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To Script or Not to Script



A lively, spirited discussion has arisen at GeekEstate Blog over the debut post by Jeff Manson advocating the use of scripts to convert more leads into clients. A little taste:

Hi, ______________ my name is Super Agent with ABC Realty.  I am calling to follow-up with you to see if there is anything we can do to help or answer any real estate questions for you.

I understand you are interested in:
•    MLS # ____________ Etc…

1.    Would you like to schedule an appointment to see it?

2.    If not available—Unfortunately the property you inquired about is already in escrow.

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3.    We are in a steady real estate market and some properties are selling quickly.  The good news is we are getting large percentage of our clients offers accepted, even when there are competing offers.

4.    Are you already working with a RE agent, or do you need some help? (If yes, go onto #5)…

Things to remember when going through a script or just having a conversation in general:

1. Always repeat the answer back and positively reply with “great, super, good for you, interesting, really, your kidding”. I think you get the point. Let them know you are paying attention and not interrogating them.

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While you all pick your jaws off the floor, let me tell you that the replies that ensued were a mixture of web 2.0 purists that were disgusted by the very existence of such scripts (and for that matter, the term “lead”), old-schoolers standing behind systematization and middle-of-the-ways. Before, I tell you where I stand, a little background melody.

Magic Adwords

I remember the very first prospect like it was yesterday. My wife had been hounding me for weeks to try this new marketing thing she had found –  Google Adwords, I believe it was called. After I ran out of procrastination, we went for it: 10 bucks a day at 2 bucks a click max. Left the office to pick up coffee, when the Blackberry buzzed. Is that a … lead?! The following day our name was on a builder’s contract – a shiny example of Mighty Conversion.

Early days

For those that don’t know me personally, let me tell you that I wasn’t born with the “gift of pressure”. That is, I’m more laid back than an ironing board – I answer questions, provide information and dish out advice based on what I would do if I were in the clients’ shoes. So in the early days, following up with prospect was a structureless, free form conversation which clients appreciated. It was like information nutrition without the nasty trans fats of salesy pressure. All was well…

Picking up steam

As the number of prospect arose, cracks started to show in the plaster of our un-system. Crucial information not obtained during calls prompted additional calls that frustrated our future clients. Since there was no systemic way of following up with information requests, the incomplete information obtained inevitably lead to incomplete service.

Necessary Structure

I could never stand for a parroty, ATT Long Distance, leads-are-sheep type of script like the one above. Likewise, I could never stand for haphazard, who-needs-systems pipe dreams that new age marketers preach. The way I see it the process goes a little something like this. When a prospective client requests information/answers/direction and the real estate pro answers the request with follow up call there are three possible outcomes. Either you’ll end up sending them homes that fit their criteria, you’ll answer a question or direct them to a trusted third party (i.e. mortgage preaproval) or they’ll tell you to go to hell/not answer phone etc etc. In order for you to help in each case you’ll have to have some structure in your conversation. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating for scripts. I couldn’t get through one of those without throwing up in my mouth a little bit every time. But in order to help, you have to have some key pieces of information that you must obtain every single time. If you don’t, you’re not helping even if your style is two point oh, all the way.

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Photo Credit – Niemster

Written By

Houston Real Estate Rainmaker and Uberproud Father/Husband (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not skinning cats or changing diapers you can find me on Twitter or Facebook. I blog about marketing, social media and real estate. I might not always be in agreement, but you can rest assured I'll be honest. Oh, and I can cook a mean breakfast...



  1. Brian Tercero

    July 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I agree with you. I don’t advocate the use of impersonal scripts or reading off a paper like a robot. But to discount the usage of scripts entirely I think is a bit much.

    We all need our systems in place, we all have our game plan down, we all need to practice so that way we can execute in the field.

  2. Ian Greenleigh

    July 30, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    The comment-bashing seems to have more to do with the particular script he chose and his decision to term it as such. If he had called it, for instance, a “guide to productive conversations”, and simply outlined a checklist of important things to discuss with prospects, I believe the reaction would have been far less negative.

  3. Lani Rosales

    July 30, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    @erionhouston first, I love your honesty with the bumps and bruises you’ve experienced in your career, that’s tough. Secondly, I think that scripts are good so that new agents can have examples of wording and phrases to help their nerves but I believe experience obsoletes a need for a script and those who have practiced long enough know instinctively and out of habit what to ask and don’t need a robotic tone to it.

    Like it was suggested, the response would have been less firey if it was a suggestion of terms and phrases or a list of critical items a phone call should cover rather than a script. The Web 2.0 world rejects the old ways of the plastic Realtor which is exactly what comes to mind when the disingenuous scripting methods are used.

    What critical items *should* a new agent know to cover in every call?

  4. Erion Shehaj

    July 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I agree that experience “bakes into” the pro (and internalizes) the type of benchmark questions that less experienced agents have to habituate themselves with at first. That’s exactly what I was referring to when I suggested “adding some structure”: some point of reference questions, not some tired refrain borrowed from a telemarketer’s playbook.

    What critical items *should* a new agent know to cover in every call?

    Prospective Buyer:

    Property questions (location, max price (or pmt), stories, must have amenities, would like amenities)
    Mortgage questions (preapproved? If not be ready to refer a trusted mortgage pro)
    Big Why question (why are they looking to purchase/move?)
    Timeline and availability (by when do they need to move? when are they available to tour homes)

    Prospective Seller:

    Property questions (address, size, upgrades)
    Existing Mortgage questions (how much do they owe? in order to figure out whether shortsale. in case of distress, are they current with payments?)
    Expectations questions (what is their expectation for list price/net profit (or loss)
    Big Why question (why are they selling?)
    Timeline question (by when do they need to move)

  5. Bob

    July 30, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    “Secondly, I think that scripts are good so that new agents can have examples of wording and phrases to help their nerves but I believe experience obsoletes a need for a script and those who have practiced long enough know instinctively and out of habit what to ask and don’t need a robotic tone to it.”


    Funny thing about the term “lead” – I have sellers routinely ask me “Any leads?” when we are discussing marketing and their listing.

    Time to get over the political correctness. Its just semantics. The term doesn’t have anything to do with how people are treated when contact is made.

    Same thing with the term “script”. Obama stuck to his, Biden didnt. Biden routinely stuck his foot in his mouth as a result. When Obama deviated, he had a few gaffs as well. They tried to make Palin stick to the script, but her lack of experience/knowledge made it sound like a script and when she deviated, we got the Katie Couric interview.

    The labels may have changed, but the skillsets havent.

  6. BawldGuy

    July 30, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I hate it like an eight year old hates squash, whenever I hafta throw water on what’s essentially a pretty good thread. What’s good about it?

    The vast majority, including intent.

    Since it appears most of the commenters are relatively young, let me bring some history to the table. It wasn’t long ago, that nearly every single agent in North America earning $1 Million or more in gross commissions, was a cold calling maniac — using the most mundane, robotic scripts imaginable. In fact, the one presented in the post looks like one of ’em.

    Pick any 100 2.0 practitioners at random, and I’ll show you 10 ‘script using robots’ who are out-earning the 100 — going away. Those scripts have been around for so many years because — wait for it — they friggin’ work, like crazy.

    There’s no right or wrong way as long as it’s ethical, and I don’t have a dog in this fight. My only salient point is that the script users are kickin’ the livin’ you know what out of almost all their competition, and have been for a few decades now.

    Think they’re dinosaurs? Very possibly. But they ain’t dead yet, and in fact are usually paying more income taxes than most agents make in a year.

    For the record, and maybe paradoxically, I’ve not ever used a script. That is ’till Dad listened in on me one morning and couldn’t stop laughing after several calls. I had a script alright, just not written down. I’m in the same group as Erion I think.

    Bottom line is — when you can make more money than the expert script ‘robots’ let me know.

    OK, I’m done. Fire away. 🙂

  7. Russell Shaw

    July 31, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I’m with Bawldguy. Also, a good script, properly delivered does not sound like a script. Properly done, the delivery sounds completely natural. Phony, unnatural questions delivered by someone who sounds like a phony while saying it is never going to impress anyone favorably.

    If you are walking up to a door making a cold call or calling someone on the phone for the very first time – and I’ve made many thousands of calls like that in my life – you damn well better have a pretty good idea of what you are going to say when they answer the phone or open the door. Just like in the early part of a chess game, there are near perfect moves, with all the rest being mistakes, there are near perfect things to say and there are the rest: the pointless, stupid things.

    We have a “script” for answering the phone in my office – just like any other office or company has. We don’t need to think of something “creative” and “organic” to say every time the phone rings. New agents without scripts are invariably losing more money than they are ever making. No exceptions.

    The real protest isn’t against “scripts”, it is against “bad scripts”, inappropriate scripts and poorly delivered scripts.

  8. BawldGuy

    July 31, 2009 at 1:00 am

    And the congregation said Amen!

  9. Jonathan Dalton

    July 31, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Actual conversation last week …

    “I don’t mean to bother you … I saw you were on my web site looking at homes and I wanted to introduce myself in case you have questions going forward.”

    “You’re not bothering me at all. Let’s talk for a little bit.”

    Call it a script, a monologue or a soliloquy but it worked. New agents don’t get handed scripts because of the brokers’ sadistic bent (that’s what role plays are for) but because for someone without the slightest clue, they can work.

    Sure, they need personalization. Sure, they need refinement. But it would seem those who object most vociferously to the concept are those who can’t master the art and instead chalk it up to stuff out of the Paleolithic Era. It’s an excuse. A copout. A reason to not try and expand what can be a useful skill set.

    (And for those who don’t know me, I friggin’ hate picking up the call to follow up warm leads. Only thing that gets me to do it is the fact that I end up with more closings than a-holes hanging up on me.)

  10. BawldGuy

    July 31, 2009 at 1:13 am

    >(And for those who don’t know me, I friggin’ hate picking up the call to follow up warm leads. Only thing that gets me to do it is the fact that I end up with more closings than a-holes hanging up on me.)

    My choice for quote of the month. It says it all. 🙂

  11. Erion Shehaj

    July 31, 2009 at 1:20 am

    I’m getting my popcorn and patiently waiting for the poor soul that will go against Russell Shaw on this…

  12. BawldGuy

    July 31, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Grin — even the innocently ignorant know when to opt for silence. Don’t hold your breath while you’re enjoying your popcorn. 🙂

  13. Russell Shaw

    July 31, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Pretty funny, thread. When I was first told to memorize a “canned sales pitch” when I was in life insurance sales I thought it was so awful that even when I was forced to do it in order to keep getting paid my draw I never once actually used it on a live customer. Not me, I had a “knack”. But *every* agent who did know that “canned pitch” sold more than I did – in spite of my “superior knack”. It was years later that I realized how much money I lost by being so smart.

    The first scripts I was exposed to did seem phony and stupid. But when I heard them being delivered by a real pro I realized that it wasn’t just the words but HOW they were being said and the intention to get that specific communication (the idea you wanted the prospect to have) across to the customer that made all the difference.

    Correct volume, velocity, tone, attitude and a completely natural demeanor were what made it “work” so effectively. No communication delivered by a robot is ever going to replace live communication between two people. Just like in Jonathan’s opening statement above – it just gets the ball rolling. Once the ball is actually in play there isn’t anything “canned” about it – it is just two people talking.

  14. Joe Loomer

    July 31, 2009 at 10:31 am

    At KW’s Family Reunion last February, I went to a Mega-Agent panel session of three of the type of agents BawldGuy mentioned. Each carried a minimum of 70 listings at any given time.

    At the end of the session we had Q/A – I walked up and asked one of these heavy hitters if they ever used “Reverse Offers.” Before I had “offers” out of my pie-hole, all three practically came over the table at me and screamed “YES, THEY WORK.”

    Flash forward and we’re training agents to do reverse offers and knocking ’em dead. How’d we do it? Scripts for Listing Agents to use when calling Buyers Agents – duh.

    BawldGuy is absolutely 100% spot on. Mine are in my head now, but they’re still scripts…..

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  15. Lani Rosales

    August 1, 2009 at 10:45 am

  16. Brian Tercero

    August 1, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Thanks for the link Lani.

    I got a pretty good discussion going about it on ActiveRain as well. The consensus there seems to be that most real estate brokers feel it is appropriate to use scripts early off in their career to help them learn the ropes and build a foundation for their business.

    Most everyone is opposed to reading scripts right off the page, but agree they are helpful to use as an outline, and to have some talking points in mind in their conversations. Of course there are a few who are are 100% opposed to the idea. I honestly think it is just the word “scripts” that get people all riled up. Call it what you like, just don’t call it a script, and don’t read it directly from the paper like a robot! Like Russel and BawldGuy mentioned, its all about the delivery.

    We know its important to be real, to be genuine. But that does not mean doing business unrehearsed. If we throw out our “outlines”, then we may as well throw out our business plans, marketing plans and blueprints to building homes while we are at it.

    Success is by design, not by accident.

    Here is a link to read the comments if you’d like:

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