Senior living organizations that are struggling with occupancy often do a great job showing prospects around the community, but then fail to take the crucial last step: asking for the sale.
That’s according to Linda Bennett, vice president of operations for Oaks Senior Living, a family-owned company with six communities in the Atlanta area. A senior living professional since 1998, Bennett joined Oaks Senior Living in 2001, and has served as community relations director and vice president of marketing.
Failing to ask for the sale is a common problem she has observed when visiting struggling communities, she said at the recent PointClickCare Summit in Palm Springs.
“I’ll tag along during a tour,” she said. “It can be a great tour, the family is interested, they’re just waiting for the next step. [The community relations director] will say thank you for coming, it’s been nice to meet you, bye.”
Letting that interested prospect leave the community could be all it takes to lose the sale, Bennett and Oaks CEO Alex Salabarria emphasized.
“It’s getting competitive out there, especially in our metro markets,” Salabarria said. “They walk out your door, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get them back.”
But asking for a sale does not mean being pushy, Bennett said. She offered a simple script that sales professionals could follow, instead of simply saying goodbye at the end of a tour: “I know you loved that one-bedroom apartment next to the garden, so that you could walk [your dog] Fluffy. How about we go ahead and reserve that apartment for you now? It’s $200 down.”
If the prospect says that he or she is not ready, there’s no need for a hard sell, Bennett said. Instead, simply move on to the next step of the process, which could be asking whether it would be all right to reach out in the near future, perhaps to answer a particular question or offer a resource—such as a book about Alzheimer’s—that might be useful.
Sit-Tour-Sit For More Sales
Of course, sales teams need to create positive site visit experiences before they can ask for—and get—a sale. Bennett advised a consultative selling approach, utilizing the “sit-tour-sit” process:
Sit: When prospects visit—whether it is a pre-planned meeting or a drop-in—the experience should begin by sitting down and listening to their needs. It’s all about discovering how to help them—do they need memory care or assisted living, are they looking for themselves or a loved one? A pitfall at this stage is to talk too much, Bennett said. She said that first meeting should be 75% listening.
Tour: After learning about prospects’ needs, the tour can be a more productive experience. If you’ve learned that a prospective resident loves to play poker, you can be sure the tour includes a stop at the card tables and a mention of the poker club, Bennett said. It’s also a best practice to tell the care staff ahead of time about a tour, if it’s pre-planned. That way, they can greet the prospect by name and make him or her feel welcome.
Sit: After the tour is over, it’s time to sit down again, Bennett said. Now, you can listen and learn how the tour went—what hit the right notes, what raised concerns, what questions remain. Ask questions like, “Do you think this would be a good match for your mom, or you?” Bennett advised.
While being straightforward in asking for a sale is important, the sit-tour-sit model should help ensure that choosing a senior living community never feels like buying a used car, Bennett said. That’s because it encourages a sales process in which the senior living provider is focused on the often urgent needs of older adults and their loved ones.
“You are their resource, they have come to visit you for a reason,” Bennett said. “You didn’t drag them off the street and say, sit down, I want to tell you about something. They have a need, and it’s your job to find out how you can help them fill that need.”
Written by Tim Mullaney