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Help Inside Sales Agents Prioritize Leads

There’s value in focusing on both inbound and outbound leads. But having a plan in place for your ISAs will help them work more effectively for your company and agents.

October 30, 2018

A common question I get from broker-owners and real estate team leaders who are new to the inside sales agent concept or who have just hired an ISA is, “Should my ISA work my database of past clients and sphere leads?” In other words, many people new to the ISA world just aren’t sure which leads they should have their ISAs focus on.

These days, your real estate team is—hopefully—getting leads from a variety of sources with varying levels of interest and at different stages of the buying or selling process. So, how do you determine which leads should be worked, when they should be worked, and by which of your inside sales agents? This also ties into the bigger question of, “How can I get the most value out of my inside sales agent?”

What Exactly Is an ISA?

In terms of the real estate industry, the role of an inside sales agent goes beyond the general view of appointment setters or lead scrubbers—they are skilled real estate professionals who are highly trained and dedicated to their craft in the same degree as an outside agent. The advantage of the ISA is that they specialize in the initial tasks of lead generation, lead nurturing, and setting listing and buyer consultation appointments.

Here is the basic structure of the inside sales role:

  • ISAs receive inbound leads and conduct rigorous outbound prospecting to uncover leads.
  • ISAs scrub leads, determine motivation, timing, and ability.
  • ISAs set the listing and buyer consultation appointment for an outside agent.
  • ISAs also maintain a nurturing database of leads and work that database to produce future appointments.

Basically, ISAs are the people behind the scenes setting productive appointments with high-quality leads and potential clients. An awesome ISA or ISA team can make the life of a real estate agent much easier by saving them time and handing off solid leads that are easily turned into clients.

Inbound vs. Outbound Leads

There are essentially two broad categories of leads: inbound and outbound. The critical difference between the two categories is that inbound leads have, at some point, made the effort to come to you in some way. Outbound leads, on the other hand, are leads that are actively sought out by ISAs or real estate agents. They are found primarily through prospecting for sale by owners, expired listings, center of influence, past clients, geographic farms, and other sources.

Because the leads are coming to you, inbound leads are typically far more valuable to your business than outbound leads. Inbound leads come in through your website by signing up on a lead form, responding to an email or direct mail, or searching on a listing portal like realtor.com® or Zillow, for example. Whatever the avenue may be, they have expressed interest in your company and what your company offers. They have exerted at least some effort in finding you—enough to drive them to your website and give you their contact information.

At a minimum, inbound leads are somewhat active and most likely have some problem they are trying to solve, so when your ISA reaches out to them, it is not coming out of left field. That is what makes them so valuable to you and your team.

Inbound Referral Leads

Inbound referral leads are similarly valuable as normal inbound leads. For some types of referrals, the concept is essentially the same as for other inbound leads. People actively trying to solve a problem and so are going on websites like Dave Ramsey, Agent Machine, or Upnest in order to look for a real estate agent who can help them solve it. They are primed and ready for you.

Traditional referrals can also be tremendously valuable to you. These leads may not have come directly to you via a website or advertising response, but are brought to you by a friend or family member they trust.

So Which Leads Should We Work?

The short answer is this: Work all of your lead sources. This includes inbound leads, inbound referral leads, and all of your outbound leads—expired listings, withdrawn listings, FSBOs, and even past clients and sphere leads. Although we already established that inbound lead sources are typically more valuable than outbound leads on a one-to-one basis, this does not mean that outbound leads have no value.

Don’t get me wrong; I realize that it isn’t always practical to work every possible lead source, and maybe you feel like you can’t or don’t have to. But if you have a real estate team with multiple ISAs, the critical task is to prioritize lead sources for your different ISAs, depending on their skill and experience level.

This is where having a larger team starts to exponentially work to your advantage. You can have your newer inside sales agents work the less productive or less valuable lead sources, while your more experienced ones work the more valuable sources.

What this does is twofold. This allows you to work all of your lead sources (because even those “less valuable” sources can still generate a lot of business for you) and also allows your newer ISAs to gain experience and hone their skills so they can graduate to also working the more productive sources.

Don’t have your team ignore any lead sources if you can help it, but if you can’t work them all, there is a hierarchy in which they should be prioritized. These lead sources should be worked in the following order:

  • All inbound leads
  • Inbound referral leads
  • Expireds, withdrawns, FSBO leads
  • Past client sphere leads
  • Circle prospecting (if this is in support of a farming strategy or if the ISA has no one else to call)

Outbound Leads Have Value, Too

There is a lot of business to be found in expired listings, withdrawn listings, FSBOs, past client sphere, and circle prospecting.

These aren’t necessarily the low-hanging fruit that inbound leads can sometimes be, but if your ISAs know how to get to the heart of the desire of leads and prospects who fall into this category, then there is ample business here that a lot of other teams will not be taking proper advantage of.

As I teach in my free conversion training, the way your ISA should deal with any objection on a call is to understand the prospect’s perspective, process, and desired outcome. Most prospects who have an expired or withdrawn listing or who are trying to sell their property themselves have a specific plan and desired result in mind. Your job is to understand what that is and then show how you can help them fulfill their desire easier than they can with their existing plan or process.

If you can train your team to be able to do this consistently, these so-called “less valuable” lead sources will be what sets your ISA team apart from your competition. Successfully prioritizing and pursuing inbound and outbound leads is the key to growing your real estate business.


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Dale Archdekin is director of marketing and lead generation for the Global Living Companies at Keller Williams Realty in Philadelphia. He is also the founder of Smart Inside Sales, an inside sales training and coaching company that operates Conversion University.

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