Telemarketers. Virtual assistants. Lead scrubbers. There are many terms used to describe “inside sales agents,” an industry role that has taken off over the last few years. But few of these descriptors fully encapsulate the role of an inside sales agent (ISA), which is to:
Respond to inbound calls or online leads promptly — before they move on to another agent or real estate source
Talk with prospects and leads to determine their likelihood of buying and selling
Nurture these contacts until they are ready to talk directly with an agent
Track engagement and develop a deep relationship so the transition from ISA to agent is smooth, personal and conflict-free
As you may expect, not all ISA’s are created equal. Some have strict rules and limitations, while others work to become a part of your team’s culture. Some simply track their engagement while others make sure to alert you immediately if they talk to someone who they’ve determined is a “hot” lead.
Below are three questions to ask yourself when hiring an inside sales agent to work for your business or team.
1. Do I want to work with an established service, or hire my own ISA?
If you’re hiring a service that represents ISA’s, they will likely have their own systems and workflows in place. Your main role will be to provide them access to your inbound prospects and leads (or full CRM database) so their team can begin calling and qualifying them for business.
When it comes to these qualification calls, well-established ISA services will train their employees personally and the ISA’s will work from scripts provided from their employer.
If, however, you wish to establish your own scripts and training with an ISA, you may be better off hiring a new team member who acts as a lead qualifier for you and your team. In that case, you can ensure that the ISA perfectly understands your business culture and how you prefer to operate with new leads.
While there are benefits and disadvantages to each option, the main factors to consider here are time, money and value.
Leveraging an established service means you can get up and running immediately. You will likely pay less over time, as you’ll be paying the ISA only for each phone call or contact. The downside: You’ll have less control over what each ISA says in their interactions with leads and prospects.
By hiring directly, your ISA (once fully trained) will be a direct extension of your team and your team’s culture. You will likely spend more on their hourly wage or salary than if you paid per call; you’ll also have to personally train and write the scripts for various scenarios the ISA runs into.
2. What happens when the ISA uncovers a “hot” lead?
The whole point of hiring or working with an ISA is to identify contacts who are ready to buy or sell with a local agent. So, it’s incredibly important that your ISA knows how and when to escalate a ready-to-transact lead directly to you.
When you are training an employee as an ISA, you can (and should) set up a specific workflow for when they identify a hot lead that is ready for immediate agent follow-up.
If, however, you’re working with an ISA service, be sure to ask in advance what their transfer protocol is. If they can’t guarantee an immediate and personal hand-off, then you are at risk of either alienating the lead (who has gotten to know your ISA and won’t understand why you are calling them) or missing the opportunity altogether (if it’s buried in a spreadsheet but doesn’t generate an alert to you).
Remember, a soft hand-off is critical if you want to pick up where your ISA left off. Together, you and your ISA should work to set and meet expectations for your lead, so they feel they are working with one seamless service.
3. What should be my anticipated ROI?
As with any service or employee, you’ll want to be sure that hiring an ISA is worth the money. To measure your return-on-investment, it’s important to first consider how often you are converting leads right now.
When you get a web lead from a search portal, or a conversion from a squeeze page, how often do those contacts become clients? How much time do you or your team spend nurturing them? And of course, how much is your time worth? You’ll likely find that you are spending hundreds of dollars (in terms of your valued time or your team’s time) to qualify just one web lead.
Next, ask your ISA service how often they qualify leads, on average. Keep in mind that high-quality leads tend to get qualified more often, while discount // bulk leads will qualify much less often.
Not sure what metrics to start with?
Here’s some insight into recent testing we did as we launched our new lead qualification concierge service, SmartZip Outreach. When the ISA’s called a database of general contacts — like those from a CRM — they tended to uncover one hot lead or nurture prospect every 35-40 calls.
When the same ISA’s called SmartZip’s predicted seller targets, they were able to identify a hot lead or nurture prospect every 8-10 calls. So the ISA’s were able to qualify leads 5x as fast when they were working from a smarter, shorter list of predicted prospects.
In short, it’s important to remember that your ROI isn’t just what you spend on each ISA qualification call; you must also factor in the cost of the list you are providing your ISA.