Increasing occupancy. It’s the ultimate goal of any senior living salesperson and one which requires a special formula.
There’s a certain amount of balancing that salespeople have to do, focusing on both the wants and needs of prospective residents, as well as the community’s bottom line.
While occupancy levels have risen in recent months to an average 90.1% across all senior housing types, there’s plenty of room for improvement to reach the desired 100% — and senior living sales gurus are here to help.
Holiday Retirement Executive Vice President of Sales Shamim Wu and Traci Bild, founder of national health care consulting firm Bild & Company, share with SHN their secrets to becoming an all-star senior living salesperson.
1. Foster a Sense of Urgency
When a prospective resident or adult child calls a community, the salesperson should seek to understand the catalyst behind their inquiry and book a tour within 48 hours.
“In my mind, the most important thing for a salesperson is a sense of urgency — to really understand that when somebody calls a senior living community, regardless of product type, there’s clearly been a life-changing event that’s caused them to pick up the phone and call us,” Wu says.
This mindset is critical even for those salespeople at independent living communities, where seniors often voluntarily choose to live, she says. To translate this urgency, salespeople should work quickly to schedule a tour for the prospective resident or influencer.
“The best way in which you can display a sense of urgency and create value is by booking the tour experience within 48 hours of that initial inquiry,” Wu says.
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The salesperson should give the prospect two choices: visit the community today or tomorrow. Using this sense of urgency, more than 60% of Holiday’s move-ins each month are from leads that came in within the previous 30 days, she says.
2. Balance Consistency with Personalization
A consistent method should be used in all sales processes, but should be tailored to each individual’s desires. And this especially goes for community tours.
“Consistency is absolutely critical,” Wu says. “I really look at sales as a recipe: If you want a chocolate chip cookie to come out of the oven, you have to use the same ingredients every time. In order to get the desired outcome, you have to do the exact same steps every time. But how they manifest themselves might be different each time.”
Giving a “canned tour” is a pitfall of many salespeople, says Bild, who has spent 15 years training and coaching sales professionals in the senior living space. Salespeople should focus on delivering individualized experiences, which create more value for the potential resident.
For example, if a prospect talks about the importance of nutrition, then a chef should be included at some point in the sales process, Wu says.
“A top salesperson listens closely to the stated wants and needs identified over the phone and demonstrates on the tour that they can meet those wants and needs,” Bild says. “The more value built during the inquiry and visit itself, the easier it will be to close.”
3. Be Flexible
Senior living salespeople must understand that there will be parts of the sales process that will need to take place off site, on the phone or via email, and they should adjust their schedules accordingly.
“You have to be nimble and be able to accommodate your leads’ schedule, which may not always mean that they can come into your building,” Wu says.
Home visits are critical to the sales process, she says, adding that they help create a relationship between the operator and the prospective resident.
Salespeople should also be flexible in terms of the way they communicate with prospective residents or their adult children or influencers.
“Here at Bild & Co. we are also teaching the importance of using the prospect’s preferred form of communication – versus the salesperson’s,” Bild says. “That means asking how they like to communicate — whether it’s via text, email, Facebook messaging or phone. With adult children making the bulk of decisions and seniors’ tech rate growing at an incredible pace, it’s critical that we are asking and respecting their preferred form of communication.”
4. Understand That ‘People Buy People’
One of the most important factors in the sales process is developing a strong relationship with a lead and building rapport.
“Top salespeople understand that it’s not about the building itself but the person and the experience they will have in the building,” Bild says. “The focus is on drilling down into the details of the prospective resident — what they want, need and desire to have in the next stage of their life.”
This means taking time during the discovery process — the combination of initial inquiry and follow-up conversations or home visits — to get to know the prospective resident and, in turn, let that person get to know the senior living community.
Building strong relationships can make the difference between 90.1% occupancy and 100% occupancy.
“People buy people, they don’t buy buildings,” Wu says. “Having a clean and engaging environment is not necessarily an advantage — that’s a baseline. Where you start to build advantages is how you … build a rapport and relationship with someone and become their trusted advisor.”
5. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Internet Leads
Senior living providers are experiencing an influx in the number of Internet leads, creating more opportunities for move-ins.
“If people are not seeing close to 50% of their leads coming to them via their website, then odds are their site needs improved,” Bild says.
But it’s up to salespeople to take advantage of these referrals. Often, she says, salespeople neglect these leads, considering them not as viable as a visit or a phone inquiry. However, doing so will cause the community to lose valuable prospects.
“These must be treated as highly valuable as these leads are more than likely highly educated on what they are looking for and have done a ton of homework,” Bild says.
Wu shares her sentiments, saying, “No one can afford to be picky and choosy about how they look at leads. If you’re not responding to that lead, one of the other competitiors in your marketplace [is] going to.”
Written by Emily Study