I work an 8–10 hour work day like most people, but I get 80–100 hours worth of results.
This happens because I leveage the heck out of every hour of work that I put in each day. For every 1 hour of my time, my team (I don’t call them virtual assistants) puts in 10 hours of work and we get 10 hours of results.
Be Realistic with Delegating to a Virtual Assistant
My friends and family know that I do a lot of “outsourcing” and have “virtual assistants”.
I get asked the craziest questions:
- “How can I find a virtual assistant to do emails for me?”
- “I need someone to find leads, reach out them, and close sales for me. Is $5/hr a good rate for that?”
If you’ve been wondering the same things, then “Stop!”.
You have to be realistic with yourself – if it was possible to just hire someone to ‘do your emails’ or ‘close sales’, then everyone would do it.
What Can You Really Delegate?
The most important milestone you can reach when it comes to hiring virtual team members is to be realistic with what they can do for you.
Having a virtual assistant help with your emails is possible. They’re not going to be able to “do your emails” for you so you never have to touch email again. But you might be able to figure out what 2–3 types of emails take up 50–60% of your email inbox, and build rules and processes for how they can handle those ones.
The Business Coordinator in our marketing agency has full access to my inbox and manages project related emails on my behalf. She doesn’t process my entire inbox, but we clearly define specific emails that are relevant for her and she manages client communication for those threads on my behalf.
Delegating part of a sales campaign to a Virtual Assistant can be powerful. They’re not going to be able to do every piece of the puzzle from start to finish and close sales, but you can breakup the work into chunks and delegate certain parts.
For example, (1) building the initial prospect list of businesses meeting specific criteria (2) adding supplementary information to the prospect list based on visiting their website (3) sending an initial email to the person responsible for something specific at the prospect company (4) and then following up via 1 more email if they don’t respond.
We’re using this exact process with one of our campaigns:
- I’ve defined a process for identifying prospects, which my team compiles.
- My team does the initial email outreach, including followups.
- When prospects respond, I take over communication and move them forward in the sales process.
What I’m trying to make clear here is that you need to be realistic.
If you can clearly define the end result you want someone to do, then you can delegate that work.
Don’t Let Instructing Slow You Down
The challenge with delegating to a virtual assistant is the time it takes to delegate, vs the time it would take to just do the work yourself.
If you find that creating instructions and managing the VA takes more time than you’d spend doing the task yourself, you’re probably over instructing them.
This was a key milestone for me a few years ago – I started pushing myself to provide less detailed instructions and just leave room for my team to ask questions if there were any.
Since then I’ve focused on cutting away at the time and energy I spend assigning tasks to the team, and instead I leave it to them to ask questions if something is unclear.
I’ve tried a lot of different approaches to this, including creating really detailed processes, checklists, videos, etc. Andrew Youderian from ECommerceFuel has a great podcast interview with Ezra Firestone that touches on the importance of Standard Operating Procedures when outsourcing. SOPs play an important role, but you need to be careful to include a few other things as part of your outsourcing process.
Here’s what I’ve found works best.
For this example, I’m going to use the sales campaign that I mentioned above, where my team is identifying prospects and reaching out them.
By the way, if you’re looking for great resources to do a similar campaign, here’s what I’d recommend:
- Check out Bryan Kreuzberger’s post on how to find anyone’s email address. Bryan is great at designing effective email outreach campaigns.
- Use ToutApp to manage the email outreach process. It might feel overboard at first if you’re only doing a few emails per day, but you can build a solid process your team can manage within Tout.
Now back to the example process…
Outline the Task with Basic Details
This outline is used to get your thoughts together so you know the general start and finish of the process, not every single step that can be used as instructions.
Record a “Talk-Through” Video
This video is meant to share details that would otherwise take a lot of time to write out.
Screenflow is by far the best tool for this. It allows us to quickly record a screencast and automatically publish it to Google Drive or Dropbox for the rest of the team to see.
I’ve found a simple video makes it much easier to handoff a task, compared to a writeup that takes time and (for me) lots of mental energy to get right.
Define the End Goal Clearly
The how-to steps in between aren’t as important yet, but making sure your team knows the end point is key.
Explain what the end result you want is, such as “a spreadsheet with 100 SEO Directors / Managers at marketing agencies that serve ‘big’ brand names in the US, including agency, contact name, and linkedin URL”.
List the resources you’re providing at the start of the task, such as 3 example SEO contacts that fit the above goal, 2–3 that specifically don’t fit the above goal and why, access to a LinkedIn account to perform the searches, and the talk through video of course.
Teams often get confused by not understanding exactly what the goal of their work is. If you can communicate this part clearly, you’re 50–75% of the way to successful delegation.
Hint at the Process and Challenges
The end goal and starting point are most important to be detailed about. Once those are clear, your “talk-through” video is going to provide the context the team needs to get the task done.
Talk through on screen the basics of completing the task. Don’t worry about being super detailed, as the screencast will share the context the team needs to implement the task.
In the sales campaign above, one of the challenge is testing the most likely email address of the contact. The tools we use to test email addresses are buggy, so I let the team know that.
The benefit of talking through the task while on screen and doing the basic steps yourself is that you’ll see the challenges that will arise. On the video, you can explain how to overcome these challenges or what to do if they get stuck.
Leave Room for Questions
If you’ve cleary defined the end goal and the starting point / resources you’re providing, push yourself to be less detailed re: the specific process to use to complete the task and simply leave room for questions that need clarification.
Tell the team to ask questions if they’re not clear on specific details. I know this sounds basic, but there are sometimes cultural differences that make team members hesistant to ask questions of the “leader”.
In your task details, make very clear that you expect questions and are happy to answer them. If you don’t get any questions at all, ask the team member to explain their approach or a few specific details that they should understand from the instructions to be sure.
Use regular team huddles on Skype to discuss progress and questions. Making the time and committing to these meetings was a huge milestone for us.
It’s so simple, but if you think you’re going to manage everything via email, you’re in for a frustrating experience.
Use a team chat system such as Slack, HipChat, or Skype instant messaging. This allows for ad-hoc questions that come up without the need to schedule a meeting and delay progress.
The key lesson I’m trying to share here is that you can be less detailed in your instructions to team members if you bake into the process time for questions and clarification.
Increase the Leverage
Once you’ve successfully delegated a few tasks, it’s time to double down on delegation and increase your leverage so you can get to the point where you put in 1 hour and your team puts in 10+.
If you’re interested in a followup post about the systems, processes, tools, etc. that have enabled us to scale up the results we get with delegation, let me know in the comments.
Jon Tucker is CEO of HelpFlow, a provider of 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for 100+ eCommerce stores. Launched in 2015, their team of agents has produced nearly $100M in chat revenue for a wide range of stores using a conversion-focused approach to live chat.
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At HelpFlow, we've run live chat and customer service operations for 100+ brands since 2015. While we offer full service live chat and customer service solutions, we also support leadership teams to overcome challenges and pursue new opportunities through consulting projects.