If you ask heating contractors about the leads that they buy, you’ll hear many things: Some are reasonably happy with their lead providers. Some are furious. Many have stopped buying leads whatsoever, or they start and stop, buying leads for a short time, then turning them off, then enabling them again when things get slow. At the heart of all those reactions is the concern that most HVAC leads are bad.

Like many contractors, we also buy leads. Unlike many contractors, we aggressively call our leads and we accurately track the outcome of every single call. As a result, we believe that we’re uniquely well-positioned to answer the question in this blog post: what percentage of HVAC leads are bad? We’d like to share that information with you.

Why do we Buy Leads, and What do we do with the Leads we Buy?

HVACLeads.com generates leads in many different ways: from search engines, from paid traffic, and, we buy leads from other lead sellers. With very few exceptions, we funnel all of those leads to our own in-house call center. Once we have phone-verified a lead, we sell it to our clients. Because we only get paid if we can speak with the homeowner, we are very aggressive about calling. We start calling very soon after acquiring a lead, typically within 20 seconds. And, we will call up to 10 times over the first couple of days.

The result is that we generally know very quickly whether a given lead is good or bad.

How Many Leads are We Talking About?

Over the course of the past year, we have purchased about 800 leads that we sent to our own call center for verification. Of those 800 leads, we broke them into the following 3 categories:

Verified Leads: 394 of 793 = 49.7%

Rejected Leads: 256 of 793 = 32.3%

Unknown Leads: 143 of 793 = 18%

The verified leads are the easiest to explain: these represent homeowners that are actively looking for HVAC service. And, this represents the simplest answer to the question in this article — almost exactly half of the leads that we have purchased from other lead sellers in the past year are bad, meaning that they don’t represent a homeowner that actually wants to hire a contractors right now.

The rejected leads are leads that we are able to confirm are not valid. Although we end up “eating” quite a few of the rejected leads, in general, we request credits for the majority of rejected leads.

The most common rejection reason for a lead is that when we get the lead on the phone, they say that they never requested to be contacted, and that they aren’t looking for service.

The second most common rejection reason is that the phone number is disconnected.

Third, we reach someone at the number, but there’s no one by the name of the lead at that number.

The fourth most common reason is a wrong service type (for example, the lead was supposed to have been a furnace install, but the person actually wanted a new driveway installed)

Fifth are what we call “aged” leads — at some point in the past, this person wanted an HVAC service. However, they are no longer actively looking for service

Sixth are leads that actively need help, but they are renters or commercial tenants (we typically only sell residential leads)

Seventh, are leads that want parts only. (For example, they want to buy a furnace online, but they don’t want a contractor to be involved).

The final group of leads, the unknown leads are often the most frustrating. The phone numbers work and often connect to voicemail, although typically the voicemail will simply say something like “978-555-1212 is not available now”.

Although we contact them 10+ times by phone, text, email and voicemail, we are not able to get any confirmation that a person actually exists on the other end. Relatively few of the “unknown” leads are likely to actually represent homeowners that are actively looking for HVAC service. If they had provided correct information and they genuinely wanted to speak with a contractor, why not speak with us when we call, text and email?

In many cases, we suspect that these represent pure fraud. Shady companies acquire unused phone numbers, and sell these leads through marketplaces. Or, they send very real numbers through, but the people that own these numbers hear our messages and don’t know why we’re calling them.

We typically watch the percentage of “unknown” leads as a good indicator that a lead seller is aggregating fraudulent leads, and we quickly stop purchasing from those vendors.

What Percentage of the Verified Leads Will Set Appointments?

We don’t have that exact data to share with you — not all of our clients share it back with us. However, we are able to “sell” 2/3rds of the “verified” leads to our clients. That is, 2/3rds of the valid leads actively want to speak with a contractor, and they will wait on hold while we connect them.

What happens with the rest of the verified leads that we can’t sell? In general, we can summarize these as follows:

Most often we didn’t get in touch with them soon enough. Many homeowners really only want to talk with one contractor, and once they reach that contractor, they won’t set an appointment with anyone else. Time and again, we have seen this play out — whoever reaches the lead first wins.

Sometimes, the person wasn’t a serious lead. Perhaps they didn’t realize that an actual person was going to call them, so when we call, they panic and don’t want to speak with a contractor.

Sometimes the homeowner has already spoken with the contractor that we have in-network, or we issue a credit for some reason.

Takeaways for Dealing with your own Leads and Lead Sellers

[Begin Shameless Plug] Our contractors typically speak with every lead that they buy, and those leads are actively looking for service. If you don’t have that experience with your current lead seller, we recommend that you buy leads from us. [End Shameless Plug]

Get to know your lead vendors. Make sure you understand when and why your vendor will offer you credits, and then be honest and prompt in asking for those credits. Your vendors want a long-term relationship with you, and they understand that you can’t pay for patently bad leads.

You should have relationships with multiple lead sellers. They will source their leads from different places, and having multiple relationships will give you more independence from any one vendor.

Finally, homeowners will not wait for you: you have to be ready to help them when they want help. Even waiting 10 minutes to return a call will dramatically decrease your appointment set rate.

What has your experience been buying leads? Leave your thoughts in the comments, below.