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Qualified Lead action figures packaged on the shelf and ready to purchase

Senior Living Sales Tips: Marketing Qualified vs. Sales Qualified

When we work with clients, we love sharing all sorts of senior living sales tips, including definitions of common terms. Ones you’ll hear us talk about a lot: marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) vs. sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

What’s the difference? Let’s dig in!

What is a marketing-qualified lead (MQL)?

Before people “buy” something big and meaningful—whether it’s a new car or a new home in a senior living community—they do their homework. During this stage, they are actively gathering info. They are researching. They are dreaming. Some might have an urgent need. Others might be planning for months or even a year or more from now.

Obviously, if your sales rep were to call any of these folks, the sales rep wouldn’t get very far. Why? Because the prospect hasn’t reached that point in the process where it makes sense for them to engage with a sales person. They haven’t made a decision. They haven’t even whittled down their options. In fact, they might actively hate the idea of talking to a sales person right now, preferring instead to self-direct their buying process.

In other words, they are NOT a qualified sales lead—yet. But their actions demonstrate that they could very well become sales qualified somewhere down the line. But for now, they are a marketing-qualified lead (MQL). They have indicated their openness to educational materials and learning more.

The challenge: making sure MQLs keep your community top of mind so that when they ARE ready to take the next step (like a tour), they remember your senior living community.

One of the best ways to stay top of mind is through an automated lead nurturing program. The marketing-qualified leads will receive a series of emails that speaks to who they are (their buyer “persona”) and where they are in the buying process. Over time, some of these leads will become sales qualified.

What is a sales-qualified lead (SQL)?

A sales-qualified lead means the person has indicated through their actions that they are nearing a decision or have made a decision. For senior living communities, people who are sales-qualified are likely requesting pricing/financing options, tours, conversations with current residents, and the like.

SQLs are handed off to the sales reps to follow up with directly (in person or via phone/ZOOM in the Age of COVID-19).

Why is it important to differentiate MQLs from SQLS?

If you push all leads directly to your sales team, three things can happen:

  • The sales team is forced to manage too many leads.
  • The sales team makes 2-3 attempts to get in touch with a prospect. At that point, they move whoever they can’t engage with directly to cold/lost leads.
  • The prospect gets scared away and disengages because they are not ready for the sales interaction.

Senior living sales teams often fail because they can’t recognize the high-intent leads. Why? Because all leads look the same if they’re pushed over equally. Not to mention, prospects won’t get the types of interactions they’re necessarily looking for, either. In the end, it doesn’t work out for either the sales team or the prospect. The result? BOTH move on.

By identifying and labeling leads as MQL or SQL, however, you move the hottest leads to your sales team while your marketing team works on nurturing the MQLs until they’re ready to take the next step.

No wasted time, no wasted effort. Just better conversions along with happier prospects and happier marketing/sales departments.

Bonus senior living sales tip: Your website needs to speak to MQLs and SQLs.

You’ll have both types of people entering your senior living website. As a result, you need to make it super easy for people to self-identify where they should go.

But here’s a secret: Most senior living websites only offer SQL options (typically in the form of “click to call” or “schedule a tour”). Talk about a wasted opportunity, right? You need a way to capture the MQLs so that you can continue marketing to them. Offering valuable content, such as downloadable brochures, guides, and e-books, will increase web conversions by up to 30% (based on our experience) provided you follow best practices.

Remember, though, that capturing info is just the first step. You need to nurture the MQLs until they are ready for an interaction with the sales team.

For SQLs, you’ll still want to make “Book a Tour” or “Contact Now” visible options on every page. Live chat (true live chat hosted by real, knowledgeable humans) can be another great way to speak with SQLs (and even MQLs who have specific questions).

Sales and marketing professionals getting to know their leads better through information collected from website forms and social media input and other internet activity

Senior Living Leads: How to Gain Deeper Insights

Your website is bringing in senior living leads. Congrats! Now what? Enticing anonymous site visitors to give up their information is only the first step. Now, you must learn how to quickly gain insights into the website leads so that your marketing and sales teams know what to do next.

The following three tactics will help you effectively manage your senior living leads.

Keep in mind that you must have good marketing automation software to do any of these tactics. In fact, if you had to do any of these things manually, it would be impossible to keep up.

Tactic #1: Implement progressive profiling on website forms.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume your community website has multiple gated “offers.” By “offers,” we’re referring to guides, ebooks, checklists, and the like—information people seek when evaluating communities and senior living in general.

“Gating” means that the offer is behind a form. In other words, the website visitor fills out the form to access the content. Oftentimes, people will download several items during one visit. Or they might return in subsequent days/weeks and download more info. Each time they do so, they fill out another website form. This is where progressive profiling comes in.

Simply put, progressive profiling helps you get more information about the person every time they fill out a new form on your site. On the first website form someone fills out, you’ll capture the essentials like first name, last name, phone, email, and timeframe for making a decision.

When you set up progressive profiling thanks to good marketing automation software, the prospect can bypass most of these questions when they fill out subsequent forms. Why? Because the system will recognize the person (thanks to the magic of website cookies).

So, instead, you can ask the prospect other relevant questions that can help you market and sell to them better. For example, perhaps you ask the person about their hobbies and interests. The person’s new answers will automatically sync with their contact record in the system’s backend (as well as your senior living CRM if you’ve integrated the two). Now, marketing and sales have even deeper insights into the lead.

BENEFITS: Progressive profiling provides deeper insights that will allow your marketing and sales teams to create more relevant follow-up communications. For example, if the lead says they love traveling and going on day trips, your team can highlight any programs or amenities that speak specifically to this interest.

Tactic #2: Give your senior living leads a score.

With good marketing automation software, you can teach it how to score your senior living leads appropriately.

At its simplest, lead scoring allows you to automatically label those leads that are ready for a specific action. In most cases, we’re referring to the sales hand-off. You can teach your marketing automation software how to identify a high-value lead for sales to follow up on immediately.

Your marketing and sales teams would determine the criteria that would go into scoring a high-value lead. The criteria will likely include things like:

  • Specific content the lead downloaded
  • Engagement with lead nurturing emails (what did they open, what did they click on)
  • The amount of time spent on the site
  • What the lead indicated regarding timing for making a decision

The above is an incomplete list. Your marketing and sales teams will determine the criteria based on experience with leads who’ve gone on to ultimately convert into move-ins. What do those leads have in common? That’s the stuff that will fuel your lead-scoring criteria. Leads that aren’t ready to go to sales will continue to be nurtured.

BENEFITS: With lead scoring, your sales team can put its focus on high-value leads that stand a good chance of converting rather than on leads that aren’t ready. Marketing, on the other hand, can continue to nurture not-ready leads with relevant follow-up emails that will help move them down the sales funnel.

If you want to take a deeper dive into lead scoring, check out HubSpot’s detailed instructions. Or better yet, have us set up lead scoring for you!

Tactic #3: Segment your website leads according to personas.

If you do nothing else, at least do this. Segmenting leads according to your will help your marketing and sales teams have more meaningful follow-up conversations.

For marketing, this means the follow-up lead nurturing emails will talk to that persona, specifically the concerns and challenges the persona faces. For sales, this means the conversations the rep has with the person will be based on persona attributes.

Reminder: When we say “persona,” we’re talking about the prospective buyer and/or person influencing the buying decision. For senior living, personas can be divided into two main groups: seniors shopping for themselves or an adult child researching on behalf of a parent or older adult in their lives (like an aunt or uncle).

Those are BROAD categories. You can (and should) break them down even more:

  • Adult daughter researching for her mother
  • Adult daughter researching for her father
  • Senior searching for options for herself
  • Senior searching for options for himself
  • Adult son researching for his mother
  • Adult son researching for his father
  • Senior couple looking for options

Keep in mind that the above list is just a start. It doesn’t cover all the scenarios.

Our point is simple: How you communicate with an adult son researching on behalf of his father should be different from the way you communicate with an adult daughter researching for her mother. How you communicate with a single eighty-five-year-old man will be different from a 70-year-old couple getting ready to retire.

BENEFITS: Marketing automation will once again save the day by automatically identifying the persona it should attribute the lead to—and what communications should be served up to the lead as a result. And yes, persona identification will likely be one of the factors that goes into determining the overall lead score.

Bottom line: How you manage your senior living leads matters!

You’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and money into getting leads from your website. Don’t let them just “sit there.” And don’t group all of them together in one bucket. We know this might sound overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be. Especially when you work with a partner like Senior Living SMART. Give us a shout and let’s talk about scoring your senior living leads appropriately!