May 09, 2017 by - Dale Archdekin

The Difference Between ISAs and OSAs

In a text message and social media world, acronyms baffle and evolve faster than users can keep up, but it shouldn’t be so in the real estate world.

Then what is the difference between ISAs and OSAs?  Surely not just one letter.  Ask most people in the real estate industry how they differentiate between Inbound Sales Associates (ISAs) and Outbound Sales Associates (OSAs), and you’ll see that this FAQ is met with a shrug and an IDK, because most teams don’t differentiate WTF the roles of ISAs and OSAs entail.  Alright, enough with the acronyms.

Let’s explore the often confusing use of the term ISA and OSA within the world of inside sales for real estate teams.

Defining the Roles of ISAs and OSAs

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Inbound sales associates and outbound sales associates are certainly two distinct roles; however, it should be noted that this division is an organizational choice typically made by larger real estate teams.  They will designate an inbound inside sales agent to receive all the warm, inbound inquiries and leads.  They then designate an outbound sales agent to do all of the tough, outbound cold-calling.  To go beyond defining roles into the realm of filling those roles it helps to know the personality type that would best associate with each task specific to the inbound/outbound roles.  You wouldn’t cast an aggressive Casanova in the role of “lovesick wallflower,” would you? These are by no means hard and fast rules, but it is a good place to start when differentiating the inbound and outbound roles.

Inbound Sales Agent

The classic description of the personality best suited for the inbound sales role is someone sharing a farmer’s disposition:

  • Nurturing: handling mere seeds of a prospect—incoming leads, web leads, sign calls and any other leads funneled from their team’s sphere.
  • Cultivating: capable of nurturing these seeds of inquiry and growing relationships over time.
  • The Patient Harvest: converting these leads into appointments.

Outbound Sales Agent

While the ISA is personalized in that the lead already has expressed interest, the realm for the outbound sales agent is a bit colder.

  • Passionate: willing to call complete stranger out of the blue (cold-calling)—their passion for selling outweighs their fear of rejection.
  • Determined against all odds: receiving massive amounts of rejection is just part of the job, but these agents are typically cut from a cloth that can handle this rebuff and move on or react confidently.
  • Patient: don’t misconstrue the outbound sales agent as nothing more than an aggressive, dominant type.  They need to be just as patient as their inside team members, but their approach doesn’t have the luxury of a prospect’s willingness.  They, at times, must become the nurturer—fostering interest where there might not be any.

Benefits of Breaking up Your ISA and OSA Roles

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As you can see, we are not just talking about telemarketers here.  Specificity is needed and with specifics comes precision.  Knowing the type of personality that succeeds in inbound versus outbound roles will not only help define the role, but it helps you fill those roles on your real estate team with precision.  You are less likely to waste time in the hiring process if you know exactly what type of person you are looking for.  You are less likely to spend time training a prospect to be someone that they are not.  It is easier to hone skill than personality.

Another benefit to hiring an ISA and an OSA is that the cold-calling is left to the OSA, which gives more time for the ISA to focus on their warm leads.  If your inbound is spending time sifting through past clients or expired listing, then precious conversions from leads to appointments could be passing by your team.  By differentiating these roles, you could avoid this potential for loss.

Although it seems counterintuitive, the last reason for designating separate roles for ISAs and OSAs may surprise you.  Two separate roles could save on your team’s payroll.  Distinct roles enable you to compensate differently.  It also enables you to schedule different employees based on the current needs of your team.  If inbound sales inquiries are funneling in from your marketing efforts—website registrations, listing inquiries, sign calls, Facebook registrations, direct-mail responses, and radio and TV ad responses—then having your ISA put in more hours that week would be the wise move.  If, however, the inbound leads for your team are just not there, then perhaps you need your OSA to step in and start defrosting some cold leads.

Is it Wise to Split the ISA and OSA Roles?

Well, this is really a question only you can answer based on the immediate needs and resources of your team.  Breaking up the role makes sense for larger teams who employ many ISAs.  Like we mentioned before, splitting the roles could be cost effective, but only if the warm leads are there for your ISAs.  Smaller teams may not have the marketing funnels in place that are leveraged by larger teams.  So, is there a solution for smaller real estate teams?

Small Teams Have a “Hybrid” ISA Role

We already mentioned the confusing world of acronyms in the intro, but let’s complicate the matter further (not really—we’ll hold your hand on this one).  ISA can either mean Inbound Sales Associate, but more commonly, it is generically used for Inside Sales Agent.  What is the difference?  Inside Sales agents are capable of handling both inbound and outbound.

Inside Sales Agent Solution

If you need to consolidate the role of inbound and outbound under the umbrella of one Inside Sales Agent, what should you look for in a prospect?  What sort of candidate has both the personality types we addressed above?  You might want someone who has:

  • Direct selling experience, which means they were not an order taker, cashier, or support person.
  • Preferably, the candidate is versed in situations where they needed to ask the consumer to take an action and buy something in order to make commission: car rentals, car sales, gym memberships, property and casualty insurance, financial planners, mortgage reps, door-to-door sales, etc.
  • You do not want customer service reps who simply received inbound calls looking for product support, nor do you want retail sales experience.
  • Most importantly, you need to educate your ISA prospect and train them well.  By mastering every script used in lead generation and cultivation, the good ones can set appointments with even the toughest cold leads.

Do not think that you are at a disadvantage if you need to adopt this “hybrid” ISA method.  Mixing inbound and outbound roles gives the ISA more wins and minimizes burn-out.  So beyond the definition of an ISA or OSA and what their role entails, think about the needs of your real estate team, then think about the personality type best suited to fill those needs, and then get ready to train your prospect with this in mind: if you wanted to replace yourself with an agent, how would you train them?


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