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Is There A Difference Between Leads and Contacts

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"



"Learn More. Get More. Do More. Be More."

Comment balloon 28 commentsBrad Andersohn • June 20 2011 06:01PM


Brad - you certainly have my vote "lead generation" does not accurately fit what most "lead generation" companies supply ..... they simply supply "contact information" for someone who may be looking for real estate in the area serviced by the person receiving the "lead"

Posted by Kathy Clulow, Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results (RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage) about 9 years ago

Brad ..very good ..1800's ...excellent analogy ..Let us all have contacts !!!

Have a Great day !

This was Helpful


Posted by Hannah Williams, Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-953-8818 (Re/Max Eastern inc.) about 9 years ago

Brad- I like where this is headed.  And, you're right.. it seems to me that when I hear the word "lead" I do think of my fave L&O show.  I have been making several "contacts" through my blogging and networking efforts and whether or not they will "lead" me anywhere is unknown. Good to see a post from you!! 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) about 9 years ago

Brad - You have my vote for "contact generation" rather than lead.  I have always thought that "lead generation" sounded so corny!

Posted by Bill & Cyndi Daves, TeamDAVES - Your REALTORS In the GA/NC Mountains! (Hiawassee, Young Harris, Blairsville, Hayesville, Murphy and Beyond!) about 9 years ago

Contact does sound much nicer than lead!  You are right, things have changed since the 1800's!

Posted by Christine O'Shea (Christine E O'Shea Broker) about 9 years ago

I agree wiyth you. I don't like calling the contacts "leads". They are real people that need our help...even if they don't know that yet! LOL 

Posted by Lizette Fitzpatrick, Lizette Realty, Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes (Lizette Realty - Richmond KY) about 9 years ago

Brad, when I see the word "Lead" I think of a soft malleable poor metal, which you said " This might be one of the biggest purchases and ordeals in my lifetime? ..." I like the contacts, thanks for sharing.

Posted by Kwee Huset, Venice Florida Homes For Sale (Kwee Huset Realty) about 9 years ago

I like contact better too ... it states what it is and what you need to do as well ... follow up and contact them. 

Posted by Connie Goodrich, CRS ABR (McKinney Realtor)Texas (Keller Williams Realty) about 9 years ago

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? 

Posted by J. Philip Faranda, Broker-Owner (J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY) about 9 years ago

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

Posted by Vickie Slade, Service You Can Trust ~ Someone You Can Depend On (Colorado Landmark, Realtors) about 9 years ago

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.

Posted by Deborah "Dee Dee" Garvin, C2 Financial (C2 Financial) about 9 years ago

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!

Posted by Marjorie Taylor, New Homes in St. Augustine Florida (Riverside Homes) about 9 years ago

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?

Posted by Jeffrey Richman, Creative Real Estate Specialist (Immediate Home Solutions) about 9 years ago


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.

Posted by Spencer Rascoff (Zillow) about 9 years ago

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.

Posted by Brad Andersohn, ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876 (Executive Director of Education at eXp Realty) about 9 years ago

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

Posted by Donna Malone, Homes and Property for Sale Nova Scotia (Waterfront, Luxury, Family, Affordable, Cottage, Deals) about 9 years ago

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

Posted by Doug Bullwinkel, Mortgage Loan Originator NMLS #281609 (Envoy Mortgage, NMLS 6666) about 9 years ago

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.

Posted by Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc (Benchmark Realty LLc) about 9 years ago

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

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 about 9 years ago

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

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - about 9 years ago

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!

Posted by James Locklear, Social Media Training , Virtual Services, Search Engine Optimization Lattitude - SEOL (Online Marketing Advertising Consultant) about 9 years ago

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.


Posted by Brad Andersohn, ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876 (Executive Director of Education at eXp Realty) about 9 years ago

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

Posted by Robin Scott, Broker, CRS, ABR, SRS, REALTOR® - Austin Texas (Robin Scott, REALTOR®) about 9 years ago

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. 

Posted by Harrison K. Long, REALTOR , GRI, Broker associate, Attorney (HomeSmart, Evergreen Realty) about 9 years ago

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.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) about 9 years ago

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. 

Posted by Donna Foerster, Metro Denver Real Estate Assistant (HomeSmart Realty Group) about 9 years ago

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.

Posted by Denise Hamlin, Broker/Owner, Helping Happy Clients Make Smart Choices (Cardinal Realty ~ 319-400-0268) about 9 years ago


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.

Posted by Lorraine or Loretta Kratz, Certified Negotiation Consultants (Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions.) about 9 years ago