5 good reasons why a Virtual Assistant is exactly what your business needs

5 good reasons why a Virtual Assistant is exactly what your business needs

Virtual assistants are fast becoming the new norm in many industries.  A virtual assistant is a location independent service provider who can provide a myriad of different services to your company from a remote location.  Virtual assistant work has grown to include many different positions that can be utilized to ensure that your company runs like a well-oiled machine and saves your company costs at the same time.

 

The top 5 reasons to hire a Virtual Assistant:

 

1.     Reducing running costs

 Many companies that hire full-time employees have found that the employees are not being as productive during the working day as what they could be.  By hiring a virtual assistant you only have to pay for work that has been done.

Cost savings also include overheads like office space, internet connection, refreshments, electricity, training. Your company would be able to pay a virtual assistant that is proficient in the tasks that you require and you would not need to spend any additional costs on their training.  Virtual assistants are continuously upskilling themselves to stay on top of ever-changing market trends.

 

2.     Increased efficiency

 A large number of a business’s employees day can be used up doing many repetitive tasks during the working day.  Many of these tasks such as e-mails, customer queries, research, meeting scheduling, data entry etc. These tasks can sometimes take up so much time in your day that you are taken away from the more important work that is suited best to your skillset and qualifications.  You could be paying an engineer 5 times more than a virtual assistant to be doing these tasks when their time could be spent on work that creates a larger income and faster output for your company.

 

3.     Broader working hours

 Because virtual assistants are spread across the world and work remotely, you can hire a VA to manage your business with clients outside of your time zone, without actually having to be available yourself.

 

4.     Easier recruitment

 If your company often has projects that come up suddenly and require a certain skill set that is not required regularly in your company, instead of going through the time-consuming process of hiring a full-time employee to do the work for you.  For example, you might want to start advertising your business online but there is nobody in your employee who has that skill set.  This is where a virtual assistant can be hired for only the time it takes each day that the project requires at a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to hire a full-time employee.  You would also be able to make sure that the VA has referrals and experience in this line of work. For several reasons, a virtual assistant costs a lot less than a full-time employee.

 

5.     No more micromanaging

 When full-time staff is employed it is always a task to ensure that everyone is doing what they are paid for in the time frame required of them.  Many hours are spent by full-time staff being non-productive.  Sometimes you might even have to hire a manager to manage the staff for you.  By hiring a VA this eliminates that need.  You only pay for the work that is done and the time spent.

There are many tools and apps available in the virtual world to do that for you.  And any VA worth their salt is focused and self-disciplined enough to ensure that the work is done in a professional and timeous manner.  Messaging tools such as Slack and Microsoft teams enable you and your virtual assistants to run even more productively than you would in an office environment. There are also several time and project management tools such as Toggl, Trello, and Asana to ensure that all projects are communicated and done within the time frame required.  Gone are the days of a lengthy project meeting.  Everything can be done virtually.

The tools and information given above is only the tip of the iceberg of the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant. You will not regret it and find yourself with a more cost-efficient and streamlined company as a result.

Travel: What will be the new normal?

Travel: What will be the new normal?

With the pandemic that has turned 2020 upside down, will everything return to normal in a few months or a years’ time? Or will we have to adapt to a different kind of normal? There is no doubt that the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit with hotels and airlines having to shut down temporarily, and in some cases, staff being retrenched or companies closing. As restrictions start to ease, will travel industry require a complete makeover to survive and once again thrive?

 

Business Travel

Business travel hasn’t been possible over the last few months with many airlines halting operations, as well as hotels closing their doors. Business has therefore had to be done either via email or Zoom/Skype calls. Have companies realised that this is an easier way of doing business? Is human interaction always necessary? Companies will certainly cut back on the business travel if it isn’t necessary, thus the market for this form of travel may decline.

Remote work is, at very least, likely to form a key part of our new normal. While start-ups and youthful companies have been taking advantages of its cost saving and efficiency for a few years, mainstream business has now, through necessity, also seen that it can work and offers distinct advantages.

 

Group Travel

Travel in large groups is likely to be severely affected due to the risk of transmitting the virus to other travellers. This is likely to have a sustained effect, as the world collectively tries to stem cross border carrying of Covid.

With smaller groups comes more administration per person. Meaning a wider team of support staff that are wearing many hats on a day-to-day basis will be required for smooth running of group operations that typically rely on larger, one size fits all packages and operations in order to work efficiently and offer value for money.

 

Hotels, Airlines and Tour Operators

Hotels, airlines and tour operators have almost all had to shut their doors over the last few months. Many employees have lost their jobs with companies not having any form of income. Not knowing when the light will appear at the end of the tunnel, many companies are trying to find new ways to attract clients and even outsource their work force. Hotel and airline call centre staff could potentially work from home given that they don’t have to be face to face with the consumer. Small tour operators are looking at employing virtual assistants to do their back office/admin, or even take calls from new/potential clients.

Employing or growing a full-time workforce will be a huge risk for many a business right now, meaning outsourced, dynamic and contract-based teams will become the standard.

 

Virtual Travel Experiences

So, what will the new normal be?

Will there be a virtual assistant sitting in a small village in South Africa, taking calls on behalf of her client in Florida for bookings on a boat charter? That is already happening.

Will luxury lodges be offering virtual safaris to armchair explorers from the comfort of their own homes? Yep, this too is already happening.

Or will we still crave the immersive, cultural and human interactions that force us to get out there and explore again? This too will definitely happen – it is human nature. But when it does, businesses will need to rethink how they run and grow their businesses.

Agility, a scalable workforce, and being able to roll with the punches will be key. At VA Connect we are able to help you do just that by offering a wide array of skills, expertise and experience through our dynamic team of virtual assistants.

The pros and cons of challenging sales targets – are these good motivators?

The pros and cons of challenging sales targets – are these good motivators?

My name is Sonja, and I am a hunter.  At least, this is how every company who ever employed me in a sales position, labelled me.  I beg to differ.  I am naturally inclined to farm, yet occasionally I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

In a nutshell, sales reps are split into two groups – hunters and farmers.  Normally, “hunters” are driven by challenging sales targets, and a desire to make heaps of money.  Farmers get to babysit the clients after the fact and “on-sell” or “up-sell”.  They also have targets to chase, which may or may not differ from those of the hunters.  It all depends on the company you are working for.  I’ve seen the chaos and backstabbing created in sales teams when challenging targets are set by Sales Managers, who don’t manage the process and outcome correctly.  FACT – Salespeople are by nature emotional creatures, so there is a thin line between creating an environment of motivation vs one of utter demoralisation when targets are not met.

If your sales reps only have one goal — meeting their sales targets — they’re selling themselves and your business short (literally).  The last week of the sales month can lead to a very cold-blooded, hard core approach to sales, if targets are way off.  This can have a negative consequence on client retention, for instance.  Your hunters are going in for the kill, and your normally-gentler-by-nature farmers starts to become bloodthirsty. This rings even more true when basic compensation is affected if targets are not met.  The looming idea of not being able to pay your rent because your basic won’t cover your expenses, does not motivate a person to work harder.  Rather it drives a person to either crumple in defeat or do what is wrong.

Salesperson

 

 So how do you set targets to motivate?  I can easily launch into a list of a day long here, but someone once said to me “Keep it simple Susan”.  Yes, he got my name wrong, but twenty years later, I still remember those words when I find myself in a heap of distress.  When I was a Sales Manager, I got my team to focus on the following three motivators to chase challenging targets and stay motivated:

 

Celebrate the small wins

Start by holding your reps accountable to smaller weekly or monthly goals, and you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll slay the “Beast Target”.

Smaller weekly targets allow sales reps to build confidence and keep focus.  This way individuals and teams can track progress towards the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and it helps the manager to quickly identify reps who are not performing.  Swift intervention is now possible as to identify whether there is a “lazy rep” issue or a real problem, like an external factor making it impossible for the individual to reach their target.

An article published by Harvard Business School found that https://hbr.org/2019/07/setting-better-sales-goals-with-analytics is particularly helpful.

One of the key missteps highlighted in this article states “organizations often lose top sales talent because of target setting that penalizes success. One common misstep is using past performance as a yardstick. If a top performer overshoots her annual target by 20%, her next year’s target is set at 120% of the current year’s — while next year’s target for a rep who achieves just 90% of this year’s target remains unchanged. Not surprisingly, top performers find this unfair and often jump ship.”

 

Adjust for changing market conditions

In a failing economy, many companies drastically reduce spending on all levels, and it could affect a sales rep’s ability to meet her target. Take for example, cutting cell phone and fuel allowances.  If I can’t make the calls or get to my clients, I can’t make the sales.

Losing a key client because of the economy is almost like slitting your own throat.  Boy do you bleed!

Changes in technology and competition from newer, innovative products and services can seemingly saturate a market overnight.  If the target isn’t adjusted for market conditions, ACTUALLY REACHING the target, is as far fetched as Jack climbing that beanstalk while the giant is standing at the bottom chopping away at the stem with a big old axe.

 

Set Activity Goals

This will teach a rep to stay in touch with new clients at least once a month and build that relationship.  People buy from people they like and trust.  Eventually it will all add up to the monetary targets.  Getting to know your client becomes a great motivation to not just make the sale, but to also retain and grow the client.  A lot more emphasis should be placed on this aspect.  KNOW YOUR CLIENT!  Honestly, it makes the business of chasing those targets a lot more fun.

I do believe that the world of sales has changed radically over the past 10 years.  The one thing which remain unchanged though is the sales target….and it is ALWAYS challenging.  As the old saying goes “If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen”.  Even if you work for the most awesome company, being in sales demands a very particular set of skills backed up by a kind of crazy personality that thrives on pressure.

Happy selling!

Will Virtual Sales do as well as Direct Sales?

Will Virtual Sales do as well as Direct Sales?

The global pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in virtual sales, but there seems to be a continuous divide when it comes to developing sales strategies for the future.   Can we   return to the classic method of face-to-face direct sales as soon as circumstances allow,  or joining the revolution of going full virtual.    What should we plan for in the “new normal”?

This time last year, I was waking up at the crack of dawn to brace the Johannesburg morning rush to get to my first client meeting in Pretoria. Today, I am working virtually for an American company. My first Zoom meeting is at 3 p.m., which is 8 a.m. Central Time Zone in Tennessee. I have gone from meeting clients in person every day, to calling and emailing them. Building virtual relationships with the time difference has been quite an adjustment, but I am enjoying not having to sit in traffic for hours. As someone with experience on both sides, this is my take on the two strategies.

The way I distinguish virtual from direct sales would be, quality versus quantity.

 

Direct Sales – Quality

Direct sales would be the quality approach. The focus is on face-to-face interactions. The value of the relationship between business and client is heightened because of the personal bond created. The client’s trust is built on meetings where informal conversations can lead to a higher chance of client retention. Even if the number of clients reached is considerably lower, because of the time taken to build the relationship.

 

Virtual Sales – Quantity

Virtual sales would be the quantity approach due to the access to a larger spectrum of potential clients from various industries, and the ease of contact via electronic platforms i.e. email. It is a great way to determine which industries to target and eliminate the ones that do not bring in positive metrics or sales. However, maintaining good relationships with clients can be difficult because of not having the face-to-face factor, and managing a concentrated customer base can create a lower chance of client retention.

To further differentiate the two sales strategies, I will use the 4 A’s model: Acceptability, Accessibility, Affordability, Awareness, and the selling of sweaters as an example for each.

 

4 A’s Model

Direct Sales

  • Acceptability – Why should customers buy our sweaters? Are they priced according to the quality we are offering? This component can be used in the sales pitch to potential customers.
  • Accessibility – Ensuring the store is stocked up with sweaters and positioned where customers can easily see and reach them.
  • Affordability – Are our sweaters priced to attract our target markets? How are the sweaters priced against competitors at stores nearby?
  • Awareness – Can customers see that we sell sweaters in our store? Are they visible on mannequins in the display window? Do we have a sign?

Virtual Sales

  • Acceptability – Why should customers buy our sweaters? Are they priced according to the quality we are offering? This component can be used in the product title and description on the website.
  • Accessibility – Having a website that is easy to navigate, and mobile phone optimised, so customers can effortlessly buy sweaters from any device.
  • Affordability – Are our sweaters priced to attract the desired target markets? How are sweaters on competitors’ websites priced?
  • Awareness – An email campaign, targeted at a group of potential customers to inform them about our brand of sweaters.

We can see from this, that the mechanisms of the 4 A’s in both approaches often coincide and have similarities.

Adapting to the current climate and adopting a sales process that not only protects your team, but also grows your business, is essential.

A combined approach of both sales strategies based on your company’s goals and objectives, would, in my view, be the most beneficial in these uncertain times.

Will Podcast Marketing ever rule the web?

Will Podcast Marketing ever rule the web?

Podcasts are definitely the marketing tool of the moment as well as the future. Marketing gurus have noted the changing needs of marketing from the written word to audio and because of this are now using podcasting as their main marketing medium in this very competitive market.

Podcasting has grown exponentially over the last few years and is fast becoming the more popular medium for advertising. Because consumers no longer have the time to browse through newspapers, pamphlets, magazines etc. many businesses are using the very powerful marketing tool of podcasts to boost their sales as well as their brand.

The augmented usage of mobile phones is considered to be one of the main factors for the explosive growth of podcasting and podcasts have therefore become the new talk radio of the mobile devices.

 

The benefits

Eight major promoting benefits to podcasting:

  • Drive traffic.
  • Better search results
  • Allows users to listen and carry on with their life
  • Increase followers
  • Diversifying your content
  • Relationship building
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Builds trust in your brand

The best way to get your marketing message across to listeners is to use the content of the podcast to relate to the product or brand which you are trying to sell.  Using 3rd party ads can annoy listeners and subsequently chase them away.

Audio is a welcoming break from the information overload of written content.  Podcasts enable the speaker to get the message across to listeners in an interactive way that the written content might not be able to.

 

Smart integration

It is predicted that with podcasts becoming more popular that in the future there will be a lot more integration with our devices. An example is that your alarm clock could be set to wake you up with the most recent episode of your morning podcast.  Your smart devices would also be able to alert you as to when a new episode of your favorite or most listened to podcasts become available.

A small disadvantage to podcasting is that if you are listening to your podcasts using the same network it is likely that you are hearing the same ads over and over again.

Hopefully future podcasting ads will be able to be targeted to user interests and demographics which will reduce the repetition of ads.  Recent research has been shown consumers would be more likely purchase a product from a brand that appeals to their personal experience and needs.

 

The future

It is predicted that podcast networks of the future will be able to inform you of the podcasts they think you will like, almost the same way Netflix currently does with movies you have watched. For instance, if you generally listen to podcasts at 12:00 during your lunch hour, you could get notifications that there are new episodes ready for download at 11:30 which will help you to avoid searching for new episodes.

So, to answer the question, “Will Podcast Marketing Ever Rule the Web?” My prediction is yes, it is very possible that it will.  Watch this space.

Executive Virtual Assistants – This is How We Can Help You

Executive Virtual Assistants – This is How We Can Help You

A few years ago, Virtual Assistants were unheard of. Even two years ago when I started as a VA, I was asked “You are a what?”

Fast forward to 2020 and Virtual Assistants are taking on the world. The world is faced with a pandemic and now even companies who would never have considered a VA, are looking at their new world with new eyes and new ways of spending their resources. Time and money being the most prevalent. It has been shown that people can work from home and still get their work done, giving more faith in this system by producing the same results.

Smaller companies who do not have the desire nor the capital to rent office space can hire an Executive VA to assist with numerous tasks. This helps reduce overhead and HR costs as time bundles can be agreed on without having to deal with the stresses of employing permanent employees and adding to their head counts.   It will be very interesting to see how many companies evolve into virtual offices in this new world of ours. I for one would also like to know the positive environmental impact this could have.

The list of tasks an Executive VA is able to assist with is tailored specifically to each client. Below we look at 5 of the most common areas of assistance we are asked for.

 

5 Ways A Virtual Assistant Is Essential To A Virtual Office

Let’s be honest, if you’re running your own business and putting all your time and energy into making it a success, mundane administrative tasks don’t sound very attractive and although time consuming, they are imperative to running a successful business.

Depending on the type of company, these tasks can include:

 

Diary Management

Managing your diary as well as for other team members.  Scheduling, rescheduling or cancelling meetings can at times be challenging. Having an Executive VA do this for you takes the pressure off the organizer and makes meetings take place with no issues.

 

Meeting Management

Preparing agenda’s, information packs and compiling attractive presentations also requires you to spend a considerable amount of time to do these right! An Executive VA who has these skills can produce high quality work on your behalf. They can also help by taking and distributing minutes allowing you to get back to work.

 

Travel Management

Shopping around for a good deal on flights and accommodation takes time and patience. There are so many websites available these days and one has to find and compare prices to make sure you are not over paying for something and that you are travelling within your means.

An Executive VA is able to do all the research for you, they can make flight and accommodation bookings on your behalf and arrange any transfers or other travel requirements you may have. They can also ensure that deposits, if required, are paid in time and apply for visas if necessary. An added bonus is that you don’t have to rush or be disrupted in your day to check in online, this can also be done for you.

 

Company Representation

An Executive VA could be the company’s point of contact and working within the agreed parameters and proxies allows the VA to make executive decisions so that owners and team members can do what they do best, run their business. The VA can focus on building client and stakeholder relationships for the company while always being available to your customers.

 

Administration

One of the most important fundamentals in any business, however, still one of the most mundane parts of the job for any boss.

Following up on payments, making online payments, logging urgent calls are all small tasks but can take up valuable time. An Executive VA is able to assist with these tasks as well as other perhaps more valuable tasks such as compiling databases and reports, doing market related research, reconciliations and generally be the go-to person to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page and ensuring clear communication between all of them at all times.

The list literally can go on and on… and the benefits to you and your company can too!