Aug 11, 2017 by - Dale Archdekin

The New Era of ISAs in Real Estate

Inside sales has been around since remote communication was invented, but the role of inside sales agents (ISAs) in Real Estate is often misunderstood. That’s because inside sales is a relatively new development for many Real Estate teams, so it is no wonder that most Real Estate teams would have trouble defining the role of the ISA. The development of inside sales seems to be a natural evolution that stems from “lead scrubbers”—receptionists who ask basic questions of a consumer and then pass the customer on to a Real Estate agent. Inside sales is so much more than simple lead scrubbing, and it would be a detriment to your team if you didn’t know the true role of the ISA emerging in modern markets. 

Even the seminal book for Real Estate sales, Gary Keller’s 2004 book, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, described the role of inside sales agents as mere “telemarketers.” Today, the ISA’s role has progressed to the point where organizations have entire departments dedicated to inside sales. Are you missing out? 

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If you managed a baseball team, you wouldn’t tell your pitcher that he had to catch his own pitches. In that context, defining roles sounds ridiculous and implied. But this might not be the case with your Real Estate sales team. 

In a 2013 article in Forbes, Ken Krogue gave a “pragmatic” definition of inside sales as “remote sales” or “sales in the cloud” for most industries and mentioned that outside sales agents are spending more than 50 percent of their time selling remotely. 

Maybe it’s time to establish bolder delineations to the roles in your Real Estate team. 

With ISAs often misidentified as a receptionist or assistant, what then is the basic job function of an ISA? Well, their purpose is all in the name—inside sales agents. Just because they aren’t out in the field closing, doesn’t mean that ISAs are not highly trained and accountable sales people. The best ISAs are licensed and can function just the same as an outside agent with respect to prospecting, lead follow-up, lead nurture and setting appointments. They are virtually the same as an outside agent except that they don’t go on listing or buyer appointments, and they don’t walk the client through the sales process.  

What’s the point? 

Remember the “sales in the cloud” definition? Consider the ISA to be the one looking down on the outside agents who, faced with myriad demands, may not have the same time, energy, or remote reach as an ISA to leverage lead generation, lead follow-up and appointment setting. A great ISA can annually generate upwards of 70 additional transactions for your business. ISAs can also ensure that your past clients feel the love with regular follow-ups—something that we are all supposed to do, but an area where we often procrastinate. 

Don’t forget their ability to defrost those cold leads. Having mastered every script used in lead generation and lead cultivation, a good ISA can set appointments with even the frostiest cold leads. This requires very advanced sales skills and training. Remember, these are sales people, not assistants. 

The New Era of ISAs in Real Estate

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Having a hyper-focused ISA department that is dedicated to generating leads by cold phone prospecting (via email and text as well) means having a well-trained, tenacious and experienced sales person filling that role. ISAs are the first point of contact for inbound sales inquiries like website registrations, listing inquiries, sign calls, Facebook registrations, direct mail responses, radio and TV ad responses. So how do you hire an ISA, and what should you look for? 

The best ISAs have prior remote sales experience. An ideal candidate has already worked as an inside sales rep. Usually, it doesn’t matter what they were selling, because just having the experience of selling over the phone will put them above any sales person without phone experience.  

With industries outsourcing phone sales in recent years, it can be difficult finding candidates with experience in phone/remote sales, so at a minimum, you need candidates that have direct selling experience. We aren’t just talking about an order taker, cashier, or support person.  

  • The candidate should be proficient 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.  
  • Avoid customer service reps who simply received inbound calls looking for product support or reps on inbound sales calls where all of the selling has already been done.  
  • Also, retail sales experience is often not enough to cut it. Although those employees are considered sales people, they generally don’t have the experience or training to do the type of lead nurturing and appointment setting that is needed in the ISA role. 

Once you do have the right candidate, adopt the perspective that your inside sales department is now a training grounds for your outside sales. Make inside sales your “Agent Boot Camp.” Once they are through basic training and prove themselves in the ISA role, you can begin the Special Forces training needed for outside sales agents. This will ensure that you are training sales specialists both on the phone and in person. 

The Rise of the ISA 

If the biggest and best in the industry are investing more time and money into ISAs, then don’t ever think you are too small to start doing the same.  

  • Redfin staffs their own inside sales to respond to calls and emails generated by their advertising. 
  • Zillow is beta testing their own inside sales department to assist their advertising clients in converting their leads.  
  • Third party, done-for-you ISA companies like Rokrbox, Agentology, and PowerISA are sprouting up like weeds these days. They offer to take care of your cold outbound prospecting and some will even receive your inbound leads and convert them for you. 

But where should you start? Begin by educating yourself on the costs, requirements, best practices, benefits and pitfalls of utilizing inside sales for your business. You could go the route of engaging a third party company to do the recruiting and initial training of your inside sales agent for you. Or you could engage a coaching and training company like Smart Inside Sales, and leverage their ISA training and coaching systems. They teach team leaders, mega agents and brokers how to build and structure entire lead generation departments and ISA teams.  

Now that you know the definition of an ISA, the role of the ISA in Real Estate and the benefits they could bring, think about the needs of your Real Estate team. Could your lead generation efforts and the success of your Real Estate team be hinged on something as simple as better defining the roles of your team members? We think so.


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