For Sales Success, Senior Living Looks to Starbucks

For sales teams in any industry, it’s a blessing when the product they’re charged with marketing is so desirable that it sells itself. One senior living provider has figured out how to strategically leverage technology so that one of its communities can more or less sell itself—and the provider is so confident in the technology, they’re planning to roll it out in more communities.

Recently, Chicago-based senior housing provider Vi Living rolled out iPads and Ideum tables—tables with large, flat touch-screen surfaces similar to those found on tablet devices—at Vi at Bentley Village, its continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Naples, Florida.

The iPads are for the sales team to use, and the Ideum tables are geared toward prospective residents, who can use them to access virtual tours and floor plans. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and beneficial for salespeople, prospective residents and current residents alike, according to Greg Sieman, Vi’s vice president of marketing.


“It was a natural fit,” Russell Needham, Vi’s manager of sales training and development, tells SHN.

Starbucks-inspired sales approach

Vi currently operates 10 high-end CCRCs around the country. At its Naples community, Vi needed to sell something to prospective residents that didn’t yet exist—specifically, 72 independent living apartments that are in the process of being built.


Pre-sales can be tricky, so Sieman turned to his background in banking to devise a plan. In banking, he says, sales experiences have changed recently.

“There’s been a shift in the type of experience customers get when they walk into a banking center,” Sieman tells SHN. “It has started feeling more like a Starbucks and less like a bank.”

Take Capital One Cafés, for example. At these coffee shop-bank hybrids, customers can take care of their regular banking needs with Capital One employees and access ATMs, but they can also enjoy free Wi-Fi and barista-made coffee beverages. These cafés are still banks, but consumers feel like they’re in a coffee shop, free to spend their time however they wish.

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In banking, the move away from blunter sales techniques to encouraged customer exploration seems to have given customers a greater sense of autonomy.

“Many future residents’ emotional walls are high because they do not want to be sold to,” Sieman explains. “The technology and environment creates a more pleasing atmosphere where they can self-explore.”

Vi chose to purchase Ideum tables for this same purpose, placing them in Bentley Village’s sales center. Vi uploaded the layouts and floor plans of Bentley Village’s planned independent living apartments to the tables, so potential residents could view them on their own time, zooming in and out as much as they pleased.

Now, in addition to providing a realistic view of apartments that people cannot yet physically tour, the Ideum tables give prospective residents a sense of autonomy, Sieman explains. They’re exploring the parts of the community that they want to explore, and they don’t feel as though a sales person is selling them on the units. They’re doing the selling themselves.

Plus, the tables are a help to Vi’s sales team, who at times may have too many prospective residents to attend to individually.

“The tables can act as sort of a surrogate salesperson,” Needham explains. Prospective residents enjoy playing around with the tables, and can educate themselves about the community to some extent.

“We definitely see people gravitate toward the technology because it’s something new and different,” Needham says.

Mobile offices

In addition to the Ideum tables, all of the Vi at Bentley Village salespeople carry around their own iPads.

“Salespeople used to be armed with binders,” Needham explains. “Now, we’re using iPads as mobile offices.”

The iPads are key because the sales team can use them for any and everything sales-related—they can use the iPads to sign prospective residents up for future appointments on the spot, for instance, or to immediately email a brochure or e-magazine to anyone who asks for one. They won’t forget to do any of this before they get back to their desk, because they can do it all right away on their iPads, Needham says.

Additionally, the Ideum tables have been a hit with current Bentley Village residents, who show them off to their visiting family members and use them to “show them around” without actually having to move too much. The residents, many of whom have their own iPads or tablets, master the Ideum tables in no time.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

Starbucks in downtown DC” by m01229, CC BY 2.0

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