainly:
- companies don't know how to track and measure virtual sales assistants’ work time
- they are afraid of communication difficulties due to different time zones, languages, or corporate philosophy
- the result of cooperation may not meet expectations
- sensitive information, like CRMs’ credentials or supply contracts, should receive extra scrutiny to prevent data breaches.
If you’ve never contracted virtual sales assistants before, the following recommendations may help:
- thoroughly work out onboarding and share it among in-house, remote employees, and contractors
- treat virtual assistants as valuable team members - praise the work done, give feedback, discuss self-development plans
- assign VAs with straightforward tasks and set SMART goals; for remote workers, it's of prior importance to clearly understand their duties, KPIs, and deadlines
- reward fairly well - it's a small world, so a good rumor about you as an employer is no less important.
Additional Tools for effective virtual sales assistant’s work
One of the conditions of productive collaboration with VAs is using expedient software. Not only this makes joint performance, e.g. simultaneous editing, more facile - programs allow to shift data processing to computers and prevent human errors.
There are 4 major categories of tools:
- interactive software
Interchange of information between colleagues should be effortless, otherwise, teamwork turns into an exhaustive process. There are many user-friendly free (or affordable, at least) Apps, desktop software, or web-based tools that people can use to make calls, send messages, and conduct virtual meetings.
- automation tools
These can execute various processes upon predetermined algorithms. Automation tools are designed to take on repetitive or monotonous work, for example, information synchronization or adjusting email sequences based on receivers’ actions.
- data-storing systems
This is an environment where sales-related information is being kept and updated. The simplest examples are Excel tables or Google Spreadsheets. However, it's better to utilize CRMs: they allow you to store more information and view it in different aspects - in terms of leads, deals, totals, certain timeframes, etc. Moreover, some systems presume designing customers’ profiles, up to adding a photo and storing the history of dialogues and offers.
- project management software
This includes issue tracking programs, like JIRA, Kanban boards, like Trello, various time trackers, digital collaboration tools, online whiteboards, etc. Although it’s possible to do without such programs, they bring a big difference to the work process. The global project, e.g. creating a leads database from scratch, is deconstructed in a backlog. The backlog turns into a set of tasks, and then - each task gets an assignee and is tracked until the “Done” status.
If you decide to hire virtual sales assistants and think of an apt software to try, here’s our TOP-7 to start with.
The app is purposeful for software development companies that manage remote employees. Time Doctor is a blend of CRM, time and chat trackers, and a keyboard capturing option. This is a white-label product, so users can adjust the program according to their business needs.
Prices start from $6 per employee per month, and the company can choose to pay for every team member, including virtual sales assistants, or purchase an “Enterprise” package. Time Doctor provides daily summaries about projects, clients, or a specific task. Other utilities include:
- timesheets and payrolls, based on employees’ performance
- screen capturing and browsing history recording
- project management package: the option to add projects, create tasks, designate assignees, etc.
- integration via API with Slack, Wrike, and more
- synch with Jira, Salesforce, GitHub, Trello, and other software
- distraction alerts.
This tool allows handling outreach with minor efforts from a human side. With Snov.io, it’s enough to hire 1 or 2 VAs who’ll set up and track mailings, and the software will do the rest of the job. In particular:
- find leads’ email addresses
Snov.io allows searches against domain, company, or prospect’ names. A user has to upload the list of names, and the Finder will parse the Internet, scrape email addresses, and inscribe them in tables. The tool’s search capabilities are impressive - up to 20,000 domains at a time.
- verify email addresses
If you perform an initial email search with Snov.io, the program will automatically launch the verification process. But if you already use some lead database, you can validate it with Snov.io as well. Do this by either uploading a list of emails to the program or through the verifier’s API. Snov.io will perform format, domain, and MX record checks and exclude fake, catch-all, freemail, and other iffy emails.
- schedule emails
You can upload sales email templates to Snov.io, set up mailing time, and personalize messages with recipients’ names, job positions, etc. So, even in the case of cold outreach emails won’t look auto-generated.
- launch email drip campaign
Use a constructor to create email sequences upon leads’ actions to control what content they receive and how frequently, depending on behavioral triggers.
The subscription plan starts at $33 per month, and 2 weeks are offered for free.
Slack owes its “fame” to software developers, who began actively using it because of convenience and the platform's versatility. Its strong points include:
- accessibility - users can create workspaces and ask in-house or external collaborators to join them via a URL or invitation
- usability - with Slack users exchange different file types: documents, media, GIFs, etc
- collaborators can create either private or public Slack channels
- the platform has an “Essentials Apps” directory with 150+ integrations that users can install.
Slack has a free option, however, paid plans are neither expensive - from $6.67 per month per 1 active user.
This is a social media scheduling tool that VAs can use while they browse social networks in the search for prospects. They can create a content library and set up recurring sharing of blog posts across the company’s social accounts, e.g. Twitter or Facebook pages.
On LinkedIn, virtual sales assistants can automate updates’ postings, so that the corporate profile will look trustworthy. They also can conduct A\B tests to see what messages collect the most views and clicks.
There are 2 subscription plans: $19/month for 3 social accounts and $49/month - for 25 social accounts.
A multi-purpose software that one can use to discover, compose, distribute, and analyze the effectiveness of a content distribution.
VAs can browse trending topics within an industry the company works in. They can outsource articles’ writing, upload them to ContentStudio, and schedule publications to all networks. The software also offers a unified Inbox that keeps all brand’s social media interactions in a single place.
There’s a 14-days free trial option, and if you want to switch to permanent use, a subscription plan will cost from $49 per month.
This is an extremely handy scheduling tool for salespersons. To arrange a call, they can share an availability calendar with a client, so that a person can book the most convenient time slot.
It’s possible to put Calendly on a website so that when visitors click the “Book a call” button, they see the calendar opening in a new tab and can choose day & time in it.
Calendly’s basic plan is free, but if you have more than 1 user or want to get extended options, the price starts from $8 per user per month.
When virtual sales assistants share materials with prospects, e.g. presentations or PDFs, these shall be single-styled. If you don’t have an in-house designer who creates branded visuals, purchase a PicMonkey subscription so that VAs can effortlessly edit photos, posts, ads, and cover images. The tool is pretty affordable - a Basic plan costs $7.99 per month.
Contracting a virtual sales assistant is a good alternative for small companies or those conducting large-scale lead gen campaigns. If you treat outsourced employees decently and organize their workflow smartly, both of you get fruitful long-term work relationships.