Confusing Sales With Occupancy Won’t Move The Needle

Sales ≠ Occupancy!

Operators often use the words “sales” and “occupancy” interchangeably.  While closing sales is a key component of growing occupancy, sustainable results require a more collaborative strategy. Occupancy = Sales +/- Service Delivery +/- Retention.  Let’s break down each component: 


The sales team is responsible for creating and executing a sales and marketing plan that will result in achieving a resident/ unit move-in goal.  A good plan includes targeting marketing activities that will generate new leads and nurture the existing lead base and referral sources such as events, advertising, direct mail, social media, support groups and community involvement.  The plan should also include sales activities such as lead base nurturing/ creative follow-up, generating tours/ re-tours, doing home visits, scheduled sales calls (hunting & farming), coordinating assessments & next steps, collecting deposits, coordinating move-ins and doing everything possible to close sales!

The reality is that the sales department can move new residents in steadily, but if the services are not delivered (med errors, bad food, rusty van, boring activities, etc.); those residents will turn into move-outs eroding both occupancy and revenue.  So before beating up the sales & marketing director for more move-ins, spend some time evaluating delivery & retention strategies.

Service Delivery

Are you delivering the services promised in your collaterals?  There are silent move-outs due to dissatisfaction that no one wants to talk about.  It is easy to identify those who leave and move into a direct competitor, but others are disguised as;

  • Respites that don’t convert – they “tried out” the community but did not have a good enough experience to become a permanent resident,
  • “Moved home with family” (thought the family would do a better job)
  • “Financial move-out” – they may be able to afford it but no longer see the value
  • Residents who move out into their own condo or apartment and bring in-home care.

Many dissatisfied residents simply stay but tell everyone that the community is not what they expected and they will share their disillusionment with their physicians, family and friends.  So, they may not erode occupancy, but they will not help increase occupancy with referrals – resident and family referrals have one of the highest conversion rates of any source (30 – 35%).


If senior living operators spent as much time, focus and accountability on managing the backdoor as they do driving move-ins through the front door, occupancy & revenue would be far greater. Some ideas to proactively manage rising acuity and retain residents longer include:

  • Invest in updated technology and software that monitors resident patters and health trends with predictive functions to detect changes before an incident or decline occurs.
  • Hold weekly resident tracking meetings to pro-actively manage resident care collaboratively.  These meetings should include representatives from every department and always include input from caregiving staff.
  • Establish protocols for visiting residents when they are out of the community in an acute setting and managing their care by participating in care planning/ discharge planning meetings
  • Set retention goals for your nurses to mirror the move-in goals for your sales team

The bottom line is that if you only focus on the sales portion of the Occupancy Equation, you will miss 2/3 of your opportunity to grow your market share & profitability.  If you would like recommendations to help in any of these areas, please contact Senior Living SMART. Let’s Chat

4 replies
  1. Donna Cutting
    Donna Cutting says:

    This is right on Debbie! As we discussed, there is a direct link between service and occupancy – and as you indicate, even if the resident stays the dissatisfied family member is sharing his/her story, and you are missing out on rave reviews and referrals. A focus on consistency of service helps to turn prospects into customers; and customers into delighted customers.

    Delight them often enough – and they become advocates for your organization.

  2. Matt Favre
    Matt Favre says:

    Debbie, great points in your discussion. In consulting with a number of clients regarding the telecom/technology space for senior living communities, we find that a number are not up to date on the technology and infrastructure for future growth. Future proofing the infrastructure and having the type of services that delight the residences is a key step to enhancing the retention for long term occupancy. The simple scalable solutions can be easily implemented with minimal investment if structured correctly and provide an immediate increase in asset value of the facilities. It becomes a win/win for everyone. For those that want to find out more, reach out. I will be more than happy to have a brief discussion.


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