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Senior Living Sales: How to Cater to the Prospect’s Journey

When it comes to senior living sales and marketing, understanding what your prospects want and need at any given moment is critical. But here’s the thing: The prospect journey is rarely linear. A prospect doesn’t wake up one day and decide to move into a senior living community the next.

For some prospects, they might research and think through options for several years before making the move. Other prospects might be on a tighter timeframe and make a decision within six months. For others, it might be three months.

Plenty of prospects aren’t even buying for themselves, but rather someone they love. Not to mention, many prospects often go back and forth between being “sales qualified” and “marketing qualified.” And, of course, the sales cycle for all of the above has grown more complex, thanks to COVID-19.

The biggest challenge for senior living marketing and sales teams is finding a way to meet each prospect wherever they are on their individual journey. This level of customization was impossible two decades ago. But now, thanks to marketing automation, you can create custom experiences based on a prospect’s actions, interests, and motivations.

How marketing automation enhances the prospect journey

1. Keeps prospects engaged with your brand

Even if the prospect doesn’t always open your lead nurturing emails, simply seeing your name show up in their inbox helps to keep your community front and center in their minds. For those who do open the emails, a personal touch and warm, reassuring tone can go a long way in helping the prospect feel positive about your brand.

2. Entices prospects back to your site

Through engaging lead nurturing emails, you’ll offer helpful content that entices prospects back to your site. Once there, and depending on how well your site is developed, you can engage with them further by offering more content or by providing ways to interact with the site (through live chat or interactive surveys, for example).

3. Automatically matches the right content/message to the right prospect

Again, the main tenet of successful lead nurturing is providing the right content to the right prospect at the right time. You can gather much of this intel through your website opt-in forms and lead scoring. This info will automatically funnel to your marketing automation system. From there, every lead will enter a workflow that makes the most sense for them.

4. Provides real-time insights on what’s resonating and what isn’t

Instead of cold calling all leads (regardless of their level of interest), your sales team can dip into the backend analytics and see how prospects are responding to lead nurturing in real time.

For example, maybe your sales rep notes a prospect who has opened the last three lead nurturing emails and clicked on each offer inside. From there, the person ends up spending 10-15 minutes on the site. This person might indeed be a “hot prospect” and the sales rep might actually get somewhere if they call the person.

In addition, marketing and sales can get a good sense of what type of content works best. Perhaps your prospects love videos. Or maybe they love free guides. You can develop more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

5. Helps move marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) to sales-qualified leads (SQLs) over time

Lead nurturing’s main purpose is to move MQLs to SQLs over time. A thoughtful approach and robust marketing automation can help make sure you achieve this goal.

6. Offers a much less intrusive way for your brand to stay in front of prospects

People will often engage with a brand a half dozen (or even more) times before they’re interested in taking a call with a sales rep. Lead nurturing caters to this shift by providing a much less intrusive way for your brand to stay connected with prospects.

Of course, before you can create the right customized journeys, you need to understand your prospects.

We call this work persona development. Think about your favorite residents. Wouldn’t you want to fill your community full of residents just like them? You can! Persona development helps you identify the traits and behaviors of your ideal prospect. You then develop a customized journey that will attract and nurture more of these ideal prospects.

Remember, when it comes to senior living marketing and sales, it’s not about getting more leads. It’s about getting the right leads—those that match your ideal prospect persona and are a good fit for the lifestyle services that you provide.

 

 

Stay In Touch cold and lost lead re-engagement program

Re-Engage Cold Senior Living Leads with Our Stay in Touch Program

When it comes to the senior living leads in your database, does any of this sound familiar?

  • You have a CRM filled with hundreds of leads that fizzled and went cold—and you don’t know what to do with them.
  • Your sales team has strategies for nurturing leads that come in now—but no strategies for nurturing leads that are eighteen, twelve, or even six months old.
  • You don’t have the people-power to manually call or email all your colds leads, yet you know that you’re missing out on good opportunities.

If you were nodding your head YES as you read through the above, you’re not alone. Your senior living CRM is likely home to many old/cold leads—leads that never received any follow up.

Why didn’t they receive any follow up?

Well, as you know, prospects inquire at various stages of readiness, but sales people can only work 10 – 12 active leads at a time, so they focus on leads closest to decision. Providers know this is a problem. But most don’t have a strategy for addressing it. So, what do they do? They just keep buying new leads.

This isn’t a SMART approach.

And that’s precisely why we created our “Stay in Touch” program-to help busy sales and marketing teams re-engage cold senior living leads through a SMART marketing automation solution.

All you have to do is provide the list of cold leads, and we take it from there. Sounds great, right?

Below are some FAQs about the program.

How does the Stay in Touch program help re-engage cold senior living leads?

We’ve already created a series of surveys, offers, and emails that have proven to re-engage colder senior living leads. This content will help score and segment the leads according to their level of interest.

  • Leads with good potential get served up to your sales team.
  • Cooler leads continue through the various lead nurturing paths until they’re closer to decision and ready to talk to sales.

Why should my community use the Stay in Touch program?

We’ve done the heavy lifting for you! We’ve thought through the messaging that will most likely resonate, the offers that will entice people to take action, and the branching “logic” for the workflows.

We customize all pieces according to your community’s branding guidelines, set up everything (from emails to landing pages), and schedule emails at a rate that makes sense. Once it’s set up, it works on its own. (That’s the power and beauty of marketing automation!)

What will my community “get” from the Stay in Touch program?

The benefits are many. You’ll get . . .

    • A turnkey solution to engage cold leads and turn some of them into warm and hot leads that convert into tours and move-ins
    • More accurate views of your sales pipeline
    • A cleaner, nimbler database/CRM
    • Buy-in from marketing and sales regarding marketing automation
    • And did we mention cold leads that actually CONVERT?

I want the Stay in Touch program. What should I do next?

Let’s set up a 30-minute brainstorming session. There’s no cost for this session (and no obligation, of course). It’s simply an opportunity for you to get to know us and for us to get to know more about your community (or communities) and how you manage your senior living leads. We can also walk you through how the various elements of the Stay in Touch program work.

Increase Occupancy By Maximizing LTCi Benefit Payments

A panel of senior living marketing professionals will share strategies and tactics for lead generation, nurturing and conversions given current restrictions regarding tours, events and community visits.

superhero delivering effective lead nurturing automated senior living email

Senior Living Lead Generation: Create Better Lead Nurturing Emails

Congratulations! Your senior living lead generation is WORKING! You’ve enticed anonymous websites to give you their contact info, thanks to compelling content offers.

Now what?

Make sure you’ve set up your website forms to support a strong senior living lead generation program.

Any form on your senior living website should gather basic info: first name, last name, email, and state. But it should also ask two required questions that will provide further valuable insights.

First, ask something like this: “Are you gathering this info for yourself or a loved one?”

A drop-down would appear with these choices:

  • I’m looking for myself.
  • I am an adult child looking for a parent.
  • Other

You’re keeping the options simple here, because you don’t want to overwhelm people with questions. And you don’t want to create overly complicated lead nurturing paths, either. (More on this in a moment.)

Second, ask something along these lines: “What’s your timeline for making a decision about senior living?”

A drop-down would appear with these choices:

  • ASAP
  • 3-6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 12-24 months
  • No timeline—just researching

Again, you’d don’t want to overwhelm visitors with too many choices. And you don’t want to complicate the lead nurturing paths you set up.

Now that you’ve set up proper lead forms, you can think about the next steps.

Lead nurturing best practices: Turbocharge your senior living lead generation program.

1. Score and segment your senior living leads.

See? Everything we recommended earlier with the website forms serves a purpose. By allowing your prospects to self-identify who they are and where they are in their journey, you can score and segment your senior living leads accordingly: marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

For example, an adult child who is looking to make a decision for her mother ASAP should be funneled directly to the sales team for immediate follow up. This is a classic SQL.

But you can place anyone who chooses one of the other timelines into a longer-term lead nurturing workflow. This way, you can nurture these “not ready yet” leads, or MQLs. The goal involves staying in front of them so that when they ARE ready, they will think of your community first.

Depending on your internal resources at the outset, you can drill down deep into the lead nurturing “logic.”

So, let’s consider someone who is researching senior living for herself. If she is making her decision ASAP, she will become an SQL and go to sales. But if she chooses one of the following timelines, she’ll be considered an MQL primed for nurturing:

  • 3-6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 12-24 months

Now, here’s the thing: You’ll need to create a separate set of lead nurturing emails for each timeframe.

For example, if the person conducting her own research enters the 3- to 6-month workflow, she would receive one set of emails. Another person entering the 6- to 12-month workflow would receive a different set. And so forth.

Yes, some of the emails in each set might be similar—or even identical.

Remember, you want to personalize the emails so that they match where the person is in their buying journey. An adult child researching options for her dad to move in 18 months is in a very different place from an eighty-year-old woman needing to move by the end of the year and researching for herself.

If you’ve been thinking, “Gee, that sounds like a lot of emails we need to write and set up,” you’re correct!

But, again: some emails will work in all of your lead nurturing campaigns. And others might only require a few tweaks. Plus, once you do the initial set-up, it becomes an extremely easy program to manage and even tweak, provided you use marketing automation, which brings us to our next best practice . . .

2. Use marketing automation for your senior living lead generation.

Your senior living sales and marketing teams don’t need to manually score leads, segment them, and send the emails. Marketing automation takes care of it. This way, the sales and marketing teams can focus on the RESULTS, specifically the analytics, so they can respond accordingly.

And it goes without saying, but most leads should change from MQL to SQL over time. At least, that’s the goal.

For example, let’s say a prospect in the “I’m an adult child researching for a parent in the next 6-12 months” category is opening your emails, downloading content, and spending more time on the site. You can change the lead score from marketing qualified to sales qualified. (And if you have a robust marketing automation system, you can program it to automatically make this change based on the lead behavior). Now, the sales team can follow up directly with the lead since the person appears to be super interested.

Bottom line: A good lead nurturing program helps salespeople focus on the best opportunities. And it helps the marketing team understand which types of emails and content drive conversions. Armed with this information, the marketing team can focus on creating more content like it.

Need help right away?

At Senior Living SMART, we love helping senior living sales and marketing teams shine.
Reach out and let’s talk!

3. Follow email marketing best practices.

Like everything else, email marketing best practices evolve. But certain evergreen practices will always remain true:

  • Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Nothing yells amateur like careless mistakes.
  • Shorter is almost always better. First, leave long-form copy to your guides and e-books. Second, keep emails short and highly skimmable.
  • Make your emails mobile responsive. More and more people are reading emails on smaller devices like tablets and phones. (Yes, this includes older adults.) Test your emails on a variety of devices. Some marketing software, like HubSpot, bakes this feature into its platform.
  • Keep subject lines succinct. MailChimp recommends no more than nine words or 60 characters.
  • Send the email from a real person. You don’t want to make it look auto-generated by having a no-reply@community.com email.

Remember, make it about the buyer. Don’t lead by talking about your community. Think about the pain points the person might be experiencing. How can you solve for these pain points? Offering a piece of helpful content is a great place to start.

As for current email marketing trends, here are some to consider testing:

  1. Personalization. Emails that include a person’s name in the subject line have a 29% higher unique open rate and 41% more unique click-through rates.
  2. Experiment with emojis (but still use sparingly). Emojis are a popular trend right now, and mileage varies widely. But you could test subject lines with one emoji.

For example, if one of the emails in your lead nurturing set includes inviting someone to have lunch at your community, your subject line could be something playful: Lunch on us! WE HAVE CAKE! (Then, include a cake emoji 🍰).

Test and see if the subject line with the emoji improves open rates, but also keep in mind that open rates are just ONE metric. Conversions are what matter most. In other words, do you get more people requesting lunch when you use a subject line with an emoji? THAT is what you need to pay attention to.

4. Don’t set it and forget it.

Marketing automation makes life easier because it reduces the manual labor. But you still have to use your noggin and regularly review the analytics and make smart decisions based on what the numbers are telling you.

You also need to make adjustments to lead nurturing emails when something unexpected happens. For example, if you run any lead nurturing campaigns right now, you’d be remiss if you didn’t acknowledge the pandemic.

5. Seek help with your senior living lead generation when you need it.

Setting up a well-designed senior living lead generation program doesn’t just happen. And not every marketing or sales team has the requisite skill sets. Working with a reputable senior living marketing agency that has experience in lead generation can save you time and money.

Need help right away?

At Senior Living SMART, we love helping senior living sales and marketing teams shine.
Reach out and let’s talk!

Mom’s House Helps Seniors Move-In Faster

A panel of senior living marketing professionals will share strategies and tactics for lead generation, nurturing and conversions given current restrictions regarding tours, events and community visits.

Expand Beyond Zoom: Bigger, Better Ways to Use Video

A panel of senior living marketing professionals will share strategies and tactics for lead generation, nurturing and conversions given current restrictions regarding tours, events and community visits.

Business man learning from data trends

Senior Living Sales in the Post-COVID Era: 3 Things We’ve Learned

When it comes to senior living sales, we’re a long way off from the “post-COVID” era. But we’re (thankfully!) turning the corner on COVID-19 (the first wave anyway).

As more and more senior living communities open their doors and return to this “new normal,” now is a good time to pause and consider the things you’ve learned over the last five months. What worked? What didn’t? And what can you do differently from a sales perspective as you move forward?

Here are three things we’ve learned about marketing during a pandemic. This includes insights from our own clients as well.

  1. Virtual sales experiences can be effective.

In our industry, the in-person tour has always been the ultimate “get” in the sales process. (Well, the ultimate get before the actual move-in!) But what many of our clients have learned during lockdown is this: virtual sales experiences can deliver move-ins, too.

So, what does this revelation suggest?

Well, maybe we’ve been spending too much time thinking about what the sales folks need to move prospects down the funnel. Instead, we should focus on the prospects’ needs. In other words, maybe the sales reps’ role is figuring out how they can help empower prospects to move themselves through the funnel.

That’s just one thing that’s been bubbling up.

It makes sense when you think about the shifts in how people research and buy today. We’ve all grown accustomed to being in control. For example, we all like being able to read reviews or use AI to improve the buying process (“Hey, Alexa!”). In addition, we can lodge complaints publicly on Twitter and ignore calls from unknown numbers. So much happens from the comfort of our couch with nothing more than a phone. People can now buy a car without having to leave their house or interact with a sales person.

So of course people are going to demand more and more opportunities for virtual sales experiences from senior living communities, like a 3D virtual tour. Or a reassuring live chat (with a real human). Or unvarnished videos of your residents and staff experiencing daily life in your community.

An important note: We don’t think virtual experiences are going to eliminate in-person tours. Buying a residence is still very much a tactile experience, and people want to see, touch, and smell. But perhaps sales people need to put less emphasis on pushing the in-person tour. Instead, they should focus on delivering targeted and effective virtual experiences that people crave. The better these experiences are, the easier it will be for the prospect to organically move themselves into the position of requesting the in-person tour when they’re ready.

TAKEAWAY: Rethink your overall marketing and sales process. The marketing team will definitely need to be part of these conversations since they often spearhead the creation of assets the sales team needs, like videos and live chat on the website.

Perhaps consider creating two “paths.”  The first path will be the “live” sales experience. The second path can be a virtual one. What would the process look for each path, from start to finish? How would you nurture leads differently? How would you follow up with them differently? Don’t forget about measuring results! What would be considered successful? Will a longer sales cycle be OK if it produces more conversions?

  1. Crisis communication isn’t a one-time exercise for senior living sales teams.

COVID-19 forced everyone to dust off their crisis communication plan (provided they even had one) and put it into action.

How’d yours do? If your answer is “meh,” you’re not alone.

Too often, we simply go through the motions once or twice a year of holding drills and reviewing emergency preparedness plans. But drills and a real life global pandemic are two different things.

Another important point: crisis communications shouldn’t be issued only when a crisis hits. Effective crisis communication is an ongoing task, one that you should mix in with your regular content marketing.

For example, every season brings its own challenges and potential crisis. Perhaps your community is located in an area of the country that experiences severe weather from June to November (think hurricanes). Instead of waiting for something to happen, create and share your crisis communication plan for severe weather NOW.

No, you don’t need to be alarmist. But if your community is in a hurricane zone, perhaps it makes sense to have a section on your website that proactively talks about your community’s approach to bad weather. What happens if there’s a power outage? Flooding? What’s the approach depending on the storm category (the difference between a Cat 1 and Cat 5 storm)? How can families stay in touch? How do you send messages/alerts to families and/or where can they call into?

And this goes without saying, but ALL communities should be working on a crisis communication plan for COVID and flu for the fall of 2020/winter of 2021.

TAKEAWAY: Think about the worst case scenarios that could affect your community. Disease and weather top the list, so you should have content sections on both. Include an overview page. In addition, have FAQs about each particular topic. Other sections to consider: chemical accidents, fire, terrorist events. Yes, we know these are scary topics, but your content can be calming and reassuring.

Promote these sections on social media, to prospects and new residents/families, and to local reporters (who are always looking for go-to experts when disaster hits). Be the resource that residents, families, and prospects crave.

This information will go a long way in demonstrating that your community has put the time and effort into planning. It will also show that you learned from any mistakes/missteps from COVID-19. Because, let’s face it: no one was fully prepared.

  1. When it comes to delivering essential messages, lather, rinse, repeat. And repeat, repeat, repeat.

Over the last five months, have you found yourself repeating things to people because they’ve forgotten you told them already? Have you found that you’ve had trouble remembering things?

You’re not alone. This pandemic has worn out everyone mentally. As CNN.com notes, “Experts say it all has to do with how the pandemic is affecting our cognitive health—meaning, our ability to clearly think, learn and remember.”

TAKE AWAY: Before COVID-19, you typically had to repeat marketing messages anywhere from 7-12 times (at least) before it started to sink into people’s heads. When it comes to senior living sales today, plan on doubling that—even for simple messages.

Ideas for pushing out your core messages:

  • Update and republish evergreen blogs that promote core messages.
  • Increase how often you share certain content, like a blog post, over time. For example, if you publish a new blog tomorrow, do you tweet and post about it a couple times and then forget about it? Make sure you have a promotion plan that continues to pump out your most valuable content. Marketing automation can help with this. Write a tweet once, but schedule the same tweet 10 times over 30 days.
  • Keep messages short and punchy—especially on social media. Make it easy to digest and remember.
  • Finally, use a variety of media to say the same thing. Some people like to read. Others like to watch video. Still others like to listen.

Need help transitioning your sales process?

We spent our careers working on the operator side. We understand the challenges senior living sales and marketing teams face—and we have smart strategies and solutions that’ll get you the results you desire.

[WEBINAR] Senior Living Lead Generation During COVID-19

Even during a pandemic, we marketing and sales professionals must continue to connect and engage with our prospects, both existing and new. Learn what senior living lead generation options are available to continue your work towards those 2020 marketing and sales goals!

Senior Living Lead Generation During COVID

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Engaging with prospects in the absence of tours and events
  • Alternative lead gen strategies
  • What prospects need from you during this pandemic
  • Maintaining and increasing your brand awareness
  • Best CTAs that are not tour or event focused
Senior Living Sales: Creative Pricing Strategies for 2017

Senior Living Sales: Creative Pricing Strategies for 2017

Well, it’s budget time once again. Time to reevaluate pricing, analyze trends, and build 2017 business plans, tactics, and strategies. Setting rates usually starts with an analysis of occupancy and vacancy by unit type; calculating rent, care, and community fee averages; evaluating current resident rates; and comparing competitor pricing.

Here are some creative senior living sales strategies to think about for 2017:

Value/ Premium Pricing

This strategy allows a pricing spread throughout the community, offering greater pricing elasticity to meet a wider range of financial options for prospects without eroding rate.

Select an equal number of…

  • Value Apartments with undesirable locations (end of long hallways, upper floors); undesirable views (parking lot, dumpster, mechanical units); or with a lack of amenities (dark, small, limited closet space)
  • Premium Apartments with a premium location (near elevator, on the first floor, near dining room, etc.); premium view; or with premium amenities (upgrades, closet space, square footage)

Set Value and Premium Rates

  • Price the Value Apartments a dollar amount lower than the average rate per unit.
  • Price the Premium Apartments a matching dollar amount higher than the average rate per unit.
  • This creates three price points for each apartment type and leaves the overall rate unchanged.

Value/Premium Pricing is Most Effective With…

This strategy works well in communities with 10 or fewer vacant apartments with undesirable views, locations, or amenities that are not selling. This short-term pricing strategy does not erode rate as the additional rate gained in Premium units offsets the discounts offered in the Value apartments.

Variable Pricing

Much like paying points on a mortgage, the greater the upfront move-in fee, the lower the monthly base rent.

For example, for every $2000 more paid up front, the resident base rent is reduced by $200.

Variable pricing benefits:

  • This gives the community good cash flow up front
  • The advantage for the resident is that the investment is paid back within 10 months and all future increases are based on the lower rate.

This strategy provides solutions for prospects who:

  • Have good liquidity from the sale of their home or from strong investments, but they do not have much income. (They can put up a large move-in fee and buy down their monthly price that is within their income range.)
  • Have a strong income but do not have upfront cash (waiting to sell their home, money tied up in annuities, CDs, or other investments).

Variable Pricing is Most Effective With…

Rental CCRC/ IL where the length of stay is longest. It competes well against the buy-in model, as it offers control of the rate to the resident without requiring a large buy-in fee. It pays back the investment in the present where the buy-in model only pays back at the end of the stay.

It also works well in economically fragile markets where people need more options in order to create a financial solution. It also works well in more sophisticated metro markets where the buyer wants to be in control and is always looking for a deal.

Volume Pricing

This short-term strategy establishes a “can’t walk away from” price to move a volume of apartments quickly. Establish a defined time frame or a number of apartments offered to limit rate erosion. This approach trades rate for occupancy until the community reaches an occupancy percentage to turn the rate lever back on.

The best strategy is to identify a specific type of unit, such as studios, or a specific location, such as upper floor location that have been vacant for a long time.

Most Effective With…

Works well with communities under 80% occupied where the cost of vacancy outweighs the erosion of rate. This strategy also works with communities who are convinced that their only barrier is rate. Using volume pricing for 60 – 90 days will confirm or dispel the rate barrier theory. If no one buys at the volume rate, it’s not a pricing issue, so keep digging.

Check out other sales and occupancy growth resources in our Senior Living Marketplace »

Senior Living Sales: 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Phone Inquiries

Senior Living Sales: 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Phone Inquiries

Every month, I listen to community sales people speaking with prospects through recorded calls made through website phone tracking systems or by way of mystery shop companies. The purpose is to hear what the sales people are saying, evaluate how they are handling the inquiry process, assess their rapport building and discovery techniques, and look for opportunities to coach and improve the sales teams.

It is often painful to listen to these calls, so here are some do’s & don’ts when making that critical first impression with a prospect.

Senior Living Sales: Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Phone Inquiries

1. Keeping people on hold for too long. It costs about $500 to generate a lead that actually picks up the phone, yet we too often keep them on hold for an eternity.

While on hold, they get to hear how much their call means and how wonderful the community is, but they wait seemingly forever before someone finally picks up the call. Don’t even get me started with dumping inquiry calls into voicemail or telling a prospect to call back!

Solution: Use a system that alerts people how long the wait will be. AND offer/encourage other ways for the prospect to make contact, such as email and live chat.

2. Having the wrong tone. The difference between phone inquiries and in-person inquiries is that, on the phone, prospects cannot see a sales person’s body language. That means the prospect must rely on the sales person’s tone of voice. Too often, the sales person sounds rushed, distracted, disorganized, or bored/ disinterested.

Solution: Good old-fashioned coaching can help sales people improve their phone etiquette. Role-playing works well. So do incentives.

3. Interrogating rather than conversing. Good discovery sounds like a conversation, but many inquiry calls sound like the sales person has a checklist they are trying to get through and that becomes a barrier to listening and developing rapport.

The conversation should be natural with the sales person listening 70% of the time and asking questions, digging deeper, and repeating/empathizing the other 30%. The only time that the sales person needs to take the lead in talking is to match their community solutions with the specific needs expressed by the prospect and schedule the appropriate next step.

Solution: Same as the previous point. Practice, practice, practice. It also helps to post reminders in offices and around phone banks that sales people should use their two ears and one mouth in direct proportion to one another.

4. Booking the tour too quickly. I’m always struck by how little time sales people spend in listening and understanding the prospect’s situation before they blurt out “when do you want to schedule a tour? Is this afternoon good or would tomorrow be better?”

Unless a sales person understands the prospect’s specific needs, timelines, budget range and/or financial insights (e.g. do they have to sell a home?), and other solutions they’re considering, then they are NOT ready to schedule a tour. Waiting until the tour arrives to do full discovery robs the sales person of the ability to personalize the tour based on the prospect’s unique situation, wants, and needs.

Solution: Each sales person should have a list of discovery questions that they ask during the call. The key, of course, is asking the questions in a natural way during the conversation (rather than making it sound like an interrogation, which we discussed in #3).

5. Focusing on selling real estate. Many sales people spend too much time focused on the real estate side of their community rather than on care, resources, solutions, value, and the lifestyle the community offers. Most of our prospects already have a real estate solution (their own home, living with family or in another care setting) so that is not why they are calling.

Solution: Again, the sales person should have materials handy every time he or she answers a call. In addition to a list of discovery questions, the sales person should have a list of benefits that the community offers.

6. Focusing on selling current inventory. Our job is to find solutions in the prospect’s best interest, not sell what we currently have available. In one of the worst calls I’ve listened to, the sales person actually said, “Oh, you don’t really want a one bedroom. It’s a waste of money and way too expensive.” The issue with this statement: the sales person had no idea of the prospect’s timeframe and all she had available that day was studios. Once the prospect heard that the one bedrooms were too expensive and not available, she moved on to a competitor.

Solution: Make sure sales people aren’t working under unreasonable quotas, which might force them to push inventory that isn’t necessarily helpful to the prospect.

7. Being evasive. Too many sales people dance around questions they don’t want to answer. Sometimes, they flat out refuse to answer questions. I heard one salesperson tell a prospect, “I could not possibly give you any pricing – it is absolutely impossible!” Really? Would you rather book tours with completely unqualified families and waste time for both of you? Remember, transparency builds trust and helps prospects self-qualify.

Solution: If you want sales people to be transparent, then transparency needs to be part of the overall culture of your community from top to bottom. Management needs to be transparent with staff, staff needs to be transparent with residents, and sales people need to be transparent with prospects. This won’t happen overnight, but it can happen.

8. Using jargon. Inquiry calls are often laced with industry specific jargon that is meaningless to the prospect. I’m talking acronyms like IL, AL, ALZ, CCRC, SNF, ADLs; titles, such as ED, RCD/RSD, CRD, MOD; clinical terms, such as CHF, COPD, and so forth. Don’t use jargon with prospects.

For example, what significance does the phrase “Activities of Daily Living” have to a family? Can’t we just interact as people and say, “We can help with personal care”? Jargon is usually used to express our expertise, but all it does is confuse and overwhelm people, which is not the feel you should be going for.

Solution: This one is easy. Don’t do it. If it’s a problem, coaching can help the sales person break this bad habit.

9. Ending the call without a next step. You’ve invested $500 to motivate a prospect to call, yet there’s no follow-up process AFTER the initial call. That doesn’t make sense, does it? Leaving it to the prospect to call back or “stop by” will not increase move-ins.

Too often when I look up the shopper or recorded prospect in the database, they have not been entered or we are lacking valuable contact information. It’s critical that sales people record the info and follow-up tasks!

Keep in mind that not every next step needs to be a tour. It could be an assessment, home visit, attending an event or support group, etc. But there should be some time-activated commitment to move forward at the end of an inquiry call. “Closing” is not an event; it is the outcome of multiple advances!

Solution: Make it a requirement that sales people record prospect’s key info in a database along with follow-up tasks. The right CRM (customer relationship management) software can make this easy.

Remember, even the best sales people need reminders and refreshers from time to time. That’s why conducting mystery shopping and providing follow-up sales training and coaching are so important. Check out our Partner Marketplace for companies that specialize in both.

Mystery Shopping Webinar

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How to Use Mystery Shopping as a Coaching Tool!

One of the most cost-effective ways to develop your sales skills is through the use of mystery shopping. However, that is just the first step. Mystery shopping will identify the strengths and opportunities in your sales skills, but you have go beyond the identification step and move into the action step.

This webinar will provide best practices on how to use your mystery shopping as a coaching tool, and take your sales skills to the next level.