The most successful senior living communities encourage collaboration among their marketing and sales teams. These communities understand that the ultimate goal—boosting occupancy—is the same for both “sides” and that working together, instead of against each other, reaps much bigger rewards.
So how can you foster a more collaborative environment between your senior living sales and marketing cohorts—especially if the teams have been functioning primarily in their own silos? Below, you’ll find six strategies.
1. Make sure the marketing and sales directors embrace the idea of aligning their departments.
Employees take their cues from their managers and directors. Creating a collaborative culture requires everyone’s effort and support. The managers of both departments—marketing and sales—need to work well together. This will serve as an example to the team.
What you don’t want: A sales or marketing director who says they support aligning the departments, but behind closed doors, they undermine the initiatives by doing their own thing or making divisive comments.
2. Bring everyone together for team-building events.
Effective collaboration takes practice and regular “doing.” Think of it like a muscle that you need to regularly exercise for ultimate fitness.
Now, we get it. Team-building events can sometimes conjure eye-rolls from participants. Don’t schedule events to simply check off a box and say you’ve done them. Get feedback from your teams about what types of events they’d enjoy doing (or at least, that wouldn’t result in groans). Different people will crave different things. A ropes course might work great for one team while another team might dread such an event.
And keep in mind that you don’t need to always make team-building events so formal—or a big-time commitment. Maybe in the summer, you bring everyone off-campus to the local miniature golf course for a round and ice cream. Or maybe you hire an ice cream truck to stop by one summer afternoon and everyone gets a free treat and enjoys a break together.
If your teams aren’t in the same location or if you’ve stayed with a virtual set-up for marketing post-pandemic, you can still do virtual events. Every other week, have a virtual watercooler Zoom call for 25 minutes where you’re not allowed to discuss work—but all other topics are OK, like what people are watching on Netflix.
3. Encourage people to get together outside the office.
It’s not always easy for camaraderie to take place while under management’s watchful gaze. Encourage events outside the office to mix things up—think a bowling league, a softball league, or simply Friday lunches at a local eatery.
When putting together teams for things like softball, don’t make it sales vs. marketing. Create teams that include people from both sides since that’s the whole point. You could also ask for volunteers from each department to co-manage something specific, like a holiday food drive or an Earth Day event.
4. Provide training for everyone.
Sales departments often complain that they don’t have enough leads—or the leads aren’t good enough. Marketing often complains that they’re delivering all these leads to the sales department, but the sales folks drop the ball on closing them.
Does that sound at all familiar?
To combat these common complaints, the sales and marketing directors need to recalibrate the conversations happening within their own departments. Sales teams need to learn about (and embrace) the differences between marketing-qualified and sales-qualified leads. Sales departments shouldn’t be trying to work all leads—only SQLs.
Marketing, on the other hand, should be focused on nurturing the MQLs. But marketing also needs to pay attention to feedback from sales about the quality of the SQLs.
Everyone is ultimately working toward the same goal: more move-ins and higher occupancy. Not everyone has to agree on approaches 100% of the time. But people should be willing to work together, share ideas, listen to feedback, and adjust accordingly based on the feedback.
This sort of collaboration happens from the top down. The sales and marketing directors need to set the tone and example—and they might need some help getting there. Provide training. And/or work with an outside agency (like ours) that has experience in both marketing and sales—and can help bridge the gap.
5. Reward and reinforce positive behaviors. Redirect adversarial behavior (and intervene when necessary).
When directors/managers see strong alignment between their teams, they should point it out. “Hey, Mark and Cyndy worked really well on developing a lead nurturing campaign with a delivery cadence that really warmed up these cool leads and poised them for a sales interaction.”
You’ll also want to monitor adversarial behavior and redirect negative conversations whenever possible. And, of course, you need to nip adversarial behavior in the bud. Finger-pointing or phrases like, “That’s their job, not mine” will need to be addressed. And toxic language or behaviors shouldn’t be tolerated at all.
Again, you don’t want to call people out in front of large groups. But if you have someone on the team who doesn’t want to play ball with the other side, you need to intervene.
If the person ultimately refuses to get on the collaboration train, you might need to make a tough decision about the person’s future with your team.
This can be hard, especially on the sales side if there’s a person who is a good closer. You need to ask yourself at what cost is it worth keeping a good closer if their ways create an uncomfortable, antagonistic, or toxic environment.
Would it be worth losing them now and seeing a dip in move-ins temporarily while you promote from within and/or hire someone who’ll be a better fit and embrace the “smarketing” vision? The answer is yes. Over the long term, numbers will rebound—and probably surpass where they were with the uncooperative person.
6. Have a standing meeting on the calendar—but make sure it’s useful.
Coordinating efforts requires communication. A weekly check-in call or meeting is a good idea, provided there’s a clear agenda, a strict time limit, and that the meeting is actually useful. Be willing to cancel the meeting if no one has anything to discuss. End meetings early whenever possible. Stick to agendas that move projects forward and that provide actionable insights and tasks.
For this meeting, talk only about things that matter to both sides. For example, the sales team isn’t going to care about the edits a marketing coordinator needs from a writer for the latest white paper. This should be a separate meeting. But the sales team will be interested in hearing about the latest results of the paid campaign.
Finally, end meetings with positive news. For example, a campaign that benefited both sides and that both teams worked well on together. Make sure you celebrate successes that highlight collaborative efforts.
BONUS: Collaborate with an agency that understands senior living marketing and sales.
That would be us! We can help bridge the gap and bring people together. Get in touch and let’s chat.