You may have heard the future of work is remote. Even before world events made it necessary for many professionals to work from home, nearly 50% of the American workforce were spending at least some time working remotely.
And sales is no exception.
With the help of technology, virtual sales has become a popular choice for organizations looking to expand their sales capabilities while minimizing cost. Whether you need a little extra sales support or are looking to scale up a large virtual sales team, use the following tips to ensure a successful transition.
What is a virtual sales assistant?
A virtual sales assistant is either an independent contractor or a remote employee that you hire to complete specific sales tasks, projects, or roles. As their title suggests, they work and communicate virtually so they are not bound by geographic location.
A virtual sales assistant can help sales managers and their teams with a number of tasks to accelerate the sales cycle and free up time for higher priorities.
Virtual sales tasks might include:
- Scheduling appointments
- Updating CRM activities
- Data entry
- Cold calling
- Sales promotion and development
- Lead generation
- Prospect research
- Fielding phone calls
The opportunities for virtual sales assistants are on the rise. One Salesforce survey found that 60% of sales reps have increased their time meeting with customers and prospects virtually since 2015.
This dramatic ramp-up in virtual selling is changing the landscape of traditional sales organizations and team dynamics. In fact, high-performing sales teams are more than twice as likely as underperforming teams to have increased inside sales hires.
Because inside sales involve primarily remote contact and selling, this shift makes virtual sales assistants an appealing option for hiring managers trying to keep up with the competition.
Note: The terms virtual sales and inside sales are sometimes used interchangeably. However, for the purpose of this article, virtual sales and virtual sales assistants refer to salespeople who work remotely rather than out of the main office location. Inside sales can be performed by either virtual sales reps or traditional in-house sales reps who connect with their prospects virtually.
Benefits of hiring a virtual sales team
The rise of technology and increased inside sales makes hiring virtual sales agents an appealing prospect. We have already seen a correlation between high performance and virtual sales growth, but virtual sales can lead to other benefits as well.
The beauty of hiring independent contractors is that there is little to no training involved. You simply outline the job requirements and find virtual sales assistants who already have the skills. This is a huge advantage for busy sales leaders who need that extra sales support at the end of a quarter and don’t have time to ramp up a new employee.
In-house employees require a lot of overhead investment. But if you hire a virtual sales assistant, you can greatly reduce your costs. Virtual sales reps don’t need a physical office and equipment or in-depth training resources. Plus, if you are only hiring contractors, you don’t have to pay for employee benefits and insurance.
This decision leaves you with more money to invest in support resources or even additional virtual sales assistants as you scale your sales organization.
Let’s say you do want to invest in virtual employees rather than contract-based workers. The good news is that remote employees are more productive and less likely to quit. So even with some additional overhead costs for benefits, hiring virtual sales employees can still be a profitable investment.
Businesses can hire virtual sales assistants on a contract, monthly, or per-project basis. The shift to virtual salespeople gives the organization greater flexibility to handle busy seasons (like end-of-quarter sprints to meet quota) as well as the changing needs of the business and customer markets.
Additionally, sales leaders can delegate tasks to virtual sales assistants that would otherwise take up valuable time, giving leaders (and their teams) more flexibility to focus on higher-priority work.
In other words, virtual sales teams give companies the agility they need to scale their efforts up and down and address evolving needs and priorities.
How to hire a great virtual sales assistant
Whether you’re looking for a contractor or employee, the hiring process for a virtual sales assistant will differ from traditional in-house hiring practices.
Before you begin the search, consider what your budget is and how many (or which) hours you need the sales rep to work.
The rates for virtual assistants vary greatly depending on their experience and location, as well as the level of expertise the role requires. Additionally, contractors often work with multiple clients at a time and may be working from a different time zone, so their availability could be limited to a specific schedule.
These are all factors you’ll want to consider ahead of time so you can outline your requirements and expectations clearly in the job description and interview.
What to look for in a virtual sales assistant
As you craft your job description and begin screening candidates, look for people who demonstrate the following skills and qualities:
- Great at solving problems
- Reliable in communicating via phone, email or chat
- Responsive to feedback
- Familiar with CRM tools
Because they are working remotely, virtual sales reps have to be comfortable working independently with a high degree of self-motivation and problem-solving capabilities. Without a manager there to hold their hand and answer questions at a moment’s notice, virtual workers must be willing to take initiative and work through issues that may arise on their own.
Additionally, look for people who are responsive and reliable communicators. Clear communication is crucial to the success of a distributed sales team. Missed phone calls, incomplete customer data, or other miscommunications can quickly derail your sales processes.
Lastly, prioritize candidates who demonstrate good teamwork and a collaborative attitude. Though this may sound counterintuitive, you still want each team member—virtual or in-house—to be team players.
Each sales rep should be working towards a common goal. Whatever you decide on, a common goal helps you align your sales efforts and create a positive, unified culture.
Managing a virtual sales team
Building and managing a virtual sales team brings its own challenges and complexities. Use the following tips to create sales processes and manage team members in a virtual sales environment.
Set clear expectations
It’s difficult to stay motivated and perform well if you don’t know what is expected of you. This concept is especially true for virtual team members who don’t have the advantage of in-person contact.
Set clear expectations and measures for performance and accountability from the beginning. Clear expectations will help your sales agents prioritize and maximize their time and efforts.
Make communication easy
Clear communication is vital. Make it easy for your virtual sales team members to connect. Find out what platforms or methods they prefer and try to accommodate them. You might need to invest in new technology to support your team’s collaboration and communication.
Manage by KPIs
Because virtual sales teams are remote, you can’t judge their work based on anything but their output. Set clear KPIs and make sure you have the technology and reporting systems for reps to record and track their performance.
Virtual employees and contractors prefer to work with greater independence and autonomy. Once they are familiar with the processes and expectations, give them room to breathe.
If their performance metrics look good, there’s no need to intervene.
Invest in the right tools
Today, technology enables more efficient and effective remote teams. As you expand your sales team with virtual sales assistants, invest in the right tools. For example, a good messaging platform like Slack or Google Hangouts can facilitate productive team meetings and check-ins.
Additionally, a solution like Lucidchart can help your virtual team track performance, create unified sales processes, and manage accounts in one place.
Create easy-to-reference process maps so everyone understands their role and rules of engagement. And, with our Salesforce integration, sales reps can create account maps that outline the political landscape of a company and the best path to sale so anyone in-house or working remotely can understand the status of a deal. Lucidchart works on the cloud, so team members can access these documents whenever and wherever they want.
Investing in a virtual sales team can seem overwhelming and complicated. But with smart hiring processes, good management, and the right tools, you can create an optimized blended salesforce.
As you build out your virtual sales team, learn how to digitally walk the sales floor with actionable account maps.