Timely Follow-Up Crucial to Online Senior Living Lead Management

| February 3, 2013

Senior living lead management may sound as simple as A-B-C—or, to be exact, “Always Be Closing,” the mantra of the quintessential salesman Blake, as played by Alec Baldwin in David Mamet’s screenplay Glengarry Glen Ross. But today’s salespeople must also look beyond A-B-C both to maintain current customers and generate new ones in light of the huge shift toward leads being generated online.

Lead conversion rates are somewhat mediocre across the senior living industry, but there’s potential for substantial improvement, especially for online leads, say sales and marketing professionals specializing in the sector.

Largely, it comes down to lead management, with a special focus on three areas: Choosing a user-friendly customer relationship management (CRM) system, adequately training staff on how to use it, and following up on both leads and sales staff, says Traci Bild, president and founder of Bild & Company, a consulting firm that specializes in senior housing sales and marketing.

When it comes to online lead management, leave no stone unturned, says Karen Nelson Crolius, senior vice president at consulting firm Sage Age Strategies.

“As a rule of thumb, you try to make contact with a lead no matter where they come from,” she advises, whether it’s from a placement company such as A Place for Mom or SeniorHousing.net or an unqualified Internet lead.

Getting the Most Out of Your CRM System

Not using CRM software to its full potential is one of the biggest problems Bild sees in lead management.

“When we’re looking in those [CRM] databases, we find that [about] 75% of senior living leads don’t have a next step scheduled to encourage people to move forward,” says Bild. “There’s always an activity you can schedule. A lot of people get entered into the CRM, and that’s it. The lead never moves forward.”

Across the assisted living industry, the average inquiry-to-visit rate is 45%, according to Bild & Company data. Bild thinks that number can realistically be a much-higher 60%, with a “stretch” goal of 75%, which she says is possible even though the sales process has changed.

These days, people have many more choices among senior living options and communities, and they’re shopping—and making inquiries—online, as a result.

Internet leads have gotten better in the past couple years, but they’re still neglected “in a big way,” says Bild. “Some salespeople tend to think online leads aren’t valid, and they aren’t responded to with the same urgency as a call or walk-in. But if someone inquires over the Internet, that means they’re online and doing their own research.”

It’s best to respond to online leads immediately, within about two hours of the inquiry, says Bild, yet the senior living industry is currently “nowhere close” to this timeframe.

Visit-to-move in rates for assisted living are, on average, 22%, Bild finds. But persistently maintaining relationships can improve those rates, says Karen Hogan, Life Care Services (LCS) director of marketing and sales. LCS worked with Bild & Company a few years ago, and Hogan says the importance of the “discovery process” during initial inquiry can’t be emphasized enough.

When prospects are visiting five to seven communities on average, they’re looking for the perfect fit, Bild says. If they don’t find it, they keep looking. “You have to be willing to focus on their needs. Stop talking, start listening.”

Providers can maintain relationships by functioning as a referral source or point of assistance for various seniors’ needs for leads that aren’t directly becoming sales.

“Have solutions, such as trusted real estate agents, or downsizing or house-staging services,” says Crolius. “You should be their go-to throughout the process.”

Training and Managing Your Sales Team

While properly training staff on how to use a CRM is a huge component of properly utilizing the software, it’s only part of the process, says Bild, as oversight of lead management is crucial.

“Trainers and managers should spot check the lead bank every week,” she recommends. “We don’t want to rely on asking them, ‘How many calls did you follow-up with?’ We can go in ourselves, pull out five to six leads, and ask why there aren’t follow-up calls scheduled.”

At LCS, management sets goals and guidelines for each sales person and what’s expected of them, says Hogan, and they look at the rates for conversions on phone calls to tours, and tours to move-ins, on an individual basis.

Current rates for the company are in a 10-6-1 ratio, she says: Ten phone calls with prospects will result in, on average, one scheduled appointment. For every six face-to-face appointments, one sale is booked, although some sales staffs’ numbers may be different.

When salespeople close out leads that don’t seem “hot” and disqualify them too early, says Bild, it’s a big problem.

“Trues salesmanship is taking someone who’s not as interested, moving them from warm to hot, and from a hot lead to a resident,” she says. “Every lead that [contacts] a community is a hot lead. Why else would they be calling?”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

This article is sponsored by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) as part of its efforts to advance excellence and explore topics impacting the future of senior living. For more information about ALFA, visit www.alfa.org.


Category: Management & Operators, Senior Care, Senior Housing, Senior Living

Comments (3)

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  1. Chris_Foley says:

    Even though I love "Blake" in Glengarry Glen Ross, "always be closing" is only one step toward bringing potential residents to becoming new residents and may even take a back seat to a structured, consistently-followed, lead management methodology. (a CRM system is more than software – people still have to make it work)._Any CRM system is better than nothing. Having a process figured out in advance is how Disney is able to provide such magical experiences (See the Book, "The Disney Way"). Disney leaves no step un-mapped. Owners and marketers have the opportunity to guide potential residents and their families through the decision making process and, if during the decision making process, a family experiences a magical time, where else would they possibly want to live or have their loved one live?_For a couple hundred dollars, Act! is a great system (www.Sage.Act.com). For an online subscription, one of the most used is http://www.SalesForce.com. There are other softwares and maybe Alyssa Gerace, with continued ALFA sponsorship, will write about them in future SHN articles…_Chris Foley_Sr. V. P._National Seniors Housing Brokerage & Advisors_cfoley@Equity.net

  2. Kevin says:

    This reminds me of a study I just read by Live360, an online dating site. The amount of Lead conversions by fast phone response. This is compared to NO phone follow up. Here's the impact on conversion rate for calling the prospect after a certain amount of time. It illustrates the importance of follow up and getting a prospect into a good sales funnel.

    1 minute +391%

    2 minutes +160%

    3 minutes +98%

    30 minutes +62%

    1 hour +36%

    5 hours +24%

    24 hours +17%

  3. I was not well informed about the 'CRM software' so the explanation included in the post is very useful for me to check out the term entirely. I've got a plain concept about CRM software and I guess it's useful (important, too) for a successful business. Thanks for writing about an essential part of business. Hope the entrepreneurs will be pleased to get it.