Salespeople prove their worth by developing strong relationships with prospects, so they consistently close high-quality deals. However, while emotional intelligence and strategy help convert late-stage leads, it doesn't do much to support the top-of-funnel activities required to keep the pipeline running.
Many of the best sales executives resent those tedious tasks for distracting them from their top opportunities.
Outsourcing sales support solves this challenge by offloading all of those tasks to a dedicated virtual sales assistant so your team can focus solely on the strategic and relationship-building activities that close deals.
Sales Teams Turn to Virtual Assistants to Boost Support
That's how much time most salespeople spend selling, according to the Center for Sales Strategy.
"Sales reps are only spending one-third of their time selling," InsideSales.com founder Ken Krogue said. "Administrative tasks dominate sales reps' time. That just can't happen."
That was the situation Rob Graham, VP of Enterprise Solutions at fintech company Ascendant, found. The amount of admin work hindered Ascendant's sales team—prospecting, email outreach, scheduling meetings, and reporting were eating up reps' time.
"There are only so many hours in a day, and our sales team needs as much time as possible to seek opportunities," Rob said. "Administrative tasks are an important part of the sales process but can be tedious and time-consuming."
Ascendant turned to us to provide a team of virtual assistants to support the sales team in offloading administrative work so reps could spend more time selling. Prialto sales assistants help Ascendant's sales team with prospecting, list building, CRM data entry and management, lead follow-up, and appointment setting. "The Prialto assistants allow our sales executives to focus on growth," Rob said.
After piloting the service, Ascendant expanded virtual assistants to support 13 executives. "We started with a few assistants. After seeing the value, the relationship expanded to assign one to every salesperson, and they love the service," Rob said. "Best of all, they don't require any handholding by me or anyone else. We tell them what we need, and they get it done."
The benefits are there, but just how much support do reps need?
How Much Sales Support is Just Right?
How much support is enough?
How much is too much?
McKinsey crunched the numbers, studying 40 sales organizations to find the level and types of support that deliver the highest ROI for businesses. Researchers looked at the number, cost, and functions of all non-quota carry members of sales teams (customer-facing support, sales operations and administration, and sales management).
McKinsey found that the highest-performing sales teams (top 25 percent) had:
- A 1:2 ratio of support staff and salespeople.
- 200 percent higher ROI.
- Twice as much administrative and operational support (27 percent of staff).
"The makeup of sales support is just as important as its quantity," McKinsey said. "We found that what matters most are the levels of operations and administrative support." The study highlighted one company whose salespeople spent 70 percent of their time on admin and back-office tasks.
After adjusting support to McKinsey's recommended levels, win rates rose 10 percent, the sales cycle decreased by 40 percent, and sales ops costs dropped.
You heard that right. Spending more on support reduced sales operational costs. How? Support frees up salespeople to spend more time selling. This is where the scales tip. McKinsey points out that the sales reps for top-performing companies averaged $5.7 million in gross margin, compared to $1.7 million for the others, and the costs of support are far lower than for a rep-heavy organization.
Ways You Can Utilize Virtual Assistants for Sales Support
With companies seeing so much success with hiring sales support, the main question to answer ask is just what tasks lead to the most lift for reps?
While there are multiple tasks you can outsource to virtual sales support, here are six ways virtual sales support can help your team drive revenue and some tips to help you decide if outsourcing is an effective solution for your business.
Maintain a Full Pipeline of Prospects
Healthy sales pipeline management is the foundation of sales success. Without it, your team will always be struggling to keep up.
However, prospecting is extremely tedious and time-consuming. It's easy to fall behind when the pipeline is busy and then go through low activity periods after all your late-stage opportunities have closed or dropped out. Getting into this habit creates a very volatile pipeline that makes it difficult to generate consistent revenue.
Outsourcing prospecting lets your sales team focus on closing deals without worrying about where their next leads will come from.
All you have to do is give your virtual sales assistant criteria for your target accounts, including:
- Company size
And any other key characteristics of your target audience.
Your virtual sales assistant will use this information to ensure your pipeline always has new prospects.
Personalize Emails with Less Effort
Personalized emails are proven to get more responses than generic ones, yet few salespeople personalize beyond easily automatable phrases like names, locations, and site interactions.
A sales support assistant can help your team personalize with less effort by finding you prospect information such as:
- Recent LinkedIn posts
- Company news
- Mutual education
- Mutual interests
These kinds of personal details make it easy to personalize emails in a way that's far more authentic and engaging than the standard fields. This will help your messages stand out from the numerous generic sales emails prospects receive each day and kick off engaging conversations.
Engage in Social Selling Consistently
A study from the International Data Corporation found that 75% of B2B decision-makers leverage social media when making purchasing decisions. This includes reviewing company profiles, seeking advice from their network, and interacting with brands directly.
If you're not already, you can take advantage of this engagement by incorporating social selling into your sales strategy. It can help you build your brand's reputation and fill your pipeline with warm prospects who already have a relationship with your sales team.
Despite its effectiveness, social selling can be challenging since it requires consistent engagement for the best results.
If your team doesn't have time to scan their network every day and find the best interaction opportunities, outsource this process to a virtual sales assistant. If you give them the criteria for what kinds of people and topics you're interested in, they'll provide a daily list of relevant social posts for your team to comment on and contacts they should reach out to.
Outsourcing the research portion of social selling gives your team more time to create helpful interactions that keep them top-of-mind with high-priority connections.
Prevent Leads from Slipping Through the Cracks
Not all leads are ready to close shortly after their first interaction with sales. Some need weeks, if not months, to do the research and budgeting required to figure out if a solution is right for them.
When many reps hear that a lead wants to delay the sale, they often make them a low priority since they'd rather focus on opportunities they can close in the current quota period. Though this approach seems logical, it disregards slower prospects who are highly qualified and capable of converting into substantial deals.
Outsourcing your sales pipeline management can prevent these leads from slipping through the cracks by ensuring that every lead has comprehensive notes and follow-up reminders on their records. These follow-ups keep your solution top of mind for prospects and provide resources that can aid their research process.
Depending on your preferences, they can manage all interactions with slower leads until they're ready to hop on another call. Outsourcing this process allows your team to focus on the hottest prospects while the remaining leads in your pipeline receive the nurturing they need to convert later.
Maintaining Your CRM
Your CRM should be your sales team's source of truth. From predicting which leads are most likely to close to revealing your pipeline's weaknesses, its reports can give your team a clear path forward.
However, you can only leverage the reports if your CRM is kept fully up-to-date. Any missing or outdated information will result in inaccurate predictions that distract your team from the real issues.
When your sales team is jumping between back-to-back calls and preparing for custom demos/presentations, it's not practical to expect them to add every detail to your CRM. Data entry is also not a good use of their time, even if they do remember.
Outsourcing sales support offloads CRM maintenance to dedicated virtual assistants, so your team doesn't have to slow down, and you can leverage predictive reports.
Focus on Improving Your Playbook
Ultimately, outsourcing sales support frees up your sales team's time to work on the project that will have the most lasting impact on your company's success: improving your playbook.
You could be reaching out to five hundred prospects a day, but few will ever respond to your outreach or move forward after the intro call if you have poor templates and pitches. Maintaining a strong playbook ensures your team is following the most up-to-date best practices for closing deals.
With the time your team saves from not having to do all of their tedious sales tasks, they can spend more time on activities that unveil and support those best practices, including:
- Experimenting with subject lines
- Testing new messaging
- Creating new sales pitches
- Developing better responses to common objections
- Working with marketing to create more relevant collateral
And a variety of other strategic sales activities that drive conversion rates.
The more sales support tasks you outsource, the more time your internal team has to become masters at selling your offering. This allows you to significantly increase revenue while only marginally increasing costs.
How Other Sales Teams are Utilizing CRM Sales Assistants
Woodruff-Sawyer is an insurance brokerage serving more than 4,000 companies from 15 offices across the United States. Its producers wanted to spend more time with clients and prospects and less on administrative tasks –without adding full-time support or in-house staff.
In addition to managing calendars, travel, and expenses, Prialto assistants provide in-depth sales support. Assistants drive research, list building, email campaigns, Salesforce data management, and reporting. They ensure that data is up to date, clean up inaccuracies, create new contacts and opportunities, and provide event and relationship management.
"We rely on our Prialto assistants' expertise in Salesforce," said Jeff Fenigstein, head of marketing and sales operations. "We're confident that they know what they're doing, and it takes the burden off the sales team." Fenigstein credits Prialto with helping them maximize their investment in Salesforce.
Fellow insurer Graham Company found itself in the same situation as Woodruff Sawyer. Graham wanted their producers to spend more time building relationships and developing new business without adding full-time office staff.
Graham VP and Managing Director Carl Bloomfield engaged Prialto to staff executive assistants for the company's top producers, with prospecting and account research, document prep, and CRM support.
"The Prialto team streamlined our processes and increased efficiencies, allowing us to integrate our Prialto assistants into our day-to-day lives," Bloomfield said. "The data in our CRM is much more accurate, which also has improved the efficiency of my team. By offloading our admin tasks, our producers can now spend more time in the field with prospects and clients."
Is Outsourcing Sales Support Right For You?
Despite all of the benefits of outsourcing sales support, it's not the right solution for every business. Typically, the organizations that get the most value from this kind of support have these characteristics:
- Use a CRM or would like to adopt one. One of the biggest benefits of this kind of support is enhanced data integrity.
- Have a multi-stage sales process that involves calls, surveys, paperwork, onboarding, etc. that all require coordination.
- Have a sales leader and/or team that excels at closing deals but is weighed down by admin work.
Where to Find Sales Support
There are a couple of options you have for finding the right sales support.
Hire In-House Employees
The first would be to hire directly. This gives you the most control but also is the most expensive and time-consuming option.
You're tasked with recruiting, hiring, and training your employees, all of which come at a cost.
If you have very complex sales processes, need support that can make high-level decisions, and have access to a lot of local talent, this could be your best option.
Hire a Managed Virtual Assistant Service
With administrative support critical to sales team performance, managed virtual assistant services offer a fast path to professional, right-sized administrative and operational support for sales teams.
In a managed service model, the service provider hires, trains, supervises and continually optimizes the performance of the sales support assistants. The assistants are typically offshore, with account teams in the U.S.
This model is ideal for sales teams because:
- You do not have to recruit, hire, and train assistants one at a time.
- There is no added HR or managerial overhead because the assistants are employees of the service provider.
- You can scale quickly (up and down) as your needs change.
- Assistants arrive pre-trained and onboarded onto your team's tools and processes.
A typical arrangement has one virtual assistant supporting three salespeople, close to the 27 percent admin-to-staff ratio recommended by McKinsey.
Support Without Management
Companies turn to managed virtual assistant services like Prialto because they lack the internal resources to recruit, hire, train, and manage executive assistants.
The publicly traded healthcare software company Castlight Health was in growth mode. Its regional sales VPs (RVPs) managed teams of reps and were saddled with administrative tasks like scheduling, expense reports, booking travel, and updating their CRM.
The head of sales operations saw the RVPs' pain but knew that Castlight lacked the time, expertise, and resources to build an administrative team for them. Castlight tapped Prialto to provide trained virtual assistants to support 13 regional VPs in four areas:
Calendar management: scheduling was a tedious task and a considerable time sink. Castlight worked with Prialto to implement a scheduling process that maximized each executive's time.
Travel planning: planning travel was tedious and time-consuming for outside sales reps. The Prialto assistants learned the travel preferences of each RVP, such as preferred airports, airlines, travel times, and hotels.
Expense reports: RVPs struggled to send accurate expenses by their deadlines. Prialto assistants ensure that reports are accurate and filed on time to provide timely reimbursement and peace of mind.
CRM data hygiene: Castlight's CRM is crucial to the team's success. Prialto assistants ensure all information and data are accurate and up to date for the team and management.
Critical Sales Support for Your Team
"Sales support is critical," McKinsey said. "Only by putting in place and optimizing the right types and levels of support can companies hope to get the greatest growth from their sales organization."
At the same time, the traditional executive assistant has all but disappeared—there are 65 percent fewer people with the title than in 2004. This leaves many organizations struggling to hire the role, especially at scale.
The right amount of sales support enables sales reps to spend more time selling to get the kind of ROI McKinsey described. The result is a flexible, scalable, administrative layer for your sales team with minimal resources needed on your part.
When salespeople are adequately supported, growth happens. With a managed virtual assistant service, you can give your sales team the time they need to drive revenue growth.
We have provided virtual assistants for sales teams for more than a decade. From our offices in Portland, Oregon, we recruit, hire, train, and manage assistants for U.S. businesses. The assistants are our full-time employees working in secure offshore offices.
If you're interested in a free consultation on your sales support needs, please reach out.