What is an ISA?
An ISA is an Inside Sales Agent. I explain the role of ISAs to my clients in terms beyond the general view of appointment setters or lead scrubbers—ISAs are skilled real estate professionals who are highly trained, skilled and dedicated to their craft in the same degree as an outside agent. The advantage of the ISA is that they specialize in the initial tasks of lead generation, lead nurturing and setting listing and buyer consultation appointments.
The ISA’s role is most effective when the scope is limited to tasks that develop the position into a lead generation and conversion machine. The raw materials are leads and lists—the product is viable listing or buyer appointments that result in contracts.
Here is the basic structure of the inside sales role:
- ISAs receive inbound leads and conduct rigorous outbound prospecting to uncover leads.
- ISAs scrub leads, determine motivation, timing and ability.
- ISAs set the listing and buyer consultation appointment for an outside agent.
- ISAs also maintain a nurturing database of leads and work that database to produce future appointments.
Different teams and agents have varying degrees of difference with this model, like not using the ISA to set appointments or having their ISA conduct marketing and advertising efforts, but the role’s effectiveness is greatest when clients adhere to the above description.
When am I ready to hire an ISA?
If you are already bringing in around 150,000+ in annual GCI, and you already have a solid and well-trained assistant handling your transactions for you, then you are ready for an ISA. At this point you are able to scale and do more business. You can leverage your lead generation while producing more appointments and contracts. The other requirement is that you must have some type of lead generation platform or farm in place, or well-established online profiles where you can run advertising. You will also need inbound lead sources for the ISA as we will discuss below. Once you get your ISA, and if they are effective, then you will quickly need to add additional agents to your team. An effective and efficient ISA can easily serve 4-5 agents.
You must have leads
It sounds obvious, but some agents think that they will create leads by hiring an ISA. That is possible if your ISA does outbound prospecting—calling expireds, withdrawns, for-sale-by-owners and maybe doing circle prospecting.
In my experience, these outbound sources, by themselves, are not productive enough to make your ISA profitable. To maximize profitability, you should have inbound leads that you feed to the ISA, supplementing their outbound efforts. Inquiries on listings or paying for advertising on listing aggregators like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor are often the best leads and will convert the fastest, but they are very expensive. If you have leads from farming, direct mail, radio or TV, those are great too.
The pursuit of raw internet registrations and home valuation leads can be a source of inbound leads for your ISA, but maintain awareness about the inefficient and time-consuming nature, as well as the low conversion rate, of these type of leads.
A common error I’ve witnessed among agents is signing up for a Commissions Inc. or BoomTown lead generation platform and jumping to this conclusion: “Oh my god! I’ve got hundreds of leads coming in each week. I need an ISA to work all this business.” What they don’t realize is that the industry standard for converting these cold internet leads is in the low single digits. You will gain a volume of leads from these platforms, but between 12 to 18 months of leads are necessary to see any real conversion from them. Yes, an ISA is the perfect person to work leads from that type of lead capture system, but just know that it’s a longer term play than the faster converting listing inquiry, marketing response or aggregator advertising methods of lead generation.
You must be ready to train the ISA or leverage that training to a third party
Too many agents oversimplify the process of hiring an ISA. They think, “I’ll just find someone who likes making calls and turn them loose.” That doesn’t work for outside agents, and it certainly doesn’t work for inside agents. You must prepare to train your ISA completely. And what does “completely” look like? If you wanted to replace yourself with agent, how would you train them? To what depths would you take that training? That is the question you need to ask, but more importantly, that question needs to be followed by action.
Although the ISA is only working the initial stages of lead generation and cultivation, they need to have an in-depth understanding of all of the processes before and after their position.
They should understand the process of buying and selling a home just like you do. They should know and comprehend the mindset, thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams of the typical person buying or selling a home. They should know the circumstances that led to each type of lead source you work. Every lead source has its own unique mindset and expectations. Intimate knowledge of buyers and sellers will give your ISA the rapport needed for building a foundation that can develop trust and set appointments. If you find it overwhelming to fit training into your already hectic schedule, leverage a third party, like my company, Smart Inside Sales, to learn the most efficient and effective methods for recruiting, screening and hiring inside sales agents.
Don’t try to take the cheap way out
The best way to ensure your success is to pay the price it costs to find, train and compensate a skilled salesperson. If you want to drive sales and GCI, then you can’t get away with a low dollar-per-hour, part-time ISA. It never works that way. The best scenario is to hire a full-time, committed ISA to work in your office and alongside your team. They are a team member. They are a sales person. They should operate that way and be treated as such. Don’t make this position an experiment. You wouldn’t experiment with hiring an administrative assistant, buyer agents or listing agents. Likewise, make the ISA role a legitimate and key position in your team.
You must budget for 6 months to one year of pay for your ISA
A brand new ISA can take upwards of 6 months to go from a monthly loss, to a recovered cost and then to profitability. Don’t get me wrong, you will have appointments and contracts along the way, however the bulk of the ISA’s production will happen in the second 6 months after the ISA has finished climbing the huge learning curve. They will also be starting from scratch and will have to build a database of nurturing prospects and, as we all know, that takes time. So before you hire your ISA, commit to the reality that you may be paying this expense for a minimum of 6 months before seeing a return or recovered cost. Pledge to not second-guessing this expense before that 6 month mark, but do not act blindly. You will need to measure the progress of your ISA, ensuring they are the right fit and progressing toward the success and profitability you seek.
Ready to hire?
Leveraging an ISA can be rocket fuel for the growth of your business. Having a dedicated and skilled Jedi master to squeeze every dollar out of your leads is a great way to go. If you get the right hire, give them the right training and resources, then your ISA can produce 50-60 transactions for you in their first 12 months. What does the “right training” look like? Well, if you want more help with how to structure or train your ISA, check out my ISA Sales Department in a Box. You can access my secrets and strategies in on-demand packages, or we can discuss working one-on-one.