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"Save Big Time with Virtual Training!"


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PJ Babcock Photo
2/6/04 Interview with PJ Babcock

Virtual Assistant
2843 Hopyard Road #178
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Biography

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Definition of Virtual Assistant

  1. A virtual assistant (VA) is an independent contractor who provides consulting and support services by working through the Internet instead of on site; real estate virtual assistants (REVAs) understand the real estate business and specialize in working with RE professionals.
  2. An advantage of using a VA is that you can gain expertise without the cost of hiring and training an employee and sustaining overhead costs.
  3. REVAs have their own equipment and software and understand the technology; they save agents from training their potential competitors.
Resources for Finding a VA

  1. The International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA) has a "request for proposal program" through which the organization pre-screens candidates and sends you three qualified candidates.
  2. The Real Estate and Virtual Assistant Network (REVA Network) is an online network of RE professionals and VAs; an agent can join the network at no charge and then participate in online discussions and search profiles of PREVAs, professional REVAs with at least 6-months' experience as a virtual RE assistant or at least 1-year's on-site experience.
  3. The Virtual Training Center also provides VA services in a team environment; team leaders are assigned to an agent and work with the best VAs to provide support services.
The Learning Curve

  1. Many VAs are already expert in RE software packages; if a new program is involved, the learning time is picked up by the VA.
  2. REVA Network and the Virtual Training Center partner with many industry vendors to provide training (and sometimes certification) to VAs.
Cost/Benefits of VAs

  1. Costs vary but are certainly less than having an on-site person, VAs are only paid for the time they work.
  2. VAs may charge by the hour or by the project; the average range is $25-$45 per hour, typically, the more you pay the more experience you get.
  3. Some VAs work on retainer arrangements; most of Babcock's agents have 10-15 hr/mo. agreements so that her VAs can focus on their business and truly become work partners.
  4. VAs are as valuable to new agents as to established, top-producing agents; new agents especially benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience that a VA can contribute.
  5. REVAs can help new agents set up direct mail campaigns and email drip marketing campaigns, set up and improve their web site, and generate leads, tasks that will grow their business.
The Search Process

  1. Hiring a VA frees you from the pitfalls of conducting a physical search; you can focus on skills without being influenced by appearance.
  2. Building trust is important to establishing a good working relationship; spend time talking with the VA to determine if work styles and approaches to business management are compatible.
  3. Check references and ask for samples of the VA's work or explanation of how work projects were accomplished; a work trial is sometimes helpful; referrals are often the best guideline.
Potential Competitive Issues

  1. The Virtual Training Center's strict written agreements with VAs include confidentiality clauses; one role of the team leader assigned to agents is to look out for the interests of each agent.
  2. Most VAs would find that it is not in their own best interest to compromise a good relationship with an agent.
  3. VAs working nationally are highly unlikely to have more that one agent-client in the same market; the chance is greater within a local VA market, some VAs are willing to sign an agreement not to work with another agent in the same ZIP code.
Letting Someone Go

  1. Defining the criteria up front about how you need to work together sets the stage for an easy parting of the ways if the arrangement does not work.
  2. Termination is more often due to a mismatch in style than nonperformance; if there is something that the VA or the agent could do better, that should be communicated so that the next experience can be better.
  3. The Virtual Training Center's contracts typically specify 30-days' notice; if someone is unhappy, he or she needs to be able to get out.
  4. The center has multiple VAs with expertise in a variety of areas, so if a VA leaves the center, an agent-client would experience no disruption in service; many other VAs have similar backup.
  5. Both the agent and the VA should document all shared information, passwords, URLS, etc.; for security, the agent should save everything.
  6. If a relationship is not working, cut it off early, then change passwords to protect security; terminating a VA is easier than firing an employee.
Crash Course in SettlementRoom Express

  1. Virtual Training Center will be running a live, online training course for Society members on how to set up and use the new, free Society's SettlementRoom Express.
  2. The one-hour session will give an overview of online transaction management, how the process works and how to promote it to clients; it will convey the benefits of using the software as well as the how-to.
  3. To participate, students need Internet access, a high-speed modem and a phone; cost is only $25 for Society members; to register, click on the Society tab at www.virtualtrainingcenter.com or call 925-398-6220.
Favorite Web Sites

  1. Great technology e-newsletters include Michael Russer's ePower News, Allen Hainge's Cyberstar News and the Society's Real Estate CyberTips.
  2. Great industry news sites are Realty Times, Inman News, Broker Agent News and Real Trends.
  3. Michael Russer's site is also the best site on the Web for information about using VAs.
Contact Information for PJ Babcock:

(v) 925-398-6220
(f) 925-485-4578
(e) PJ@VirtualTrainingCenter.com
(w)www.VirtualTrainingCenter.com


Real Estate Sites & Tools in this Briefing:

Virtual Training Center:
www.virtualtrainingcenter.com

International Association of Virtual Office Assistants:
www.iavoa.com

REVA Network:
www.revanetwork.com

The Society's Real Estate CyberTips:
www.REcyber.com

Other RE technology newsletters:
www.cyberstars.net
www.epowernews.com

Industry news sites:
www.realtytimes.com
www.inman.com
www.realtrends.com
www.brokeragentnews.com