It's the summer of superheroes and as the boss lady of your empire, you don't need anyone to point out the very real threat that your inbox poses to your time, focus and sanity.
And yet, it doesn't have to be this way!
In fact, you are in the very fortunate position of being able to give your virtual assistant (VA) the greatest superpower of them all: they can turn your inbox into a sales funnel!
All YOU have to do is set yours up to do so and in this guest-post, I'll show you how!
In case we haven't been introduced, I'm Lanie Lamarre from Miss #GSD.
I was talking to our miss Indigo about the tools we use and love, and how VAs help us make the most of them. When I explained the process I use to treat my inbox like a virtual sales funnel, Indigo graciously offered me this space to share those details with you and to guide both you and your VA through taking your email management to the next level. (Thanks Indigo!)
Let's get into this!
THIS IS THE LAST TIME I'M SAYING THIS!
Chances are that you're answering the same types of questions on the regular.
Maybe it's troubleshooting tech issues. Maybe it's guest-posting inquiries. Maybe it's asking people for affiliate links. Whatever!
It's your business, your inbox and nobody knows better than you what those Frequently Asked Questions are.
But that doesn't mean YOU have to be the one to answer those same questions, over and over again!
Round up your FAQs and write out responses for them - one last time, with enthusiasm! - because you're going to start using canned responses and this is the last time you'll ever have to write out that reply. *high fives*
"Wait... what are canned responses?"
Think of it as the art of copying + pasting email replies. You're essentially saving a pre-scripted template that you can quickly + easily plug into your email as many times as the same inquiry comes up.
Let's see how that works:
Click the gear icon in the upper right corner of your Gmail.
Then, from the dropdown menu, select SETTINGS.
Go to the LABS tab and locate CANNED RESPONSES.
Click the ENABLE button.
#PROTIP: They're listed alphabetically.
Click on the COMPOSE box and write out the email you want to save like it was the last time you would ever have to do so. Because it is!
#PROTIP: To make sure your responses seem less "canned," you can highlight areas to be personalized to each email such as names or dates. It makes it easier for whoever is replying to know exactly what data they need to plug-in and by highlighting those areas, it means it's less likely that someone would overlook something they were supposed to address directly to the sender.
At the bottom of the email:
- Click on the down arrow in the lower right hand corner called MORE OPTIONS.
- Select CANNED RESPONSES.
- In italics, you'll see NEW CANNED RESPONSES - click on that.
- Finally, give your script a name.
When it is time to reply to someone using that response, simply click on the MORE OPTIONS button again, go to CANNED RESPONSES and then select the response that addresses the inquiry in question.
"But I don't use Gmail!"
That's no reason to repeat yourself like a broken record, like a broken record, like a broken record. If you're using Apple Mail or Outlook, you can click on SIGNATURE to store and retrieve these in the same way as I've demonstrated with Gmail.
INTERESTED IN SOME PRE-SCRIPTED TEMPLATES YOU CAN USE FOR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS LIKE PAYMENT INQUIRIES, TECH ISSUES, NETWORKING REQUESTS + MORE? THEY'RE FREE FOR THE TAKING, JUST LET ME KNOW WHERE TO SEND THEM!
You're all set up with your replies - great! - but now what?
Chances are, you'll still get the odd question that you didn't prepare for.
The thing is, though, that you should never be answering a question more than twice: once is an exception but the second time a question comes up, it's a trend.
When you realize you're writing a response for the second time, write the best version of that email you possibly can. And then?
START TASKING YOUR INBOX TO YOUR VA
Your VA can now respond to emails in the exact same way as you would because, well, they'll be using the exact words you wrote each + every time.
You can introduce them to canned responses with THIS VIDEO and then ask them to then review those you've put in place. That way, they can start familiarizing themselves with how they can respond to client inquiries.
The more time your VA spends in your inbox, they're bound to notice other frequently asked questions that could use a canned response, too. Task them with letting you know when these situations come up and let them create new canned responses to be used.
I totally get the anxiety that comes with handing over the reins of your inbox like this - I'm an only child and I fly my control freak flag pretty high, too! - but remember that your VA is using the responses and the language that YOU wrote.
How your VA responds will be exactly as good as if you did because they are, in fact, using your exact wording!
And all that time and energy you freed up isn't even the best part: we have yet to set up your inbox to make you BANK!
Let's say someone emails you asking about payment plans for your program.
Every single time someone asks you this, you'll find that the exchange follows a similar communication pattern and the goal is always to guide them towards making that purchase, right?
Your exchange after someone asks about payment options will likely look something like this:
Answer question --> Follow-up --> Sale is made
And you don't want that sequence to be interrupted by something as B.S. as forgetting to follow up on an interested client!
Depending on the nature of your business, there will be a bajillion (<--official number) variations on the formula for your sales funnel but you basically need to identify:
- How prospective clients are introduced into your sales funnel; and
- What are the stages this person will go through before the sale is made.
For instance, a chapel manager onboarding bridal clients will almost always follow a similar formula when they receive an inquiry about availability:
Confirmed availability and provided price list --> Followed up to gauge interest --> Sent contract --> Deposit payment and date booked --> Balance paid --> Day of event --> Followed up on experience/gathered testimonial
In Gmail, you can actually embed this exact funnel into your inbox in a way that will allow you to track what stage each and every one of your clients are situated within that funnel.
How do you bring such a wonderful tool into your own operations?
INSTALL A CLIENT RELATIONSHIP MANAGER
There are a lot of options for you to choose from when it comes to what the cool kids like to call "CRM's" but allow me to introduce you to Streak for Gmail.
Why Streak? Well, because you can install it for free, for starter. Mhmmmm - free!
And because although it takes a minute to learn how to use, it's an incredibly flexible tool that is easy to get used to.
Wanna see it in action? Check this out!
Instead of tracking individual emails, you'll work in something closer to a folder system.
Each time a client sends you a new email or a supporting document is exchanged such as a contract or a quote, you'd include that in a Box where all information relating to that client is stored.
This means that you are done with wasting time searching for "that email with that thing" - amen!
But what is even better is that by establishing these sales funnels - which Streak calls Pipelines - is that you don't necessarily have to be the only one who has to follow up with each and every email because your VA is now able to come into your inbox and know exactly what the next step or the next requirement is for your clients.
Going back to our above example, when a Future Mrs. asks about Availability, your VA can actually move your prospect to the next stage by replying with your canned response featuring your available packages, and then they can also handle the follow-up email next week, all because you've set up your Pipeline to make it easy for anyone in your organization to handle clients and sales using the exact process and the exact wording you would have.
Even if you don't work with a VA, using a CRM is a good habit to get into. Not only does it make managing clients that much easier but it makes it that much more unlikely for anything to fall between the cracks or off your radar.
And anything that results in writing fewer emails and having happier clients? That's a total superpower!
Are you itching to hire your own virtual assistant now? Make sure you check out my course that will walk you through the entire process of finding + hiring your dreamiest virtual assistant! Click the picture to get started. :)