Driving Value – is it time to hire a Sales VA?

Driving Value – is it time to hire a Sales VA?

There is an old saying that 80% of your sales revenue come from 20% of your clients.  Also, another, not so great statistic, is that 80% of the work in your business is done by 20% of your staff.

These statistics bring to light two of the main complaints of any business looking to add to their team—the cost and investment it takes to bring on a new permanent employee.  When you factor in the hidden costs like training and employee benefits, it’s a hard pill to swallow, KNOWING that, give or take, 80% of your staff is not there giving their all, all the time.  This rings true especially when you are busting your behind getting your life-long-dream, still in that crazy roller-coaster ride called the start-up phase, off the ground.  Anyone who has ever started a business knows that you as the entrepreneur, is BUSY.  You are most probably dividing your time between operations, marketing, financial management & HR – heck you may just as well be the tea lady!

The dilemma which presents itself is that you need sales to grow the business.  Entrepreneurs are not necessarily great at selling.  Or perhaps you are a hot shot salesperson, but don’t have the time or desire to nurture and grow the relationships with your newly landed clients.  The great news is that a Virtual Assistant hire is a straightforward, simple way to add to your sales team, without having to worry about hidden costs.  Virtual Assistants are paid for the hours they work, whether it is 3 hours or 8 hours per day.  They will happily take over all the tasks that you don’t want to manage yourself.

A Sales VA can, to name a few, run with customer relationship management, customer support, prospecting, managing your sales funnel, managing leads through social media, and much more. The question you need to ask yourself is, what do I need my Virtual Sales Assistant to do to bring VALUE to my business? Once you have figured out this, you are ready to interview your selection of candidates and choose a Virtual Assistant with the exact required experience.

 

What Can You Outsource to a Virtual Sales Assistant?

At this stage you must be pondering the question – What exactly can I outsource to someone in this line of work? Surprisingly, there is a whole lot of work which you can hand over to a Sales VA. Think of a Virtual Sales Assistant as roughly a Marketing Assistant; they’re not only good at taking on tasks that you would rather not do, but they can add to yours as well as your existing sales team’s capacity in virtually (excuse the pun) anything that has to do with marketing and sales.

Let’s get a little more specific:

  • Telemarketing: This is not something you may always enjoy doing, but it’s often a necessary part of doing business. You can easily hire a remote worker who not only really loves calling people all day but is also highly skilled at this!  A virtual sales assistant can make outgoing calls to businesses on your behalf, as well as manage inbound calls.  Calling software such as Dialpad, has made this easy.  Gone are the days of having to onboard someone in a full-time capacity to sit in your office and make calls.  This way, qualified leads can be passed on to yourself or your top salespeople to do what they do best – close new deals!
  • CRM skills: The management of customer relationship software is usually key to adding to your sales funnel and creating a profitable and successful pipeline. This is something that you can outsource to an expert Virtual Sales Assistant. Give them the responsibility of making sure that every customer’s data entry is continuously updated with the latest information. You can also put your Sales VA in charge of following up with clients you haven’t heard from in a while or run email campaigns using your CRM software.
  • Outsourcing marketing strategy: Has your marketing strategy been stuck in a rut & aimless? Business owners can not only outsource basic marketing tasks but also outsource strategic thought when it comes to running the sales team and streamlining the sales processes. The fresh mind of an ‘outsider’ may just well be what your marketing strategy requires to give it a creative boost.
  • Sales assistant services: If your sales & marketing team needs an assistant who can grasp the basics of your most common sales & marketing tasks, a Virtual Sales Assistant can leverage their skills and experience to join your team nearly seamlessly.  The VA can even serve in an executive assistant role for the Sales or Marketing Manager.
  • Social Media Management:  Your Sales VA can be put in charge of managing all your social media platforms.  Think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Now, more than ever, business owners have to think creatively when it comes to running a successful, profitable business.  Making use of a qualified Virtual Assistant will unquestionably add great VALUE to your business sans the risk and hidden costs of permanent employees.

How to Manage Production Remotely:  Tips and Tricks

How to Manage Production Remotely: Tips and Tricks

“Working remotely” is the new buzzword nowadays.  It’s a new concept for many businesses to have their staff working from home.   But virtual assistants have been doing this for many years.   I have been a virtual production manager for the past ….. years.

I have been asking myself the last couple of months “How is it possible that there’s a whole world of brilliant virtual personnel out there, and many companies still do not know they exist”? 

Only now have some companies realised you do not need a production manager, HR, accountant, video editor, marketing manager and many more human assets to sit in an office to complete a project with professionalism and success.  I only wish that my first employer (me fresh out of varsity) knew that before he pushed me into an office that killed my spirit and enthusiasm for anything production-related.  Someone looking over my shoulder and expecting me to work effectively from 14:00-16:00 is the worst management trick to pull on a person like me.  I often thought that “production management is not for me, maybe I wasted my time, maybe I am not good enough”, etc. I am sure many of us have felt like this at work.

Not everyone is made for remote working, especially in production, but if you get the balance right, managing production remotely can be as easy as any other remote position out there.  My first VA client, and still my client a few years down the line, is a wonderful human who designs bespoke suits.  At first, I thought it was impossible to create something as personal as clothing for someone when your production manager is not on site.  I was stressed, slept little and read my email every 5 seconds.  Eventually, I started to find my rhythm and understood my client’s pace and work ethic.   I realised remote production management is my thing.  You know – your “thing”, that thing that you love doing even over weekends.  This is the job that I am most organized in and that takes me less time to complete than any other virtual position.

In short, production management is fun and can be made easy.   Now that companies are taking note of virtual production, I realize that I am where I need and should be.

Here are some pointers if you are a production manager or a company owner thinking of managing production remotely.

 

How to maintain productivity

 

  1. Monitor – Remote monitoring through various software and tools to help with unit production operations. 

My tip for monitoring is to stay on top of all new orders.  Process new orders immediately.  Issues can creep up on you in various stages of the production process, and you want to tackle them head-on.  Do not let orders accumulate until there’s too much to do.  This is where mistakes creep in.  As all my processes and tools are loaded onto the cloud, my client can monitor the progress of every order in real-time.

 

  1. Collaborate – Standardize Operating l Procedures. 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) can eliminate human error as everyone in the business is on the same page.  SOP’s should consistently change to make the production process and human interaction more relevant and up to date.

See what works for your remote position and work SOP’s into your everyday operations.  Create a Standard Digital SOP and record standard procedures rapidly, and is available for all personnel to view and understand.  Examples of remote SOP’s are:

  • Readiness checklists
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Activity tracking and reporting (Bitrix24 is a great tool to use for this)
  • Communication process and hierarchy (Bitrix24 is a great tool to use for this)

 

  1. Enable – This is probably one of the most important tools in virtual production.  

Enable the rest of the production staff to understand working remotely.  Train them on the various platforms and tools available to connect with the virtual world.  Use platforms that are convenient, accessible, and easy to understand.  The following tools are easy to understand and can make communication easy and effective:

  • Slack (business communication platform)
  • Trello (web-based Kanban-style list-making application)
  • Dropbox (web-based file hosting service)
  • Google Calendar (time-management and scheduling calendar service)
  • LastPass (password Management Program)
  • Zoom (conference calling for the whole team)

How to ensure that production keeps going while you are not there physically

 

  1. Communicate

Communication is probably the most important of my tips.   Learn to be a good communicator in any position within a business.  Nothing can dampen the employee spirit like no communication, or the lack of the correct communication.

Earlier on, during my desk job, this was probably one of the reasons I got so frustrated.  When I needed to get approval for certain production tasks or money to pay for certain dry goods, top management either did not respond to my calls and emails, or they left some of the queries until it was too late to produce a product at the right time, at the right price.  Everyone knew management lacked discipline and communication skills, but it still irked me so much that I could not do that job anymore.  With a remote position, communication is even more important.  Make it clear to your client from the beginning of production that you expect certain responses to make sure that the product gets produced and issues are straightened out in real-time.

 

  1. Customize your processes so that it is easy to hand over

Let’s be honest, anything can happen, and you will most definitely miss a few days of work at some point.   You might even be lucky enough to go on vacation.

As a remote production manager, it will always be expected that you are available or easily accessible if new orders come in or issues occur.  But you just want to take a break for a while?  Well, make sure your processes are up to date and easy to understand for someone you will hand the production over to.

It is always a good idea to have a handover document in case the stand-in needs to go back and research or need to understand something.  Make sure your handover document has all the relevant and up to date contact details of suppliers, buyers etc. on, also explain the production process in clear steps to follow.

 

Ensure past mistakes will not be made again

 

  1. Document

Remember to document mistakes/issues. For example, a client gained some weight and one suit was too tight around his belly.  Because we make use of standard operating measurement forms, his new measurement was never updated.  Luckily, he was fine with waiting for a new jacket, but it did cost us a couple of 100 dollars to fix the problem.  Try to implement an Issue Tracking template early in the production process and share with your client regularly.  Topics like issue type, issue status, action required and date created can be used to track your issues.  There are even Issue Tracking templates for IT and Ops out there which accuracy with real-time plans.  These increase collaboration with teams.  They also improve efficiency with resources centralized in one location. Quickly resolve reported issues, gain visibility into issue patterns, and maintain auditable records without additional work.

 

  1. Use an instant messenger such as WhatsApp

I find that the simplest way to track past issues is through messages on WhatsApp.   Remember to use hashtags in front of your issue this makes tracking easier.

 

Production is important

It should be managed in a way that makes your customer a market leader.  Use the tools, software, people, support out there to make production easy, effective, accurate and relevant.  Remember, good communication is key if you want Remote Production Management to work.

Most virtual assistants out there are familiar with the tools which make remote working possible.  One characteristic of a virtual assistant is that they are very accessible, easy to train and open to new ideas.  If you, as a company owner, use a platform that is new to the virtual production manager, give them a few days to get comfortable with it – it will not take long.

Virtual Assistant Companies like VA Connect have production managers on their books and they probably have almost all of the other super-skilled personnel you are looking for.

And if you are sitting with a product you want to produce, but you do not have office space for a production manager, you know where to look!

Good habits to cultivate for working from home

Good habits to cultivate for working from home

Working remotely is fast becoming the norm.  For those of us who have been doing this for several years we have mostly fallen into routine.  Though even some veterans of virtual work are still not where they should be when it comes to mastering this dynamic.

Due to the recent COVID-19 lockdowns more and more companies are turning to remote work. For many this involves a massive change in working routine especially because you now need to separate work from home, while in most cases working from your dining room table. There is also the factor of family and other responsibilities we may have.

Pre COVID-19 it was difficult enough but once the children had gone off to school and your spouse had gone to work, we were able to settle down for a good few hours of productive work whilst they were gone.

For many the dream of working virtually has turned into a nightmare. Working in your living space is not as idyllic as it may sound.  Many of us are confined to houses or apartments with family members, children, or roommates who have their own work or school demands.  You are trying to navigate your way around the different tools that are required to continue a smooth flow of productivity and not having the resources you are accustomed to at your fingertips.

 

Here are a few tips to help you in your transition:

Designate Your Workspace

You may be fortunate enough to have a space that can be created for the sole use of your work or you may not.

  • The most important thing is to separate your “home” from “work”. So by this it means, don’t work from your bed or in a space that is used for family time and relaxation.
  • Create a separate corner in your home, however small, and set up a workspace from there. Even if it is the dining room table.  In your mind this is the space that is used for working and not leisure.
  • If the space is needed after working hours then make sure that your tools required for work are moved into a separate corner at the end of each work day and set up again the next day. This might sound like a mission but is actually good practice for your routine.
  • As wonderful as it may sound to have your children and/or spouse all sitting at the same space and working together, this is not realistic. You each need to have your own space to work with no interruption.

 

Create Routine

  • Get up at a reasonable time, the same time every week day.
  • Get dressed, don’t sit and work in your pajamas.
  • Start and finish work at the same time every day. Do not go back to your work desk after hours and try to catch up.  This tends to be unproductive and you will end up burning out.  It is imperative to separate your work from leisure and ensure you switch off from your work and have time to relax.
  • Have a plan for your day. At the end of each work day set aside 30 minutes to create a task list for the following day. Make sure to follow this as best as is reasonably possible. At the same time, don’t be too rigid.
  • Try not to overschedule yourself – make sure to include breaks. So have your breakfast before you go into your workspace, take a lunch break in the garden away from your work space. Even go for a short walk to clear your mind.
  • If you have children who need attention or assistance with school work, this can be worked into your schedule. You can also create schedules for them.

 

Don’t Get Distracted

  • Save your social media and social calls with family and friends for after work time. It is very easy to get distracted and when you look again you have spent up to an hour, if not more, on this and it is then very difficult to get back into the mind space you require for work.
  • Try not to worry about how the house needs to be cleaned, washing done, dirty dishes etc. If you are working from an office this normally waits until you get home.  Try to keep the same mindset and put all of the housework as part of your after-hours schedule.

 

Use Your Virtual Tools

There are many tools available to ensure smooth workflow and help to keep you focused while working virtually.

  • Use a time keeping tool so that you can see exactly what you have been working on each day.
  • A scheduling tool is essential to ensure that you know exactly what needs to be done each day and mark off when it is complete.
  • Communication with your colleagues is still imperative. There are many apps out there which enable us to communicate and share our information virtually to ensure that we are still in communication and there is nothing falling through the cracks.

 

Make time for healthy habits

  • If you find that you are constantly back and forth to the kitchen for food and snacks, set up a routine for eating.
    • Have your breakfast before you start work.
    • Pack a lunch for the next day and only eat that.
    • Keep a water jug on your desk and make sure to stay hydrated. If you are going back and forth to the kitchen for water you will be tempted to grab a snack while you are there.
  • Include exercise as part of your daily schedule.
    • Take a walk after lunch.
    • Set your exercise hour for straight after work, so say 4pm, shut down your computer, get dressed and do your exercise. If you don’t do this you will get distracted with chores and other responsibilities and you will be too tired to exercise.  It also creates a great break between work time and leisure time.
  • Your mental health is also extremely important.
    • Try to meditate for 15 minutes in the morning and again in the evening before bed time.
    • Do not stay up late binge watching TV. Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
    • If you live alone ensure that you do spend time with others.

Yes the initial transition is difficult that is for certain.  But it is possible and can ultimately be incredibly rewarding and freeing if done in the correct way.

Don’t expect perfection in the initial stages but continue to work on your routine and eventually it will be perfected.  You need to give yourself time to adjust and figure out your schedule.  If you keep up your good habits, you will never look back.

Favro vs TeamGantt:   which suits your virtual office best?

Favro vs TeamGantt: which suits your virtual office best?

“Project management is the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time.

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints”

Wikipedia

 

I usually work on Bitrix and Asana and build my own project management tool on Excel.  It meant moving out of my comfort zone to research project management tools I have not worked with before.  I realised one thing while researching these two tools, they are there to make the SME’s and big corporate operator’s work easy and efficient. Now teams can have easy access to software that is cheap and easily accessible with only the click of a button.

 

Favro

Favro is “Collaboration and planning in the cloud” – thus a cloud based application. This is a planning app which is designed to help a team carrying out their complex business plans with ease and efficiency. This software can especially be used by marketers, production planners and developers because it offers some intuitive and easy to use features for activity planning.  Developers also love it because it is fast and modern, staying up to date with current and relative tools.

Favro provides the following key features:

  • API
  • Commenting
  • Prioritizing

Which tools often used by Virtual Assistants integrate with Favro?

Unfortunately it is not a free plan.  Two to more than 100+ users can work simultaneously. The more users the cheaper the plan, definitely a project management tool for bigger teams.

 

TeamGantt

TeamGantt is “An online Gantt Chart Software“. This online project scheduling software lets users manage their projects easily and visibly. It has built-in resource management, so they can see what each person is working on any given day.

TeamGantt provides the following key features:

  • Drag & Drop Simplicity
  • Change start and end dates
  • Reorder tasks

Which tools often used by Virtual Assistants integrate with TeamGantt?

A free plan is only available for 3 users and 1 project.  The varying payment plans starts with 3-50+ users and unlimited projects.

 

Looking at the above, both tools are great and make life easier with freeing up time when used effectively. Both of these project Management tools work for both small to bigger businesses.  TeamGantt provides more integration and a free plan for small businesses. It can also be used more by my virtual industry.

I am however a “work on your mobile” girl and is leaning towards Favro. TeamGantt does not support mobile platforms.  Favro can also incorporate spreadsheets………….. It seems I found my next tool to test!

Running your business with Virtual Assistant know-how

Running your business with Virtual Assistant know-how

The pandemic and the predictions of recession has small business owners worried about the future.   Working remotely is a new model for many; and this has it’s challenges and complications.

Did you have days where you just don’t get to everything you need to before Covid 19 put businesses at risk? Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed because you are spending too much time trying to run a virtual office?  Do you need extra help and processes for working with a virtual team?

You may not want to make the commitment of having to hire a full time employee, but you desperately need help with planning and positioning your business for the future.

If this is you, then hiring a virtual assistant is your answer!

 

Virtual What?

I actually had a new client the other day ask me this very question.   I couldn’t help but chuckle because the Virtual Assistant concept, although already known by many companies and industries throughout the world, is still also a fairly unknown concept for many business owners. A virtual assistant can be defined as an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside the client’s office and who can access planning documents remotely.

Like any other employee you would hire, virtual assistants have different skills sets.  Some are admin superstars, other are creative geniuses when it comes to putting together marketing content for your business and you even get those number crunching enthusiasts that are ready to come in and make your month end look like a walk in the park! Pretty awesome hey?

 

Still not convinced…

If your still not sure a virtual assistant would be right for you, here are some reasons why a virtual assistant is a good idea…

  1. Less investment – Yip, you read right! No office space and equipment will save you a considerable amount of money
  2. Saves Time – Recruitment requires time and money. A virtual assistant will be available as soon as you need them for as long as you need them.
  3. Reduce Expenses – Again no office staff requires no fixed monthly salary and benefits, you simply pay for the work done by the virtual assistant.
  4. Peace of Mind – While your Virtual assistant works in your business doing the things you simply don’t have time to or don’t know how to do, you are able to use your time focusing on what’s important to you. Giving you freedom of time and peace of mind that things will get done.

When you take the risk to start a business you put a lot of time and energy to make it a success. You’ve done so much already, so now it’s time to show yourself and your business some love and hire a virtual assistant that will help take your productivity and business to a whole new level.