Real Estate ISAs: In House or Virtual?

in house ISA
in house ISA

Real Estate ISAs: In House or Virtual?

As your real estate business continues to grow and expand, new lead acquisition, lead nurturing, and consistent follow up become even more critical—and more difficult. You don’t want your backend falling to the wayside when you start to experience rapid success on the frontend. This is where having a real estate inside sales agent (ISA) becomes not only a smart idea, but something that is critical to your continued success.

Real Estate Inside Sales

Inside sales is a growing phenomenon in nearly every industry, including real estate. In simple terms, this just means that more and more companies are taking advantage of technology to lower costs and conduct the majority of their sales work over the phone and through email.

Today, the combination of social media, websites, email, texting, video conferencing, and cellphones have created a situation conducive to inside sales that was scarcely possible only 15 years ago. Nowadays, many (if not most) companies use either a fully remote inside sales system or a hybrid system composed of reps calling from their company’s home office, then traveling occasionally to client locations.

In real estate, inside sales is conducted by a highly skilled salesperson called an ISA (inside sales agent) who is both comfortable and productive spending 80-90% of their time on the phone. They tackle all incoming leads and are responsible for all the follow-up, lead-qualifying, and scrubbing. Typically, a real estate ISA handles the following:

  • Prospecting for new leads
  • Servicing inbound leads from sign calls and other internet sources
  • Converting leads to appointments for a team’s sales agents
  • Outbound ISAs generate new leads by prospecting for FSBOs, expired listings, just listed/sold, COI, past clients, geographic farms, etc.
  • Inbound ISAs respond to incoming leads from internet sources and sign calls and nurture them into qualified appointments.

Increasingly, there are two different inside sales paths that real estate businesses can follow: either hire an in house ISA or a virtual ISA.

In House Or Virtual ISA: What’s the Difference?

The difference between an in house and virtual ISA is in the name—one you hire as an employee to work in your office, the other you outsource, typically to an ISA company. Companies go both routes and there is definitely a place for both of these types of ISAs in today’s real estate world.

In House ISA

In house ISAs can be a massive asset to your team. In addition to being on the phone 6 to 7 hours per day talking with leads, calling expireds, withdrawns, FSBOs, home evaluation leads, and circle prospecting, they can also start building your database with nurtures and setting appointments the first week they work with you.

The advantage with in house is that you control more of the situation. You’re able to hire the ISA directly, train them directly, and use the process that you developed. Hiring a full time ISA is a large investment, but one that has the potential to pay off big for your business. If you do it right.

Successfully training an ISA takes time. In fact, it could take up to between four and six months to effectively coach and evaluate if your ISA is productive or profitable. And it takes a considerable amount of effort and mental investment both on your part and on the new inside sales agent’s part. It’s up to you whether you want to outsource such a critical piece of your business.

Virtual ISA

The primary advantage of a virtual ISA, on the other hand, is that your overhead costs are going to be significantly less to start out with. There’s no hiring, onboarding, or training to do. No managing of employees. No tracking, sick days, lost time from wasted efforts or anything like that. You can get a couple hours of calling a day by a virtual ISA for less than $2,000 per month.

Virtual ISAs are typically highly skilled at identifying potential seller leads, converting them into nurtures and then setting them up for future contact by an agent. In other words, they are normally geared toward performing Sales Development Representative (SDR) duties. 

Despite the fewer overhead costs, however, the overall costs of a virtual ISA can actually add up to more than an in house ISA if you use them too much. If you are having your virtual ISA call your leads regularly then you will probably want to investigate hiring an in house ISA.

Virtual is ideal for an agent who’s looking for help getting back to leads in a quick time frame and to make some inroads with the pool of seller leads in their area to get in front of more prospects, but doesn’t have the bandwidth or money to hire a full time in house sales person.

Conclusion: In House ISA

At the end of the day, if you are able to hire an in house ISA then that is the route you want to go. In the long run, success comes from building a successful team. And building a successful team means developing and controlling a successful training process, having consistent metrics to hold team members accountable, and cultivating a company culture.

To accomplish those things you have to have a team which is invested in your business. That means you need in house ISAs who are representing your real estate business as dedicated team members.

Call Review Session: Assume the Person You’re Talking to Is Who You Should Be Talking to

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Want to

CONVERT MORE LEADS? LAND MORE APPOINTMENTS? CLOSE MORE DEALS? Take our free 1 hour lead conversion training.

Call Review Session: Assume the Person You're Talking to Is Who You Should Be Talking to

Call reviews are a critical part of inside sales agent training. Our call review sessions are the only opportunity in our industry for a highly trained coach to listen to your actual calls and the calls of your inside sales agent team.

In today’s Call Review video, Dale goes over what to assume on your calls and what not to assume.

For example, when entering your calls you should assume the person you are talking to is the person you should be talking to and that they are looking to take action on buying or selling a home. If they aren’t the right person, you can rest assured they will let you know!

Don’t assume relationships (don’t say things like your “husband” told me this or your “girlfriend” said that) unless one of the people you have spoken to have definitively told you the nature of it.

If you like this coaching and want to have a highly trained coach listen to your calls or your team’s calls, then you can either check out our coaching options or schedule a free 30-minute consultation call with Dale.

Smart Inside Sales Master Class: https://www.smartinsidesales.com/class/

Coaching Options: https://www.smartinsidesales.com/coaching/

Free Consultation Call: https://calendly.com/sis-sales

Want to

CONVERT MORE LEADS? LAND MORE APPOINTMENTS? CLOSE MORE DEALS? Take our free 1 hour lead conversion training.

What Is Inside Sales?

what is inside sales
what is inside sales

What Is Inside Sales?

Just what Is Inside Sales? 

It’s the sales model that is fast becoming the dominant sales model for businesses. It is predominantly found in B2B, tech, SaaS, and a variety of B2C industries where companies are selling high-ticket items. In a nutshell, inside sales is sales that is handled over phone and email. But contrary to telemarketers, inside sales professionals are highly skilled and knowledgeable about the products they are selling.

The change from an outside sales model, with salespeople making face to face sales calls with prospective customers and current clients, to an inside sales model, where the salespeople work independently and are directly responsible for closing business, working primarily by phone and email, is significant. According to a survey done by the Harvard Business Review of 100 vice presidents of sales at leading tech companies, 46% percent of study participants reported a shift from a field sales model to an inside sales model over the past two years.

What Is Inside Sales: History

The switch to inside sales is so pervasive that it is largely starting to merge with “outside sales”. In fact, most salespeople who would still consider themselves to be in outside sales will probably admit that they are in their office or at their desk in front of their computer and on their phone most of the time. It is quickly becoming the case that inside sales is actually just….sales.

The term “inside sales” first came about in the 1980s as a way to differentiate the more complex, “high-touch,” phone-based business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) selling practices from the quick, purely volume based sales techniques of telemarketers. As it developed, the term later started to be used as a way to differentiate inside sales from traditional face-to-face sales where salespeople went to the client’s location of business to engage in the sales process, i.e. outside sales.

As technology advanced, the cheaper cost of inside sales vs outside sales led to the former’s outpacing of the latter. Today, the combination of social media, websites, email, texting, video conferencing, and cellphones have created a situation conducive to inside sales that was scarcely possible only 15 years ago. Nowadays, many (if not most) companies use either a fully remote inside sales system or a hybrid system composed of reps calling from their company’s home office, then traveling occasionally to client locations.

Inside Sales for Real Estate

One of these industries where inside sales is growing at a rapid pace is real estate. Because the nature of real estate—at least for the moment—requires physical, face-to-face meetings between real estate “outside” agents and home sellers and buyers, a hybrid inside and outside sales system has developed.

Inside sales for real estate generally involves a highly skilled salesperson called an ISA (inside sales agent) who is both comfortable and productive spending 80-90% of their time on the phone. They tackle all incoming leads and are responsible for all the follow-up, lead-qualifying, and scrubbing. Typically, a real estate ISA handles the following:

  • Prospecting for new leads
  • Servicing inbound leads from sign calls and other internet sources
  • Converting leads to appointments for a team’s sales agents
  • Outbound ISAs generate new leads by prospecting for FSBOs, expired listings, just listed/sold, COI, past clients, geographic farms, etc.
  • Inbound ISAs respond to incoming leads from internet sources and sign calls and nurture them into qualified appointments.

Real estate inside sales agents are the first point of contact with leads, and they generally take the lead through the home buying or selling process, gathering key information and making sure they are a high quality lead. If the ISA feels the lead checks out, then they set an appointment with them to meet the outside agent, who receives all the info from the inside sales agent and takes the client through the rest of the process.

Inside sales for real estate teams means that everyone is more specialized in their roles and can focus on what they are good at. The inside sales agents are skilled at having effective and persuasive sales conversations over the phone, while the outside agents are highly skilled at actually buying and selling homes for their clients. Allowing people to focus on where they are strongest means that teams are much more effective and productive.

What Is Inside Sales? The Future of Real Estate

Inside sales is the future of sales. As technology gets more and more advanced, the remaining small role that outside sales still has will likely evaporate completely. Video and meeting software, as well as the ability to communicate essentially from anywhere in world, means that physically meeting has lost much of its value for many industries.

The real estate industry is no different. The cheaper cost of doing things remotely coupled with value of further specialization of team members brings huge returns. In fact, real estate teams which utilize ISAs have found the income they produce to be at least five times the cost of employing them, amounting to a 5 to 1 return on investment.

That level of return is something that all teams should be able to get on board with.

Real Estate ISAs: Ask Great Questions

real estate isa sales calls
real estate isa sales calls

Real Estate ISAs: Ask Great Questions

One of the key things to learn as an ISA (or any salesperson) is that you don’t want to be doing all the talking during your sales conversations. If you’re an ISA on a prospecting call, and it’s mostly a one way conversation in which your voice is thundering on with little input from the prospect, then something is not right.

You have to sell, not tell. And the two are rarely the same. It’s natural for a salesperson or ISA to get on the phone and immediately want to start explaining who they are, talk about their team’s track record, and start trying to close too early by telling the prospect how their team’s strategy and process work great every time and will work perfect for them too.

The problem with blurting all this information out and essentially talking at the prospect instead of to them is that you have no idea what their particular situation is like. You explained your company’s process, but if you don’t have an understanding of the prospect’s process and an idea of what goal they are trying to accomplish, then you’re in trouble. You have to have an idea of how or if you can actually benefit them if they choose to work with you.

In other words, unless you have an understanding of what they are trying to accomplish and how, you can’t begin to convince the prospect that your team will work for them because you can’t even know that yourself.

Ask Good Questions

The trick to overcoming this? Ask good questions. What great salespeople do is use good, relevant questions to lead prospects to their own conclusions. Great salespeople know that what they are hearing from prospects on the phone isn’t all there is to the story. They know that there are layers to every conversation they have with a prospect and that the outer layer is just a small fraction of what the prospect’s overall situation looks like.

As an ISA you have to read between the lines and be able to hear what’s being said “behind” what’s being said. That’s the only way to get enough information to decide whether this lead is worth working with, and the only way to be able to sufficiently convey the value you can create for them. This means listening very carefully to what the prospect is saying and then asking lots of good follow up questions. The better the questions and the deeper you go, the better the quality of the appointment you are able to set.

Have Real Conversations

As an ISA, just as important as asking great questions is having real and natural conversations. It’s okay to have a script in front of you or a list of questions you know you want to hit, but it’s not okay to just blindly read off of the script or just go down the list of questions checking them off as you go. This is how you sound salesy and distant and not how you are going to understand what the lead is after in order to give yourself the ammunition to close.

Instead, your questions and conversations need to be real and they need to be logical. And by logical I mean they need to fit into the current conversation you are having, and not just because they are on your pre-determined list of questions.

For example, if the lead comes back with an objection saying they just want to wait for a while to purchase a home, then ask questions that get at their motivation for why they want to wait and why they want to move or purchase a new home in the first place.

Do you currently own a home?

Where are you thinking of moving to?

What brings you there?

Why are you thinking it is better to wait to buy a home?

More often than not, the objection (and how you deal with it) is going to lead you to the opportunity to close. Through dealing with the objection successfully, you will have had to convince the lead that you can either assist them with their process, or you offered a better process and convinced them that your way will help them better achieve their desired outcome.

The problem that many ISAs or agents have is with timing. Knowing when to close and not closing too early. The solution to this is actually pretty simple: closing has to be the logical conclusion to the conversation you are having with the lead. Most of the problems that ISAs encounter on their sales calls are the result of having forced conversations based on scripts or not asking enough questions or not asking the right questions.

Conclusion

As a salesperson, you have develop the ability to ask good questions and to read between the lines when the prospect or lead gives you their answer. You need to be able to gather all the bits of useful information that the lead says and doesn’t say. Once you have a clear picture of what the lead wants and what is holding them back, you can pounce on the opportunity and ask information-gathering questions that will lead you to the natural conclusion they seek—a sale.

4 Tips for Hiring an Inside Sales Agent

hiring a sales person
hiring a sales person

4 Tips for Hiring an Inside Sales Agent

When you need to hire an inside sales agent (ISA), or really any sales person, it can be difficult to know where to start. Nowadays there are tons of online resources for finding candidates, but you still have a process in place, know which questions to ask, know what to look for in a good candidate, know how to conduct interviews, and the list goes on.

In a previous article of mine I discuss the correct structure of the ISA hiring process and how best to evaluate someone BEFORE you hire them as an inside sales agent for your real estate team. In that article, I touched on how the hiring process should be: performance, interview, hire, train.

In other words, the first step in the new hire process should be testing whether or not this person is actually capable of the job you need done. Learn that before you invest tons of time and effort in an interview.

What to Look for When Hiring an ISA

In any industry and every business, sales people are the foundation of profit and success. And make no mistake, inside sales agents need to be top notch sales people. Although the most important skill for a potential ISA hire to have is to be able to speak well on the phone and have meaningful and productive sales conversations, I would argue that equally as important in an inside sales candidate is teachability and the drive to learn and improve.

You want at least some base phone and sales skills, but what you also want is a past history of tangible value creation. I would say don’t get caught up on whether or not the candidate has tons of real estate experience—you want them to prove to you that they know what it means to create value for a business, that they’ve created value in the past, and that they are motivated to create value for you.

Now, it’s easy to say all that. But how do you actually determine those things throughout the hiring and interview process?

Here are some tips of things to look for when hiring an inside sales agent for your real estate company.

Four Things to Look for When Hiring an Inside Sales Agent

  1. Pay less attention to the type of company they worked for in the past or what their title was and more to how they describe their role and the work they did. In the interview are they just giving you a job description of their role? Or are they telling you a story of their day to day, how they developed the role, how they took on new things, or how they helped grow the business by X amount? You want someone who frames their past experience in a way that highlights what they created and what they tangibly improved.
  2. You want an ISA candidate who can prove they spent a good deal of time looking into your business and your particular market. Someone who did some research and so has a grasp on the type of clients your business typically works with, what types of properties you guys work with clients to buy and sell, the size of your company, how much business you do, who your largest competitors are, etc. They should be able to ask good clarifying questions based on the information they found before the interview.
  1. Keep an eye out if the candidate reaches out to you before the interview. Reaching out before the interview shows a high level of confidence and engagement. It’s a sign of a great potential candidate if, beforehand, they ask you if there is anything specific they should prepare, if they present a few topics they would like to touch on in the interview, if they ask about the dress code, or even if they just ask the names of the different people they will be interviewing or speaking with throughout the process. It shows they are serious about the position.
  1. Hard questions. If the candidate has the nerve to ask you difficult or potentially uncomfortable questions, they are demonstrating a high level of confidence that is sure to pay dividends down the road during their sales conversations. You want someone who knows when to say what, but who isn’t afraid to say what they are thinking or ask hard questions.

When hiring an inside sales agent, if you come across a candidate who is both good on the phone in your initial evaluation and then demonstrates a few or all of the above tips, they are definitely a candidate worth considering for the ISA position.

Just remember, each part of the hiring process should be framed within a context of creating value. You need them to bring more money in to your real estate business then you pay them, it’s as simple as that. And they should show that they know that too.