Is There A Difference Between Leads and Contacts

Education & Training with Retired Executive Director of Education at eXp

There's a difference between leads and contacts. When I first got into this industry back in the early 1800's, (haha) my first impression of the term "lead generation" leaned more towards the vision of a detective at a crime scene getting a "lead" to help find his/her suspect or perpetrator. Years later, I still find myself struggling with the term as "someone possibly interested in buying or selling a home."

The challenge and mental dilemma I've been faced with for years is trying to differentiate a "lead" or "lead generation" from a normal everyday contact.  What's the difference?  Is there a difference? Regardless of what you call or refer to them as, they are a person, a human being right?  Whether they find you and contact you from your website, here on ActiveRain, from a social media site like Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube or from the "For Sale Sign" in the yard, they are still a person and a human being?!?

I don't want to be referred to as a "LEAD" if I were inquiring about buying a home or getting a loan from you.  This might be one of the biggest purchases and ordeals in my lifetime?  It's not the same as being referred to as a consumer, a contact, or even a patron.  Just sayin.... 

The phrase "lead generation" became a common term when 3rd party sites and vendors started prospecting for business in ways that many agents couldn't, shouldn't, or wouldn't, and then those 3rd party prospectors tried to sell those interested contacts or (leads) back to perspective agents... lead generation.

Now I'm no expert at this "LEAD" stuff, and these are just my personal thoughts here, but if one person can possibly make a difference in the world, then I'm making a motion and proposal to change the term "Lead Generation" to "Contact Generation" and when we refer to a "Lead" in real estate, lets change it to a "contact" instead. 

This became blatantly obvious to me when I joined Zillow and saw that buyers and sellers were "contacting" our agents and members directly. The Zillow Buyer's Agent List is where consumers actively contact you after they've started their quest and journey for data and information. 

These are "Real People" looking at homes, loans, neighborhoods, and real estate information.  They are real "contacts" and I bet they prefer to be called something other than a "lead" too.  Zillow opens many doors to the real estate journey for contacts and they/we rely on you to help close those doors and transactions with the homes that they love!

Definitions from the "Official" Bradtionary:

A Lead - "Someone a detective investigates further regarding a crime!"
A Contact
- "People that you wish to establish a rapport with, earn trust, and do business with one day"

Comments (28)

J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

The bradtionary. Like it. 

So I am guessing that my use liberal use of the word "victim" would be frowned upon in the Andersohn household, yes? 

Jun 20, 2011 04:21 PM
Vickie Slade
Colorado Landmark, Realtors - Boulder, CO
Service You Can Trust ~ Someone You Can Depend On

Brad, I believe that "contact" is much more acurate than "lead". 

Jun 20, 2011 04:33 PM
Deborah "Dee Dee" Garvin
C2 Financial - San Diego, CA
C2 Financial

Brad,  I like it...and please add my favorite "worse" word to the bradtionary:  USE   Why in the world do so many people in real estate and mortgage ask people to "USE" them?  "USE" their services?  I don't get it.  I want people to work with me....I don't want people to USE me.  I want to work with people...I don't want to "USE" them.

Jun 21, 2011 12:47 AM
Marjorie Taylor
Florida Homes Realty and Mortgage - Saint Augustine, FL
New Homes in St. Augustine Florida

Call them leads, call them contacts...I'll take all of them I can get!  I've yet to close a contact from Zillow, but I do get a bunch from that site!

Jun 21, 2011 01:04 AM
Jeffrey Richman
Immediate Home Solutions - Waxhaw, NC
Creative Real Estate Specialist

Hi Brad,

You definitely hit the nail on the head.  You can't have a lead without first having some kind of contact and aren't they potential prospects?

Jun 21, 2011 02:04 AM
Spencer Rascoff
Zillow - Seattle, WA


I couldn't agree more. A few years ago, I gave a speech at an industry conference at which I declared "leads are dead". Some people have taken that quote out of context, but your post here is exactly what I meant. A lead is when a potential client is assigned to a professional without that client having chosen that specific professional, and usually at a point in time when the potential client doesn't actually want to speak with the professional. A contact is when a potential client selects a specific professional, and actually wants to talk to that professional. Zillow provides CONTACTS not LEADS to professionals.


Great post.

Jun 21, 2011 02:23 AM
Brad Andersohn
Retired Executive Director of Education at eXp - Boulder Creek, CA
ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876

Thanks everyone for your comments. 

I posted this just before taking the stage here at RainCamp in Seattle yesterday and this is the first chance I've had to get back here. 

I really think that the contacts that come from ANY and ALL sites on the web or in person should always be considered as something much greater than just a lead, if so, then maybe more people will follow-up and respond to "contacts/people"  with a higher priority and in a much different manner? 

BTW - Having a blast here at RainCamp, it was 2 years ago that Raincamp was started and deployed here.

Jun 21, 2011 09:28 AM
Donna Malone
Waterfront, Luxury, Family, Affordable, Cottage, Deals - Bridgewater, NS
Homes and Property for Sale Nova Scotia

Brad, I think you have said what a lot of people think. Contacts are better tan leads.

Jun 21, 2011 01:11 PM
Doug Bullwinkel
Envoy Mortgage,NMLS ID 6666 - Sacramento, CA
Mortgage Loan Originator NMLS #281609

There is a difference and your post makes some very good points.  Thanks for the comparison.

Jun 21, 2011 06:41 PM
Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc
Benchmark Realty LLc - Nashville, TN

Brad - very interesting idea, I guess I need to do more work on my contact generation and conversion. I guess I always think of contacts as people who know me but aren't interested in real estate at this time. Leads are people actively looking at real estate, and have made contact with me.

Jun 22, 2011 02:36 AM
John Cannata
214-728-0449 - Frisco, TX
Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance

So very true that there is a difference in the two.

Jun 22, 2011 11:12 AM
Donna Harris
Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - - Austin, TX
Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator

I think "prospect" is more accurate than "contact".The term "prospecting" is also a verb and noun like "contacting" and contact...

Jun 22, 2011 12:29 PM
James Locklear
Online Marketing Advertising Consultant - Seattle, WA
Social Media Training , Virtual Services, Search Engine Optimization Lattitude - SEOL

Wow - didn't lose much in the translation from your live presentation to your blog!  Guess "content" (noun) is between the ears and migrates directly to the keyboard.  Outstanding. 

Nor would I like to be referred to as a "lead",  so I defer to your adjectives, of course.

More fuel for the engine between my ears, thank you!

Jun 22, 2011 01:46 PM
Brad Andersohn
Retired Executive Director of Education at eXp - Boulder Creek, CA
ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876

WOW - Look at all these leads I mean contacts and comments this post got!!  lol~   :-) 

I do like prospects and prospecting too Donna, even though it reminds me of the gold rush, thanks.


Jun 23, 2011 10:39 AM
Robin Scott
Robin Scott, REALTOR® - Austin, TX
Broker, REALTOR® - Austin Texas

Brad, I like the term contact too and intend to make the switch in my vocabulary.

Jun 24, 2011 04:28 AM
Harrison K. Long
HomeSmart, Evergreen Realty - Irvine, CA
REALTOR , GRI, Broker associate, Attorney

Brad ... Thanks for your post and reminding that we real estate professionals should focus on developing "contacts", those people who we want to have a trusting relationship with and help them while doing business. 

Jun 26, 2011 05:31 AM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

when they make my "contact" list in my green steno book I generally begin to call them friends.  Of course there are a couple of exceptions... not many though.

Jun 26, 2011 12:38 PM
Donna Foerster
HomeSmart Realty Group - Parker, CO
Metro Denver Real Estate Assistant

Love the Bradtionary!  You surprised me with this post.  The title made me think you were going in another direction.  I thought that you were going to say that someone sharing their information is a contact and not a lead.  They don't become a lead until they take about serious interest. 

I think the term lead is "misleading".  I like your thought process.  They are a consumer with a need and we are service providers.  Plain and simple. 

Jun 27, 2011 04:26 PM
Denise Hamlin, Broker/Owner
Cardinal Realty ~ 319-400-0268 - Iowa City, IA
Helping Happy Clients Make Smart Choices

You hit a nerve with me with this one Brad. I HATE the term "lead." Never, ever use it. As you say, these are real, live people looking to buy or sell a home. They're not just a statistic.

Jun 28, 2011 08:39 AM
Lorraine or Loretta Kratz
Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions. - San Marcos, CA
Certified Negotiation Consultants


Not to get caught up in the lead versus contact, versus --- I just like having a ton of business, be it from all the sources you stated as well as others that did some dissecting in the comments that were posted.

Jun 28, 2011 05:18 PM