A business's sales support functions create what McKinsey calls "a Goldilocks quandary." The cost of support functions can be too high or too low. "Too little support and your salespeople can't do their jobs well; too much, and you're wasting money," McKinsey said. "But get it just right, and your sales efforts can drive productivity and growth."
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.
Managed Virtual Assistants for Sales Support
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 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.
What Kind of Support Does a Managed Virtual Assistant Service Provide
Managed virtual sales assistants provide administrative and operational support like a traditional executive assistant. These include:
- Scheduling meetings and appointments.
- Document prep for meetings.
- Data entry and management.
- Submitting expense reports
- Travel planning.
Back-office sales operations support that virtual sales admins provide include:
- Order processing.
- Invoicing and payment processing.
- Data entry.
- Reporting and analytics.
Admin support that is unique to sales teams includes:
- CRM data management.
- Following up on leads.
- Scheduling sales calls.
- Customer and lead research and targeting.
- Prospecting and list-building.
- Social media outreach.
- Building and managing email campaigns.
- Email inbox management.
Virtual sales assistants can perform any task that has a repeatable process and a clear definition of success. Tasks that are subjective and that require business judgment like graphic design, content creation, or cold calling are usually not in scope.
How do Managed Virtual Assistants Improve Sales?
Virtual assistants do not just give salespeople more time. They also provide improved sales operations support that reduces operational costs and accelerates growth. Tasks that sales admins perform include:
- Calendar management—it takes 20-25 minutes to schedule a call. A virtual assistant can get prospects on your calendar, manage schedule conflicts, and send confirmation emails to prevent no-shows.
- CRM hygiene—companies with clean, well-utilized CRMs have a 300 percent higher conversion rate, but only 30 percent of companies have a well-implemented CRM. A virtual sales admin can clean up your CRM and consistently enter data.
- Email management—it takes six to eight touches to make a sale, but 70 percent of salespeople stop at one touch. They do not have the time. A virtual sales admin can keep up the outreach or automate drip campaigns.
- Prospecting—40 percent of salespeople say prospecting is their biggest challenge. Virtual sales admins can search for contacts based on your buyer persona, build lists, and manage email campaigns.
- Follow-up—35-50 percent of sales go to the first company to contact a prospect. A virtual sales assistant can represent you and be the first one to contact a lead.
- Document prep—a virtual assistant can fill in and update templated documents like tear sheets, proposals, and presentations.
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 with the experience or expertise to hire, train, and manage the role, especially at scale.
Hiring administrative assistants, virtual or in-person, one at a time is hardly realistic. You also must train them, supervise them, and QA their work. That is a big investment in a role that traditionally has a high turnover rate. You can end up with a revolving door that would frustrate growth. The challenge is even greater if you hire offshore assistants yourself.
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.
Prialto has provided virtual assistants for sales teams for more than a decade. From our offices in Portland, Oregon, we recruit, hire, train, and manage the assistants for U.S. businesses. The assistants are our full-time employees working in secure offshore offices.
For more information about what it’s like to work with a Prialto’s managed virtual assistant service, download our guide.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.