Inside sales is a hot topic these days, and the inside sales agent you hire can make or break those efforts in your firm. Everyone wants to know how to leverage their lead generation and follow-up efforts.

  • Hire an inside sales agent (ISA) because you’re ready to push your team, and your revenue, to the next level.
  • Many agents try to reduce costs by trying out a part-time ISA and avoid the commitment of a full-time employee or full-time salary. The job requires consistency and follow-up.
  • The link between your inside and outside sales agents is critical. The process can go awry with something as simple as the wrong language used with a lead.

Inside sales is a hot topic these days, and the inside sales agent you hire can make or break those efforts in your firm. Everyone wants to know how to leverage their lead generation and follow-up efforts.

Inside sales agent (ISA) departments can absolutely work and be very profitable. Being overwhelmed with too many potential clients is a situation most agents only dream of. Having a dedicated sales person who focuses exclusively on lead generation, cold calling, lead follow-up and appointment setting sounds magical, right?

It can be, or it can be one of the most expensive and nerve-wracking hires you ever make. There are common reasons inside sales efforts fail, and when they fail, they cost tons of time and money. Here are seven pitfalls to avoid:

1. A poor hiring process

Believe it or not, it can take upward of six months for your new ISA to develop a sales pipeline and be setting a good volume of appointments. That’s six months that it takes for you to figure out whether you have a champion or a dud, and there is no real way to short cut that process.

You’re depending on the ISA to generate leads, follow up with those leads and ultimately generate more revenue — on average about five times that of their salary — so the recruiting and hiring process is the most critical first step in finding the right fit.

The ideal candidate is a skilled sales person who is not already making six-figures or more. That means you have to screen hundreds of resumes to find the one or two diamonds in the rough. The optimal recruiting process consists of:

  • A well-written job ad
  • A screening process that tests for sales ability, not once but several times
  • A comprehensive face-to-face interview that uncovers the real prospect behind the “interview mask”

The all-too-common mistake real estate teams and brokers make is developing a boring job ad and not spending money to promote it.

You get what you pay for, so after a less-than-thrilling job ad brings in an array of mediocre candidates, traditional interviews are conducted and the best of the worst is hired to do the job.

2. Lack of training

Many agents hire a new ISA, do a minimal amount of training on the systems, give them some scripts and expect the shiny new ISA to knock it out of the park and set appointments left and right with minimal supervision. That will not happen.

Setting good, qualified appointments takes a big skill set and countless hours of practice.

You can train your new ISA on your team’s systems and the basics of scripts, lead handling, follow-up and appointment setting within the first week or two of them being with you. The real value is in the ongoing coaching, training and mentoring you do (or don’t do) in the months after hiring them.

Again, it can take up to six months to get your ISA to the minimum standard of setting 40 appointments per month. Developing your ISA’s skills to that level requires continuous coaching and skill building through your direct involvement.

3. No KPI tracking

KPI, or key performance indicators, are the numbers you must know about your ISA’s performance on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to determine whether or not your ISA is progressing.

These stats also tell you if having an ISA is profitable for your team and can direct you on areas where the ISA needs to improve.

Shocking news: real estate agents are not known for their business tracking skills. Know your expectations before you bring an ISA on board.

What objective do you have for this person? What measurable goals will you set? What is your expected return on investment?

What is your timeline for when you expect your ISA to become profitable? Don’t hire an ISA because a popular real estate blog said it was a good idea or because your agents are becoming so complacent they don’t follow up with the leads they have now.

Hire an ISA because you’re ready to push your team, and your revenue, to the next level.

4. Lack of team support

The success or failure of your ISA department, after hiring and training, rests solely on the shoulders of your outside agent team. Your listing and buyer specialists will make or break of your ISA.

Many times team leaders bring in inside sales to fix their agents’ complacency with the leads they are given. That works about as good as having a baby to save a failing marriage.

Your ISA can set the world on fire with appointments, but if your agents aren’t aggressive in following up with the appointments, rather than cherry picking them, then you won’t get the closings you expect.

Outside agents might also put more emphasis on their own business, which makes them more money in most cases.

5. Part-time ISA

Many agents try to reduce costs by trying out a part-time ISA and avoid the commitment of a full-time employee or full-time salary. The job requires consistency and follow-up.

As mentioned, it will take four to six months to fully evaluate if an ISA is being productive. To become successful, ISAs need to be full-time.

Only a full-time ISA is going to be able to average around two appointments per day, and spend enough time speaking to contacts to build a good base of nurtures, which is the key to their long-term success.

Also, part-time ISAs will take much longer to get to full production level. Part-timers are also more susceptible to giving up on the process before they hit a productive stride.

There are only a few circumstances where part time ISAs make sense. Although more expensive, in nearly every case, a full-time ISA is the way to go.

6. Hiring a virtual ISA

Virtual ISAs typically bring one of two major challenges — non-native English speakers based outside the U.S. or an American worker who’s located in a different region than your office. There are teams who have been able to make virtual ISAs work.

They can be successful in certain situations, especially with teams that already have well-established marketing that drives highly qualified inbound inquiries (not just forced website registrations).

However, for most teams and agents, getting warm or cold leads to convert to a closable appointment is too difficult a task for which to train and manage when your ISA is not in your office or there is a language barrier.

7. A poor hand-off

As we already established, the link between your inside and outside sales agents is critical. The process can go awry with something as simple as the wrong language used with a lead.

If your ISA approaches the lead from the standpoint of just being an appointment-setter or the “warm up” person, and that a “real” agent will have to get on the phone with them at a later time, that will torpedo most sales calls and destroy your closing ratio.

ISAs must approach the prospect on the phone as if they are the point person.

“I want to come meet with you,” or “Let me show you how I’m going to sell your home,” is language that should be used rather than, “Our listing specialist will meet with you.”

Only after your ISA has set the appointment do they then say “My partner will be coming to meet with you.” That should be the first time the prospect gets the slightest hint that the person he or she is talking to is not the agent he or she will be working with day to day to buy or sell a home.

Don’t you just hate that sick feeling of knowing there are commission checks rotting in your pile of forgotten leads? Do you ever feel like there is a glass ceiling to your sales production?

A properly trained and managed ISA team can truly ramp up your production, smooth out your roller coaster sales-lead-to-closing cycle and squeeze more dollars out of your marketing.

Building your own ISA/lead generation department can be easy, with the right blueprint to chart the course.

By making a good hire, adequately training your ISA and implementing a strong accountability and mentorship program, your conversions will skyrocket and your wallet will thank you.

Join in the fun: Here’s the Facebook group where top teams discuss inside sales and lead generation.

Dale Archdekin is the founder of Smart Inside Sales and the current director of lead generation for Global Living Companies at Keller Williams in Philadelphia. Follow him on Facebook or checkout his Facebook group.

Email Dale Archdekin.

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