Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The American GeniusThe American Genius

Business Marketing

If I’m Not a Lead, What Am I?

original image credit

I Am Not A Lead

Last year a video circled the internet, I am not a Lead created by Marc Davison of 1000 Watt Consulting. I loved it and so did the thousands of consumers who watched it.

Yes, as Realtors, we “got it” completely, it is not about us, consumers want to be engaged, sellers are willing to pay for our knowledge and experience, buyers want to see all the houses, they want to see all the photos, they don’t want to be captured, or contacted……I AM NOT A LEAD.

Over the year, one phrase has haunted me- I am not a lead. It appears the word LEAD has become a four letter word among many people in our industry. Well, it is a four letter word but not in a derogatory way.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

At least it should not be.

But If You’re Not A Lead…

If you are not a lead, what is that person who registers (or not) on your web site, calls from your blog, calls off a sign, attends an open house? That person is not yet a client, not yet a customer, not yet a buyer, not yet a seller. They are a LEAD.

When I go to Best Buy, looking for a new lap top, I am a shopper.

When I go to Lexus to trade in my car, I am a past client.

When I go to Sprint, I am a customer.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Do I expect to be taken care of in all those rolls? treated with respect? engaged about my needs? Yes, of course I do.

That Person IS A Lead

When people register on my web site, send a request in to view home, ask for a CMA, or save homes in their favorites, they are a Potential Client, a Potential Customer, but right then and there that person is a lead. That is OK.

When a college student applies to college they are a potential student, a lead for that school of higher education. When a Dentist opens a new practice, they are looking for leads (patients), same with anyone starting a new business, a plumber, a coffee shop, a nail salon. It is all about leads.

So if you have been careful like I have the last year, of not wanting to insult anyone by saying that four letter word, take a deep breath.

I accept that I am a lead generator and my first contact with potential buyer and sellers, they are leads. That’s it, no more or no less. The hard work starts when you pick up the phone…..

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Written By

Written by Missy Caulk, Associate Broker at Keller Williams Ann Arbor. Missy is the author of Ann Arbor Real Estate Talk and Blog Ann Arbor, and is also the Director for the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors and Member of MLS and Grievance Committee's.



  1. Jay Thompson

    September 26, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Well. There’s some food for thought. I’ve often said, “I don’t like the word lead”. But that’s because as you point out, it some turned into a four-letter word.

    Is “prospect” any better?

    I don’t know.

    The bottom line is you’re right. They are a lead. A prospect. A potential sumthin-or-other. Whatever one chooses to call it.

    As long as one realizes that leads are people too and treat them how they like to be treated, does the word really matter?

    So there. I “work leads”. My sites “generate leads”. That doesn’t make me evil or the leads bad.

    Nice dive into the AG pool.

  2. Jay Thompson

    September 26, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    “it some turned into a four-letter word”


    If you leave out half of an entire word, it that really a typo?

    “it somehow turned into a four-letter word”

  3. Faina Sechzer

    September 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Words carry a certain emotional connotation and it ‘s easy to treat a “lead” as statistics rather then a person. The idea of “potential” customer, client implies potential relationship, which is what we are after, right? An analogy would be people looking for romantic matches. they usually look for “potential” boyfriends/girlfriends; not leads:) On the other hand, shop talk is fine and If “leads” is what makes the phone wring,I wouldn’t mind:)

  4. Joe Zekas

    September 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    When I call for information about a house, I’m simply a person calling for information about a house.

    Any real estate agent who wants to read anything more into my inquiry – i.e., treat me as a “lead” – has lost any prospect of selling me that house.

    You can insult people by treating them as leads without using the word – i.e., by disrespecting the nature of their inquiry and attempting to establish more of a relationship with them.

    Applying for college or visiting a dental office are not the same as callng to inquire after information that should have been made available without the necessity of a call.

  5. Lisa Sanderson

    September 26, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    ‘Lead’ is certainly better than an ‘Up’, but do not really care for either term. I prefer ‘Prospect’, as in a prospective client. This means they are someone whose trust & future business I hope to earn.

    But the worst word I hear is, by far, ‘Deal’. Please people, we don’t ‘do deals’ we facilitate transactions. Sheesh.

  6. Jim Duncan

    September 26, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    When someone contacts me via my blog, they are “someone who wants to talk about real estate,” but they are definitively not a lead to me. Perhaps if I systematized and de-personalized how I do business, they could be a “lead.”

    Really it’s just semantics – it’s how that person is treated.

    A “lead” is someone from the XM commercial – “the reason you’re not doing enough business is because you don’t have enough leads.”

    I don’t want “leads” – blind calls/emails/contacts – nor do I want all of them. I want those who have shown interest in my personality, my content, candor and by doing so have reached out to me rather than the other way around.

    Again, it’s semantics; it’s how that person is treated and regarded that makes them what they are to you.

  7. @AustinAaron

    September 26, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I like “prospect”. I tend to refer to mine as “buddy”, though. aka “I got a new buddy.” Because after I make them money, that’s what they’ll be. I treat everyone the same way. There’s no sugar-coating anything. So everyone gets treated like a friend from first contact. There’s no language change, no addressing them any differently, nada. So they’re all buddies of mine.

    And Ms. Lisa . . . I totally agree with “deal”. I hate hearing, “Closing another deal.” I always feel like telling them, “Congratulations, asshole. That’s your job.” Like when a wide receiver scores a touchdown and then dances around like an idiot. “Way to do your job, d-bag.” I don’t do deals. I make action happen.

  8. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    September 26, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I most agree with Jim- the point is that it’s all semantics and it does not matter what you call a client/consumer/prospect/lead/shopper in your head, they’re all the same thing- someone wanting info on a house. Missy’s addressing the hyper-sensitive overly PC behavior in the uber concern that we should not offend consumers by what words we choose privately to label them with. It’s true- you should never say to someone “hey, you’re the best lead I’ve ever had, gimme the dollas, yo,” but if you call them a “lead” in your head or to a coworker, you’re NOT going to hell. If you treat a consumer like they’re nothing more than a faceless paycheck, then the public sensitivity to the “lead” situation ensues and you just MIGHT go to real estate Hades.

    Example: when I worked in apartment management, we had sensitivity training to learn new words like “community not complex” and “resident or neighbor, not tenant” and the like but did that change how the office staff talked about “tenant ledgers”? No. Service was amazing regardless of semantics and to this day I call it a “complex” and “tenants” now that I’m not involved anymore.

  9. Elaine Reese

    September 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever used the term ‘lead’ to refer to people who call for info, or who come to my open houses. To me they’re just people who want information – which I have – or to see the open house – which I can show them. They may decide that they want to hire me or they may not. But at least, hopefully, they won’t view me as a “pushy agent”. I think if I viewed those people as ‘leads’, then my behavior toward them would change, because I would be viewing them first and foremost as a dollar sign rather than as a person. But that’s just my own hang-up. I’m sure other agents don’t make that mental distinction.

  10. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    September 26, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Elaine, for clarification, I don’t care for the word “lead,” it feels impersonal and ugly, but I maintain that using the word in your head or in private, it does not dictate your behavior… only your behavior dictates your behavior. I call the “fitness center” that has fancy towels a “gym” but it doesn’t change how hard I work out. I call the cleaning lady “the maid” not “the sanitation engineer” and I don’t call the “perfume lady” an “olfactory consultant” and somehow my calling them such does not change the job they do or their paycheck. I refer to my daughter as “girl” sometimes instead of “young lady” which does not mean she is not treated like a young lady. I call my husband “sweetie” sometimes but that doesn’t mean that when we are at work I sit on his lap, call him “baby” or ignore his requests.

    It’s all semantics and it doesn’t matter what you call it so long as you act professionally and respectfully. People that perceive clients as “leads” that are faceless typically have an income to reflect that, need I say more?

  11. Toby & Sadie

    September 26, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    “You Say Tomato, I say Tomato, let’s call the whole thing off.”

    I have subscribed to Elaine’s theory and found that as I “worked” on getting my database in order that I began looking at “people” as “tasks” and “items”. I wasted a lot of money on letters and direct mail that had no “soul” before I realized that it was getting me zero return on investment.

    Was it because I called them leads? No. It was because I started looking at them from a different view, that is the four-letter word, treating them as an item/task rather than a person.

    I call the first-timers “suspects” and those that get my satirical sense of humor find it quite humorous when I tell them why. They aren’t sure about the house, about me, and I’m not sure about them. We are all suspicious of each other.

    Just my strange take.

  12. Dan Connolly

    September 26, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I think that how you think about people does affect how you treat them, and how you are perceived by them. The classic example is when people disrespect folks of the opposite sex mentally and then try to have a civil or professional relationship in the open. For the most part, the real feelings will work their way to the surface. People’s intuition and gut feelings can get to the truth of the matter pretty quickly.

    The typical agent requires sign-in on a website or open house and then chases the potential client or “lead” unmercifully, spams them with drip email, phone calls, sends recipe cards, and wishes them a happy birthday every year for the rest of their lives…. ughh! I think this type of behavior is why Realtors have such a low job approval rating in general. People say this is a good business plan and swear by it, but I think it assumes that people are dopes and can be manipulated and that a good salesperson does just that.

    Really the answer in my book is to create a presence, through a website or a blog, or by having a lot of salable listings or a great advertising approach that causes the client to call you, rather than the other way around. Then you give them what they ask for and simply ask if they need anything else. If they say no, I move on to the next call. For me, is the key point in what makes a business successful , is not having to beg for business or chase after it.

  13. Bob

    September 26, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Confucius say, “Man who wait for Peking Duck to fly into mouth will soon starve.”

  14. ines

    September 26, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I think this discussion is all about the psychology of the word “lead” – in our society we have a tendency to associate certain words with different behavioral responses until these start getting a negative connotation. It is about semantics and I do honestly believe, especially in Missy’s case – that a “lead” that comes to her website or calls her office is not treated like a piece of meat.

    We are in a business of relationships and each one of us will have a different interpretation of what respect or disrespect is. What’s great about it is that if I choose to have a drip campaign on my site and someone does not like it and feels offended, then they will more than likely stop the drip and never come back. I don’t think it’s about being offensive, it’s about trying different methods to communicate with people who you may end up working with.

    I respect Dan’s method of no drip and no contacting of his readers, but I also respect someone else’s drip campaign and even the agents who choose to cold call, even if I would never do any of those myself.

  15. Bill Lublin

    September 26, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I have to agree with Lani that the word is not the person – no does it dictate our relationship or how we treat others. I prefer the word prospect (in the sense that there is a prospective relationship or a prospective transaction to facilitate) to the word lead, but that really doesn’t matter – What matters is what I do to engage the individual to a level that allows me to provide my service and earn a living.

    With all due respect to the need to treat people as people and with respect, I do what I do in business ot earn a living – not to create new relationships -Because of the nature of our business, I tend to create relationships as I work with people, but that is a secondary result of my primary purpose – to provide services or sell properties.

    I think that Missy’s point, that we need to remember that each new contact is primarily a potential customer or client for us to work with, regardless of the term we use to describe that stage of our relationship is valid, important and well made.

  16. Dan Connolly

    September 26, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Bob, Its not a matter of sitting and waiting for the duck to fly in your mouth, as much as working hard to give people a good reason to call.

    Ines, Great point! I really didn’t think of myself as the disrespectful type…sheesh!

  17. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Lani, thank you for jumping in, and clarifying I’m talking about the “word”, not the person. I fell asleep mid debate and found this Google Alert in my email now at 6:30 A.M. LOL

    When a person calls me they are all treated with respect, regardless of what their needs are at the time. When I talk about “leads”, I am talking mostly about folks that register on my web site, they are a name, an email address, a phone number or whatever information they left behind. ” When I pick up the phone or a team member calls them to follow up, they go from a person (lead) that supplied information to a potential customer, or client.

    I am not talking about how people are treated, but the word. That word (lead) had become a bad thing in my mind.

  18. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Joe, we don’t “treat people as leads”, that’s ridiculous, we treat them with respect and an attitude to be helpful. It is not a “piece of meat” like Ines said. Just saying, not afraid to call them that until they become a customer or client, Not to their face or in our attitude.

    Ines, every drip campaign should have an opt out. Permission based marketing, In my experience most are just starting their search, so we keep our face and Search Site in front of them so as they continue to search the web for houses, they will remember us. My experience is most people are hopping around all over the web until they are ready to walk through homes and purchase,

  19. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Elaine, I don’t call people “leads” who come to an OPEN HOUSE, or call me. Well, I don’t do OPEN HOUSES anymore but if I did they would be guests or visitors. Perhaps I should have clarified in the post I was talking about web-site visitors. Sorry….

    Lisa, I hate the word “deal” too, I use transaction. But, if agents use it, I know what they mean and take no offense.

    Jay, thank you, I think you understood, “I work leads, I generate leads, that doesn’t make me evil or bad.”

    Dan, hound them endlessly is not my style, calling folks who ask for information to assess their needs and see if you can help then is the point of advertising. In this market, or should I say the Ann Arbor market you have to be proactive and not sit and wait for the phone to ring.

    Here is a quick example, resident at U. of M. registers on our web site, I assign the “lead” opps person to my daughter, she picks up the phone and calls, “Hi this is Christa, you were on our web site, can I help you with anything specific?”
    Person, “Thank you for calling me, I have had so many Realtors, just emailing me.”
    “I need to buy a house or condo”.
    Appointment is made, find the condo first time out, and closed 4 weeks later

    If she had not called, the poor busy physician would still be looking. She connected with him on the phone, he went from a shopper to a client and now a friend. She becomes friends with 99% of all the clients.

  20. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Toby and Sadie, Joe Stumpf, By Referral Only calls them suspects at first level of a relationship too. He was my coach for first 3 years in the business, and taught a system of how to take a suspect to a Raving Fan or Advocate.

    Austin Aaron, that works!

    Jim, I have found people that call, from my blog are ready to list, they already know me. They are not a lead, they sorta skip that step. They are the best clients to have because like you say trust is built because they have connected to you in your writing. Unfortunately, there is not enough of them at this point so we do have to do “lead generation” to grow the business. 41% of all our Teams closings are from follow up.

    Bill, your last sentence says it all.

  21. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 5:18 am

    This is fun, nothing like a discussion where people have different opinions.

  22. marc davison

    September 27, 2008 at 5:45 am

    I would simply call that person a guest. Semantics nor withstanding, u think psychologically we all tend to treat guests a little different than we would treat leads. And thanks for acknowledging the video. When making it we felt it would serve as a road map for where new opportunities might be for practitioners.


  23. Elaine Reese

    September 27, 2008 at 6:45 am

    I’d like to clarify as I think what I wrote was somewhat misconstrued – I was watching the debate on TV while writing – so probably didn’t do a good job. 😉

    I really never thought much about the word ‘lead’ until I read this post. When I thought about what I call people, I decided that I don’t really assign a name to them other than ‘people’. But then I work as a single agent, so I’m not having to communicate with other team members. I can understand why a team would want to assign various names as a way to easily communicate with each other what stage the person may be in the database list.

  24. Mack

    September 27, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Well Missy you certainly got off with a bang in your first article. I consider everyone that visits my site a prospective client. It is my job to build a relationship that makes them want to utilize my services.

  25. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Elaine, I didn’t take offense at all, it is just a word, and not a bad 4 letter one. LOL

    Mack, not my intention, but I knew it would be somewhat controversial as it has become a no, no word since the video came out and I found myself trying to be PC.

  26. Paula Henry

    September 27, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Missy – I don’t think lead is a “bad” word; only recently, it conjures up negative emotions in the online world. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you call a visitor, lead, prospect or suspect when you are talking amongst peers. What matters is how the person at the other end of the email address or phone number is treated when we contact them.

  27. Joe Zekas

    September 27, 2008 at 8:57 am


    I think you misread my point. It wasn’t about anythng YOU do. After misreading me, and telling me you treat people with respect, you call my point “ridiculous.” I’m not feeling the respect.

    You suggest that every drip campaign should have an opt out. I’d – respectfully – suggest that no campaign should ever be initiated without a carefully explained opt-in. Semantics aside, agents who don’t request informed consent to e-mail campaigns are treating people as leads, rather than as people and are profoundly disrespecting them.

  28. Bob in San Diego

    September 27, 2008 at 9:06 am


    The thing is that not everyone that registers will pick up the phone, but some will become a client once called.

    You cant work hard enough to give everyone a reason to call. Many only make it to the search section of the site where they register, search and leave. Without calling them if they leave a number, there is little to no chance that those types will ever do business with you.

    Many expect to be called.

  29. Bob

    September 27, 2008 at 9:14 am

    To follow up on Joe’s point, to do it right, it should be a closed loop double opt in system. That would involve sending an opt in link via email. This verifies the email address while protecting them from being spammed by others using your sign up.

  30. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 9:28 am

    “Any real estate agent who wants to read anything more into my inquiry – i.e., treat me as a “lead” – has lost any prospect of selling me that house.”

    Joe, my comment was not that your comment was ridiculous, it was that you would think I called them a lead to their face or treated them as a lead and not a person.

    I would never call a person a lead to their face. How could you convert a lead to a client without respecting them and trying to ascertain what their needs are and how we can help them by their inquiry.

    Two sites, one folks check a box to receive new listings. Another site folks set up their search and save it, they leave emails and phone numbers. My two sites are automated so when listings come up that meet their saved search they get the listing sent to them. When I list a new home they get that email if they checked the box, YES I want to get new listings. In my way of thinking that is not spam.

    When a number is left, we pick up the phone and call.

    Bob, in San Diego, yes they do expect a call, and very, very few are not warm and welcoming.

  31. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Marc, I like most folks loved the video, it was point on. I think I’ll try that with my team on Wed, “Ok ya’ll we are now calling our leads, guests”. I’ll flip video it so you can see their reactions, Seriously, my issue as you know is with the word, not the essence of the video. I’ve watched it multiple times. 🙂

  32. Kim Wood

    September 27, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I say – whatever you want to call them……

    Bring them on! I want them – and will work to convert out of “that name” quickly !

  33. Jonathan Dalton

    September 27, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    It’s all semantics from where I sit – lead, prospective buyer or seller, buddy, dude who called off a sign – all of these represent people who may do business with us if we offer value and treat them right. It seems far less important to worry about to call this group than how we handle the group.

    Here’s the other thing … the business side of real estate is a numbers game. That’s why I turned on the registration on my website. If x people sign up and y percent of them buy or sell in a given year, this is going to be my income. Or work it backward – this is the income I want, knowing y percent convert, I need x.

    So the question from the back end of things becomes how do I get x number of leads, contacts, whatever.

    Avoiding the word lead can be a little disingenuous. Someone in my office is trolling coffee shops and book stores hoping to start conversations that might lead to real estate. These are just ordinary folks and at the end of the day the goal is to turn one or more of them into leads. And then we hope to turn them into clients and then into closed transactions.

    Not to dismiss the human side of things as relationships play a role in real estate. But there’s no reason to be ashamed of the pure business aspect of it all.

  34. Tom Hall

    September 27, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I agree that the issue really is semantics – I don’t consider a person who calls me off of my sign or website listing to inquire about a price or property details a lead. They are simply an interested party.

    A lead or prospect is an individual or set of individuals who have actively confirmed that they are open to further communication from me – whether it’s regarding a specific property or future properties that may fit their criteria, new information regarding an area, news etc. Some actively engage immediately. If so – they may become a client immediately – you never know.

    Perhaps one reason why consumers can’t stand being labeled a “lead” is because we fail to appropriately qualify them.

    When someone calls and asks about a property – I probe. If they’re not open to sharing information, they don’t make the list for further contact. If I ask if they are open to having me contact them in the future and they say yes – I may classify them as a prospect. Future communication may further classify them as a hot prospect, warm prospect – or no prospect – or let’s face it – sometimes they’re just a jerk 😉 Okay – I was kidding.

  35. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Tom, I know you were kidding and some folks do call just for a price, I give it to them right away, then probe. However, most are not qualified and if we don’t connect or hit it off on the phone I don’t follow them up either.

    Jonathan, you asked “So the question from the back end of things becomes how do I get x number of leads, contacts, whatever.” I know what works for me and I’ll share in another post. I know some won’t like it but it works for me, so I’ll share.

  36. Jonathan Dalton

    September 27, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Looking forward to it!

  37. Marc

    September 28, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Agent Genius’s

    Allow me to share a quick story.

    About 14 months ago, while shopping for groceries, I met a shopper wearing a Realtor pin. I was with my wife and we had been in midst of our own conversation about the changing marketplace. Noticing the pin, I excused myself for intruding and asked if she was in fact an agent. She smiled and said yes. I explained my reason for stopping her and asked if she could tell us what was going on out there in the marketplace.

    Imagine if she produced a form for us to fill out before responding. Imagine if her response was automated and brief, followed by a serious of free reports that would drip into my mailbox.

    Absurd you might say. But that is how most Internet leads are handled. And in your wildest dreams you would never imagine doing that to a person you meet in the real world.

    The agent gave us an in depth explanation providing us with a much needed sense of relief. She asked us if we were thinking of selling. We said no. Just worried about falling prices and the value of our home. She understood completely. Handed us her card and told us to call if we had any other questions or needed advice. We parted ways.

    Guys, our video was never about a word. It was about a state of mind. And a perception that Internet people are somehow different than someone you meet in the street. That Internet people are not individuals, with different needs and levels of interest. That they are all the same – leads – to be dealt with accordingly and automatically.

    Our video was made to spawn this type of discussion and remind real estate folks that at the core, beyond your sales ability and services, you are the only people who we, the consumer, can look up too for advice on what is a frightening, sickening reality in America. Some may want to hire you, some may simply want to engage you for a second, have a question answered and feel like someone in real estate cared.

    By a strange turn of events, agents were taught to forgo that experience and forgo their natural instincts to help people online.

    This is not semantics. This is about the membrane that was placed around real estate as it entered the Internet world circa 1999 when 5% of your total inquiries came from early web adapters who were, dubious possibilities at best. These were the days of Genstar, Homeseekers and Advanced Access – website companies that architected the entire lead generation paradigm online.

    These companies knew nothing about the consumer or the web. They ignorantly manufactured a paradigm that stands as the sickening legacy of what lead generation is today despite the fact that now, 85-90% of real estates customer resides on the web. Yet most lead gen tactics have not changed as a result.

    I am not indicting the entire industry or you individually but rather, just this ancient practice that may never has, and might not be a justifiable one.

    If you treat guests who enter your online space the very same way you would if they walked off the street and into your office, then you can call them a lead, or whatever you want. Your sensibilities are in tact.

    But if your web antics are vastly different from your street practice, if you treat my inquiry about a home value the same way you treat a person’s need to relocate immediately and buy a home, then perhaps our video may persuade you to consider treating each inquiry with a new air of dignity and respond personally. These are amazing opportunities to touch people with the warm hand of real estate – your hand.

    I still have that ladies card on fridge door. You could say that in some way, I am a lead. I would not argue. But she treated me as a person. And I can tell you, there is a big difference.

    Stay busy!

  38. teresa boardman

    September 28, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    yes some people are leads but I still won’t “capture” them. It is better to captivate them.

  39. Missy Caulk

    September 28, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Marc, nothing more to add, except I hope you don’t think Realtors would pull out a form in the grocery store, or anywhere else we are engaged with questions about the market. At least I don’t know any that would. Great discussion. 🙂

    Teresa, love it.

  40. Marc

    September 28, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Of course not. And that’s my point. If you would never do it in real life, why do it online? The answer is because in real life they are people and online they are leads. Leads don’t have hearts, minds, wives, husbands, kids and pets. People do. People also have baggage. And sometimes it’s easier especially on the web to categorize them as leads and leave them to auto responders and drip campaigns. In the end, the lead is only the inquiry, not the person who wrote it. As Teresa so eloquently put it that I take a liberty on is – capture the lead but captivate the person who left it.

    Then, I think, all will be good.

  41. Matthew Rathbun

    September 28, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Sorry, I’ve only glanced at the assortment of comments – Here’s my few points.

    1. I know you are all tired of me saying this, but I HATE semantics and that’s what this is. The point is that you either respect your future clients and consumers as a person and treat them as you desire to be treated or….you’re just like the other 80% of agents out there. How we refer to them isn’t as important as how one cares for them. Unfortunately those who get this concept, already get it and don’t need to understand the difference. Those who don’t already get this – most likely won’t by calling an person with an interest in your services, “not-a-lead”.

    2. I think we should all stop trying to apply consumer traits in shopping for apples, lawyers and doctors to Real Estate. It’s different. The basic reptilian responses of human nature do have a place, but the situations are different….

    3. While T is trying to seduce clients…. I mean captivate them…. the rest of the agents are still trying to figure out how to find them. What you call them, isn’t as important as knowing how find and care for clients in a manner that will reflect well on you and the profession.

    (I love T’s “captivate them” – I will be sure to use that in the future)

  42. marc

    September 28, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Why would anyone HATE semantics? Awfully strong emotions surrounding a simple notion that there might in fact be a great deal of meaning behind the words we use. Take your hatred for example. Do you really HATE it or do you simply find it intellectually exhausting. There is a big difference and regards how you are viewed by the audience. I bring this up because when it comes to the written word, one must be diligent with each and every syllable because of it might be interpreted by others.

    How you refer to them – you customer – definitely affects how you care for them. If I’m wrong, explain why it takes most agents 55 hours to respond to a web lead when they probably get back to their friends immediately. There is a reason why Virgin America spent a fortune conducting research and focus groups and hired a marketing firm to learn what the best word they could come up with, internally and externally to call their customer. Turns out, that word is Guest.

    I don’t mean to be confrontational but you can’t throw around words just because they are convenient. There really is a science to naming everything and setting the tone for how company and its culture acts, reacts, and refers to everything. I speak with experience on this issue.

    I also assert that you absolutely need to apply shopping for apples to how one shops for real estate. There mere fact that real estate doesn’t apply this sensibility is part of the reason it has issues. Take apples. Consumers understand that all apples are not the same. Some may like green one others like red. Some like Granny’s others like Macintosh. But when it comes to agents, read the surveys. Consumers can’t tell the difference, they think you are all alike and have disdain for the lot despite the many green apples in the bunch. Harris Polls place agents at the bottom of consumer trust surveys. This is unfair and misguided but this is how the consumer thinks and feel.

    I would respectfully argue that the basic reptilian response of human nature do have place here and the situations are not at all different.

    While the bulk of agents are trying to figure out how to find a customers, there are just as many, if not more customers, trying to source you. Perhaps if agents tried something different, the connection wouldn’t be as hard as it appears. In this regard, I suspect each of you here at AG are already trying something different and that might be precisely why you are doing better than the bulk of this industry.

    I mean no disrespect here to Matthew or anyone. All too often, cavalier assumptions are made about things all to quickly. I recommend subscribing to Forrester, Harris and Pew Research as I do and/or take part in or run hundreds of consumer focus groups if you really want to get insight into human behavior. I value the years I spent conducting these surveys for large international firms. The reveal is quite substantial.

    Also check with the folks at Real Trends. Anne Randolf. She is a gold mine of consumer data for real estate that is way underutilized.

    Respectfully yours,

  43. Matthew Rathbun

    September 29, 2008 at 6:11 am


    No offense at all. I appreciate your point of view and feel that the “blogging” venue is a great way to allow all sides of a point to share, so long as it’s directed at a better awareness and done respectfully (as is often the case here on AG.)

    I agree. I do not hate semantics, in as much, as I do not wish it to never existed. I do find it intellectually exhausting, because while I lecture about Agency issues; I keep finding myself having to find new phrases and words to relay to my students what a “lead” is. I’ve gone to using phrases like “consumer with an interest in your services” however, that’s always what I felt a “lead” is/was and always treated each one as a consumer with a problem they needed help solving. The problem maybe needing to sell or buy a product; but it’s still a problem. Practitioners should be honored and take a servant-leadership role when assisting a client. To be sought out because of one’s knowledge or expertise, is flattering. The issue here is the lack of respect most agents have for their clients not IMHO what we call them.

    That being said, I CANNOT instill Ethics nor Respect in a new agent, if they do not already posses this traits. I’ve been teaching “Ethics and Standards of Practice” for several years now. I can teach the learner the rules, but I am simply not skillful enough to make them “ethical.” To put it this way, I cannot correct 40 years of immoral parental influence in 40 minutes of lecture.

    I happen to also preach regularly in my church – even in that venue, I have to trust that what I am saying is ordained to change someone; my words alone will not correct a crooked path. I know, I’ve been on the receiving end of many well spoken individuals and I am too much of a skeptic to be lulled by the most influential vernacular.

    Therefore, I don’t feel that I can instill respect for a client, simply by changing the name of the individual. Do words have meaning? YES. In agency, you are legally (In Virginia) to treat a “Customer” and “Client” differently. We’ve been teaching this since 1997 when the Buyer Agency law changes, and still only about 10% of agents really “get it.”

    I fully respect and understand the sentiment behind not referring to a consumer as a “lead.” However the word itself is not the problem – the actions and mindset of the practitioner is.

    Equally Respectful,

    ~Matthew 🙂

    (BTW it was nice meeting you at VAR)

  44. Cathy Tishhouse

    September 29, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I had seen the video some time ago and I didn’t even focus on the word “lead” but more like – this is how people who are ‘looking to real estate agents for something’ want to be treated. Bascially I heard that they did not want to be treated as an object that will get ‘us’ something or somewhere. I really have thought nothing more about what I call those who visit my website or e-mail. I will have to watch as I can’t even answer that. Earlier today, someone filled out a form for and IDX search and I was notified. Looking back, I only consider them as someone who is looking for a home, needs something/someone and maybe I can be the one they will choose to assist them – and somehow I want to stand out in the crowd and show them I will take very good care of them.

  45. Marc

    September 29, 2008 at 9:41 am


    Yes, nice meeting you too.

    I agree it’s hard to change people and you can’t teach ethics. I am done worrying about the salty old dogs of real estate who can even spell ethics. But this industry is going to last much longer than we are and I believe that a difference can be made for all the newbies entering along with those advanced enough to dialog on a group blog. Here, is a center for higher learning and I trust the folks here have both ethics and the desire to change. I want to give them that chance,

    Here’s how I see it:

    The form = the lead
    The sender = a person

    Imagine if God viewed everyone who prayed to him as a lead rather than a child worthy of his love.

  46. Danilo Bogdanovic

    September 29, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I agree with Jim… Whatever the word you use is, it doesn’t really matter – it’s how you treat you the person(s). And as Chris Rock said in a recent stand-up routine, “It’s not the word. It’s the context in which the word is said.”

    People call me a “Real-a-tor” all the time and I don’t get pissed despite the word “Real-a-tor” having a very negative connotation these days. If they treat me like a human and with respect, I don’t really care what they call met.

    Now back to returning emails and calls from leads. I mean, prospects. No wait…potential buyers. So confused…

  47. marc

    September 29, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Stick with calling them people and you will be fine.

  48. Steve Simon

    September 29, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    A comment re: a comment:
    Marc, I find that I now know what I am feeling it isn’t, disdain, nor disgust, and certainly not hate.
    It is simply I find them or their point of view intellectually exhausting 🙂
    I will use this from time to time in the future, with or without your blessing:)

  49. marc

    September 29, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    LOL. Well said. You have my blessing. Amen!

  50. marc

    September 29, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Was thinking about the semantic issue some more because I felt there is more to this than just a matter of word play. I wondered if I could apply this to agents and test a theory.

    How do you all feel about being called a real estate agent? Does it make you a bit itchy? I am reacting particularly to what Danilo wrote about the impression the world Realtor has on the general public.

    Lately, within the industry at least, Agents and Realtors are now referred to by as Real Estate Professionals. And Bloggers. The Real Estate Professional thing began as a courtesy of vendors who sought to use this term to soften you guys up for a sale. But I have noticed this world being used everywhere now in editorial and sales collateral alike. I find it illuminating and and have seen instances where agents are being treated with more dignity as a result.

    Bloggers. This is another term now associated to “Agents who happen to write stuff once in a while”. I can tell you from inside experience that being “Bloggers”, gets you a type of VIP treatment that being an “agents who happens to write stuff one in a while” does not.

    Ask Teresa if being a columnist on Inman has changed how she feels about herself and if it has changed how others view her. Ask Benn how he felt walking out of Connect with an Innovator Award for Agent Genius also known as “Group Blog” as opposed to some semantic re-definition such as “a place where a bunch of agents get together to write stuff”

    What do you think he would have taken home from Connect? Let me guess. The same nothing Saul Klein takes home each year as the founder of RealTown – a man who started this entire online chatting phenomenon 12 years ago.

    I know woman are longer called Broads a term that horribly denigrated women and while one could
    argue that this is mere semantics, the truth is, it’s far from it. Every word carries with its very own scent. What words you use and how you use it do make a difference.

    It may take an entire generation to ween an industry off a word like Lead and the behavior it generates just as it took an entire generation of two to ween men off from called women broads or chicks or babes but today, as I prepare to send my 17-year old daughter out into the world, I believe that as a woman she now commands a respect internally and externally that she might not have if she were still just a broad.

    Anyway, sorry for letting my background and studies in consumer psychology slip out here. I am not trying to force anyone to change their mind. Calls things whatever you like. I just want to make it really clear why we made that video, give some texture to how I see things which serves my desire to bring myself and others closer to enlightenment.

  51. Missy Caulk

    September 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Marc, I appreciate your point of view. I respect it, but calling someone who visits your web site, and asks for a CMA or showing or information a “lead” when their contact information hits the web site is not a 4 letter word and has nothing to do with how they are treated, or respected when a conversation occurs.

    Regardless of the word,”lead, prospect, shopper, guest, person” until they move into a relationship as a customer or client it is irrelevant IMHO. It is all in how you treat a person in ascertaining their needs. All they are at that point in time is a person who needs help and hopefully we are there to do that.

    We use the word client once they are under contract to purchase or list. Until that time if we are working with them they are a customer. There is no client relationship.

    Following up leads is what I do. The hard part is converting them just like the floor calls of past generations. Some of them you do and some you don’t. Regardless you are still respectful of them as a human being in need of information or help.

    As I said in the first sentence I loved your video, it was all about caring for people which is what I believe most Realtors do. But, I also said the word is no reflection on that.

    As having a background in Social Work I did not find any difference in the treatment of folks in counseling or real estate, which if I read you correctly you do if you call them a “lead”.

  52. Brian Block

    September 29, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Missy, I don’t think it really matters what “we” call these visitors, guests, prospects, leads. What “they” really represent is potential business and a potential relationship. As others have said above, it matters more how we treat people, not how we classify them internally.

    Many agents classify their “leads” or even their current clients as Hot, Warm, Cold, A, B, C prospects, etc. Would we ever tell a client on the phone something along these lines: “Sorry Mr. Smith, you are classified as a Warm client so your home search will have to be on hold this weekend while I handle two of my Hot clients…”? I don’t think so. However, it may make good business sense to arrange our schedules this way from time to time.

  53. marc

    September 29, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I get your points, all well versed, and will strike this up as a dead issue.
    Thanks for allowing me to participate.


  54. Missy Caulk

    September 29, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Brian, thanks for commenting and you’re right how we catagorize for them our own use is not important. I’ve never personally done that way, Hot, Warm, Cold, but heard it taught. However, I do put them in a follow up if they are not looking until next year.

    Marc, You can participate anytime, except for having nightmares last night, I enjoyed it. LOL

  55. BawldGuy

    September 30, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I’ll never get this 10 minutes back.

  56. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 2, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    They start out as leads via lead generation.

    If they are responsive and plan to do something, they turn into prospects. If not, they remain leads.

    If they buy or sell something, they become clients.

    I can run a search for any of the three in my database and work on lead development, current prospect activities, or past client contact any time.

    Nothing “wrong” with any of that. The leads, prospects and clients never know they are called that!


  57. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Actually, I mistyped. (It’s late here). They turn into customers, not clients.

    Leads >> Prospects >> Customers


  58. Troy Roark (@ILRealEstate, Tweets!)

    September 2, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Wow! Quite the discussion on such an innocent word. It occurs to me I should probably get back to selling some Real Estate and leave the glossary writing to someone else.

  59. Marc

    September 3, 2009 at 12:09 am

    “Nothing “wrong” with any of that. The leads, prospects and clients never know they are called that!”

    You sure about that? The 2009 Harris Poll results just came in. Agents rank as the lowest, I mean the very lowest end of consumer trust. Might want to reconsider that way of thinking.

  60. MIssy Caulk

    September 3, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Rob, thanks for stopping by. I agree they whether a guest of lead have no idea how you organize your data base, or what you call them.

    Hi Marc, long time no see. Hope all is well, hadn’t read that survey will check it out. As you and I have talked about before it is not the word IMO it is how they are respected and treated. Good to hear from you !

  61. Jay Thompson

    September 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

    For those interested in the Harris Poll Marc references, here’s some info:

  62. Marc

    September 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Hi Missy,
    I do agree that it’s all in how people are respected. I question whether the assumption that people don’t know that agents call them leads and devise ways to capture them is a) a respectful reason to do it and b) even wise to publish it on a public blog.

    Anyway, if you pop me an email, I’ll be happy to send you the PDF report from Harris. After reading it you’ll understand why I believe many agents need to clean up their act and think about the words they use, things they say, and actions they take.

  63. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Yes, I’m refeering to these terms as simply database classifications used only for the management of my database.

    When I interface with leads, clients, prospects, customers, I never use these terms. The only one I occasionally use is “client.”

    I think the Agent image issue stems from a far larger issue than this simple stuff.


  64. Marc

    September 3, 2009 at 11:07 am

    This is like someone saying they use derogatory terms to refer to ethnic cultures privately with their friends but never in public.

    Client one the other hand is a fine word. No disrespect there.

    The point I make, which I continually fail to prove within real estate is that the words agents use privately also dictate the actions employed in the tools agents use that eventually become the experiences people have which them feel like leads rather than people.

    We will most likely go round and round here until you do a poll of your own and like me, begin to learn what it is people actually do know and feel.

    Trust that you will be amazed and enlightened.

  65. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 3, 2009 at 11:14 am


    These ARE the terms. I’ve been in sales for 20 years now.

    Prior to RE, I sold very expensive (more than the cost of a house) engineering software to executive level (CTO, CFO, CEO) management at large Fortune 500 Companies for 15 years.

    Then and here, the terms are leads, clients, customers, prospects.

    No big deal. No CFO ever got offended if he discovered he was in fact a lead, client, or prospect. Ever.

    Again, I doin’t think the RE Agent negative stigma that exists is not coming, even in part, from this.

    Just my opinion, not looking for a fight here.


  66. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 3, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I really need to slow down, sorry:

    “Again, I doin’t think the RE Agent negative stigma that exists is not coming, even in part, from this.”

    Should be:
    “Again, I do not think the RE Agent negative stigma that exists is coming from, even in part, this issue.”

    Sorry about that. RM

  67. Marc

    September 3, 2009 at 11:31 am

    No fight. I just disagree. I do however believe that all your sales experience most likely makes you a great salesperson and if you are successful, a great customer service person.

    But until you get a grip on what a marketer does and the research we do to learn precisely how consumers feel, your public interaction with them will be somewhat skewed. As you stated, “you do not think the RE Agent stigma is coming from this” – marketing would help you know once and for all.

  68. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I know what a good marketer does, they attract the leads. (you’re gonna love that one, I’m sure)

    Other than that, in the software world, they cause a lot of problems promoting vapor ware, alpha code and making promises that development can’t possibly keep.

    Plus, often times they are very arrogant and have, or think they have, way too much power and that they are the sole reason companies exist at all.

    When, in fact, the reason is because of the geniuses behind the products, the developers and sales guys.

    LOL! This all comes from my software days and doesn’t even apply here. Sorry!

    We are not going to agree but that’s ok, as you said.

    Take care,


  69. Marc

    September 3, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    That’s funny. I appreciated that.
    A good marketer does attract leaders.
    But a great marketer helps build brands that attract customers.

    Good conversation man. For sure.

    Anyone reading this can send me email for Harris Poll if they want

  70. MIssy Caulk

    September 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    There are 3 more comments that have come into my email but I am not seeing here.

  71. Benn Rosales

    September 4, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Missy- forward to me benn [at] agentgenius ?

  72. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Same here Missy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.



Business Marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it's not, so how can you get the most out of your email...

Business Marketing

(MARKETING NEWS) LinkedIn shares a brief breakdown of the results of some A/B testing they’ve conducted over the years on sponsored content to develop...

Tech News

Just going into beta, inflowlive sends out emails to site visitors that fail to complete any form, increasing your chance of converting. Magic!

Tech News

Project Pingback will soon launch to bring Twitter leads directly to you, so get your converting skills fine tuned, it's ready to do some...

The American Genius is a strong news voice in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering meaningful, concise insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture. We refuse to publish fluff, and our readers rely on us for inspiring action. Copyright © 2005-2022, The American Genius, LLC.