“We’re virtual assistants – not Del Boy and Rodney down the high street”
“I don’t want to come across as being pushy or annoying”
“My aim is to build a small business not an empire, why do I need to know about sales?”
Just a few of the comments I’ve had over the years about why people don’t want to follow up on their marketing leads… This always strikes me as odd – a bit like climbing halfway up the mountain only to go back down again without seeing the top.
Part of being self-employed means that you have opted (like it or not!) to be a sales person. Get used to this idea. However there are sales people and there are SALES PEOPLE! I don’t personally want to be a loud, obnoxious salesperson as I think it would send my potential clients running for the hills. So how do you get the balance right without becoming annoying or sales-y? I call this non-sales-y sales…. and this is how I do it:
- Be persistent: Chances are that a virtual assistant’s targets are going to be busy people – that’s why they need to outsource! Change how you think about contacting them – you are not bothering them, you are saving them the effort of having to find your details again. If they aren’t ready to hire you then and there, they may well be quieter and able to think about setting up outsourcing next week, or perhaps have more work to give you next month or maybe even 2-3 months down the line – keep in contact. On average it takes 7 contacts with you before someone buys, so you need to make sure you are doing at least 7 in order to make a sale – that’s with every single lead. Have a database of leads and make notes on it about what you spoke about, when you last contacted them and set aside a time to go through it each week.
- Vary how you contact leads: Don’t bombard them with email after email – if they haven’t responded after the first couple of goes, it’s unlikely to produce a response and anything after that just looks annoying. Perhaps this person isn’t good at checking their emails, but you need to make sure you vary your approach – use a combination of contact methods (email, phone, postcard, LinkedIn) and it allows you to put yourself in front of them many more times than simply bombarding them via one medium.
- It doesn’t always have to be sales: You might send them a funny postcard or a chocolate bar in the mail to brighten their day. Perhaps you’ve spotted an article about their industry in a magazine or newspaper and send them the link. Or maybe you found a really cool gadget which would work well with their systems – tell them about it.
- Give people honest advice: If we aren’t the best fit for what they want to do – I tell them that. One client who really sticks out was a lead who came to us asking for call answering and he wanted the cheapest of cheap prices. I explained we could not do it for that sort of price and explained why. I pointed out how other companies might be able to do it cheaper but where they cut corners. He went away and used one of them and then rather sheepishly came back to use us because, as he put it, “You were absolutely right about it being cheap rather than value for money”. He’s still with us 6 years on. We had another client who wanted a whole load of data input done – I could have had someone do it but it wasn’t that difficult and we were overpriced for what she was looking for – I sent her to an offshore agency who did the work and then we proofread it for a fraction of what it would have cost us to input it all. People value honesty.
- Give yourself opportunities: I hate face to face networking, so I don’t do it – it wasn’t ever that productive for me anyway. Whatever marketing medium you use, make sure you will able to do it consistently. If you love social media, then look through your followers for new fans and get in touch with them and ask if they need more info on the service. If you haven’t any previous experience of being a VA, get on LinkedIn and connect with everyone you used to work with – it’s amazing where people end up career-wise. Are you specialising in a certain industry? Is there an organisation for that niche who might be able to run an article in their magazine? Don’t worry about what you “should” be doing or what other people are doing. Everyone has a strength – use yours!