Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Creating an Effective Sales Culture in Senior Living during Covid-19

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • The importance of creating an effective sales culture
  • How to develop a sales training process
  • Practical advice on empathetic selling to maximize your existing database when COVID-19 has slowed down the flow of new leads
  • Lessons learned by Mike after having done over 150,000 mystery shops

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Mike Miller, President and CEO of Primo Solutions, LLC, and the author of Selling at Combat Speed (2008) and Stop Selling & Start Caring (2011). They discuss the core message of Mike’s newest book which, while always relevant, is many times more so today amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The inspiration behind Stop Selling & Start Caring came when a colleague discussed the uncomfortable experience of looking for a senior living community for his mother. After visiting several communities, his colleague found that none of them even bothered to ask him how he, as the adult child, was feeling about the process. Instead, it seemed like all these communities cared about was making the transaction.

Many institutions lack a clearly-defined sales training process which, by extension, results in a lack of a cohesive sales culture. Debbie and Mike agree that it is key to have a great sales trainer that regularly conducts sessions to help instill and maintain this culture. But more importantly, the company has to have leadership in place that, once training is done, can efficiently and effectively delegate in order to ensure the healthy growth of its culture.

“You can have a great strategy,” says Mike. “But if you do not have the culture in place and the buy-in where people really believe in the process and what they are doing, then it is not going to work.”

COVID-19 has forced many businesses to focus on their existing database as the pandemic has led to fewer new leads coming in. Mike believes that senior living communities tend to spend too much money on incoming leads, and that many can actually fill their communities by investing in their current database. Additionally, the problem with a constant stream of leads is that communities will eventually have a difficult time to work with and nurture those leads already in the CRM.

With regards to the current situation, Mike says that we have no choice but to “make a difference on the phone.” Even today, it is possible to increase your conversion rate via deliberate, creative, and empathetic selling. It starts with reducing your marketing spend and putting more focus on training your staff to work with existing leads.

Ask Mike for a free PDF of Stop Selling & Start Caring at [email protected]

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Best Practices around Marketing and Communication Strategy Used by Various Industries Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • What direction should marketing and communications take amid COVID-19?
  • The power of “sharing, not selling” as a long-term approach to business development
  • Why your organization should shift from crisis communication to resource communication
  • How to get people comfortable about potentially moving into a senior living community during a pandemic
  • What can we learn from this situation, marketing and communications-wise, to become better prepared should another crisis hit?

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Dan Hutson, Marketing and Communications consultant. The pair discuss best practices around marketing and communication strategy used by various industries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these practices can be implemented by the senior housing industry.

Today, organizations have to choose between quietly waiting out the crisis, and looking for opportunities to innovate. Much of the senior living world has chosen the former strategy. Worse than that, some even chose to do “tone-deaf” marketing that completely ignores the new normal. Consumers and clients are more forgiving towards vulnerability and more “raw” messaging, as long as the company can assure them, with a level head, that they are willing and able to consistently follow through in spite of current challenges.

“This situation has freed up your time from doing a lot of the business-as-usual marketing work,” says Dan. “Take this time to really think about interesting ways of connecting with your audience—communicating and creating ongoing conversations with them.” If more organizations adopt this paradigm, there may endure, long after the end of this crisis, a “sharing, not selling” approach to business.

It helps greatly to put yourself in the shoes of those you’re trying to serve. Imagine what a typical member of your target audience is thinking, feeling, and doing at this very moment. One thing’s for sure: there’s so much uncertainty in the world today that people in general are just looking for leaders to help make their struggles more bearable. This, says Dan, becomes the perfect opportunity to serve as your customer’s go-between—to position your company as an incredible resource which provides useful services outside the usual scope of your business.

At a time when social distancing is the norm, ask yourself how you’re adopting technology to support your sales and marketing effort. If you want more people to become comfortable with the idea of potentially moving into a senior living community, particularly during this pandemic, digital and inbound marketing should be your priorities. Many people are uninformed about the different types of available communities, not to mention their concerns about sanitation in these spaces.

If relevance is what you’re after, there’s no better time than this moment to put out regular content that tells your customers exactly what services they should be expecting from your organization. This content should illustrate the reality of your senior living space as a “living, breathing community of people who are engaged in interesting, purposeful lives.”

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Widespread Effects of COVID-19 on the Senior Living Industry

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Lead generation amid COVID-19
  • Why warmer leads have been converting better than cold leads in the past few months
  • What prospects want to talk about during the pandemic
  • The power of creative follow-up
  • Shifting your messaging from crisis communication to reopening
  • Creating a sales and marketing playbook for the new normal

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Julie Podewitz, Chief Sales Officer at Vitality Senior Living, on the widespread effects of COVID-19 on the senior living industry and best practices for how communities can navigate the new normal.

Asked about lead generation amid COVID-19, Julie notes that while leads have been down (more than 50% in some markets), sales conversations continue to remain strong—and in certain cases are actually higher than pre-COVID-19 numbers. A big factor is sense of urgency which, according to Julie, has been “moved forward in a massive direction”. Empathetic sales has become the norm. The pandemic has “forced us to be doing what we really should be doing, which is asking questions” as well as demonstrated the importance of building rapport using every available channel. While leads have lessened, phone calls have been longer and more meaningful. During these challenging times, busyness has morphed into productivity.

Even if prospects may not be able to move into a community anytime soon, there is no better time to connect with them than right now. Potential residents are looking not only for a resource, but for an ear as well. While leads across the board have been down, referral leads have been on the rise, which says more than anything else that prospects are looking for people that they can entrust their future to. By connecting with and creatively following-up with these prospects, getting sales is a given.

No matter the current climate, what needs to remain consistent in your brand’s messaging is honesty and transparency. Of course, this is especially true amid the pandemic, during which fear is the biggest shared hurdle that senior living communities must overcome in the minds of their prospects and current residents. By being upfront with your intentions in your communications, you will assure and inspire confidence in both your employees and customers.

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Painting a Picture of the Future of Senior Living

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How the employees and residents of Belmont Village have weathered COVID-19
  • What has changed and what continues to work in the industry?
  • Building trust with a captive audience
  • The senior living industry should begin to tailor their messaging around reopening
  • Dealing with misleading and negative media coverage
  • Adapting your messaging and value proposition during a period filled with uncertainty
  • Becoming more prepared in the case of a second wave

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Carlene Motto, Chief Marketing Officer at Belmont Village Senior Living. The two discuss how COVID-19 has completely shaken the industry and drastically affected the lives of residents and the employees who care for them. After reflecting on lessons learned throughout this ongoing ordeal, Debbie and Carlene paint a picture of the future of senior living.

One of the biggest changes in the industry was making the switch from face-to-face to virtual with regard to connecting with potential residents. Prior to COVID-19, marketing “had to be creative” since most prospects and their families did not normally pick up the phone. Sales teams had to make use of texting, email, and other forms of written communication. Now, the tables have turned and people look forward to speaking with others. Aside from the phone, technologies such as Facetime and Zoom have become incredibly important for connecting and building trust and rapport with prospects and their families.
Belmont Village believes that “our opportunity is to tell our story through our website.” Due to the pandemic, efforts have been put into repositioning the brand to demonstrate real concern for their people. Out of respect for families who may be struggling financially at this time, focus has been put on connecting live with the families, providing meals to the community, and doubling down on blogging and other website-related strategies.

At a time when the media tends to conflate senior living with nursing homes and at times highlight negative stories regarding the industry, communities need to optimize their messaging on their website and do whatever they can to build relationships with residents, prospects, and their families. “I absolutely believe that senior living even during these dark times is the right place to be—where you can still have interaction, good nutrition and healthcare, and access to PPE.” Sales and marketing teams should continue to keep in mind that building trust in these turbulent times requires “timely, frequent, and transparent communication” with customers.

Both employees and customers want and expect regular and reliable communication during times of uncertainty. In the case of a second wave of the virus, one of the best things that a company can do to prepare is to learn to be alert and responsive at a moment’s notice. As Carlene says, “There’s no such thing as overcommunicating during a time like this. […] In real estate, it is location, location, location. In senior living, it is people, people, people.”