How a Virtual Assistant can turn you in to a social media butterly

If you’ve been following our blog for any amount of time, or if you ever see our other posts, you might have noticed that we think social media is an essential part of the marketing mix for any business.  Even more so for smaller businesses as it offers a fantastic cost-effective way of getting word out about the services/products you provide.

As a result, we’re always banging on about how vital it is you get involved with social media marketing.

The problem is though that social media can actually work against you if you don’t offer consistency.  Posting as and when you remember to, or when you can finally find the time at the end of a busy week is not good enough.

You need to think about what you want to achieve, decide how you’re going to do it, make a plan, and then stick to it.  All of which takes a lot of time, which you might not have if you’re busy doing everything else your business needs.

Hiring a virtual assistant with social media management experience is a great way to outsource these time consuming tasks, and take your social networking and marketing to the next level.

Here at Time Saving Heroes we can:

  1. Create social media accounts, profiles and company pages
  2. Create groups on LinkedIn and fan pages on Facebook etc
  3. Manage and generate followers on Twitter
  4. Manage activity on Pinterest (creating, identifying and pinning images)
  5. Scheduling and posting Tweets, tracking hashtags and mentions
  6. Uploading videos to YouTube
  7. Moderating and responding to comments on social media sites
  8. Answering messages and queries via social media channels
  9. Create lists on YouTube and Twitter to better manage your accounts
  10. Share important updates, news and content

 

One of the biggest problems with social media is how distracting it can be.  You log on to respond to a message, and three hours later you’re caught in a loop looking at videos of cats.

Don’t get us wrong, we love cats (Lu even has a Maine Coon cross called Kit Kat) but we’ve probably seen all the videos so tend to just get on with work now. With over 7 years’ experience of posting on various sites and managing a wide variety of business pages, there’s not a lot we’ve not come across.

 

To find out how you can benefit from our experience to help your business give us a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

 

 

 

Cold Calls: Proper Preparation Prevents You Know What

This week my blog posts have all followed the theme of cold calls.  On Tuesday I wrote about how to best handle making outbound calls, yesterday I looked at how social media can help warm up cold leads before you pick up the phone. Today I thought I’d look at the importance of having good content when it comes to making those calls.

I’m not a huge fan of scripts, certainly not when it comes to trying to build rapport with someone in the hopes of making a sale. However, there is a strong argument that suggests a script of some degree is useful when it comes to making calls.

The reality is proper preparation prevents poor performance and creating some form of script, or guideline when it comes to making calls is a great way to get you focussed, and stay on track during the call.

Here are our top tips for things you ought to consider when you start creating your call outline

# 1 – Don’t ask how they’re doing

So many of us ask “how are you?” when on a call, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction.  That’s all well and good when it’s a friend, colleague or someone you at least have some vague connection with, but it’s not really appropriate when you’re calling someone you don’t know.

The reality is people are often a little guarded when they answer the phone because they don’t know what’s coming.  If you, as a stranger, start asking them how they are, you automatically sound like a sales person.

Yes, you might well be, but you don’t want to get their backs up straight away.

Equally, them feeling obliged to answer the question and then ask you the same wastes their time right from the start.

# 2 – Check they’re not too busy

Whoever you’re calling is going to be busy.  They chances of them sitting there simply twiddling their thumbs waiting for the phone to ring is quite slim.  Therefore asking them if you’ve caught them in the middle of anything, or if it’s convenient for them to talk, is a good way to start.

It shows you’re respectful of their time, and that you care about having a proper conversation.  It’s a great way of making them feel less guarded.  Of course, it can backfire, they might well say that now is not convenient; however, this is just an opportunity to ascertain a more convenient time to call back and have their undivided attention.

# 3 – Get them talking

No matter how proficient you are at making cold calls you’re always going to sound like a sales person, which never comes across well.  One of the best ways to handle this is to get your prospect talking about themselves.

When you’re talking make sure everything points towards them, rather than what you’re selling.  Hopefully you’ve done some research about them, their company or their products and you can relate this to what it is you sell, without actually mentioning it.

By including pre thought out questions you can further encourage the prospect to talk about themselves.  This makes them engaged in what you’re saying and will hopefully keep them on the call for longer.  Not only that but the information they provide is likely to be valuable (as long as you’re actually listening to them).

# 4 – Pre-qualify

Good questions at this stage in the call will ensure that you’re talking to the right person, and they might well be interested in the products or services you have to offer.

Make sure you have worked in questions or have listened out for tell-tale signs that you are indeed talking to the right person before wasting too much time talking to the wrong one.

# 5 – Focus on the pain

This sounds so extremely scary, but the reality is your products should be there to remove pain from your prospect’s life.  By talking to them and asking them questions you should be able to figure out what their biggest issues are in the area you’re focussing on.

However, the reality is when you put a complete stranger on the spot, having interrupted their current activity, they might not necessarily be able to give you the answers you want.  This means you have to be prepared to answer it for them.  Have a few common sticking points ready to provide as examples, and ask if these are things that are an issue for them.

# 6 – Head towards the goal

Each cold call must have a goal.  Ultimately you must want to achieve something at the end of it.  Yes, it would be great if you could make a sale, but the odds are that’s not going to happen.

In most cases you’ll need to send some information, or follow up with a more in-depth conversation, perhaps even a face to face meeting.  Whatever your next step is, aim for that rather than closing a sale.  Putting someone on the spot to make a decision there and then on limited information is not going to end well for you.

# 7 – Build interest

In order to get your prospect to agree to a meeting or follow-up you’re going to need to build in enough interest for them to want to carry on the conversation. The important thing is to remember you’re not going to do that by outlining the benefits or specifics of your product. Someone who isn’t necessarily thinking about what you’re selling isn’t going to care what it does, or how competitively it’s priced.

However, they are going to be keen to know what value it’s going to add to them or their business.  Focus on the pleasure it can bring or the pain it can solve and you’ll be better placed to continue the conversation with them and then hopefully close the deal.

 

How social media can help warm up cold leads

Yesterday I wrote a piece on cold calling, and today I thought I’d carry on that theme.

I always bang on about how social media is a great way to expand your audience and generally raise brand awareness, but it can be a huge help when it comes to warming up cold leads.

Let’s say you’ve done your research and you have a list of prospects you want to contact.  Yes, you could just drop them an email, or pick up the phone to schedule an appointment, but we all know the chances of you getting anywhere with that are quite remote.  Someone that doesn’t know you, and hasn’t had any contact from you in the past, isn’t going to jump at the prospect of working with you.

It can be hard to know how to make contact with someone you don’t actually know, but the reality is with social media you can reach out to countless people around the globe. Yet, for some reason, so few people actually bother.

If you look at your list there’s a good chance every company on there is going to have at least one social media channel.  It might be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest to name but a few.  If you’re serious about reaching out and starting a two-way relationship, then you need to start following them.

Not only that, you should actively interact with them.  Now, I don’t mean you should RT everything they post, that’s entering in to creepy stalker territory, but do get involved where it makes sense to.  Tag them in posts you think would be relevant to them, engage in conversation.  DM them when it’s appropriate to do so to introduce yourself, and perhaps your business and services.

If the company is on LinkedIn, follow them and share some of their updates.  You can also find out who some of the employees are at the business, which may make it easier for you to make contact and get a positive outcome further down the line.  Where possible make contact with these people.  You can always lead with “I’ve been following your business on Twitter for some time and would like to find out more about what you offer”.

I always say social networking is not simply about collecting names.  It doesn’t matter who you know if you don’t genuinely know them, and can’t reach out to them when you need something.  You need to take the time to nurture these relationships, and honestly it will pay off in the end.

 

How to handle outbound calls

It was only a few months ago that I mentioned one of my least favourite tasks was outbound sales/cold calling.  In typical fashion, over the last few weeks I’ve been asked to do some outbound sales calls for a few new clients.

Never one to turn someone away, I decided to take on the work, and as always, throw myself in to it.

I moaned a bit under my breath, but no one else had to hear that.  Well, apart from the dogs, but they’re used to my little rants by now.

Generally speaking if I do anything like this I like to be completely prepared.  In an ideal world there would be time to develop a bit of a script, maybe do some tests of it, tweak it and make sure it’s as good as it can be.

However, with these recent jobs, they’ve all had a certain amount of urgency to them.  So my back’s been a bit against the wall.  No time to really prep, just jump straight in.

Which always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

But that’s life.

With that in mind I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve picked up over the last couple of weeks in the hopes that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you might feel a little more able to pick up that phone and make a start.

# 1 – Be professional, and happy

I’ve received many a cold call myself, and I’m always struck by how miserable everyone sounds when you answer the phone to them.  Don’t get me wrong, I entirely get it.  I might be the 50th person they’ve called that morning, and everyone else has told them to bog off, they’re despondent, miserable and wondering where they went wrong in life.

But that’s not my fault.

Which is why it is essential that you put a smile on as soon as you pick up that phone and act like every call is the first one you’ve made all day.  Be professional at all times, and where possible use the person who’s answering the call’s name.

# 2 – Introduce yourself

Take the time to introduce yourself and your company. True, they might not take it in there and then, and will probably ask you to repeat it, but it’s a good habit to get in to.  Equally, it’s a nice way for you to ground yourself in to the conversation.

“Hi, I’m Lu and I’m calling from Time Saving Heroes. We’re a local company who specialises in helping microbusinesses increase their productivity and income.”

I’ve found that this approach works better than clearly identifying what you do, provide or sell.  This arouses a bit more interest than simply saying “I’m a Virtual Assistant and I wanted to discuss how I could help you.”

# 3 – State your purpose

In an ideal world you’ll have a specific reason for wanting to call these businesses, so explain it. Having read a few blogs about this sort of thing it’s clear that framing this purpose in the form of a question is likely to illicit better results.

“If I can show you how to get more done, without employing staff or significantly increasing your outgoings, would you be interested in hearing more?”

# 4 – Schedule a meeting

If they’re interested in finding out more then set up a meeting, if it’s appropriate to do so.  If they’re out of the area, then a conference call might be the better way to approach this.

Offer two times to give a choice, and do not put the ball back in their court by saying “when shall we meet?”.

# 5 – Follow up

Make sure you get all the necessary contact information from your prospect. Ask if they have an email address (so you can send a meeting invite/confirmation), and then send the information as promised.

 

No matter what the outcome of the call, make sure you remain bright, breezy and professional and you thank them for their time and help.

What is the Twitter banner, and why is the landing page important?

Your Twitter banner, or header photo, is the first thing visitors will notice when they first click on your profile. When you send a Tweet other users will only see your profile image, but if they want to find out more about you, they’re likely to visit your profile – and they will see your header photo before anything else.

As a result, it’s important you give this aspect of your profile some careful consideration and don’t just leave it blank, or whack anything in there in the hopes that it will do.

When trying to decide what your header should look like, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How do I want to be perceived? What are my values?
  2. What do I want to communicate through my design? Am I trying to sell or attract?
  3. What are my key visual elements? What are your brand colours, logos or iconic products people should associate with you?

Your Twitter header needs to represent you or your brand, but it also needs to be striking to catch people’s attention.

Let’s have a look at this header photo by Starbucks.

image-4-starbucks-header

When you land on their profile you clearly see their logo as their profile photo, but the cover image also shows precisely what they’re selling, and is branded again with their logo on the cups. It does everything you need it to, and they update it on a regular basis – which is even better as it doesn’t get boring.

Here at Time Saving Heroes we offer cover image designs for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, so if you aren’t making the right first impression just yet, we’re on hand to help you.

Give us a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk to find out more.

 

Why you shouldn’t just have your mobile number on your business cards

You might not know, but here at Time Saving Heroes we can design (and even arrange the print) of business cards.  We even offer packages to start-up businesses to help them get everything they need to launch in one place.

I was talking to one of our new start-up clients the other day about their business cards, and she was querying whether to put her mobile number on them or not.  She’s a one-woman band, working from home and therefore only has a mobile number.

Equally, because she’s in that starting zone the phone hasn’t started ringing yet.  At this precise moment she thinks the best thing she can offer her potential clients is constant access – she never wants to miss a call, because she never wants to miss business.

All of which makes perfect sense.

However, she hadn’t really thought about what happens when it does start ringing.  The problem with a phone is it’s quite difficult to ignore, especially if you think there’s a sale at the other end.  With most people not wanting to leave voicemails, we have a Pavlovian response to pick up.  Even if we’re at the hairdressers, the supermarket or in the middle of cooking dinner.

That’s all personal choice, but if a new client or a lead calls whilst you’re in an unsuitable location, and they can hear kids screaming in the background, or someone asking if you want fries with that, it’s not going to give the most professional of first impressions.

And they might not call back.

We had a good old chat about it, and she said the problem was she didn’t want to be tied to her house, and she didn’t want to get an office set up just so she could have a landline.  Which is when I asked if she’d ever thought about a Virtual Receptionist.

The benefit of using a call handling service is you have immediate access to a landline number, which will always be answered professionally, to give the right impression of your business.  Our service also means you can have a dedicated voicemail service for out of hours, or you can have calls diverted back to you to deal with if you prefer.

We have clients who give out their landline number on their business cards, and for sales but once a customer has been confirmed, they move them to their mobiles.  It’s one option, and one that works very well for many.

Another bonus of having a landline number is that it makes you look bigger than you actually are.  We all know that size doesn’t matter, but let’s not be shy, sometimes it does.  If you only have a mobile number on your business cards it says very clearly that you’re the only person to speak to.  There is no one else.

If you have a landline answered by a professional team, you automatically create a hierarchy.  Now, we’re not saying you’re going to get lots of complaints, but on the odd occasion when someone does want to complain, this hierarchy can work to your advantage.  Either the caller can be placated by an experienced customer service team, or they will feel their complaint has been escalated if they are eventually put through to you.

If they have access to you straight away, there’s nowhere for them to go after that if they remain disappointed.  Other than potentially social media. And nobody wants that.

 

If you want some advice about what to put on your business cards, are just starting out and want to find out about our packages or just fancy a chat (we love a good chat), give us a call on 0161 883 2024.

 

5 examples of good LinkedIn etiquette

I’ve been doing this gig for a while now, yet it never fails to amaze me how bizarrely people act on social networks compared to how they would in real life.

It’s almost as though when you sit someone behind a screen and ask them to connect with a fellow human being, all rational thought and social etiquette goes out the window.

And it really gets my goat.

So here are my top 5 tips when it comes to LinkedIn etiquette.

# 1 – Be personal when connecting

If you’ve decided you want to connect with someone, take the time to send them a personalised connection request.

If you were in a face to face environment you wouldn’t just go up to someone and shove your business card in their face, hoping they’d get back in touch with you one day. That would be rude.

It kind of works the same way on LinkedIn.

Sending someone a generic message shows you can’t be bothered to explain to them why you’re reaching out. What is it about them that makes you want to connect?  What is it you think you can offer them that would be of benefit?

Yes, many people will accept your request regardless of how you ask them to connect, but they’re not going to be invested in you.  They’ll just ignore your posts, and ultimately might end up removing you as a connection anyway. So what’s the point?

Put the effort in now, and you have a much better chance of establishing a genuine networking relationship.

# 2 – Once you accept, send a message

Far too often when you accept a connection request from a random person they don’t actually get in touch.  That means there’s no interaction, which is kind of the whole point of LinkedIn. Isn’t it?

The best thing you can do is send someone a personalised message as soon as you accept their invitation.  This is a great way to get the conversation started, and also get a better feel for whether they’re genuine, or are just collecting names and bulking out their contacts list.

# 3 – Say thank you

No doubt your parents always taught you to say please and thank you – well that rule hasn’t gone out the window just because you’re on LinkedIn.

If someone has taken the time to endorse you for one of your skills, then you owe then a thank you.  After all, they’ve gone out of their way to do something that’s of no benefit to them, but could be of benefit to you.

They didn’t have to do that.

Don’t feel obligated to endorse them back, although, if you can genuinely recommended them for a skill they possess there’s no reason why you wouldn’t.  However, make sure you avoid the trap of trading endorsements when you have no idea what you’re really talking about.

# 4 – Keep it professional

Not all social networks are created equal, and nor do they have the same purpose.  LinkedIn is not the place for you to share photos of your kids, your dog or to moan about the weather.

LinkedIn is business focussed, which means anything you post should be business related.  You can post about what you’re up to, who you want to connect with, ask for information or assistance from your connections and discuss industry news.

But no one wants to see a picture of what you’re having for lunch.

# 5 – Introduce people

The whole point of networking is to increase your network. I know it sounds obvious, but apparently when it comes to LinkedIn many people seem to have forgotten this.

One of the best things you can do when it comes to using this amazing platform is take the time to introduce your contacts. If you know someone who’s looking for a web designer, and you happen to know a web designer, then take a minute to introduce them to each other.

Facilitate other people’s connections and you greatly increase your own social capital, as well as getting a warm fuzzy feeling for doing a good thing.

 

If you want more tips on Netiquette please email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or call 0161 883 2024 to find out when our next training session is.

When friends aren’t friends

As someone who uses social media to market my personal brand, my business, my author persona, and for my clients I often take my presence on many networking platforms for granted.

Of course I’m on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  I dabble in a few others, but those three are my stalwarts for communication.

Over the years as I’ve met more and more people through networking I’ve accumulated significantly more *friends*. In fact, as I write this I have 424 of them on Facebook.

I say *friends* because it’s obviously a bit of a misnomer.

The standard definition of a friend is: “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations”.

Personally I feel the word affection oversells it a bit for a lot of my Facebook connections.  They’re alright, we perhaps get on, but that doesn’t necessarily make them my friends (any more than I am to them).

For me, a friend is someone you’d call up and invite round for a coffee.  You’d go out your way to phone a friend on their birthday. You’d actually check in with them once in a while.

I assure you I do not do that with the vast majority of my 424 *friends*.  And more’s the point, they don’t do it with me either.

Those of you that have had the pleasure of being friends with me on Facebook (or actually, shock horror, spend time with me in real life) will know I’m ever so slightly opinionated. I quite like a drink. I occasionally get selfie happy. And I swear far more than my Mother is comfortable with (sorry Mum, don’t know what happened there).

I’m loud, I’m proud and I’m gobby.  And just occasionally that really gets up people’s noses.

Whilst I understand and respect people’s rights to take a step back and think “oooh, she’s a bit whoa”, there’s not a tiny part of me that’s sorry.  You see, my Facebook profile is all about ME.  The good, the bad and the hungover.

On Facebook you see the real me. The piddled off with the world, frustrated Mum who wonders if it’s acceptable to drink at 2pm because it’s already been a long day. The Mum who can’t help but find it funny that her three year old can swear like a sailor in total context.  Yes, I know it’s not ideal, but he’s not beating the cr*p out of anyone or calling people names, so I’ll take that as a win. The Mum that sometimes thinks her autistic son is playing the ASD card a little too well, and might actually just be a kn*b at times.

Yeah, I said that.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking more about my social media presence. This whole accepting friends invites from people I barely know, but maybe met once at a networking event just because they asked and it would be rude not to isn’t sitting well with me.  I want to share photos of my babies, I want to moan about the client that hasn’t paid, I want to talk about my day and the idiot that wound me up without fear of recriminations.

I want to, and I will dag nammit.

So, I am having a legendary cull (though, because I’m not an attention seeking numpty I won’t be announcing it and then congratulating the people who were lucky enough to ‘survive’).  My cull isn’t meant to be the virtual equivalent of two fingers sticking up at a foe.

Instead it’s a nod to the fact that our relationship is, and should be, purely professional.  If you have been deleted (the ultimate virtual insult), please do not be offended.  Remember I am doing this because we are not mates, and that’s not a bad thing.  I want you to see me as the polished, consummate professional I pretend to be Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.  Well, some of the time between those hours, anyway.

Equally, I want to see you in the same way.

If I bump in to you at a networking event I don’t want my first thought to be “That was a lot of cleavage on Friday night”, or “Interesting adjectives you’ve been using for your ex-husband’s new girlfriend”, or “You come across as a self-indulged know-it-all in your look-at-me posts #LuckyGirl #Mumpreneur #LaptopLifestyle #HashtagAllTheThingsUntilSomethingSticks #IAmSoAmazingEveryoneWantsToBeLikeMe”.

They’re just examples from this week.

Some of them might be slightly exaggerated. To my knowledge nobody has used the last hashtag. Which is actually a shame. That would have been amusing.

Invariably we add people because we want to feel connected, but connection only comes from interaction.  When all your *friends* do is sit there and watch your life unfold before them, but aren’t actually part of your day to day doings, then that’s not friendship. That’s voyeurism.

Let’s just keep that, and the sales pitches to LinkedIn, shall we?

 

PS: Currently down to 260 actual friends.  It’s strangely cathartic!