Speed matters. In real estate, the sooner you respond to leads, the more leads you’ll convert to clients. And that means more homes sold.

ISAs — inside sales agents — are one way for real estate rainmakers to improve their “speed to lead.” In part two of our series on ISAs, HomeLight Elite Agent Tony Baroni reveals how his ISA department functions: which leads they handle, how they pass leads back and forth with agents, and more. He also offers advice for any agent wondering if they’re ready to hire ISAs. This is part two of a 2-part series.

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Links and Show Notes

Full Transcript

(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host)

When it comes to converting leads and selling homes, what you say really matters. That’s why we’ve done several episodes that talk about scripts. Scripts for converting online leads, scripts for winning listing appointments. We even talked about what to say when you’re in a bidding war.

But it’s not just what you say, when you say it might even matter more. If you listened to last week’s Walkthrough, you heard the numbers. Respond to a new lead within 5 minutes, and there’s an 80% chance the person will do business with you. But if you wait 10 minutes, there’s only a 5% chance you’ll get that person’s business.

In other words, if you want to convert more leads and sell more homes, you better be fast.

[sound: race car speeding by]

When Tony Baroni heard those stats six years ago, he decided to add an ISA department to his already successful real estate team in Central Florida. Last week, Tony told us about his ISA hiring process and what traits make up a good inside sales agent. Today, we are getting in the trenches. Tony is going to talk about which leads his ISA’s work and how they do it. We’ll also cover how you can figure out if you’re ready to hire an ISA. Rev those engines.

This is The Walkthrough.

(INTRO MUSIC)

Hey, everybody. I am Matt McGee, editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. Welcome to The Walkthrough. This is the show where you will learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country.

At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.

If you want to get involved in the show, reach out to me. There’s a few ways you can do that. Leave a voicemail or send me a text, the phone number is 415-322-3328. You can also send an email at walkthrough [at] homelight.com, or just find me in our Facebook listener community. Go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough and the group should come right up. If you are a listener to this show, you should be in that community. All right. I said it before, I’ll say it again. Let’s get into this week’s episode.

“Too many leads” is a good problem to have. Hitting your productivity ceiling is another good problem to have. It means things are going well. But if you’re trying to grow your business, make no mistake, they are problems. When you reach that point and you’re doing all that you can do, you have some choices: form a team, add more agents to your existing team, or add another admin person. Or you can hire an ISA or a couple ISAs. Inside sales agents generally serve a few different purposes. They let you respond to more leads faster, and they help screen those leads so that your agents are only working with the leads who are ready to buy or sell.

We’re in the middle of a two-part series about ISAs. In part one last week, you met Tony Baroni. He’s a HomeLight Elite agent with offices in Tampa and Orlando, Florida. His team maxed out 6 years ago, after a year where they did 115 transactions. But some calls weren’t being answered. Leads were slipping through the cracks. When Tony added an ISA department to his team, they did 150 transactions the next year. Last year in 2020, more than 300 transactions.

Now, if you missed last week’s show, Tony talked all about the decision to add ISAs and his hiring process. He also explained why he chose to bring ISAs in-house instead of using a virtual ISA service.

Tony: I’m a big in-house guy. Just what I’ve chosen because I like to be able to customize it the way I want. And I think it has its challenges not being in-house on how they follow the system, how do you track it.

Matt: That’s a key point right there — Tony customizing how his ISA’s work. It’s going to come up later in this episode. This week, we are going to get tactical. Tony’s going to explain how his ISA department operates. So, listen for him to talk about

  • what role his ISAs play. Do they only work inbound leads or do they also do outbound prospecting?
  • how his ISAs and agents hand leads back and forth depending upon how soon the lead is planning to buy or sell. He’s also going to share what I think is a brilliant system for making sure agents and ISAs are always on the same page.
  • and he’s also going to talk about how to decide if you’re ready to hire an ISA.

All that is coming up and then I’ll be back at the end with our takeaways segment.

As our conversation begins today, Tony is telling me that he tries to send all of his team’s leads to the ISA department, even past clients. Now, some teams and agents may do it differently, but Tony says he wants to take advantage of the leverage that you get from having ISAs.

(BEGIN CONVERSATION)

Matt: Let’s say, Tony, you have clients that you like individually, I’m sure, have worked with many times over the years. They’ll say, “Hey, Tony, we’re thinking about selling.” They’re just going to come to you directly, right? You’re not going to say, oh, you know, you’re not going to funnel them through the ISA.

Tony: Yes and no. Like, I mean, I’m going to take their initial call, but it depends what they need, right? So, if they are a seller, “Hey, Matt, would it be okay if I share with you how our team’s changed?” So, when was it? Three years ago when we worked together?

Matt: Right. Yes. It was, Tony.

Tony: Yeah. So, there’s been a lot of changes on our team. So, basically, I want to just share with you, so one thing I did recently is we hired a listing agent and he’s been with me almost three years. He’s actually been with me over three years now. So, he’s doing all of the listings on our team and I’d like him to come out and meet with you. Of course, I’m here with any questions if you ever need me, but we’re gonna make sure we deliver the promise to you and make sure you have a great five-star experience just like you did last time. So, I really appreciate you thinking of us and calling us back. And when would you like that to happen? And then they say, “Tuesday.” “Okay, great. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to have Ann-Marie on our team reach out to you. There are going to have some questions for you. We’re going to get them all answered so we’re best prepared for the appointment.”

And then we’ll have them set it up. All the questions get answered, right? The file gets set up per se. We’ll send a handwritten note. We’re going to confirm the appointment the next day. And then we’re going to send them our pre-listing packet. And then the next day when we confirm the appointment, all of that goes in the Google Calendar. It goes to the agent, gets assigned, and then the agent’s gonna do the research and go out there and be on time, right? So, essentially, we’re doing four or five things before we’ve even went out there that most agents don’t even do. And it starts setting you apart, setting you apart, setting you apart from someone else.

So, I think sometimes people get stuck on, well, no one wants to be passed along and blah, blah, blah. Like no one cares. They just want great service, right? They want amazing five-star experiences.

Matt: Yeah. If it’s your client that you’ve worked with in past years, it’s a matter of just having that conversation and explaining where things are now and saying, “Hey, this other person is going to take over for me. You’re going to get that same service that you loved before.”

Tony: Absolutely. And I know people in their head right now, as we talk, they’re thinking…

Matt: I can’t do that.

Tony: …no one can do it better than me. No one can do it better than me. And you have to get over yourself or you need to be okay with where you are and there’s no right or wrong answer to that. But I’m telling you right now, you can train people to do it just as good as you if not better would be my argument.

Matt: And Tony, I am so glad you just said that because I know for a fact that’s true. Just, you know, being married to an agent, having been around agents so long that there’s sort of this fear of handing a person over and what’s going to happen if I do that and you do it at some point…and if you don’t want to do that, as you said, that’s okay, you can keep doing that.

Tony: It is okay.

Matt: You just got to understand that at some point you only have so many people you can help, so many things you can do.

Tony: Yeah. A good example, Matt, for me, and this is killing myself. I’m talking like 2008, like in the trenches, like the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life, I could sell 44 homes a year. And that’s the most I could do personally. Of course, that was the short sell era. There was no electronic signatures at the time, all that stuff, but you know, that was 44 a year the most I could do. And you know, that was my maximum. That was my most potential per se.

Matt: Do your ISAs do outbound as well or just inbound?

Tony: They do 90% inbound.

Matt: Okay. So, then 10% prospecting.

Tony: Yup.

Matt: And that would involve follow-up outreach to old leads, that sort of thing?

Tony: There’ll be some nurturing. I really consider that inbound because they reach out to us first and we’re just kind of calling them back you know, nurturing them over time. But really that 10% of the majority is for sale by owners, expireds. One of my ISA is, you know, considered maybe even an OSA outside sales where, you know, he likes to call big accounts. He likes to call for sale by owners, expireds. And so, we let them do that because that’s what he likes doing. And he sets up more appointments that way, too. And he makes more money being able to do it that way.

So, but we’re focused on inbound is what my focus is and we do sprinkle in outbound and we’ll do some circle prospecting. I wouldn’t say we do it all the time, but you know, let’s say we’re in a tight market and which we are, we have one month of inventory in Tampa Bay right now in Orlando. So, it’s pretty crazy. But you know, we circle prospect. We may call the neighborhood and say, you know, “Hey, we just sold 123 Main Street in your neighborhood and we just want to let you guys know, because we actually had 5 offers. Obviously, only one person can buy the house and we have four other people that were interested in your neighborhood. So, by chance, would you be interested in selling your home in the near future?” You know, and they’ll say, yes, no. And then if they say, “Maybe,” you say, “Okay. Well, would you be okay if we did a market analysis for you? I just have to pop by and do a walkthrough, take 15 minutes of your time, and we’ll be able to tell you exactly where you’re at.”

“Well, you know, I don’t want anyone in my house, not right now during COVID.” Right? “Okay. Well, no problem. We can start with an online analysis. You just got to know that’s probably not the most accurate way to do it because we haven’t seen your house.” Right? “Does that make sense?” “Oh yeah, online’s fine for now. We’re not quite serious enough yet.” And then it comes down to follow-up after that.

Matt: And speaking of follow-up, how long do you have your ISA’s continue to nurture the leads?

Tony: About seven touches.

Matt: Over the course how…we’re talking about a couple of weeks, a month, several months?

Tony: I think there’s a law of diminishing returns where at a certain point, it’s going to be hard to convert them. You know, so we’re focused on more now business than three years from now, our team is…and not to say we’re not nurturing them because we are, but a million things can happen in an 18-month to 24-month period. So, we’re more focused on now business than we are on long-term nurturing because anything could…I mean, they may never buy, right? I mean, they may move and take another job if they’re a buyer. So, we say around seven, but it depends on the ISA and how many conversations they’ve had and how those conversations went.

Matt: Let me jump in here and give a quick recap. Tony’s ISA department is currently three people. He likes them to be involved in working with all of the team’s leads, new or old. He’s not afraid to hand over past clients. And you heard his script for how he explains that handoff to someone that he’s worked with before. Tony’s ISAs work about 90% with inbound leads and then 10% outbound. He has one who’s really, really good at calling FSBOs and expireds. So, that ISA does some outbound prospecting too. So that right there is the flexibility that Tony talked about last week in part one of this series, and you heard him say it again at the start of today’s episode. Tony said he likes having ISAs in-house for the flexibility and the ability to customize what they do.

Now, you have that same flexibility too. If you decide to hire an in-house ISA or a couple of them, you can set it up however you need to help your business. You don’t have to follow Tony’s system exactly. You can have your ISAs be 100% new leads only, and you handle past clients or your agents handle past clients. You can have them be 100% inbound calls and no outbound prospecting. It’s totally up to you.

However you do it though, you’re going to have to figure out how you want the ISAs to work with your other agents. Now, if you’ve been a Walkthrough listener since last summer, you probably remember the great series I did with HomeLight Elite agents, Elmer Morales and Jackie Soto. It was about online leads and included some talk about how they use ISAs at their brokerage. As we get back to today’s conversation, I am telling Tony about a great question from our Facebook listener community. It’s a question that Elmer Morales suggested I ask.

One of the questions that Elmer said “you should ask, Tony” — he said, “What does the process look like after the ISA hands off the lead? Does the ISA then do any follow-up, you know, to check did the client make an appointment? Were they happy working with the agent?”

Tony: Oh, yeah. I love this.

Matt: What does it look like after the ISA hands off the lead?

Tony: Love that question. So, what we found after 2019, we looked at the year and we’re like, okay, we did an awesome job with “set.” We did an awesome job with “met.” And after that, we don’t know what happened, pretty much, right? I mean, just to be honest, like people weren’t logging notes, and you know, people were hoarding 200 leads, but maybe they’re not following up. We don’t know. All we know is we did our job, we set the appointment, they met the appointment, which I think is our job as a team more than the agent, right? And then after that, we had no clue what happens.

So, here’s what we created — for Elmer — which I think has worked out really, really well. We created a hotline, okay, so we did a phone number grab, and we used a company I think called CallRail, where we took a phone number and basically after the appointment, the agent calls into this number and it goes to automatic voicemail and they say, “Hey, this is Tony. I just went on a listing appointment at 123 Main Street and I met with Bob and Shirley. And we had a great conversation, they’re interviewing five people, they’re leaning towards us. They have one more interview and they wouldn’t sign them today, but they said they’re going to make a decision in two days. And I’m going to follow-up in two more days at 2:00 and see what direction they’re going. So, I’m going to handle this, right? And then I’ll let you know how it goes.”

Or, it could look like, “Hey, I went on this appointment, the buyer wanted to see this house. They’re not really ready. They’re in a lease for at least another nine months, and they don’t want to break the lease. So, hey, thank you for the appointment. I’m going to send that back to you guys to follow-up on.”

So, you know, we distinguish — is the agent following up, or is the ISA following up. And we have a hotline, we call it our TBT hotline that we call in and we just, basically, get the there’s about five things we’d want to know. And then the ISA logs that in the notes of the CRM so then we’re all kept in the loop on what’s happening. And then they know what the follow-up should be.

Matt: I love that idea of having them call because I know that it can be hard to get them to go into the CRM and do all the notes themselves, right? So, just give them a simple number they can call, then you said the ISA does the data entry and that it’s the agent who determines, “I’m going to keep this one for now,” or, “No, I’m going to pass it back to you for continued nurturing.”

Tony: Well, and that brings up a really big point. Like, so in my mind, if you want to do this effectively, the agent should be focused on 30-day business, maybe arguably 60 days, you know. But if you’re a buyer’s agent and you focus on buyers, who could buy today is who they should be spending all their time with, everyone else should be nurtured by the ISA department. Now, the reality is a lot of people don’t want to hand it back. They want to keep it, which is fine if you’re good at lead follow-up as an agent. I’m fine with that, right, on my team. But if you’re not good at it, and you’re wasting my funds of all the money we’d have to spend to get our phone to ring, then I’m not happy about that as a team owner, right?

So, essentially, you know, we just need a plan and then we need to know who’s communicating after that. And you know, generally, I’d say we only have about six or seven agents on our team. So, they’re all pretty good at lead follow-up. So, generally, the agent’s going to handle it if they’re going to become a buyer in the near future. If it’s going to be a long-term, let’s say 90 days or longer, they’ll give it back to the ISA department to nurture. Now, the ISA department will send it back to them when they’re ready for them later on.

But here’s the deal, guys, like seller…I’m going to break down real estate, like really simple. Sellers want comps quickly and recommendations what price they should list their house at quickly. Buyers want a house, that’s it. That’s real estate. So, if you think your name comes in that conversation, it doesn’t. So, we have to advocate — when a seller wants comps or a listing appointment, you need to do it quickly around their schedule for when they want to do it because there’s a million choices. There’s a lot of Realtors out there. Buyers simply want you to open the door for them first, and then you’ve got to earn their business after. And that’s how I look at real estate.

So, our ISA department just sets all that up, and then I’ve hired agents that they have availability to be able to make it all happen too, you know? So, just like I did. I did tons of production myself. I was that guy that would run an appointment at any given moment because that’s what the client wants.

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Matt: Let’s go back to the accountability topic, by the way, we touched on this a few minutes ago, tell me what — for your ISAs specifically, what performance metrics do you track and also, and I think Elmer was the one that suggested this, what systems do you use to track their performance?

Tony: Yeah. So, first metric is contacts. Second is hours of lead generation. What we mean by that is full non-interrupted lead generation time. So, how many hours a week essentially and per day. We do contacts, then we do appointments set, appointments held. We track, did we get a review from every client, and did we get a referral from every client? We track internally as a team. And then depending on the role, we have a lot of other metrics, but ISA, that’s probably the biggest ones.

Matt: And do you have specific tools or anything like that, software that you use to track all this? Is it all done manually or…?

Tony: Yeah, we have a million spreadsheets and we purchased a system where we’re hopefully gonna launch in the next week or two to have it all in one place. It’s called SISU, S-I-S-U.

Matt: It’s a name I have heard in many circles in real estate and have heard very good things about it.

Tony: I’m excited about it. I think it’s gonna solve a lot of our spreadsheets. I have one guy on my team, I mean, he spends like a whole day all he does is spreadsheets. And just like for us tracking everything, you know.

Matt: Agents are probably wondering, you know, “Am I ready for an ISA?” Geordie Romer in our listening community said, “Ask Tony, what kind of agent or team would benefit the most from an ISA and conversely, who should not hire an ISA?”

Tony: I believe you have to have the business first, right? So, it’s hard to train someone if you don’t know how to…like, if you don’t lead generate yourself, how are you going to teach someone to do lead generation, right? So, when they start and then you guys are looking at each other across the desk, no one’s doing anything, how is that gonna work, right? So, you, first of all, have to commit to, I’m going to do X amount of contacts per day, right? And then essentially when you run out of time is when you’d bring on an ISA, in my opinion. Like, so when you can’t answer your phone anymore because you’re making it rain so much that you basically can’t answer your phone, that would be a good time to bring on an ISA.

If you want to focus on expireds and for sale by owners, you can hire a person just to call them, but it’s really challenging, you know, it’s not easy. So, I think, you know, you have to be immersed where you don’t have any more time left before you hire more leverage. Or, you know, in my case, I chose to not work with buyers. I chose not to work with buyers earlier on because I wanted to hit my listing count because I was really passionate on the listing side myself. So, I decided to leverage buyers probably a little bit earlier than most people would. But, you know, you got to figure out what you love to do each day and then, you know, focus on it.

Matt: I wrote in my notes, is it about how much production you’re doing? How many leads you’re generating? How big your database is? I mean, it sounds like those are all factors, but your focus is on, do I have the time to make all the calls and return all the calls that I need to?

Tony: Well, mine is the customer experience. So, you know, I want to provide a five…this is how my mind works. I want to deliver a five-star experience. If I do that, I know that they’ll refer me to other people. Someone’s not going to do a five-star review for you and then not refer you. I mean, some people aren’t influential or they’ll decide I just don’t refer people. But in general, you know, if you did a five-star…and by the way, it became really important as I grew my team that I needed to make sure we are doing a great job for people because it was important for me when I did that job, I wanted to make sure people were thrilled, not just okay, happy, thrilled, right? And so, the two metrics we focus on the most are, did we get a five-star review? And then did we earn a referral through the transaction? And if you did get a review, then most likely you could get a referral if you train your clients that you want new business and how to do that for you. So, that’s the way we look at it, and we call it The Promise.

Matt: Tony, let’s wrap up this way. I know we have a lot of listeners that, you know, are starting to think right now, “Is this right for me? Is that the right time?” We’ve talked about you know, your story with the Tony Robbins Seminar, and then going to the Loken Group in Houston and calling up a bunch of your friends in the industry and figuring out what was right for you. We talked about systems that you want to have in place, right, hiring and training. Sum it all up for us, for listeners out there, agents that are at a certain level of success and thinking, “Is this what I need to do to take it to the next level?” What’s the sort of the final advice you would them?

Tony: I think agents that if you’re struggling, you know, let’s just say this, I coach baseball, right? When I’m on the baseball field, I can’t answer my phone, right? Like the parents would lose their minds if they saw me on my phone the whole time while I’m supposed to be coaching their kids in baseball, right? So, you’ve gotta figure out a system where you collect information needed to call people back at a minimum. Now, if you can get someone to answer your phone, even better, right? But there’s a million services out there for call centers that you can forward your phone to when needed, and we’ve used these along the way as needed, but you know, they call this number and it’s, “Thanks for calling the Tony Baroni team.” And they don’t know anything, but they’re going to get their name, phone number, email, and say, “Hey, someone on the Tony Baroni team will call you back.” And then that can be you to start with, right? And then that can build up to so much more as you decide to, but at a minimum, I would do that right now and make sure the thousands or hundreds of dollars you’re spending with lead capture to get more leads that you’re able to call them back.

The last thing I’d say is I think some people get caught up in if you don’t want to have a team and you want to be one agent, I am not knocking you. In fact, I did that, right? So, I just chose to build a team and it’s not for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel like bad if you don’t want to, just make sure you have someone helping you answer the phone if you are so busy, you can’t answer your phone, I guess would be my advice. And then it’s okay not to want to build a big team either, you know? So, at the end of the day, let’s be advocates for one another and be awesome Realtors to give our real estate community a great name, you know, is kind of a way I look at it.

(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host)

And that’s a great way to look at it. Thanks for the great conversation, Tony. So much good info about ISAs packed into these two episodes.

I’m curious what stood out to you this week? What are your takeaways? Shall we compare? Here are mine. This is what stood out to me from part two with Tony Baroni.

Number one, Tony’s ISAs touch pretty much all of the team’s leads, even past clients. The key there he said is that you have to be willing to hand over a past client. You have to trust that you have trained your team so well that they’ll provide at least the same level of service that the client got from you in the past.

Takeaway number two, Tony’s ISAs are 90% inbound, but he has one who does well prospecting to FSBOs and expireds. And that’s the flexibility that he talked about when explaining why he prefers in-house ISA’s over a virtual service.

Takeaway number three, my gosh, I loved this so much. About the middle of today’s episode, Tony went really deep on how his ISAs and agents coordinate the passing of leads back and forth. And he talked about how the team used to never know what happened with a lead after the agent’s first meeting, right, because the agents weren’t adding notes to the CRM. So, what did they do? They set up a hotline. After each appointment, the agents call the team hotline and leave a detailed voicemail to recap what happened. Part of that voicemail is the agent deciding if they’re going to stay in touch with the lead or if they want the ISAs to take over the nurturing. And then the ISA’s hear the voicemail, update it all in the CRM, and everyone stays up-to-date on every lead. Absolutely brilliant.

Takeaway number four, if you are wondering, “Am I ready to hire an ISA or use a virtual service?” Tony says, first, you have to commit to making X number of contacts per day. And then the question is, are you making it rain so much that you can’t answer your phone? If so, you might be ready to hire an ISA. As sort of a stop-gap measure, he even suggested at the very end there that you could use a call center to answer calls and collect contact information at minimum.

So much good stuff. I hope you found this valuable. If you have any questions for me or feedback for me or Tony, a couple of different ways you can do that, leave a voicemail or send me a text, it’s 415-322-3328. You can also send an email, it’s walkthrough [at] homelight.com or you can find both Tony and myself in our Facebook listener community. Just search HomeLight Walkthrough, the group will come right up, join in, and fire away with any question that you have for Tony.

That’s all for this week. Thanks so much to Tony Baroni for joining me, and thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. It means a lot if you do that. And also be sure to tap that subscribe button so you get all future episodes automatically.

My name’s Matt McGee, and you’ve been listening to “The Walkthrough.” At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.

Go out and safely sell some homes, everyone. I’ll talk to you again next week. See you.

Header Image Source: (Jacob Lund / Shutterstock)

In part two of our series on ISAs, HomeLight Elite Agent Tony Baroni reveals how his ISA department functions: which leads they handle, how they pass leads back and forth with agents, and how they help his team sell more homes. He also offers advice for any agent wondering if they’re ready to hire ISAs.HomeLight Blog