There Are No Glengarry Leads

“You know what it takes to sell real estate?”

Let’s have a little fun with this post. The following video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK, but unless you sell real estate on Mars, you probably already know that.

I first saw Glengarry Glen Ross in the theater in 1992. I was just getting started as a loan originator and the movie had a profound effect on me. No, I don’t condone the actions of anyone in the movie. That’s not the point. What I learned was that sales is all about confidence. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” When it comes to buying leads, agents are always in search of the gold leads, the Glengarry leads. What they always seem to end up with is the Glen Ross leads.  Unfortunately, most never make it in the business long enough to understand that there are no Glengarry leads.

“The Leads Are Weak”

If you ask most agents, you’ll find that they think Trulia’s leads are weak. So are the leads from Zillow,, Google, and just about everyone else who’s willing to sell them. They are kind of weak, they’re just leads. If every lead was gold, these companies would figure out how to keep them for themselves, or they would charge a heck of a lot more for them. Let’s go over a few reasons why leads are “weak”:

  • They want information on a home that’s already sold.
  • They want information on a home that’s distressed, and not actually for sale.
  • They want to know why the property is massively overpriced according to the almighty Zestimate®.

Many agents aren’t prepared to overcome these objections and quickly lose confidence in the leads. Eventually, they stop responding to them at all. Zillow and Trulia do consumer surveys to measure the response rate of their leads. About half the consumers who fill out a lead inquiry never receive a call back.

“A guy don’t walk on the lot unless he wants to buy”

There’s a potential client on the other end of the phone. They’re ready to work with an agent, they just don’t know why yet. The value proposition of a real estate agent has evolved. Before the internet, consumers viewed the agent as a professional with access to the MLS, the one who knows how to find all the homes for sale. Today, many consumers think they can do this on their own. Exhibit 3-9 of NAR’s 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows the decline of the agent’s role in helping the consumer find the home they purchased.

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 11.30.09 AMIn 2001, only 8% of buyers cited the Internet as the source of where they found the home they purchased. Agents topped the list at 48%. In 2012, the internet was listed as the top source at 42%. Agents have been hovering around 35% for years. Not all consumers used the internet to find their home. If you’re getting leads from, Zillow and Trulia, you’re dealing with a consumer who doesn’t see the agent’s value quite yet. They’re focused on the home they already found themselves. It really doesn’t matter if the agent can answer the question they called about or not because they don’t understand the agent’s value.

“Get them to sign on the line which is dotted.”

Here’s where most agents get it wrong; when a lead comes in, the goal is to convert the lead to a client, not to help the consumer with the home they found for themselves. The consumer may eventually buy that home, but that’s not important while that consumer is just a lead. At this point, the customer is focused on a particular home. An agent who just answers questions about the home hasn’t really shown their value yet. The agent needs to move the consumer into focusing on why the consumer needs the agent.

Turn the conversation around.  Use the common problems with these “weak” leads as an opportunity to convert the lead to a client. A consumer wants to know more about a property they found on Trulia or Zillow. After reviewing the property, the agent determines that the property is a pre-foreclosure. As soon as the agent tells the consumer that it’s not really for sale and how Zillow and/or Trulia sucks for putting distressed properties on their site, the consumer is going to get angry and bounce back to *their* search. However, if the agent tells the consumer that the property is not listed in the MLS, but that the agent is willing to do some research to find out the real story, now the consumer starts to see the added value in the agent. If the agent then goes on to say, “you know, it could be a pre-foreclosure. It may be a while before it’s available to close on. What’s your time frame for moving?” The agent has opened an opportunity to move the focus off the house and on to their expertise.

Will this work every time? Of course not. Developing and practicing pitches to overcome all common objections is vital. The more the pitches are used, the more effective they will become.

“A.B.C. Always Be Closing!”

In MOST cases, the call will be unsuccessful.  So what does the agent do next? Most throw the lead out and complain to their peers that the leads are weak. In reality, the opportunity to turn this lead into a client is still a possibility. Call them back in a few days. Send them occasional emails with comparable properties that just hit the market. Keep doing it until the lead says to stop. A large portion of traffic in Zillow and Trulia is from people who won’t be ready to buy for several months. It can take a year before there’s action. Don’t give up.

“Oh yeah, I used to be a salesman. It’s a tough racket.”

Look, all of this is easier said than done. But there are agents and brokers who are killing it with leads from the portals. It’s not because they are getting the Glengarry leads. It’s because they understand that the lead is just that: a lead. Not even a client yet. Paying for the lead is just the first step in the work it will take to make the lead a client. They’ve built out a long term plan for turning leads into clients. Because these agents have a plan in place, they have the confidence to make the most of every call.

Update: My Glengarry reference inspired Jeff Turner to write an excellent post about owning your values. Go check it out.

10 thoughts on “There Are No Glengarry Leads

  1. Teresa Boardman

    Not everyone with a question is a “lead”. Companies like zillow and trulia want us to pursue all “leads” and always be available to answer questions. It doesn’t cost them a dime to provide excellent service through us. We are expected to do all the work for other companies and if we don’t want to play we are told our attitudes are wrong. I look at many things that are for sale and use the Internet for research but I only buy a fraction of what I look at. If I want to buy something I will buy it even if no one returns my phone call.

  2. Todd Carpenter Post author

    Hi Teresa, There’s a ton of ways to be wildly successful without Trulia and Zillow. In addition, there’s plenty of ways to FAIL WITH THEM as well. I’m not advocating that the best way for any agent to succeed is with these companies. However, if an agent, broker or team decides to invest in these leads, they need to understand what they’re facing. You can’t just buy business.

  3. Teresa Boardman

    Todd- agreed and if they buy the leads they should follow up. Last year I went onto a third party site and clicked the contact form next to my listing. It went to a local brokerage so just for the heck of it I asked a question. Never got an answer. I know that the office is paying for premium listings the office even recruits agents and home sellers by talking about the premium listings. . . .by the way I finally watch Glengarry Glen Ross. ICK!

  4. Bill Lublin

    Todd, I agree with you in part. I’m not sure if the survey shows a shift in consumer action or consumer perception. But I do agree that the role of the agent is far more than just talking to a buyer about the propetties that they (the buyer) locate online- since they only have access to a portion of the market, and the data they are working with is inferior to the data the agent has access to , the agent’s job, as it has been as long as I’m in the business, is to assist the buyer to find a property that has a feature set offering the benefits the buyer wants or needs – and that job should be made easier by the agent’s intimate knowledge of the local market which should be far deeper than the property information shared online…
    I’m so glad to see you writing again BTW. You always have interesting things to share

    1. Todd Carpenter Post author

      I think the trick to working with consumers who choose Trulia and Zillow is to expose the consumer to the “agent’s intimate knowledge of the local market which should be far deeper than the property information shared online.” In addition, it’s not just a deeper knowledge of information, it’s in how the information needs to be interpreted. That’s beyond knowledge. It’s wisdom. That’s something a portal can’t supply today.

  5. Matt Fagioli

    What you’ve hit on here (and the movie does too) is the general lack of old fashioned sales skill
    and tenacity in real estate. There’s no short cuts. It’s dig deep, follow up and never quit.
    It’s amazing how little we talk about selling. It’s (wrongly) become a bad word it seems.
    And so the conversation is mostly about passive marketing and technology.
    These are wonderful things but a great salesman with no technology will close more every time.

  6. Chris Johnson


    Right. And the thing is -you’ll catch bad leads like you’ll catch bad cards in Poker. Will. Happen. When. Given. Time.

    The leads aren’t weak (nor are they strong, to be fair). They just are.



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