Continuing our series of articles on selling for Virtual Assistants, Eric Alston describes the second stage, The Approach

First of all you need to find your potential customer. There are many ways to do this:-

  • Enquiries from your website
  • Trade magazines and directories
  • Networking events and trade exhibitions
  • National and local press

Next you need to establish contact and get into dialogue. This is obviously easier if you are already face-to-face at a networking event or exhibition. Your approach could be something like this:-

Good morning Mr. (Customer), (Jane Smith) from (XYZ VA). I wanted to see you especially because (I think that from our range of activities we may have something of particular value to you). I’m not sure but it will only take a few minutes to find out, TELL ME, (opening question)?

The words in brackets can be changed to suit the situation but the phrase TELL ME is extremely useful as it provides a natural lead into asking research questions.

If we analyse this basic approach statement we can see it has significant benefits:-

1. It says WHO you are, WHERE you are from and WHY you are there

2. It gets you straight down to business. (Neither you nor your customer have time to waste)

3. It is not offensive to the customer and does not challenge them in any way; it does not make claims or invite objections. (“…I’m not sure…”)

4. It is businesslike and competent


6. It invites them to talk about their favourite subject – THEMSELVES

Of course if you are not already face to face there is no alternative but to telephone for an appointment. (Cold calling by just turning up on the doorstep is not recommended!). A slightly modified approach statement is appropriate:-

Good morning Mr. (Customer), (Jane Smith) from (XYZ VA). I‘m calling you especially because (I think that from our range of activities we may have something of particular value to you). I’m not sure but it will only take a few minutes to find out, could you spare me some time next Tuesday or would Wednesday be better for you.

Some customers will try to get you to do your whole sales presentation over the telephone. This is not to your advantage as it doesn’t allow you to put across your personality in the same way as a face to face meeting, however if there is no other way because the potential customer is some distance from you, and many VA customers are, then try to follow the standard procedures just the same.

Once you have established dialogue with your potential customer the next step is to ask research questions designed to get them talking about their situation, their business, their problems, THEIR NEEDS. Don’t be tempted to sell them anything at this stage. You should be listening to answers to your questions and prompting them to expand on anything that is not clear. Make it a conversation not an inquisition by commenting on their answers. Remember human beings have two of everything down the sides and one of everything in the middle – you have two ears and one mouth and at this stage you should be using them in that proportion.

The opening question is intended to get your prospect to talk about THEMSELVES and therefore should:-


(b) Be one they could be expected to answer

(c) Be worded so it is easily understood

(d) Be relevant (i.e. be about something you want to know)

It should lead to discussion and further questions designed to discover:-

(a) What they are doing and how they do it at present

(b) The result being achieved and any problems encountered

(c) Any improvement desired or possible


Next time we will look how to construct an effective sales proposition that leads naturally and logically to a request for the business!

Eric Alston is a former head of European sales for a major international chemical company.