Sales-enablement platform Sherpa studied customer data from more than 100,000 senior living units across the United States to uncover the behaviors of top performing sales teams during 2021. Sherpa identified “Best Sales Performer” sales teams that achieved higher move-in ratios than the average.
Three key activities where Best Sales Performers prioritize their selling time:
- Home visits
- Creative follow-up
- Planning sessions
These sales behaviors are an integral part of Sherpa’s Prospect-Centered Selling® methodology. Best Sales Performers engaged consistently in these three activities and allocated more selling time in these areas than did the median performers. As a result, they had up to 2.4 times the move-ins across care types: independent living, assisted living, memory care and CCRCs. Here is a look at how top senior housing sales teams can sell more effectively.
Some of the most valuable data to a senior living sales team is tracking how sales counselors spend their selling time. According to Sherpa’s 2021 Best Sales Performers Report, many sales teams underestimate the time and effort they’ll need to reach their occupancy goals. They also tend to overspend on marketing in order to generate more “fresh” leads.
Operators can adjust their sales resources by calculating how their teams spend time overall, and identifying opportunities to increase focused, proactive selling time — what Sherpa calls “Time in the Selling Zone.”
The full capacity of one full-time salesperson is 40 hours per week, approximately 160 hours per month. Data shows that a focused salesperson can dedicate 50% of their total capacity, or 80 hours per month, to high-impact sales activities. That work starts with home visits. As Sherpa notes in its report:
“Best Sales Performers create a virtuous cycle of proactive activities that begins with three times as much planning and twice as many creative follow-ups. Combined with home visits, which is another consistent focus of the top performers, this trio of activities suggests higher levels of engagement that positively impacts and accelerates a prospect’s decision to buy. Face-to-face activities are key to accelerating decisions.”
Many sales professionals in senior housing know that their top competition for a prospect choosing to move is not another operator but instead the prospect’s home. Home visits help operators see what’s truly behind a prospect’s resistance to move. By meeting a prospective resident in their own home, sales counselors gain valuable insight into what that person values most in a living space and the attachments they have to their current situation.
To best understand the situation and build trust — before trying to sell the product — sales teams should employ home visits for each and every prospect.
The data shows two dramatic differences between the activities of Best Sales Performers and the median performers. The first are home visits. In assisted living, Best Sales Performers averaged 3.5 hours per worked lead vs. just 0.2 for other sales teams.
The second is creative follow-up, in which sales teams personalize their outreach and follow-up gestures to show the prospect they are heard and seen.
Sales teams using creative follow-up bring a range of approaches, such as:
- A handwritten letter
- A gift of a jersey from the prospect’s favorite sports team
- An invitation for a favorite meal at the community itself
- Involving another resident or staff member in a video, or even an in-person experience
These are just a few possible ways to help prospects feel seen and heard. Creative follow-up should come from a deep understanding of what a prospect values, and is best executed through planning sessions with the sales team.
The difference in time spent on the creative follow-up between Best Sales Performers and the median is massive: 10 hours against 0.4 hours. The home visit gives sales teams insight into the prospect’s situation, and the follow-up demonstrates an interest in that person’s unique experience.
“What we measure are sales activities that convert more sales,” says Sherpa CEO Pedro Soares. “The main drivers there are proactive planning: You’re planning your next phone call, you’re planning how you make your next advance, interactions with prospects or the buying circle through face-to-face visits or voice-to-voice, and then following up with the prospects. We do that through creative follow-up, which is about showing the prospect that you’re listening to them and you understand them.”
The final of the three key activities of Best Sales Performers are the planning sessions. These are collaborative huddles, typically in the morning, that teams use to prepare for or recap important interactions with prospects. The sessions generate a meaningful next step that will help the team build trust and inspire prospective residents and their families.
Planning sessions often involve:
- Reviewing a prospect case study from a “top ten” board
- Finding areas of inquiry not yet explored in discovery
- Research on the internet to find past honors or newsworthy events
- Challenging assumptions about the prospect or their situation
- The presence of an executive/managing director during planning
“Some of the companies that have worked this way and have included their executive directors in the sales process have outshone some of the other companies,” Soares says. “They all seem to be investing more in sales, hiring more salespeople as well as taking some of those non-sales-related tasks away from sales and into operations to give their sales reps, the leasing counselors, more time to focus on sales.”
All operators experienced pandemic-related swings in prospect activity in both 2020 and 2021. Yet on average, a median performer spent half as much time with each worked lead as did a Best Sales Performer. The data suggests that as the average performer spent less selling time with more prospects, they ultimately saw lower conversions and move-ins during both years.
Sherpa’s Best Sales Performer report is intended as a roadmap for increasing sales performance and ultimately growing occupancy in senior living through better, more meaningful connections.
This article is sponsored by Sherpa, a sales enablement platform that elevates the senior living industry by transforming the sales process with a Prospect-Centered Selling® methodology. To learn more and see the full report, visit SherpaCRM.com.