Managing your emails or inboxes is definitely one of the more challenging things to outsource, but there are effective ways to do it. We’d like to share this video that our co-founder, Charley Valher, presented in the “Business by Design” group. He provides some valuable insight and tools on how to find solutions in managing the number one most time-consuming yet essential task of every business – managing emails. Watch and check the video transcript below:
How to outsource your email? This was my biggest problem. When I was just staging my business, I was actually getting locked up on email for 3 to 4 hours a day. It was absolutely hectic. I wasn’t enjoying it at all. Then I realized that it was going to be really hard for me to keep growing my business if all I was doing is email. Not only that—emails are boring, they’re not enjoyable. I understand that they’re an essential part of every business – we want to communicate with everyone really well. We want to make sure that we’re getting things back and forth. It’s never nice to not be replied to by email and so this is something that we’ve got to spend time working on. Systems will set you free. When I was working with a small team, I didn’t take systems too seriously. It was only when I get past having 16 members or up to 10 to 12 members that systems became more and more important. So what I want to encourage everyone to do is to start understanding systems more. When I was smaller, I could have avoided a lot of headaches managing my team as we got bigger. Now with everything I do with my staff and team, I always think about what the system we can do for this to keep it consistent, deliver it well. Then eventually the bigger picture is that someone can take care of it and I know that they’re going to do a great job. The 6 steps … There’s a 6-step process that I followed and it really worked for me, and so you can do it also. Step 1) Access If you’re going to get someone to manage your emails, how do you get to have them manage your inbox? Do we have to give them password? Do we set them up? What’s the actual procedure? What I do is I use Gmail for all my emails. Reason being is you can give someone else access without giving your password and also to make sure that you don’t get locked out of your own email, if that’s a concern. For me now, it’s not a concern. I would happily give my VA my passwords and I’m pretty sure she got them already so I don’t really worry about that too much. But in the beginning, I can get a bit nervous. So Gmail is a really good tool to get around that. You can give someone permission to manage your emails without you getting locked out. If you look around, Outlook has similar features but if you can, Gmail is just fantastic. Step 2) List of approved senders Before a VA can just get in there and start replying and managing your emails, what YOU need to provide is a list of approved senders. So this is how you’re going to think about it. In your inbox, you’re going to have some categories. I’m going through mine now. So in my inbox, I have a category which is “people who know my VA is pretty much managing my inbox". If one of my good friends sent an email, my VA knows that she can reply as herself and say “Hi, It’s Juvy. Charley is doing this…” That’s fine. I don’t mind if my friends or family get replied to by my VA. The second category are people that need to be replied to as YOU but your VA is okay to do that. So there are certain people that you put into a list and tell your VA that this list of emails — you are fine to reply as me. And then there’s the third category of people which is — the emails that you tell your VA not reply to or people that you need to personally reply to. So the idea is that you need to categorise the emails that your VA can reply to as YOU, emails that they can reply to as them (they need to introduce themselves as your VA), and then emails that are crucial to your business or emails that you need to personally reply to. Think about it in your VA’s perspective – when you get into that inbox, your VA doesn’t have any way to know what your relationships are with the people who sent you emails – these are things that only you would know. So by creating a list of approved senders, you can effectively start your VA to takeover your inbox. Step 3) The rules (if this, then that) On top of having a list of approved senders, you have to set up some rules around what we do in certain situations so we can follow it: “if this then that”. The way I like to think about it is: if this type of email comes in, I want you to do that. So I’ll give you a really good example: in one of my businesses we do AdWords work and if an AdWords client emails me, then my VA knows that she can pass it on to the AdWords team to get fixed. So for client emails saying – “Hey, we want to put some money in this keyword or we want to turn our budget up or down", my VA will take that email, forward it to the team and then reply with what they need – and so I won’t be bothered or involved about any of it. My VA knows that that’s the process to follow where the client can really get good communication, the team can solve the issue, and it’s not passing through me. Another idea here is when you’re in a type of business that has new leads coming—so whenever a new lead comes in, you tell your VA if you want to send them an email with a list of questions and a link to book in to my calendar so that I can have an appointment with them. That’s a really effective solution as you might be out and about, you might be in a meeting, but you want your new leads to feel loved and welcome them. Not from an auto responder but with a personal email, making them feel like you’re onboard – not that you aren’t. We’re busy business owners and this is an effective way of making them feel that. You’ve got to spend time having a look at your emails, see what types of emails are coming in and design some rules that will allow the VA to manage it effectively – whether it’s delegating it to a team member to actual responding. So have a look at your emails—this is a really important step. Step 4) Template replies So now that you’ve given someone the access and a list of who can and who can’t be replied to, and you have set some rules in place, it’s now exciting to see how things can take shape. So the next step from there is, though this if often a big hurdle, is that we sometimes expect our VA to be able to look at the way we write emails and copy them, which is just insane. For me, the better way would be having some template replies. So in the previous example, about leads, if you write an email or have written an email—you can check your sent items and share with your VA so she can have something to start with. So spend some time creating these templates or you can have your VA write some templates for you, and then you can read and approve them so you have them ready to go. Step 5) Dictation replies Earlier, I mentioned about those emails that we don’t want our VAs to reply to – WE want to reply to them. I think that’s too much work and there’s an easier way to deal with those types of emails. Here’s what I do – I use an app called Voxer (or even Facebook has this feature as well) and I read the email and I actually dictate a reply using these apps. I create a voice message and send it to my VA. My VA will write it up and I’ll say if it’s okay for her to send it or if I want her to send it to me first so I can check. This is a really big time saver in itself. People will be surprised to know how much time they actually spend writing emails or replies. If you’re doing a lot of the same emails or getting a lot of the same questions, you might want to spend time setting up a template or dictate a reply to your VA. Step 6) Book a time daily to brief This is a very important step especially at the beginning. I’m at the stage now where my VA and I have been doing this for so long and it’s a very orderly part—you will get there in a couple of months. But in the beginning, what I found really effective was booking a time for daily brief. In the beginning, it’s most likely you or the VA or whoever you’re doing this with , and you will both be checking your inbox regularly to make sure that you transition smoothly. You would want to QA what the VA is doing at the beginning just to make sure it’s all going well, and then you eventually pull back. Book a time in the day, maybe in the morning or at the evening, to discuss what emails YOU need to reply to and your VA can reply to, you can dictate all your replies in one bulk, the VA will type them up and send them and you’re off and on your way. In 15 minutes, it’s amazing how many emails you can get through and get all those replies and automations. The bigger picture here is that obviously, you’re never going to be completely hands off with email. The idea here is how you can get the reduction now, as you’ll want to spend as little time as possible in it. So for most people, if you could cut your email down to 20-25% of what you’re used to doing, it’s still such a huge time saver. Even I do have days now when I don’t even check my emails because it’s just not needed – and that’s the place where we all want to be up to. Keep in mind – Start small. Keeping in mind that this is a lot of information coming in and you do have to do a little bit of the work—where do you start? What I would say is start small. Set up an access, set up a couple of approved senders, a couple of templates and start the process gradually. Instead of offering the whole thing, just start piece by piece and get comfortable with your VA. Get comfortable with the replies and put the time in. It does mean that there’s a little bit of extra work in the beginning, but the long-term value is so much more effective.