Senior Living Mystery Shopping: 10 Most Common Phone Mistakes

The purpose of “senior living mystery shopping” is to evaluate how sales reps are handling the inquiry process, access their technique in developing rapport, and look for opportunities to coach and improve.

Every month, I listen to recordings made of actual calls between sales reps and prospects. I cannot tell you how I dread listening to these calls. And it does not matter what company I am working with. They all sound the same – terrible!

My senior living mystery shopping reveals the top 10 most common phone mistakes!

1. Waiting Time

It costs about $500 to generate a lead that actually takes action to pick up the phone and reach out for help. And yet, we keep them on the phone for an eternity.  They get to hear how much their call means and how wonderful your community is. But the concierge does not check back to reassure them that someone is coming. And don’t even get me started with dumping inquiry calls into voicemail or telling prospects to call back!

2. Tonality 

On the phone, prospects cannot see body language. Instead, they base their impressions on the sales rep’s tone of voice.  Too often, the sales person sounds rushed, distracted, disorganized, or bored. That’s not what you should get from top senior living sales talent!

3. Allowing Prospects to Lead the Call

Sales people often struggle to gain control of the discovery process when prospects begin asking questions. Too often, prospects focus on the wrong questions, such as how much it costs and staffing ratios. (Instead of what’s really important, like their current situation and timeframe.) Once sales reps lose control, they start laundry listing and give up the ability to create value by matching hot buttons with solutions.

4. Is this an Interrogation or a Conversation?

Good discovery sounds like a conversation. But many inquiry calls sound like the sales person has a checklist they are trying to get through. This becomes a barrier to listening and developing rapport.

The inquiry conversation has to be natural with the sales person listening 70% of the time. For the other 30%, the senior living sales rep should ask questions, repeat what they’ve heard, and empathize.

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. Then, they should schedule the appropriate next step.

5. Premature Closing to Book the Tour

When I listen to recorded calls, I am always struck by how little time sales people spend listening and understanding the prospect’s situation before blurting out “when do you want to schedule a tour?”

Unless a sales person knows the prospect’s top three wants and needs, then the sales rep should ask further questions. Like, what other solutions they are considering, their urgency in finding a solution, how and when they are going to make a decision, and their desired budget range or some financial insights.

Until the prospect answers those questions, they are not ready to schedule a tour!  It’s sales malpractice!  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.

6. Focus on Selling Real Estate

When listening to recorded calls, 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 senior living community offers. Most of our prospects already have a real estate solution (like their own home!). This is not why they are calling.

7. Selling Current Inventory

Our job is to find solutions in the best interest of the prospects, not sell what we currently have available.  In one of the worst senior living mystery shopping calls I 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.” Of course, she had no idea of their timeframe before making that statement, but all she had available that day was studios. Once that prospect heard that the one bedrooms were too expensive and not available, she moved on to a competitor.

8. Being Evasive

In many of the calls I listen to, the rep dances around questions they do not want to answer or outright refuses to answer.  One salesperson told 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?

9. Using Jargon

Many recorded calls I listen to are laced with industry specific jargon and acronyms that are meaningless to the prospect, like IL or ADLs. 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. In reality, all it does is make families feel “not ok.”

10. Ending the Call without a Next Step

So, we invested $500 to motivate a prospect to call. But then, we leave the interaction without a way to move forward.  Many times when I look up the shopper or recorded prospect in the senior living CRM, they haven’t been entered or the contact record is lacking valuable contact information.

Leaving it to the prospect to call back or “stop by” will not increase move-ins. That said, not every next step needs to be a tour. Sales reps could do an assessment or a home visit. But there should be some time-activated commitment to move forward at the end of an inquiry call.

Need help getting your senior living sales reps up to snuff?

We work closely with VPs of sales and marketing. Aligning the two departments is critical to improving sales reps’ performance on the phone, and off. Let’s chat about your needs!

2 replies
  1. Colleen Muscarella
    Colleen Muscarella says:

    What a great article and reminder that the “prospect” on the other end of the phone is a person reaching out for help in a very difficult situation. Listening patiently and addressing their concerns without making them feel pressured will set us apart from the other companies they are surely calling.


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