SDR Agency vs. Hiring a Virtual Sales Assistant: Pro’s and Con’s

By: Jack Reamer |
 December 2, 2022 |
We have had a few founders reach out to us saying that they were looking for a sales assistant to help scale their company’s growth.  But during some research, they noticed Salesbread’s website and decided to compare the two options.  SDR agency vs. a virtual sales assistant. At Salesbread we like to inform clients of all their options so that they can make the best decision for their business.  In this article, we will compare the differences between hiring an agency and taking on a full-time SDR. This will in turn help readers make the best choice to scale their business and save money in the process.  (If you would like to reach out to us, we offer free 15-minute consultation calls. Salesbread is a boutique lead generation that will bring you 20+ sales-qualified leads per month using ultra-personalized LinkedIn + email outreach, or your money back.)

Before you make your decision, ask yourself:

1. Do you have the time to train a sales employee?

If you are a founder or the VP of sales and you would like to hire a virtual sales assistant, you need to think about how much time you have to offer training. Initially, it’s important to invest time into working along with your sales reps so that they understand the ins and outs of your business. You might have to review all their work for the first few months to ensure that they understand exactly what they need to do.   We once interviewed Lucas Mikelinich, who is the sales VP for a Saas Saas called Negotiatus.  Lukas mentions how the number one thing that you need to do is have constant communication with your sales team So be honest with yourself. 
Do you have the time and patience to help your sales virtual assistant be the best that they can be? 
Prospecting might not even be your favorite thing, but it’s important to help your new sales assistant understand what they are selling and its benefits.  Training is time-consuming. You might even have to review their script or sales pitch until it’s perfect.  And if you have the time and patience, and enjoy the sales process, then that’s great. Hiring a sales assistant might be the right move.

2. Do you have the funds to hire a full-time sales assistant or take on an SDR agency?

Cost of hiring an assistant

As a business owner, you also need to ask yourself if you have the funds to pay a full-time sales employee This is especially true if you are a newly-fledged business and are still finding your feet.  You might not want to pay someone immediately until you figure out your exact sales strategy.   On average you can expect to pay between $6000-$10.000 per month.  And this excludes things like: 
  • Courses
  • Taxation
  • Workman’s compensation
  • Benefits, such as health and retirement insurance
  • Office equipment, internet, and tea/coffee.
So on top of your SDR’s salary, you can expect to pay an additional $1,916 per month. Most entrepreneurs pay their sales reps $76,065 per year (and this is only 1 sales rep.)

Cost of hiring an agency

Sales agencies can be costly… If you choose the wrong agency. But if you choose the right company to partner up with, you could save a ton of money and have qualified sales leads come in relatively quickly. When hiring an agency you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $20,000 per month. With the median being between $5000 – $10,000 per month.  Some appointment setting agencies charge between $50 and $400 per booked appointment. But remember you’re saving on costs like employee benefits, office equipment etc. If you do hire a virtual sales assistant, you might not need to pay the above, but it’s important to have an open chat with your potential new employee to figure out what they would like as well.  Perhaps they expect you to pay for any data used, phone calls or lead generation tools. So work out your budget. See what you can afford and which option would be the best for ROI. 

3. Should you hire a freelancer instead of a full-time sales assistant?

Yes, a virtual sales assistant might be quite a bit more affordable, especially if you are hiring them off Upwork or Fiverr. According to research you can expect to pay between $20-$60 per consultation, or between $15-$25 per hour.  What’s nice about these platforms is that they have filters you can use to search for the right people. See the example below:
But there is a caveat here. Not everyone on these freelancing platforms is the best at what they do Some might be great, others might be terrible.  Therefore when you do decide to onboard new team members choose your top 100 candidates, and read through each of their profiles. You can then weed out who you think would be an ideal fit, and set up meetings with them.  Once you do this, you can then ask the best ones to do a small test task to make sure that they are the right fit for your business. 
PRO TIP
Make the assessment tasks a bit of a hurdle. Why? Because if a salesperson is willing to jump through hoops it means that they really want the job. Being a sales rep isn’t for everyone and it takes a certain amount of tenacity to be a great salesperson. If someone is willing to go the extra mile, it means that they might be a good fit.  This article gives great advice when looking to hire a sales assistant.  And as we mentioned earlier, a full-time in-house SDR could cost up to $76 000 more or less per year. It also depends on which state you are based in.  As some sales reps charge more depending on the states they live in.  This article: https://salesbread.com/business-development-representative-salaries/ will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay a sales rep in over 50 states. 

4. Is your product/service sellable?

If you have a brand new product that you think will be a roaring success, wait a bit before hiring a sales assistant. Why? Because if you don’t have enough data yet on how well your product/service is selling, it can be risky to start spending cash on salaries.
And it doesn’t matter if you hire a sales rep or an agency, if your product isn’t selling, you’re setting yourself up for major stress.
If you’re using outbound methods to sell your first unit, don’t pay tons of money to let someone else do that for you.  It’s much too early.  As a founder, you have to make sure that there is interest in your product, and you have to do this first. (Even if you hate cold calling or writing cold emails.) You have to make sure that your product is sellable, and that it’s something that potential customers want and need.  It’s not someone else’s job, you have to make sure at least that there is some interest in the market for your product. It’s not an agency’s role to come and solve your sales problem. So what we suggest is selling your product for at least 6 months before onboarding sales assistant services. If you wait 6 months, you will then have enough data to see how well your product/service is doing. This information is also important because, without it, you won’t be able to conduct prospect research to figure out who your ideal buyer is. 

5. Would you need an appointment setter, someone to close deals or find qualified leads? 

As we mentioned earlier, you need to be honest with yourself and think about what you enjoy doing and if you have time. Maybe you love closing deals but hate lead generation Think about your needs. Would you like an agency that sets appointments and does lead gen? Or would you just need an agency to find qualified leads for you, and then you can close the deals?  Or would you like to hire a rep that does it all?  Ask the agency, or sales rep beforehand what they specialize in… Whether it’s B2B leads, B2C, or if they do it all. 

If you have clear answers to all of the above questions, you can then decide whether a sales assistant or an SDR agency will be the best fit for your business.

Pros and Cons of hiring an SDR agency

It’s important to note that not every sales agency out there has their client’s best interests at heart. Some bigger companies might just view your business as a number, and not offer the same personalized experience that another agency might offer.  So before you decide to hire an agency, you need to ask these 10 questions first.  Here are some red flags to be aware of:
  • If a lead generation agency locks you into a contract… run… 
You should be staying because of their excellent results. Not a contract. At Salesbread we don’t lock our clients into contracts, and they are welcome to stop using our services at any time. (Yes a heads-up would be great, but you won’t be expected to sign on for months on end.)
  • They only use one outreach channel. A good SDR agency should use more than just one channel. 
For example, if they only do cold calling, you run the risk of losing out on other leads who might prefer a cold email. So ask the agency which outreach channels they use.  At Salesbread we make use of:
  • Linkedin outreach
  • Cold email
  • SMS
So if we can’t get hold of a prospect via Linkedin, we will send them a message via email. 
  • They can’t give you a clear sales strategy. An agency needs to be completely transparent with you. If they can’t explain exactly how they will bring leads in, be wary. Lead generation shouldn’t be a secret. 
  • They don’t use personalized messages. If an agency promises to reach out to thousands of leads, and they use the same generic template, don’t hire them. 
Chances are you are going to be paying thousands of dollars and get very few (if any) qualified sales leads. Personalization ensures that prospects reply.  People ignore generic messages. Period. 

Pros

Scale you business growth quickly

An SDR agency can scale your company’s growth quickly because they already have a lead generation strategy that has been tried and tested. If your product is sellable, and you know your exact target audience an agency can run with it and bring in leads fast.

Agencies don’t need training.

This means that the time you would have spent training an SDR is now freed up. All you would have to do is share your ideal target audience, and hopefully, the agency will build an ultra-targeted list of prospects (like Salesbread does) and you will have to double-check that the copy is right. 

SDR agencies are more cost-effective initially.

If you hire an agency you don’t have to worry about paying for things such as lead generation tools or employee benefits. 

Get your first lead within 48 hours.

The right agency should bring you your first lead within 48 hours after the campaign launch. (Salesbread has a track record of bringing our clients their first lead within the first 2 days and guaranteed 20+ sales-qualified leads per month.)

An agency has the experience and ability to write good copy.

So if writing isn’t your strong point, a lead generation agency can do this for you. They should have a copy writer and personalization expert on their team. This person will be soley responsible for writing personalized messages, or scripts.

Teach you how to generate leads

If your company partners up with a really good lead gen agency, then they will be open enough with you to show how they generate leads. This type of “training” means that you can bring the entire process in-house once you are ready to do so. 

Cons

Hiring the wrong agency could mean no ROI.

Hiring the wrong lead generation company can be detrimental.  Why? Because imagine paying between $3000-$10 000 and not getting one lead. We actually had a client who hired a well-known Linkedin ad agency and paid about $8000 and never even received 1 lead. Some agencies might even promise to reach out to thousands of prospects, but when leads do come in, they are all the wrong fit. If an agency does not use personalization or build ultra-targeted lists, be very careful. You’re going to just be throwing cash down the drain.

Pricing might be unaffordable for new founders.

The pricing of some agencies might be high for new entrepreneurs. If this is the case, it would be better to do lead gen yourself for a short period of time, until you have enough capital to hire an agency. They will just scale what you’re already doing, and bring in more leads quicker. 

No “personal touch.” – Your campaign might be lead by someone who lacks expereince

Many bigger agencies might not have that “personal touch.” For example, they could have hundreds of other clients meaning that they view you as a number. You might get fobbed off to a sales manager who might not have as much experience as the founder. 
At Salesbread our clients work along with the founder, and we only take on a few clients at a time (in fact we have a waiting list). This ensures excellent service. 

Pros and cons of hiring a virtual sales assistant.

Pros

Saves you time

Hiring a virtual assistant can take a lot of time off your hands. If you need someone for scheduling meetings, adding more leads to your sales pipeline, and closing deals, then a virtual assistant might be ideal. 

Could be more affordable

A virtual sales assistant might be cheaper than hiring a full-time in-house SDR. You might be able to hire a freelancer over Upwork from another part of the world who has excellent skills and a cheaper rate. 

Save on office expenses

If you do hire virtual sales support you won’t have to pay for things like office rent, office furniture, or tea/coffee. You could just use a platform like Slack or Discord as virtual office space.  And if you want to, you could still offer the freelancer some benefits. Perhaps paid leave, or incentives for work well done.  But this will still be cheaper than having to pay for all the extra expenses that come with hiring office space. 

Training someone new could be beneficial.

When choosing a sales assistant you can train them from scratch to do exactly what you need them to. Some founders prefer starting off afresh with someone newly experienced because they can teach them the ropes from the get-go. If an assistant is willing to be adaptable and learn, then that’s a great start for any small business owner.

Cons

Finding the right sales assistant is hard.

It can take time to find the right sales assistant. You might need to wade through a few before you find the right person for the job.  This also means that initially, you might have a bit of churn at your company, which can be frustrating; especially if you spend a lot of time training potential candidates.

Training can be frustrating – Especially if you don’t have time.

If you don’t have the time to train a sales/administrative assistant, it can be really frustrating. They might need you to be hands-on for the first 3 months before they begin to do well at their job. ( Most HR managers say that it takes 3 months to onboard and if an employee still struggles after this, they might not be the right person for the job.)  But if you don’t have the time to train new employees, it might be better to hire an agency.  

A full time inhouse sales assistant can be pricey.

If you choose to hire a full-time in-house sales assistant it can be expensive. As mentioned earlier you should expect to pay at least $76 000 per year for just 1 sales rep

Different time zones can be a challenge

Hiring a virtual sales assistant who lives in another time zone can also be a challenge. Especially if you need to set up meetings. You would have to find a middle ground to schedule meetings that will suit everyone’s needs.

But…. There is also a perfect middle ground.

If you are still unsure of which choice is best, you might want to hire a sales consultant to help you figure out a strategy for more leads in your sales funnel. Consultants are normally a fraction of the price, and you don’t have to hire them forever.  Salesbread offers consultation services too, or you could also check out Clarity.fm, which is a platform that allows you to chat with experts. 

So? Which option is best for you?

The answer really depends on your needs as a founder.  If you have the time and resources, getting an assistant might be the solution to all your sales tasks But if you don’t have the time, or the capacity to deal with an in-house team, hiring an agency who are expert sales professionals, like Salesbread, might be the better choice.  If 1 guaranteed lead per day sounds like a no-brainer, please feel free to reach out to us for a free 15-minute consultation call. 

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