This article is sponsored by Enquire. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Enquire Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer Erin Hayes to learn how January 2021 sales data compares to January 2019 data, the top insight she is seeing from the company’s data benchmark project and how selling copy machines prepared her for selling senior housing.
Senior Housing News: What stops in your career journey do you draw from most now in your position at Enquire?
Erin Hayes: My background is in marketing and finance. After receiving my MBA and master’s in finance, I went to work for Lockheed Martin in space and defense. That job got me into data and numbers. I’m still passionate about the numbers. I think that data is important no matter what position you’re in because if you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business. I’m a firm believer of that.
It’s a wild journey because when we founded the company, I started doing the accounting and finance, but everyone wears a lot of hats. I just fell into more of a sales role, because I love being around people. I was drawn to it. I never thought when I was going out into my career that I would be in a business development sales role, but I was actually in sales back in the day. When I graduated from undergrad, I got a job selling copiers for Canon. I always say, “If you can sell a copier, you can sell anything.”
Why do you say that?
Hayes: In business copiers are widely considered a commodity. It’s something that people just don’t want to spend money on, because it’s just a machine that sits there. They’re expensive to purchase or lease. Potential clients would ask themselves, “Could I spend money on research and development for my company or hiring people, or do I want to spend money on a copier?” It’s not really a revenue-generating asset.
However, in most industries it is a mission-critical piece of equipment. Because copiers seem to be everywhere, it was difficult to get these small businesses to not go buy something at Office Depot. I really had to make them understand the difference between enterprise copiers and home copiers such as service packages, ink cost, quality, etc. I think that really prepares you for any kind of job you have in the future. I did that for about a year before I went back to school. I think it came full circle there.
Tell us about the benchmark project. What is it? What are you tracking and why did you launch it?
Hayes: When we started developing the CRM, we were working with clients who had a lot of data that we migrated over. As we were doing this, we realized that their big issue with CRM is they couldn’t get any data out of it. We came in around 2012. As you can remember back in the day, most software programs had to be downloaded on your computer. We all remember the desktop version of QuickBooks, and they finally went online. You couldn’t access it from anywhere. You had to be on that specific computer. Then when you went through an upgrade, it wasn’t cloud-based, so you had to go through a huge upgrade.
Because we were building it from scratch, we were able to put everything in the cloud. We were really the first CRM in our space to do that. What that allowed us to do, with the software as a service model, or SaaS, is aggregate data from multiple organizations in a data warehouse. We started aggregating this data, even when we had very few clients. Now we’re in over 5,000 locations nationwide across many different verticals. We started putting the data out there because we realized we were data-rich but report-poor in our industry.
What we track are trends that can be used for goal-setting and overall sales and marketing strategy. I know a lot of operators right now are using our data to say, “We know our inquiries are down in the Northeast, but they were down for assisted living 27% overall in Northeast states. Are we above or below that, or in line with it?”
Our data tells a better story. We’re tracking a lot of different data points, especially hard numbers to get if you don’t have a CRM that can calculate them.
What is the top insight that you’ve seen from mining this data?
Hayes: I just get really excited. The first few years, we didn’t have a ton of data. Now looking at 2017 compared to 2018, 2019 and 2020, it’s very interesting to see the trends. One being, for example, web. We all talked about web back in 2016 and 2017. Marketing automation, very much a buzzword, not really adopted by the industry. You can see just by people adopting new technology and new sales enablement tools, there is a significant increase in digital activity in general. It’s one thing to look at one number, but to look at it over years is very interesting.
The other thing that is interesting is the sales cycle length. I think there are two reasons why this has increased. One, we are better integrated with digital sources. Referrals and CRM are more at the sales team’s fingertips. They’re putting every inquiry in instead of just low-hanging fruit or leads they know will convert. Due to lack of integration and mobility of CRM in the past, every lead didn’t make it into the database. If someone needed to be nurtured past 30 or 60 days, or they called or filled out a form after-hours, maybe they didn’t get into the CRM.
The second reason the sales cycle increased is likely due to people researching a lot earlier. They’re submitting something on the web, or they’re kicking the tires earlier. People are aware of the options earlier before it becomes a bigger need. We like that because it’s giving the people who have adopted marketing automation a better way to shape their path through that buyer journey.
Let’s talk January 2021 data. What have you seen?
Hayes: January is typically the biggest month inquiry-wise each year, and we came out swinging last year before the pandemic, January and February. For most care levels, the average monthly inquiries were well above 2019.
I remember looking at the January 2021 data with five days to go in the month. I thought, “Some people are going to surpass their January 2019,” which is great. 2021 has had a good start. It is not looking like 2020 at all. I see the upward trend.
The one thing that is interesting is we’ll have to see how tours shake out because a lot of people have turned to virtual tours. I honestly don’t think that’s going away. They’re efficient. They get you engaged with someone sooner. I think we could see tours go up just by combining the onsite and the virtual.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve got some long-term goals of this project. What are they?
Hayes: The platforms we use are exciting as far as what we can do. Right now, people can download our new benchmark report, and our goal is to make this available in real time. With the CRM, we are able to upload benchmarks based on the care that’s offered at the community. We can upload goals into CRM to compare to actual data. It doesn’t require any work by the operator to establish these.
Long-term, making all of these different metrics available in real time would be game-changing for people, especially when they’re presenting and they’re trying to see where they are for that month. Instead of waiting until hindsight, they’re able to course-correct during the month, week or quarter. I think we can get there pretty quickly and allow people to access that data so that they can utilize it on a regular basis.
How should senior housing set its 2021 sales goals after 2020? You said it’s looking better, but I don’t know if people will feel like, oh, maybe I should set my goals based on 2019. What should they do in your view?
Hayes: For my organization, I did the same thing. I pulled the averages for our metrics in 2019. Obviously, there might be nuances for people who are building new communities, but you can take what you had in 2019 and compare it to 2020. You have to see what the variance is, and take into account January and February of last year. Those are clean numbers and are very indicative of what 2021 will look like.
Of course, I have lofty goals. I would like to be well above 2019. Averaging those out and looking at the variance between the benchmark and your data can help you level-set where you need to be for 2021. I’m an optimist. We know 2021 is different.
I would look at budget and I would ask, how many net move-ins do we need a month? Then, I would back into your metrics by using your conversion rates. If your conversion rates are low, I would look at the benchmark. For example, you may want to get your outreach-appointments-to-referral conversion percentage up. Let’s say your goal is to increase it by 2% to 5%. You can back into those numbers based on the amount of referrals you need to obtain your move in goal.
You said you’re an optimist, and 2020 was such a terrible year. What makes you hopeful about the senior housing industry in 2021?
Hayes: First of all, just looking at the data from last year, the increase between April and August for most metrics is almost 60% across the board. We know that, yes, we have that low point, but there is demand there because it crept up and then August. We didn’t see this “V” shaped decrease again in 2020. Inquiries remained pretty linear and mirrored the overall trend of 2019. That makes me optimistic going into 2021, just based on the trend of the data since April. That’s one.
Second of all, the demand is there. Because of what the industry had to manage during the pandemic, I think everyone did and has done a great job at educating people. I think that the consumer confidence is going to be there in 2021. Third, we’ve been talking about imminent demand forever. If you just look at the data and you take the feeling out of it, I think that demand is going to be there. Those three things combined, that’s why I’m hopeful for 2021.
I also want to add that as far as just embracing technology, we’ve never embraced technology so quickly in this industry. It’s really a great thing how everyone has been willing and able to adapt. I know we prefer face-to-face, but we must have the ability to be passionate virtually. I think that’s a testament to how great the industry is and why people are in this industry. It’s because they’re passionate.
If we keep on that trend with that technology adoption, it’s going to help us in the long run because now we have a variety of tools to hit the ground running in 2021.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Enquire is the premier CRM, marketing automation and contact center solution provider for senior living, post-acute and healthcare organizations. To learn more about how Enquire can help your organization, visit EnquireSolutions.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more — shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact email@example.com.