The Rise of the Inside Sales Agent

As ISAs become a bigger part of the real estate business, know why they’re more than glorified assistants.

Back in 2004, the seminal book for real estate sales, 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. And now The Millionaire Real Estate Agent 2 is set to be released soon, featuring the ISA as a key role that should be introduced to a real estate team early in the teambuilding process.

Inside sales is a relatively new development for many real estate teams, a natural evolution from “lead scrubbers,” receptionists who ask basic questions of a consumer and then pass them on to an agent. Inside sales is so much more than simple lead scrubbing.

What is an ISA?

For the uninformed, an ISA is often misrepresented as an assistant or receptionist. What is the basic job function of ISAs? Well, their purpose is all in the name: inside sales. ISAs are virtually the same as an outside sales agent, with the exception that they don’t go on listing or buyer appointments, and they don’t walk the client through the sales process. ISAs are, however, highly trained and accountable salespeople; they are licensed and can function just the same as an outside agent with respect to prospecting, following up with and nurturing leads, and setting appointments.

The primary purpose of having inside sales agents is for leverage. Faced with myriad demands, having a designated ISA leveraging lead generation, follow-up, and appointment scheduling is a godsend. Great ISAs can annually generate upwards of 70 additional transactions for your business. They can also ensure that your past clients feel the love with regular follow-ups — something others may procrastinate on doing.

ISAs are masters of every script used in lead generation and cultivation. The good ones can set appointments with even the toughest cold leads, which requires very advanced sales skills and training. Assistants are not salespeople; that is the difference.

How Do ISAs Increase Sales?

Many industries employ inside salespeople as a strategy for increasing sales. It’s a hyperfocused department that is dedicated to generating leads by cold-call prospecting (which can include email and texting as well). ISAs are the first point of contact for inbound sales inquiries such as website registrations, listing inquiries, sign calls, Facebook registrations, direct-mail responses, and radio and TV ad responses.

The best ISAs have prior phone sales experience, but you can’t always find people with experience in inside sales. At a minimum, you need candidates that have 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 for the salesperson to get paid: car rentals, car sales, gym memberships, property and casualty insurance, financial planners, mortgage reps, door-to-door sales, and so forth. You do not want customer service reps who simply received inbound calls looking for product support, nor do you want retail sales experience. Although those employees are considered salespeople, they generally don’t have the experience or training to do the type of lead nurturing and appointment setting that is needed in the inside sales role.

Do ISAs Require Extra Training?

The best approach is to regard your inside sales department as your training ground for your outside agents. Make inside sales your “agent boot camp.” You can be training and coaching your inside sales agents to be future outside sales agents. This will ensure that you are training real sales assassins both on the phone and in person.

Inside sales has become such a hot topic in real estate that even the big boys are getting into the game. Redfin staffs its own inside sales to respond to calls and emails generated by its advertising. There are even third-party companies like Rokrbox, a company of inside sales agents, that specifically help Boomtown website clients capture and nurture leads into future appointments and sales.

There are training companies such as Ciprani Consulting that will do the recruiting and initial training of your inside sales agent for you. Companies such as Sam Monreal Coaching and Consulting and my own, Smart Inside Sales, have entire ISA training and coaching systems to teach team leaders, mega-agents, and brokers how to build and structure entire lead generation departments and ISA teams.

There are a ton of choices out there on how you can get into the inside sales game. The best start would be educating yourself on the costs, requirements, best practices, benefits, and pitfalls to using inside sales leverage for your business.