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Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Operating in the Senior Living Space Post-COVID with Amy McKinley


Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Operating in a completely virtual environment
  • How salespeople can effectively address concerns related to COVID-19
  • Introducing empathy in the call and building a genuine relationship with the prospect with a no-touch system
  • The senior living space in a post-COVID world

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Amy McKinley, a 35-year veteran of the senior living space and the Co-Founder and CEO at Senior Source Consulting Group.

Amy discusses the overnight reality of having to advise providers on selling their community in a no-touch environment. Amy says that salespeople “now have to be more on point.” For instance, in-person tours and face-to-face mystery shopping have exclusively turned into virtual walkthroughs and phone calls—which arguably take more skill to manage.

She adds that, nowadays, “we have to be more transparent, but in a way that is meaningful to the prospect.” It is important to make people feel important on the phone. This is, indeed, more work, but if done correctly, can easily allow one community to stand out in a sea of ever-increasing noise.

Health and safety have obviously become top-of-mind concerns among both prospects and providers. It is vital not just to demonstrate the safety measures your facility adheres to, but also to give good reasons why a family member should make the move to that facility as soon as possible. One point to emphasize is that it is much better for that family member to live among a community than to be alone in these uncertain times.

Salespeople should never rely on filling the CRM alone. Unfortunately, most do. What Amy recommends is for the salesperson to apply tactfulness during the call, keeping an appropriate balance between discovery and building rapport. In other words, salespeople should never forget the lasting power of building genuine relationships.

Emotion, after all, is what creates urgency to make a decision. “They’re not going to get to that point if you’re just asking a checklist of questions,” says Amy.

Resources Mentioned:

Senior Source Consulting Group

Amy McKinley on LinkedIn

Contact Amy: 615-330-9553

[email protected]

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: All Things Paid Search with Jay Buerck


Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How the pandemic has impacted organic and paid search in the senior living space
  • Differences between Google and Bing for paid search
  • How to maximize organic search and, later, complement it with paid search
  • The steps to mapping out an effective SEO strategy
  • First-touch versus retargeting campaigns
  • Paid ads on Facebook versus Google and Bing
  • How to set proper expectations when running ad campaigns

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Jay Buerck, Director of Strategy at Digital Strike, a “search-focused marketing company” catering to businesses of all sizes. Specializing in organic and paid search, the company’s focus is to harness intent-based marketing from search engines.

In this conversation, Debbie and Jay do a deep dive into all things Google Adwords, PPC campaigns, and other strategies to increase a business’s web presence.

With over half of Digital Strike’s business being in the senior living space, Jay references a DialogTech study which found that search volume has been decreasing, up to 40% for certain providers. At the same time, 75% of searches related to finding a community have taken place online, with about 83% of those searches coming from individuals who do not have a specific community in mind.

“It’s vitally important to be online,” says Jay, “and increase your visibility, whether that’s through organic search or through paid search.”

Asked about maximizing organic search, Jay refers to the three pillars of SEO that Digital Strike subscribes to: technical, content, and authority. Anyone can start seeing a boost in their search rankings by optimizing all three of these foundational factors.

Jay also speaks on setting expectations when running ad campaigns, saying that it’s important to look not only at your company’s metrics, but those of others who have run comparable campaigns so that you are not looking at your data in a vacuum. It also helps to engage in conversation with stakeholders and refer to reports that reveal current market trends.

Resources Mentioned:

Digital Strike

Jay Buerck on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Solving the Occupancy Puzzle with Julie Podewitz

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • Why Julie decided to write a book specifically about the Regional Director role
  • How Regional Directors can develop productive relationships with different departments
  • How Regional Directors can plan their site visits in a way that is appropriate and adds value to all parties
  • How Regional Directors can create a system for higher conversions and set expectations with their team
  • Julie’s three-person coaching model for effectiveness
  • Why the senior housing lost/mismanaged lead statistic has not improved since 2007

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Julie Podewitz, Chief Sales Officer at Vitality Senior Living and author of the 2021 book Solving the Occupancy Puzzle: A Senior Living Regional Director Sales Playbook.

Asked why she chose to make the Regional Director the focus of her book, Julie says that this is “the role that has the most impact and the role we give the least attention to.” Julie has observed through the course of her career that “Regionals fail because of the lack of systems, the lack of specific expectations, and the lack of training and coaching.”

Julie speaks on the importance not only of communicating, but also of accountability between the Regional Directors of different departments, from sales and marketing to community relations. She also reminds Regionals to make it a point to “maintain their advisor status” in their interactions with prospects, taking care not to cross the line into friendship.

The value of connection extends to one’s strategy for converting prospects. “We’ve got to go back to those basics to build value and connect.” Similarly, Julie emphasizes that Regionals focus on one strategy at a time and double-down on it instead of spreading themselves too thin.

“The quality of your questions will determine the quality of the information you’ll receive.” Practicing these conversations is key, and the best way to practice is through regular roleplay. Julie describes her three-person coaching model for more effective roleplays, in which each of the three take turns (one permutation per training session) assuming the role of customer, sales counselor, or coach.

Resources Mentioned:

Solving the Occupancy Puzzle

Julie Podewitz on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Business, Sales and Marketing Advice with Doug Davidoff


Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • How businesses can communicate with their target market to design better services
  • Creating an environment that makes prospects stay comfortable while in the pipeline
  • Tried-and-true advice for all sales professionals
  • The ever-evolving relationship between sales and marketing
  • Considerations around “high-tech, high-touch”
  • Identifying the touches that matter and ignoring those that do not matter
  • How letting go of (your feeling of) control gives you more control as a company
  • Creating a solid structure for your business to spark more creativity among your team
  • The truth about friction in the sales process and how to use friction to your advantage
  • The difference between a “challenger” and a “provoker” in sales

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Doug Davidoff, Founder and CEO at Imagine Business Development, a management consulting firm that has worked with over 1500 small and mid-market businesses. Doug describes his career as being about “eliminating or mitigating the conflict between buyers and sellers,” an approach that is applied at Imagine.

Imagine has discovered that most organizations already have the raw material to achieve what they want to achieve. What they need is the correct recipe to make their vision a reality. Doug says that the problem usually lies more in what organizations are already doing and have to unlearn as opposed to what they are not doing. Imagine ensures that their clients maintain the structure of their respective businesses “to enable them to achieve predictable, sustainable, and scalable growth, however they define ‘scalable’.”

Imagine has worked with countless businesses in many different verticals, and the number one issue that Doug found is a lack of empathy. Instead of creating a product or service from assumption alone, companies need to see the world through their customers’ eyes. In addition, companies have a tendency to “try too hard” or overestimate what they can do. Sales professionals simply need to solve for x. They need to map their customer’s journey to make their subsequent decisions more informed.

Historically, salespeople were responsible for communicating the value proposition. Today, that has become marketing’s job. Sales professionals now “facilitate the decision using the resources that marketing has created to reduce the effort involved to make a high-risk decision.” Sales and marketing, previously siloed departments, now work parallel to each other.

“Your job is not to sell the community,” says Doug. “Your job is to help somebody make a good decision about where they should spend their senior years.” With sales and marketing working in tandem, operating by the principles of empathy, the entire process becomes smoother. As Doug says: “The single best thing a company can do to increase sales is to make it easier for someone to buy.”

Links:

Imagine Business Development

Doug Davidoff on LinkedIn

Senior Living Marketing Perspectives: Learn about SMASH- The Senior Marketing and Sales Summit

Topics Discussed and Key Points:

  • The origin of the SMASH conference
  • How SMASH has evolved over the years
  • Topics to expect at SMASH 2020
  • Lead generation, conversion, and management during and after COVID-19
  • Reimagining sales and marketing in the new normal
  • Interacting with prospects with virtual tools

 Episode Summary:

In today’s episode, Debbie speaks with Bailey Beeken, President of Senior Care Events and the Founder of SMASH—the Senior Care Marketing and Sales Summit.

Bailey discusses the concept behind SMASH, which was established in 2013. This series of conferences brings together C-level executives in the senior living industry, “curat[ing] the best of the best in leading edge marketing and sales.”

In its first year, the conversation was around social media and other branding platforms such as websites and how they can be used to market the company. In the following year, the focus shifted towards content creation and digital advertising for driving leads to these platforms. A couple of years ago, the primary topic became data management and how to create budgets and strategies around it. This year’s conference set for October 19-21 will go into considerations and best practices in a post-COVID-19 world.

With fewer leads coming in and heavy criticism from the media during these uncertain times, Bailey acknowledges that it is time for the senior living industry to “throw out the old playbook” and lead with purpose by “spending 80% of the time nurturing the 20%”. Communities must tailor their messaging around concerns regarding health, safety, and family by producing content at a cadence that is appropriate to the current climate. “We really have to reimagine the entire prospect journey and recreate all of those in-person activities [online],” agrees Debbie.

It is important for organizations to take advantage of virtual tools to connect and strengthen their relationships with families. “People are going to have to act with urgency. It is not just about getting revenue. The first movers will win here. They will not have all the answers, but they are willing to experiment. […] We have a lot of work to do to counter the message that has been told this past year and everybody has to get onboard with that.”

Links:

SMASH 2020

Phone: (917) 572-1118

Email: [email protected]

How COVID-19 Can Help Make Your Senior Living Sales Process Better

How COVID-19 Can Help Make Your Senior Living Sales Process Better

Editor’s note: The following senior living sales content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.

COVID-19 has forced all of us to change many aspects of our personal and professional lives, and this is especially true for senior living sales pros.

But here’s the good news: The adjustments you make to your sales process right now can serve you well over the long haul. Below are just some of the adjustments to consider:

1. Senior living sales tips: Stop selling. Start helping.

You’ve likely heard this advice before, especially if you’re a regular reader of our blog and newsletter. This isn’t a new strategy, by any stretch. But now is a great time to try it, especially if you’ve been skeptical of the concept.

So what do we mean by “stop selling, start helping“? No one likes being sold to (and definitely not during a global pandemic). But people do tend to be grateful for genuine help and concern.

Whenever you speak to a “prospect,” particularly during these uncertain times, forget the word “prospect.” Don’t think “how can I move this person to the next stage in the journey?” Instead, think of the word “human” and think about how you can help this fellow human.

Begin by asking questions…

  • How are you and your family adjusting to social-distancing measures?
  • What sort of activities are you doing?
  • What do you miss most?
  • Have you watched or read anything good lately?
  • What do you need help with?
  • What supplies are your running low on?
  • How can I help/be of service to you right now?

Listen to their answers. Share your experiences as well. And if they need help with something, help them—get them answers to their questions, follow up in a meaningful way, drop off a care package at their door.

And guess what? If you build stronger relationships by making a real connection and demonstrating genuine empathy, you will naturally move people closer to a purchase decision when the time comes. And when the pandemic is over, you’ll find that most of the prospects will see you in a very different (and more positive) light. You’ll have created a much stronger and enduring bond than you ever could have done when you were in constant selling mode.

A final note on this strategy: Yes, these sorts of conversations with prospects will take longer. But you’ve got the time, right? And here’s an important tip: try having these conversations face-to-face via virtual methods.

Which brings us to our next point . . .

2. Senior living sales tips: Make an effort to move from voice-to-voice contact to (virtual) face-to-face.

In the “old” days of just a few months ago, making follow-up phone calls to prospects was the norm. And it worked fine. A phone call was more personal than an email—hearing someone’s voice and all that. But given social distancing and the isolation we’ve all found ourselves in, we’re all craving VISUAL contact right now.

You already know that seeing someone’s face (and being able to read nonverbal gestures) can be critical to the sales process. You now have the opportunity to make visual contact a regular part of your sales follow-up process.

Use apps like Zoom or Facetime to connect with prospects. This visual contact better enables you to develop a relationship with a person, rather than a prospect. It also allows the person to see YOU as a human being rather than merely a sales rep trying to sell them something.

Suggesting video calls right now isn’t a hard sell, either. People around the globe are using these modes of communication to keep in touch with family and friends, so they are poised to accept this sort of communication from businesses as well.

In fact, Axios reports that this year’s Easter and Passover celebrations forced many older Americans to take the plunge and try video conferencing, like Zoom, for the first time. And Axios also wisely notes, “Older generations are usually slow to adopt new technologies, but history shows that when they finally do learn, they’re hooked.”

3. Senior living sales tips: Include more virtual events in your overall event planning.

Why have more virtual events, especially once things have improved? Well, COVID-19 has taught all of us that how we interact with brands and companies—including how we buy from them—can and will continue to evolve.

Not every sale—even for big-ticket items, like new living quarters—has to be done in person, thanks to technology. This is true, even for senior living communities. Some of our clients are reporting to us that they’re still making sales and move-ins during this time, albeit creatively and with much less in-person contact.

And now that consumers are seeing that they don’t need as much in-person time with sales people in order to successfully purchase something, demand for virtual sales processes will likely increase.

As a result, senior living sales and marketing teams will need to get creative and offer more virtual ways to engage prospects. This will be especially true for so-called “bottom of the funnel” events, like in-person tours, open houses, and lunches.

An important caveat: We don’t think virtual events are going to replace in-person events. But including virtual events in your offerings gives people (aka, your prospects) more choices—and ultimately more control.

4. Senior living sales tips: Clean up/update your CRM—and keep it updated.

No more excuses. You have the time to clean up your CRM, so do it.

Of course, the real problem isn’t the cleanup, though; it’s maintaining a clean database by getting in the habit of logging all details after every call on a go-forward basis

Again, you have the time right now. So after every call—even the long ones—get in the habit of immediately updating the contact record in your database with notes, info on the follow-up call, and any relevant tasks. For example, if you were talking to someone who was unsure about senior hours at the area grocery stores, assign yourself a task to get a list to the person ASAP. This goes back to the “stop selling, start helping” point above.

Note: Don’t have a CRM? (Or maybe you’re thinking of making a switch?) Here are six crucial elements to consider when choosing the right CRM.

5. Senior living sales tips: Focus less on lead volume and more on conversions.

Listen, we get it. You’re in sales. You live and die by the numbers. But consider this: would you rather have a ton of leads that never convert or a smaller amount of leads with a high conversion rate?

Lead volumes are down across the board due to the pandemic—some of our clients are reporting by more than half. But our most successful clients are working the leads they have in a sensitive and empathetic manner (see point #1 above) and seeing an increase in conversions as a result.

Think about that, because it’s a powerful point. Nurture leads in a more authentic, real way, and possibly convert more of the leads you already have. That’s not a bad approach right now—or in the future when we’re (hopefully) back to normal.

Need help thinking through your sales process post COVID—and aligning it better with marketing?

We can help. We’ve been in your shoes. We understand the enormous pressures you’re facing! Let’s chat.

MORE HELPFUL TOPICS:

What Can Sales People Do If They Cannot Sell?

Tips for Creating Virtual Sales Experiences in Senior Living

Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

May-2020-2-blog-1-772x340-1_d23f3974ccff838272ca42a495b13497

Senior Living Marketing & Sales: It’s a Great Time to Experiment

[Editor’s note: The following senior living marketing & sales content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.

So many businesses, including those in the senior living industry, have had to throw their marketing and sales playbooks out the window due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many people are mourning the loss of the “old ways,” we’d like to take a more optimistic view. Now is a good time to experiment and get creative, especially when it comes to senior living marketing and sales.

No, not everything you try will work for your community. But you might uncover some fresh approaches that you’ll want to adopt for the long term.

1. Virtual Tours for Effective Senior Living Sales

One of the challenges right now is figuring out how to replace or augment some of the more traditional high-touch tactics, like tours and marketing events, with other kinds of tech-supported and virtual tactics.

As an industry, we tend to rely A LOT on the personal tour and other in-person events. How often do you say things like “Schedule a tour, come to an event, join us for lunch”? It’s easy to make those offers, because senior living sales reps see them as easy ways to engage with people. But have you ever considered if these things are what perspectives want to do? Now is a great time to test whether virtual tours (and other virtual events) can be just as effective as in-person tours and events.

Note: when we say virtual tours, we don’t simply mean those slick, professionally shot videos, either. You probably already have some sort of virtual tour on your site (if you don’t, you should, regardless of  COVID-19). We’re talking about taking virtual tours to the next level.

For example, maybe the director of dining services uses his/her phone to record a message and a walk through the kitchen as the team is preparing dinner. Show that well-stocked pantry, introduce people to the sous chef, show the staff plating the food. You get the idea.

Don’t worry about an occasional shaky video—people know the difference between slick and highly produced videos and off-the-cuff authentic ones. Which ones are going to be more believable or have the biggest impact?

Lather, rinse, repeat. Do the same sort of video tours with activities, with the facilities team, with the director of nursing, etc.

  • PRO TIP: We recommend Heart Legacy to create these sorts of brand experiences. Note: if you have a library of compelling pictures from your community—for example, all of the architecture/buildings—you can create a video tour out of the photography.

2. Facebook Live.

People are glued to their devices right now and incredibly active on social media, Facebook in particular (Facebook has seen its already-high usage soar since the start of the pandemic).

Facebook Live events are great ways to create “must-see” TV. The best part? You can repurpose this content and share via other social channels, embed on your website, and share in emails.

3. Video conferencing check-in calls with prospects.

Doing video calls right now isn’t a hard sell, either. People around the globe are using these modes of communication to keep in touch with family and friends, so they are poised to accept this sort of communication from businesses as well.

Encourage the sales team to do these sorts of calls with prospects and to focus on helping, not selling.

  • PRO TIP: Zoom is a popular and budget-friendly app. Skype works, too, as does Facetime.

4. Live chats hosted by real humans, not a bot.

If someone comes to your website with a question or concern, but they’re NOT ready for a phone call, a true “live chat” with a real human, not a bot, can be a great option.

Why not use a bot? Well, a bot can answer a question, but they can’t empathize. They can’t offer the all-important human touch.

  • PRO TIP: SiteStaff is our very favorite chat company hosted by college educated Americans who were hired for their empathy. We train them on senior living discovery skills.

5. Interactive tools/surveys.

Sales reps love engaging with people in person during tours or lunches, but that’s not necessarily what all prospects want or need. Interactive tools and surveys (and other apps) provide a way to engage while delivering what a prospect might need in that moment.

So a senior living sales rep could send an email to a prospect saying, “I’ve really been thinking about you, and I know that you’re struggling to know if senior living is right for you or if it’s the right time to make the move. Here’s a link to an insightful interactive survey that really dives deep and helps people understand what’s best for them and their situation. There’s no obligation and it’s free to use. Give it a try and see what it says. Happy to discuss your results with you if that helps.”

The other nice thing about interactive tools/surveys is that they help create a “sticky” website (meaning people hang out on the site longer), and they provide another opportunity to convert anonymous website visitors into leads you can nurture.

  • PRO TIP: Roobrik is our go-to for awesome, insightful surveys.

6. Senior Living Marketing Automation

Marketing automation will allow you to nurture leads in a way that’s meaningful to the prospect.

For example, let’s say the prospect has been interacting with a tool/survey on the memory care page. You can automatically follow up with helpful info, such as an article, related to memory care. On the other hand, if they download a financial guide, they’re going to get very different nurturing. In this case, the message should reassure and provide information regarding how affordable senior living can be.

And when we use the word “automated,” we mean exactly that: the system will automatically trigger a series of emails based on the actions a person takes on the site.

Give prospects lots of opportunities to choose how they want to engage with you (so a mix of chat, guides, surveys, etc.). And once they submit a form—meaning once they “opt in” based on their comfort level and where they are in their journey—then marketing automation takes over and nurtures them, encourages them, builds trust, and gives them more resources that are relevant to what they’ve expressed interest in. Over time, the nurturing will move them into a sales qualified interaction of a phone call or a tour or a virtual tour.

  • Pro Tip: We highly recommend HubSpot (we’re a HubSpot certified partner) for marketing automation.

Need help trying new ideas? We’re the app for that! :)

Seriously, we’ve been in your shoes, and we can help. We keep our eyes on the latest and greatest technology. This gives us a sense of if and how it could work for the senior living industry. Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help.

Why All Senior Living Websites Need To Have a Blog & Premium Content

The Benefits of a Senior Living Blog & Premium Content

Even as we sit here in 2020, it still amazes us the resistance we occasionally encounter when we tell people they should have a senior living blog and offer premium content (e.g., free guides, infographics, checklists, ebooks, etc.).

So let’s explain our rationale once and for all.

1. Senior living blog posts and premium content provide additional opportunities to attract people to your site and engage them with helpful info.

The more paths you can give people to enter and explore your website, the better. And that’s precisely what premium content and senior living blog posts do.

Remember, most people begin their shopping online these days. A basic 10-page or 20-page senior living website isn’t enough to cover all the information people are searching for. But every blog post you write is considered a website page. Every landing page you have for a free download, like a guide or infographic, is considered a page. And ALL of these pages are excellent ways to help attract site visitors and convert them into leads.

Google also likes a deeper website with lots of helpful info: “If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site.”

2. Blog posts and premium content provide a great opportunity for long-tail keyword optimization.

A long-tail keyword is one that’s hyper specific, but doesn’t have a ton of monthly searches. That’s OK, because the specificity of the search term often indicates someone’s eagerness to buy sooner rather than later. For example, someone searching on “yellow sneakers women wide width size 8” indicates a certain level of interest beyond someone who simply googles “women’s sneakers.”

Armed with a solid list of long-tail keywords relevant to senior living, you can optimize your blog and premium content so that it helps capture the people conducting these long-tail searches.

3. Blog posts and premium content can speak to a specific point in the buyer’s journey—and to different buyers.

Some of your core pages—like your home page—need to speak to everyone. It’s the home page, after all. It needs to be welcoming to everyone who lands on it, regardless of who they are or where they are in their journey.

But a guide that that discusses the differences between independent living and assisted living is speaking to someone earlier in their journey. The one-sheet on your community’s pricing is speaking to buyer who is in the decision making stage.

Having different types of content that speak to different types of buyers at different points in their journey is not only helpful to your prospects, but also your marketing and sales teams. How? Well, marketing and sales will be able to score the leads appropriately based on the types of blog posts and premium content the prospects read and download.

In the example we used earlier, the person learning about independent living and memory care would be a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) since they’re still in the educational stages, while the person who requested pricing would be a sales-qualified lead (SQL).

4. Blogs and premium content allow you the space to dive deep into complex questions.

Think of the most common questions people ask about senior living. Do a quick answer on your FAQs page. But go into a deeper explanation in a blog post or guide.

5. Blogs and premium content give you a great place to show your community’s personality and unique point of view.

In a previous article, we mentioned that one of the challenges facing senior living communities is that most (if not all) are essentially selling the same thing—and your core web pages won’t differ too much from competitors’ web pages.

But with a blog and other premium content, you can begin to differentiate yourself simply by how you talk and the approach you take to common questions (or objections/challenges).

In fact, we’d argue that more and more senior living communities need to get into this “personality-driven” content. Write a blog post on a day in the life of your…activities director, nurse practitioner, head of dining, you get the idea. Include candid photos and real quotes. Or create a guide on “How 3 Real Families Helped Ease Their Parents’ Angst About Moving into Our Community.”

THAT’S the type of content people won’t see anywhere else because it’s unique to your community. It’s honest, and it tackles the stuff that’s in the back of so many people’s heads.

The communities that start producing truly original, heartfelt, honest content are the communities that will succeed the most this decade—and a blog and premium content are a great way to disseminate this sort of material.

Need fresh ideas for your blog or premium content?

Let’s brainstorm together for 30 minutes!

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

The Magic of Higher Funnel Thinking Webinar

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Valuable insight into marketing resource and effort allocation
  • Actionable tips for engaging older adults and their families sooner with minimal effort
  • Information about how decision science can influence marketing content
  • Proven path to getting families “unstuck” in their senior living decision process
Senior Living Sales Tips: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

Senior Living Sales: Characteristics of Super Star Sales Talent

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) reported that assisted living occupancy reached a new low last quarter (Q2-2019).

If you operate an assisted living facility (or other type of senior living community), what can you do to remain competitive and boost occupancy? You can’t change your location, product, or competitors. You probably don’t want to turn over the management team or cut rate. You might even think you have the best community (your competitors probably think the same thing). You say that you care more, that you have the best team, that you are resident-focused, just like everyone else says.

How can you improve your sales conversions?

Well, for one thing, you need a super star sales counselor, and they are a rare breed. But if you know what to look for, you might just be able to find one in the wild. Here are the five top characteristics of the best senior living sales talent.

1. The Best Senior Living Sales Rep Sees Prospects as Real People.

Unfortunately, too many sales people in our industry treat prospects as a commodity. These sales folks tend to take the position of “subject expert.” They want to be right, and they believe they have heard it all before. They perceive prospects as numbers and assign them a value: top 10, hot, warm, cold, or future. This value assignment drives their effort and engagement. Their approach is to talk prospects into the community, and they often use fear and manipulation to create urgency.

You want to avoid this type of sales “talent” at all costs.

Because the greatest sales people seek to understand the prospect’s wants, needs, and goals. Solving the problem on behalf of the prospect is their biggest concern—and they are passionate that they have the best solution. This dedication to the prospect drives their engagement.

2. The Best Senior Living Sales Rep Sells Value, Not Features.

After listening to thousands of mystery shops, it’s clear that too many sales people still approach interactions as a transaction. They spend most of the time talking, listing every feature, and hoping something will stick.

Great sales people spend time developing rapport with the prospects. In other words, they take a relational approach. They listen and reflect back what they hear to demonstrate that they care about the prospect. This builds enough trust to empower the prospect to open up and communicate their needs and goals. After this, the sales person can focus on personalizing the value of their community to each individual prospect.

3. The Best Senior Living Sales Reps Are Respectfully Persistent.

Rejection is common in sales since more prospects will say “no” rather than “yes.” Most sales people give up after a couple of attempts because they are uncomfortable with rejection. But what these sales folks don’t understand is that it often takes multiple attempts simply to connect and build rapport. Still, these sales people would rather focus on the new leads and hot leads rather than nurture the leads that aren’t ready yet.

The greatest sales counselors understand that most prospects are stressed and emotionally exhausted. The best sales counselors know it takes multiple attempts to engage and build trust. They focus on what they can do and they are politely persistent in staying connected. They do not take rejection personally because they understand that when someone is making an emotional decision, the path is rarely linear.

These sales folks also embrace technology that can help nurture these “not ready” leads over time. They work with marketing to make sure relevant lead nurturing workflows are set up that will resonate with different buyer personas.

4. The Best Senior Living Sales Rep Are Not Afraid of Silence.

Super star sales counselors leave space for silence to give prospects time to process the information. This type of sales person wants to hear what’s important to the prospect (or what the prospect is questioning).

In an interview, I always ask why the candidate thinks they will be successful in a sales role. The interview is over when they say, “I’m a good talker!” This type of sales person will not do well in an emotional selling environment because they will make the conversation about them, rather than about the prospect. Instead, I always perk up if the job candidate says, “I’m a good listener. I hear what people are saying and can respond accordingly.”

5. The Best Senior Living Sales Reps Embrace Follow Up – Creatively, Personally, and Energetically!

It takes energy, effort, and optimistic persistence to continue to follow up with prospects over the course of their sales journey. Prospects inquire, go dark, re-engage, and change direction throughout the process. Most sales people work the hot leads and new leads because they are only interested in closing sales in the next 30 days—they’re not thinking about the long game.

Super stars realize they need to keep the pipeline full with leads at every stage of their journey. They meet them where they are and stay in touch throughout the sales cycle – without any strings attached. Super stars drop off dinner, write a personal note (yes, handwritten!), leave a plant with a note on a doorstep, and/or send a book they know will help. When they leave a voicemail, it’s to let the prospect know they are thinking of them, not just “checking in” for an update.

Bottom line: When it comes to filling your community with super star sales talent, hire for heart first. You can always train them on specific skills as they go along.