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Senior Living Sales: How To REALLY Build Stabilized Occupancy

Senior Living Sales: How To REALLY Build Stabilized Occupancy

In the bestselling book Blue Ocean Strategy, authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne compare “red ocean” markets (where companies compete in an already crowded space) with “blue oceans” of uncontested market space. These so-called blue oceans have untapped demand and the opportunity for highly profitable growth.

As you probably already know, the water is very red in the senior living space. Senior living sales reps are constantly trying to outperform their rivals to grab more market share, all while using similar strategies. As new product enters the market, existing operators are competing for a share of a contracting market, and, as a result, occupancy rates are stalling. This situation pressures operators to “go beyond competing and create blue oceans.”

Senior Living Sales in a Red Ocean – Increasing Price Wars, Shrinking Profit, & Becoming a Commodity

The pressure to get quicker move-ins to satisfy the “we need occupancy today” mantra has resulted in a feeding frenzy for urgent/crisis-driven prospects. These prospects represent only 10% of the total market. We win them because they are private pay and because we are “better than a nursing home.”

These residents bring with them high acuity, declining length of stays, greater risk and liability, increasing worker’s comp claims, and dependency on third party lead generation. The impact of this reality is higher resident acquisition costs and declining revenue. Many providers report that by the time they pay room turn expenses, sales commissions, incentives, and the move-in transaction fee, they do not show a profit until month six.

Consumers researching senior housing options are faced with the same messaging and value statements from every community: “We have the best people.” “We offer the best care.” “We offer great food, activities, transportation, housekeeping, laundry, maintenance.” Blah, blah, blah.

For the most part, providers withhold basic pricing information. What is revealed is often confusing—levels, points, packages, all-inclusive, some utilities, no utilities, some meals, no meals—help! Since we have created this commodity mentality, the only differentiator left for families to consider is price.

Senior Living Sales in a Blue Ocean – Reaching the Untapped Market

“Blue Ocean Strategy” offers insights on how companies find their untapped markets. One principle is to “Reconstruct Market Boundaries” to break from the competition.

Here’s a real-life “blue ocean” example to consider. David Smith owns three communities representing independent, assisted, and memory care lifestyles. He found his blue ocean by focusing on the 90% of the market that is “not ready” for community living. With his prospect-centered approach to sales, he created strategies to engage and nurture prospects who identified themselves as being in denial and in “thinking and planning” stages rather than in an “action” stage.

His communities consistently maintain waiting lists of residents who are not “ready”—with the highest rates in his markets. And it goes beyond a sales approach. His communities actually deliver a resident-centered lifestyle. He built a better product than his competitors, and he always finds a way to deliver what he promises. The Gatesworth has won numerous local and national awards, including being named one of the “Nation’s Top 10 Retirement Communities” by Forbes Magazine.

Here’s another example of a blue ocean in action. Zeke Turner of Mainstreet remade his market boundaries by finding a gap between the hospital and skilled nursing space and defining a new transitional care market focused on hospitality, amenities, and more services and attention while providing an unmatched level of post-acute care and accommodations in a state-of-the-art medical resort setting. Mainstreet has also been recognized by Entrepreneur for “creating an exceptional culture that drives employee engagement, exceeds employee expectations and directly impacts company success.”

Senior Living Sales Teams: Wondering How to Find (or Create) Your Own Blue Ocean? We Can Help.

Set sails for your “blue ocean” by remaking your product, amenities, service, and culture or by focusing where your competitors are not to stabilize your occupancy and make competition irrelevant. We work closely with senior living sales and marketing teams to accomplish this. Let us help!

Spring Training for Senior Living Sales Professionals!

Spring Training for Senior Living Sales Professionals!

All of the prospects who didn’t want to move in over the holidays or wanted to wait until spring to put their house on the market are coming out of hibernation. The urgent winter move-ins may decrease, so it’s time to get back in the game of driving occupancy.

Here are some ideas to improve your senior living sales B-A-T-ting Average:

Behavior. What do you need to do consistently every day to advance sales? Professional baseball players stretch, take batting practice, and do fielding drills before the game starts.

For senior living sales, we need to focus on the key behaviors that improve conversions and advance and close sales. Focus on spending time in the highest value behaviors, such as…

  • Participating in face-to-face and voice-to-voice interactions with prospects and referral sources so that you can build relationships. Tours, home visits, sales calls, and purposeful follow-ups are a few key areas.
  • Planning advances and strategizing with your top 10 prospects based on where they are in their decision-making journey and what they need next to feel comfortable to advance to the next step.
  • Doing creative follow-up to provide personal touch points that are meaningful to each individual prospect based on their likes, interests, histories, and motivators.

Attitude. What kind of mindset do you need to be successful? Every professional baseball player believes that he is going to win when he steps out on the field, despite the challenges. You need the same attitude towards senior living sales.

Acknowledge the challenges ahead, but always maintain a winning mindset. Yes, it’s competitive, and prospects have many choices, including competitor communities, home care, and doing nothing. There are family dynamics (drama!), sticker shock, various objections (e.g. “I’m not ready!”) to overcome. Focus on what you can impact:

  • Shift your mindset from “always be closing” to “always be advancing.” Not every prospect is ready to deposit or schedule a lease agreement, so always plan a couple of appropriate “advances” to keep them engaged and moving forward. Having lunch, attending an event, scheduling an assessment, and visiting with the prospect in their home are just a few ideas.
  • Increase your confidence in your community’s value by mystery shopping and understanding the competition so you can articulate the value of choosing your community. Never speak negatively about another option, but be able to help prospects sort through the pros and cons of each solution.
  • Have resources at hand to overcome your most common objections. Partner with financial solutions companies that can help families access benefits and unlock assets, such as life insurance policy conversion, long-term care insurance approval, and veteran benefits. Develop relationships with geriatric care managers, real estate agents, movers, elder law attorneys, and downsizing specialists.
  • Be open to learning. We are all either growing or dying professionally. If you think that you are standing still, you are wrong because the market is moving forward and those that do not change and adopt will not be successful.

Training. What do you know, what don’t you know, and how can you always be learning? Even Hall of Fame baseball players are always in training. They go to spring training for a month, get to the park early to practice before every game, and practice during the off-season. They have trainers and coaches working with them every day.

The same is true for us: As sales professionals, we are never “trained”; we are always “in training.” Here are some ways to keep your training sharp:

  • Sit in on webinars. Senior Living SMART offers webinars-on-demand to allow our members to stay current with the latest industry trends.
  • Attend industry conferences.
  • Get on LinkedIn. There are many webinars and other goodies offered through this network.
  • Sign up for SMARTNews »

So get your bats ready, step up to the plate, and bring home some occupancy this season!

Senior Living Sales: How Does Your Team Follow Up?

Senior Living Sales Strategies: How Does Your Team Follow Up?

I have spoken at countless conferences across the country on the topic of selling in the senior living industry. One of the most common questions I receive after a speech is this: “What are three senior living sales strategies that we can implement in our communities and start seeing an immediate impact?” Without the slightest bit of hesitation, my response begins with “follow up.”

Look at the facts (to the right) regarding follow-up. If you do not feel like you’ve been double-punched to the gut, then you might want to check your pulse.

As an industry, we do a poor job when it comes to following up with our prospects, and I attribute that to two main reasons:

First, as senior living salespeople, we want and desire instant gratification. We believe that the low hanging fruit is the new lead that just came in, when in all actuality, the hottest leads are already in your CRM. If we don’t “see” interest from the prospect after a couple of times of following up, our tendency is to dump them in the “cold lead” bucket.

Second, we are inundated with new leads. The senior living sales industry spends millions of dollars on marketing for new leads. As a result, we don’t have the time to spend quality time on creative follow-up. Our sales process becomes more of a quantitative approach as opposed to a qualitative approach.

Last year, we conducted research on the effectiveness of follow-up in about 60 communities over a six-month timeframe. Using our Post Tour Digital Comment Cards (DCC), we were able to prove that follow-up is critical to the success of your senior living sales process. Below are some key findings that we discovered from our research.

  • Response Rates. Once a prospect completed a tour of the community, the sales counselor sent a follow-up email with a link to the Post Tour DCC – an online comment card that captures the prospect’s experience. We limited the survey to 5-10 questions, as we did not want the respondent to get survey fatigue. Our response rate was 50%!
  • Move-In Rates. We were blown away by the response rates, but what was even more amazing was the number of move-ins. Out of the 50% that completed the Post Tour DCC, 23% of them actually moved into the respective communities.
  • The Driver. We know that these prospects did not move in just because of the Digital Comment Card. So we took a deep look into the CRM to see if a pattern existed. We found that the sales counselors followed up with the DCC respondents 5-10x more than they did with those who did not respond to the DCC.

The research proved what most sales trainers have been preaching for decades: following up is critical. Let’s take that a step further. It’s not enough to just follow up; you must provide creative and personal follow-up. When you take the time to really get to know your prospects, the creative follow-up becomes much easier (and you might actually have fun).

When it comes to effective senior living sales strategies, it begins with how your reps follow up.

The first question you have to ask is if your sales teams are even following up. The second question you have to ask is how creative is their follow-up. The bottom line is that if you are following up more than three times, you are doing more than 95% of your colleagues. You should be proud. But if you really want to move the needle, focus on how you follow up. Not only will you achieve superstar status, but more importantly, it will show that you care.

About the author: Mike Miller is the CEO of Primo Solutions, a full service mystery shopping, training, and consulting company that provides quality follow-up and follow-through measurement tools. Learn more at www.PrimoSolutions.com »

 

How Senior Living Can Build Better Referral Pipelines

Full story from Senior Housing News →

Excerpt:

Senior living providers tend to have complicated relationships with third-party referral agents. Some providers may see the choice as avoiding them altogether and running the risk of losing leads, or employing their services and incurring sometimes hefty referral fees. But the smartest approach may be a middle ground, in which third-party agents are one part of a more varied referral pipeline.

Other industry leaders have voiced similar sentiments, and they have been heard by companies such as Senior Living Smart, which is framing a new pay-per-tour offering as an alternative to third-party referrals.

As a solutions network aimed at curating resources to help operators improve occupancy, revenue and service delivery, Senior Living Smart has provided its approximately 400 members access to a free 24/7 live chat service on their websites as a means of generating more exclusive leads.

“People are looking to reduce reliance on third-party lead aggregators,” Senior Living Smart CEO Debbie Howard tells Senior Housing News. “Our members are interested in the model because it’s no risk. It doesn’t cost them anything unless we produce results.”

Full story from Senior Housing News →

7 Methods to Change Sales & Marketing Strategies to Engage Today’s Prospects

Senior Living Marketing Tactics That Will Engage Today’s Prospects

In my constant quest to keep up with all things senior living marketing, I recently read an article published by Senior Housing News called “The Secrets To Growing Senior Living Sales & Occupancy.

In a nutshell, here are the so-called secrets:

  • Do deep discovery.
  • Ask the right questions to get the right information.
  • Understand the difference between senior living marketing and sales.
  • View marketing as an investment, not a cost center.
  • Get the executive director involved in the sales process and train employees to understand the sales process.

Really? These are “secrets”? This same article could have been written 10 years ago!

Here’s the REAL secret: the way prospects engage with senior living communities has dramatically changed.

As such, our senior living marketing and sales tactics need to evolve, too.

We can’t keep recycling old “insights,” like the ones outlined above from that article, because our prospects expect more today than they did 10 years ago – or even three years ago.

So, what can your teams do to better engage with today’s prospects?

Keep reading…

1. Remember that your senior living website is your #1 sales tool.

According to the Senior Living Research Study, online research is the preferred method for gathering information about senior living options. It even ranked 35% higher than the second ranking method: recommendations/ word of mouth.

Other industry studies report that 87% of your prospects will visit your website before initiating any contact, like calling or walking into the community. And 37% of prospects will eliminate communities based solely on the quality of the website.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: It’s time to change the website experience from focusing on community features and benefits (in other words, the “let me tell you about me” model). Instead, re-position your site so that it becomes a valuable resource that seniors, caregivers, and professionals will visit often as they research options. Need ideas for improving your site? Choose our affordable senior living website audit, which will deliver clear action items.

2. Live chat can turn websites into lead generators.

Organic leads are great, but unless you quickly engage them, they will bounce over to a competitor’s site or a paid referral site. (The latter means providers will be buying back move-ins who had initially visited their website!)

Live chat, on the other hand, can quickly engage website visitor by demonstrating empathy and helping visitors access the info they’re looking for. An effective live chat host can generate qualified leads that can be transferred directly from the chat host to a community representative or turned into a scheduled tour. Chat can also provide evening and weekend coverage at a very low cost.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: There are many chat options available, but we typically recommend SiteStaff, because the chat hosts are US-based with specialized training in healthcare settings, like senior living.

3. Videos can help convert prospects into sales.

Here’s a stat for you: 80% of website visitors will stop and watch a video. Talk about engagement! There are many ways to use video, too, from background b-roll to video testimonials from happy residents to virtual tours.

And here’s the even better news: not all video has to be professionally shot. Smartphone videos can work well, especially on social media channels, like Facebook.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Pick up your phones and start shooting! Yes, you need to keep privacy laws in mind, but start shooting video. Short and sweet (think 30 seconds to a minute) can work well. Online editing software can allow you to add in calls-to-action, but you don’t even need to go to that far when sharing on social: just post with a brief intro.

And don’t underestimate using video for more formal things, like tours or room planners. One product we particularly like: DesignFloorPlan.com.

4. Transparent pricing matters.

“By far the most important senior living concern is cost” states the Senior Living Research Study.

However, most communities make it impossible to find pricing info on the website, leaving prospects to bounce over to a paid referral site who will not only provide your pricing information, but also your competitors’ info.

We understand that you want to sell your value first before providing prices, because you’re concerned prospects will experience sticker shock, particularly if they don’t have the full context. But the lack of pricing transparency is not helpful to prospects or professionals looking for information.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider making your pricing available through a short opt-in form with basic contact information. This scratches two itches: visitors get the info they want, and the sales team has the ability to follow up to establish value and offer resources to help fund senior living.

5. A better “template strategy” can reduce senior living marketing and sales costs.

One of the biggest marketing spends in senior living today is print. Think event flyers, invitations, incentives, direct mail, and postcards, just to name a few items. The problem is that the cost of graphic design, printing, and mailing continues to climb. Not to mention that the shelf life for these items is days or a few weeks TOPS.

The good news? A smarter “template strategy” can reduce these costs. Imagine having all the print items you regularly use at your fingertips as templates that are already outfitted with your logo and brand colors. All you have to do is customize them with the relevant details for that particular marketing campaign. Goodbye, design costs! Goodbye unnecessary printing!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Check out our SMARTbrand and SMARTbrand+ options. We have a free version and an affordable subscription service that allows you to easily create the materials you need. Or if you like the idea of creating a full-blown template strategy, check out our SMARTstores.

6. Senior living events still work!

“The majority of people who know someone in senior housing have been influenced by this experience (73.0%), most often in a positive way (57.0%)” finds Imagination in their research study. Bottom line: senior living events still work!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Make sure you include the following in your senior living marketing plan:

  • Friend & family referral programs
  • New resident welcome events for friends
  • Address change cards for new residents to send to friends and neighbors
  • Coupons for meals, salon services, weekend stays, and community events

Need help? Check out our senior living event management solutions.

Senior living marketing has changed. Work with an agency that’s evolved, too.

We’re not just any agency. We’re a senior living marketing agency. Our staff has industry experience, which sets us apart from other agencies (even the ones who also “specialize” in senior living marketing). Get in touch today and request your complimentary 30-minute brainstorming session.

6 Simple Steps to Senior Living Sales Management Excellence

Senior Living Sales Management: 6 Steps to Excellence

At Senior Living SMART, we talk to operators every day who ask the same questions about senior living sales and how to grow their occupancy. How do we get more conversions from senior living website? Which senior living CRM is right for our team? What data should we be looking at to improve results? What new technology should we invest in?

Here are some ideas from our guest author, Enquire Solutions.

1. Don’t lose sight of your true customers: Prospective residents

  • Many senior living marketers focus their sales efforts on the adult children, but ignoring the prospective residents can cost you sales. Don’t take our word for it. A recent ALFA Update highlighted two studies that investigated who makes care decisions. They found that while adult children are involved in their parents’ transitions 73% of the time, the seniors themselves have a say about 70% of the time.
  • Even when adult children make the decision, seniors are still the primary audience. Margaret Wylde of market research company ProMatura Group said: “You’re going to kill the deal if you don’t pay attention to the prospect. ‘If Mom isn’t happy, nobody is happy.’ Many times, executive directors are not taking care of the true customer.”

2. Get more out of your CRM software to increase your occupancy

  • According to senior housing marketing consultant Traci Bild, most senior living communities aren’t using customer relationship management (CRM) software as effectively as they could be, leaving potential sales on the table. In her experience, as many as three-quarters of senior living leads don’t move forward—they are just entered into the system and then forgotten.
  • CRM software’s lead management features can improve your sales process and help you deliver better customer service. When used properly, they can improve response time, automate workflows, deliver customized reports, and monitor your team’s sales performance.

3. Prioritize your leads to better target your sales activities

4. Centralize your sales efforts to increase conversions

  • Senior living communities traditionally have high turnover, in positions ranging from caregivers to salespeople. Centralizing your sales efforts can help you avoid the extra costs—and frustration—associated with constantly needing to hire and train sales staff. In addition, it can help you avoid the consequences of leads that are dropped in the turnover process.
  • Learn more about how centralizing your sales efforts using call center services can help you increase profitability while also controlling costs.

5. Make sure that everyone who answers the phone and is trained.

  • In 2012, senior housing expert Diane Masson conducted a small experiment. She called 12 retirement communities on a Saturday morning and asked them this question: “I am looking for a place for my mom – she lives in your town – how many places are there to choose from and how do you rate?”
  • The results were dismal: she gave one community an A+, two communities B’s, five C’s, one a D, and three F’s. Out of the 12, two went straight to voicemail (automatic F’s) and only four of the people she reached asked for her phone number. Many simply couldn’t answer the question.
  • Calling on a Saturday morning isn’t unusual—about 75% of the people who call senior living communities asking for information are adult children of prospective residents, who usually work during business hours. Don’t settle for anything less than an A+. When potential customers call, make sure the person who answers the phone can provide the information your customers need.

6. Don’t ignore the Internet

  • These days, the Internet can be a senior living community’s best friend or its worst enemy. In any case, it can’t be ignored. What happens online can affect your business in two major ways.
  • Leads – consumers today are well informed. A Google and CEB study found that buyers don’t contact suppliers until they are more than halfway through the purchasing process. They shop online before calling, and increasingly they make inquiries online as well. Traci Bild suggests that online leads are still widely ignored by the senior living industry, which means that simply treating online leads the same as phone leads can give your community a leg up.
  • Reputation -when prospective customers look you up online, what will they find? Online reputation management is a challenging, but essential, aspect of senior living management. For tips on how to do it right, explore this best practices kit provided by Caring.com and Reputation.com.

What is working for you in boosting your occupancy?

Feel free to leave your comments below!

And if you need a boost, let’s talk about how we can help.

senior living marketing

Top 4 “Must Haves” Memory Care Benefits

By the time that families start researching memory care communities, they have usually done everything humanly possible to keep their loved one safely at home.  They have worked their way through adult day care, homecare, household safety retrofits, support groups and huge doses of family participation in meal preparation, personal care, transportation, medication management and socialization.  At some point, their heroic efforts leave them exhausted, stressed out, frustrated, and open to other solutions.  That is when our phones ring.

Our job is to listen, empathize and understand that each person and their story because each situation is unique.  It is important to acknowledge the family involvement and honor their successes.  It is a very emotional decision to entrust a precious loved one who lacks the ability to advocate for themselves to unrelated caregivers.

Here are some benefits that every memory care program must have to reassure families as they work through this difficult decision.

1. An Environment That Supports The Success of The Residents

It is very difficult to adapt a typical residential home environment for seniors with Alzheimer’s as it progresses since the disease creates unique impairments requiring a specialized environment.  Residents thrive when they can navigate their environment independently and successfully.  Visual impairments can be a barrier so ensuring that lighting, floor covering, color contrast and appropriate tableware & utensils are integrated into the environment is key.

It is best to avoid:

  • Carpets with flowers or patterns (residents may perceive these as something to pick up)
  • Wallpaper and murals (residents may perceive these as something to pick at)
  • Carpets with borders (residents may perceive these as holes or gaps)

It is best to include:

  • Adaptive lighting to simulate natural outdoor lighting patterns to reduce sundowning.
  • Even lighting so there are no dark patches in the hallways.
  • Contrasting paint color behind toilets, & contrasting toilet seats to visually distinguish the toilet and sink to encourage independence & success.
  • Contrasting table cloths and dishware to encourage independence & success during meals.

2. A Memory Care Culture of Choice and Accessibility

As much as possible, present opportunities for the residents to make choices to foster independence and respect – even non-verbal residents can point.  We had one resident who wanted only to wear her favorite yellow dress and became agitated and unhappy if it was in the laundry.  So we had her family go shopping for a selection of yellow dresses and take home everything else.  Every morning she was able to choose from a selection of yellow dresses and that solved the problem.  Choices should be allowed about when to get up in the morning, what to wear, what to eat and drink and how to spend their day.  Resident Choice Dining involves preparing two plates and offering options for residents to select.  It takes a small amount of time and effort to set up, but once it is implemented, food costs and labor is budget neutral.  Likewise, always keep back up supplies to make a sandwich, toast or a snack and have these available for the overnight shift in case a resident wakes up hungry at night.

3. Personalized Programming Based on Each Resident’s Background & Life Story

One of the greatest fears expressed by families is that the staff will not know or understand the needs of their loved one.  They are convinced that no one will be able to care for their loved one like the family does.  We had a resident who opened the first pre-school in town and every morning she would wander the halls looking for the children.  The program director went to a yard sale and picked up an old school desk & chair and reading primers.  She also encouraged the staff to bring in their children’s artwork and homework so there was always something waiting on her desk that was placed right outside her apartment door.  Mornings were much better for this resident and the staff. So, it is important to have tools and systems in place to capture the essence of every resident including:

  • Meeting with the family to capture a personal life history to learn the familiar people, places, hobbies, routines, schedule, interests, career, family members, and social and spiritual preferences.  Use this to create a personalized care plan & schedule.
  • Keeping a binder of the life stories for the staff to review, and coach them on how to incorporate this in personalizing the approach for care and interaction.
  • Have a pre-move-in team meeting to plan a successful transition.

4. Dedicated and Trained Memory Care Staff

Families work hard to provide care with little formal training, previous experience or respite.  It is easier for them to entrust their loved one to a community with dedicated, trained staff rather than a rotating schedule of changing relationships.  Being able to demonstrate that staff is selected to work with memory-impaired residents and that there is comprehensive and ongoing training provided will increase confidence.  Technology is great, but nothing comes close to the impact of a caring, committed staff with the skills and competency to manage residents throughout the disease process.

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 Does your community have difficulty performing any of these “must have” benefits? Let’s Chat!