Yes, it's true, and it was one of the smartest business decisions I ever made!
Two and half years ago, I started to get really busy, and I couldn't keep up with all the phone calls. Many of them would happen while I was in appointments with customers (and I didn't want to answer then), and I would find my voicemail would constantly fill up. Then, if it was full, I was always in this dilemma...should I answer (and interupt the person I was with) or let it go. If it was a private number, I wouldn't even be able to call them back.
The other issue I had is that I used to have many paid leads (coming from places like Service Magic), which required calling someone right away - within 5 minutes. (although calling within 60 seconds was much better). I couldn't be present everywhere, and I found this frustrating and stressful.
So, I was contemplating hiring an answering service. I had one previously, but at the time, it just didn't seem worth it as I wasn't getting enough calls to justify the cost. But, now things had changed and I really needed help. And, I needed more than what a typical answering service could provide...I needed someone to answer the phones + call the leads + set up appointments.
So, what did I do?
I took a risk and hired a Virtual Assistant! I figured I would try it for 2-3 months and see how it worked. I did the math to figure out how much extra business I needed to justify the cost and it meant a bit less than one incremental appointment per week, and this to me felt very achievable, so I gave it a shot..
The person I hired was actually someone I knew who had the right sort of phone voice, professionalism and can do attitude. She's a mom who had some extra time and wanted to do a bit of extra work, but she would not be available to be in the office (given her kids). And that was fine. At the time, we guestimated that the time spent on the phone would be 5-8 hrs per week altogether. The calls would come at all different times, so it was spread out, and this seemed to work. We got her a cell phone (we split the costs because she needed a cell phone so it saved us both money) and this allowed her to answer the calls wherever she was (without spending time and gas coming to the office) and it allowed me to have someone being available for the majority of the week.
We forwarded the office # to her cell. (We can do this online since I use optimum online and I can even swith it to my cell during holidays).
Well, this worked smashingly well. Within a week, she was already booking more appointments for me...and she was freeing up my time, so I could be more focused on closing sales and focusing on the customers. It was amazing and worked out much better than I imagined. We booked an incremental 2 appointments a week - more than double the goal + my close rate improved +20%. It was a true win win.
As I started to close more sales, I then had more work that was needed and more money that I could pay an assistant. (Previously, that money had not existed). So, we later moved her extra hours to 10 per week, then 15, then 20...and now it's around 40 hours a week
It has really been a virtuous relationship. My customers love her and she does an amazing job. I've been able to delegate more and more work to her which has been excellent. As we go along, I train her more and more...and vice versa (she gives me plenty of advice, too). She is now great at sizing up the customer - understanding what they need, where they are in the decision making process, what they're looking for. She now helps set me up for success with the appointments and this has really helped.
I'm so glad I took this risk. And, now, looking back, it doesn't feel like it was really a risk at all.
This is a submission for the March contest: Eliminating Inefficiencies In Real Estate - A Contest. You can enter, too.