Leads Are People, Too

Posted by: Jay Thompson on March 3rd, 2008

According to Wikipedia, a sales lead is:

“…the identity of a person or entity potentially interested in purchasing a product or service, and represents the first stage of a sales process. . . Sales leads come from either marketing lead generation processes such as trade shows, direct marketing, advertising, Internet marketing or from sales person prospecting activities such as cold calling.”

OK, I guess I can live with that definition (though there are clearly more “prospecting activities” than cold calling).

As I mentioned on this blog previously, I don’t like the term “lead”. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I prefer to call the folks visiting my main web site and my blog “visitors” or “readers”. Those terms just sound more personal to me than “sales lead”.

So what do you do once a reader contacts you?

Let’s continue on through the Wikipedia entry…

“…For a sales lead to qualify as a sales prospect, qualification must be performed and evaluated. Typically this involves identifying by direct interrogation the lead’s product applicability, availability of funding, and time frame for purchase.”

DIRECT INTERROGATION ??

Yeah, there’s a grand idea. Say someone contacts you through your web site or blog, and you start interrogating them. What do you think will happen? Here’s one hint — don’t start planning how to spend your commission check.

Better than interrogation — treat your visitors/readers/contacts like people. Apply the age old “Golden Rule”. Do YOU want to be interrogated? Do you want to be bombarded with meaningless drip emails? To you want to be “sized up” and examined to see if you are a “serious” prospect?

I think not.

You likely want to be treated professionally and with respect. So treat your prospects that way.

People that use real estate web sites are often a long way off from buying/selling. If you hammer them right out of the gate, you may come across as just another pushy salesman.

Think about how YOU feel when you pull into a car dealership to buy a car. Admit it, you dread it. Don’t you really want to just look around and when you are ready you’ll reach out for the help you need?

I’m not saying to ignore every potential prospect until they reach out to you. On the contrary, you should reach out. Gently.

On my blog and web site, I never require a phone number to be entered on a contact form. If someone does enter a phone number, that tells me they probably don’t mind a phone call. But how that phone call is conducted can go a long way toward “converting” that contact.

Don’t jump in with a bunch of questions. All I do on “first contact” is explain that there is a human being behind the site and tell them that they are free to use the site all they’d like. I reiterate that there will be no “hard sell”, no commitment, no obligations. I ask their permission to put them on a mailing list, explaining they won’t get recipes, or tips for spring cleaning, or any of that sort of nonsense found so often in drip email campaigns.

If no phone number is left, that’s pretty compelling evidence that the person doesn’t desire to be called.

Yet I read almost daily about all sorts of places where one can do “reverse lookups” to find a phone number. Your contact just TOLD YOU not to call them. So why in the world would you play detective and dig up a phone number? Send them an email, ONE email and ask their permission to put them on an email list.

Promise, AND DELIVER on that promise, that you won’t spam them. And don’t you dare sell that email address. I’ve been offered significant money for my email list from lenders and others in the real estate industry. But that money pales in comparison to what I’d be paying in lost trust. Don’t even think about it.

Forcing people to register, requiring phone numbers, slamming people with a weekly drip email, all of these things turn off today’s real estate Internet users. It’s OK (good in fact) to collect as many email addresses as you can, and then use permission based marketing to keep your name / web site fresh in the prospects minds.

Just remember, people are generally pretty smart.

They don’t need to see your name/site weekly to remember it. Offer compelling content, an easy to use listings search system and back off a little bit. Many people will respect that and reach out to contact you when they are ready. And be patient! That site visitor or blog reader you get today may not really need you for two years. I suspect you’ll need a commission check two years from now too, so roll with the flow.

Treat your visitors and readers like you’d like to be treated and you may be surprised how many you “convert”.

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One Response on “Leads Are People, Too”

Kristal Kraft

Unless you are a mind reader how can you call someone who enters your site a “lead?” People end up there for so many reasons. i.e. A blog I wrote ages ago attracted a woman who was looking for a place to get married. She wanted to get information from me, but not about buying a house. :(
Hopefully someday she will come back when she’s ready to purchase, but in the meantime I cheerfully answer her questions and wish her well.
We get what we give out in this life…

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