Allison Bryant

For 94% of buyers, responsiveness is a key quality when choosing a real estate agent. But when your agents have more leads than they can reasonably juggle on their own, you might be letting a few warm (or even 🔥) ones slip through the cracks…and right into another agent’s arms. 

After all, getting sent to voicemail isn’t exactly the meet-cute most buyers are hoping for.

At face value, hiring an inside sales agent a.k.a. ISA (or two or three) seems like a pretty simple solution. But you can’t just bring in some random hire, hand over a list of phone numbers, and wait for the deals to start rolling in.

If you really want to create an unstoppable real estate team, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and effort into ISA onboarding and training. We’ll show you how to set your ISAs up for success so they can hit the ground running, take advantage of every opportunity in your real estate CRM, and act as a fully integrated lead conversion lever for your business.

Table of contents

  • What is an ISA in real estate?
  • Start by hiring the right people
  • 6 steps to help your real estate ISAs win

What is an ISA in real estate?

First off, let’s set the record straight: ISAs aren’t just glorified virtual assistants (VAs). They bring a lot more to the table than just answering phones and handling low-priority prospecting. 

ISAs are agents that take care of lead follow up, prospect for new leads on the phone, and make sure every incoming lead is immediately contacted. (Remember that stat about responsiveness? ISAs can make sure you nail it every time.)

When used to their full potential, ISAs can also help to humanize your lead nurture, squeeze more value out of your data, hold your agents accountable, boost lead conversions, and deliver exceptional customer service. 

But to get that high-level performance from your ISAs, you’ve got to get the right people on your team, and then train and coach them to deliver the goods. 

Start by hiring the right people

If you think the ISA role is built for novices, think again. 

The truth is, being an ISA can be hard and frustrating. (After all, there’s a reason it’s the work agents want to offload.) But that’s why getting people with the right skills and interests is so crucial to building a high-performing team. 

Robby Trefethren from Hatch Coaching (and a former ISA himself) shared his top ‘cheat code’ question for filtering out poor-fit applicants during the interview process.

Here’s his script:

I’m going to describe three different options of roles on our team, and the moment I’m done describing them, I want you to tell me which one is the most appealing to you and why. 

Here’s the kicker: You get no time to think about it. If you take time to think about it, I want you to know that I’m not going to continue, and I’m not going to consider you for this role any further. Does that sound fair?

  • Option A is a very steady, predictable role that’s 8 to 5. You’re gonna work 40 hours per week. You get to walk in and walk out. You don’t have to take your work home with you. But your income is traditionally limited to about $40-50k per year. 
  • Option B is the opposite. You’re going to easily be working 60, 70, maybe 80 hours per week. You’re going to be working a lot face-to-face with people, and your income is dependent on the work that you put in. The great thing is you can easily make six figures in this role. 
  • Option C is a lot like Option B where your income is dependent on the work you put in. You’re gonna work 50, 60, 70 hours per week, but you are going to be working alone quite often. You are going to get almost no face-to-face interaction with other people.

Depending on how interviewees respond, Robby can quickly get insight into which type of role they’re best suited to. As you might have guessed, Option A corresponds with an admin role, Option B with an agent role, and Option C is the ISA role. 

He often follows up by asking, “Which is the least appealing to you and why?” 

According to Robby, that answer can help affirm and solidify the ISA candidate’s response to the first question. 

Scrap the job description and build your ideal ISA avatar

Sometimes the hardest part of hiring is figuring out exactly what type of person you need for the job. 

Michele Wright of Laurie Finkelstein Reader Real Estate learned that lesson the hard way. As Director of Sales, she’s built a team of seven rockstar ISAs. 

But when she first started hiring for the role, she only saw it as a stepping stone for people who potentially wanted to become agents. As a result, she brought in people who weren’t actually a very good fit for the job. 

After a few lessons learned the hard way, Michele has revamped her ‘ideal ISA avatar’ to include key qualities like:

  • Interested in real estate
  • Serious sales skills
  • A ton of experience on the phone
  • Already has their real estate license

Since the ISA is a relatively new role within their organization, Michele is focused heavily on laying a strong foundation and establishing a high standard for future hires. But that’s not the only ISA hiring strategy — and it may not be right for everyone. 

For example, many teams have their ISAs get licensed after they’ve been hired. Others opt to outsource some tasks to overseas ISAs, like email and text nurturing (things that don’t require the same level of English fluency as being on the phone). 

No matter how you choose to build your ISA team, the key is to have a strategy and then refine it until you get the results you want. 

Why hiring the right ISA matters

“Here’s the reality: If you’re going to run in a complete ISA system and every single lead is going to talk to your ISA first, why would you make that person your least experienced and worst salesperson in your organization?” says Brian Curtis of Curtis Realty Group

Well said, Brian 👏🏼

Now that you know exactly why hiring the best possible ISA for the job is so important, let’s dive into some actionable steps to help you set your ISAs up to win from day one.

6 steps to help your real estate ISAs win

Once you’ve found your people, you’ve got to train them. 

This really is the most important step, so whatever you do — don’t skip it. After all, even an experienced ISA joining your team will need to learn the ins and outs of your tools and workflows so they can get started on the right foot.

Just keep in mind that, even though it takes some upfront effort and planning on your part, the time you invest in training your ISAs will pay off big when you’ve got a team that’s aligned on goals and firing on all cylinders. 

1. Lay the groundwork

Some people believe the best way for new ISAs to develop their skills is to get tossed into the deep end and learn by doing. But according to one of the top ISA coaches in the country, there’s a better way. 

Robby Trefethren recommends a 3-pronged approach to ISA training — and it’s beautifully easy to remember: You watch me. I watch you. Go and do.

Here’s how he typically rolls it out. 

  • Week 1: The new ISA shadows experienced ISAs and agents to learn how the team operates and how the top-performers are getting the right results. 
  • Week 2: It’s time to do some role playing. New ISAs can practice what they learned the previous week and get additional coaching before they go out into the real world. 
  • Week 3: They finally put their skills to the test and start making calls. At this point, the trainer should be “shadowing” the new ISA to see how things are going and provide feedback. (FYI, this part is super important — in fact, it’s so important, we’ll cover it again in Tip #6!)

2. Provide the right tools for the job

Skills are important, but having strong systems in place can really take your ISA team to new heights. 

Tried-and-true scripts for calling, texting, and email can help your ISAs navigate common scenarios and convert more leads. You may even provide text and email templates if you have outsourced ISAs, and particularly if they’re overseas and speak English as a second language. 

Of course, your CRM can also have a massive impact on your ISAs’ effectiveness. 

For example, Follow Up Boss gives ISAs the ability to: 

… and much more. 

3. Ensure they’re focused on the right leads

The whole point of hiring an ISA is to allow agents to focus their time and energy on only the hottest of leads. 

But odds are you still have thousands of other leads in your database ranging from toasty to frosty, and if you don’t have a rock-solid lead management process in place, there’s no guarantee that they’ll prioritize the leads that are most likely to convert.

With Follow Up Boss, there’s an easy way to see which leads are warming up. We call it the Smart List

Smart Lists use dynamic filters to sort and segment your database so you can easily identify the most valuable and promising leads vs. cold leads that need nurturing. This gives your ISAs clear direction on where they should focus their efforts. 

Smart Lists give you one-click access to the right prospects — based on any criteria you set.

Another great tool to use is the Pixel, which provides intel about what listings a lead is looking at and when they’re visiting your site. This can help your ISAs strike while the iron is hot when an old lead suddenly becomes active. 

4. Define a clear workflow between ISAs and agents

Just as there are many ways to hire the “right” ISAs for your team, there’s more than one way to structure your workflow between your agents and ISAs. 

Here are three of the most common CRM workflows:

  • Lead Source → ISAs → Agents: When a new lead comes in, it goes to the ISA who reaches out, builds a relationship, and determines when it’s ready to be passed to an agent or still needs to be nurtured. If the lead cools off, it’ll go back to the ISAs. 
  • Lead Source → Agents → ISAs: All leads go directly to an agent first. They make the first contact and attempt to build a relationship. If the lead isn’t responsive, the agent can decide to hand it over to the ISAs for nurturing. Should the lead warm up, the ISAs can then pass it back to the agent. 
  • Lead Source → ISAs + Agents: With this hybrid approach, agents and ISAs work together as a team to build relationships with leads. They keep consistent messaging and focus on delivering a top-notch client experience. 

*Pro Tip: To truly optimize your team’s time, this method works best when you have Action Plans in place to keep up nurturing, and Automations to pull contacts into your priority list when they start warming up. 

Create all kinds of customized, automated campaigns with Action Plans in Follow Up Boss.

What ISA training looks like in a mega-team

As Senior Director of Ops for Robert Slack LLC, Debbie Tuohey has a lot to manage. 

For those who aren’t familiar, the Robert Slack team tops 700 agents and does over 7,000 transactions per year and $2.2 billion in volume. 

To keep those hungry agents fed, the team brings in around 1,000 leads per day…and that’s just during the slow season! At peak, they’re getting closer to 2,500 leads per day. 

And their database? It’s home to a whopping 1.1 million paid leads. 🤯

They’ve also got a team of 200+ offshore ISAs, VAs, and even TCs who are working all those leads.

Needless to say, Debbie has her work cut out for her. Fortunately, Follow Up Boss provides the tools she needs to get the right leads into the right hands at the right time. 

One of the most important tools they use is the live call transfer. The ISAs’ primary goal is to get the lead on the phone with an agent, so when they have a person who is ready to move forward, they need to connect directly with an agent. 

To do this, they use a first-to-claim text that goes out to all agents serving in that particular area. 

The first agent to respond can join the call and the ISA will provide a smooth handoff by saying something like: 

“Charlie, I’d like to introduce you to Lucy van Pelt, your preferred agent in your area, and Charlie is looking at 123 Main Street. It was so great to speak to you Charlie — you’re in great hands with Lucy!” 

And the agent takes it from there!

5. Set targets for accountability

You can tell your team to “make it rain!” day in and day out. But unless you give your ISAs a clear target, you might get drizzle instead of a downpour.

The truth is, measurement is key to improvement. Your ISAs need specific goals to aim for, with metrics they can influence and own. They also need to know how their performance is going to be evaluated and what they’re expected to achieve. 

The Follow Up Boss Leaderboard can help with all of that and more. 

With the Leaderboard, you can nurture friendly competition and boost morale as your ISAs compete to take and hold the top position

Whether you set individual ISA goals based on dials, meaningful connections, appointments scheduled, or deals closed will depend on the team’s goals and the ISA’s skills and experience. You may also choose to ramp up their targets with a 30/60/90 day approach.

Of course, if you ask Dale Archdekin, he’ll say the number you should be looking at is: How many contracts or closings did that ISA cause to happen?

Seem like a bit of a stretch? Dale doesn’t think so. 

While it’s true that ISAs aren’t the ones showing homes, writing offers, and navigating negotiations, “At the end of the day, the purpose of having an ISA, in most cases, is to cause contracts and closings to happen,” he says. “So as long as you are directly attributing how many contracts and/or closings were generated as a result of the ISA, then you can see what is the efficacy of your ISA.” 

He admits that agents can sometimes fumble appointments or drop the ball on follow up. But the truth is, it’s just as much about getting the ISA’s perspective right as it is about measuring efficacy. 

If they know from the outset that’s how they’ll be evaluated, it gives their responsibilities and targets over the first 30/60/90 days clearer purpose. 

So when you ask your ISA to hit a certain number of contacts per shift? They know it’s just a stepping stone on the way to achieving that larger goal, not just ‘busy work.’

6. Inspect what you expect

Back in Tip #1, we told you about Robby Trefethren’s 3-stage process for training new ISAs: You watch me. I watch you. Go and do. 

Spoiler alert, there’s actually one more stage: Inspect what you expect.

As we mentioned previously, it’s absolutely critical that you “shadow” your new ISA during their first few days and weeks of making calls. You want to make sure they’re using what they’ve learned and really solidifying those skills. 

But it’s not a one-time thing. If you really want to develop a team of superhero ISAs, you’ve got to continue “inspecting what you expect,” coaching them through what’s working and what isn’t, and holding them accountable for the goals you’ve set. Even experienced ISAs can benefit from getting that outside perspective, or just another set of eyes and ears to help them further refine their skills.

One tool in Follow Up Boss that’s particularly helpful for this part is the call recording feature. You can automatically log all inbound and outbound calls to use later for coaching, or for future reference. With recorded calls, you can easily walk through key aspects of an ISA’s technique, such as tone, friendliness, script usage, etc. 

Empower your real estate ISAs to go farther

Ultimately, the goal of training your ISAs isn’t to create a bunch of sales automatons. 

It’s to empower them with the skills, tools, and understanding they need to succeed at an even higher level — so that the rest of the team can win bigger too. 

Start with a healthy respect for the ISA role and a clear understanding of who you need to fill it. Focus your hiring efforts on pinpointing those characteristics, then support your ISAs with the right goals, training and resources to help them win at every step.

Because like every other person, tool or resource on your team, the best way to get the most out of your real estate ISAs is to be intentional about how much time, effort and energy you invest in their development. Do that, and the results will follow.

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