Nearly every senior community’s employees truly care about older adults—or the employees would not be in the senior living industry over the long term. Additionally, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) – newly renamed Life Plan Communities #lifeplancommunity have incorporated the best practices of their peers—so that the services and amenities claimed as a unique selling proposition make their way to other communities and across the industry. What separates a senior community during a prospective resident’s search process then, is the ability of the counselor to listen to needs, wants, and desires before presenting a solution that hits the mark but also assuages the unstated fear of the unknown, loss of independence, and giving up their house. These truly professional sales skills, might be shown on occasion by a member of the sales team—but for a community to be consistently successful as measured in resident delight leading to maximum occupancy and profitability the entire sales team needs to be distinctive each and every day.
Prior to the economic challenges of 2008-2013, many communities’ marketing staffs became accustomed to contacting their “waiting list” to fill vacant residences because that’s how they had done it for a long time. The era when communities could just raise Entrance Fees each year and seniors could sell their houses for a little more to pay the rate and move in caused complacency. However during the recent Great Recession, many resolved to wait until the value of their house and/or their investment portfolio returned to pre-Recession levels to move. With time real estate and financial markets have both largely returned to or exceeded pre-Recession values—and seniors have reset their expectations in some areas. However, many have not allowed themselves the freedom to actually consider that they can afford retirement living, choosing to age longer in place in their current living situation.
Further, professionals want to learn best practices especially when doing so can lead to increased customer satisfaction and higher income. However, when presented with ways to think and do things differently some have “always done it” another way and prefer not to apply what is working at (more) successful communities down the road or across the country. Worse, sometimes a system is put into practice that will improve results but unfortunately the support for the program does not come with the program itself. A common challenge that some communities experience is that a new or better system will be installed but it isn’t viewed as a tool owned by the community, but rather by the company deploying it or requesting the reports on behalf of management.
There are many elements to creating and fielding a winning sales team. First and foremost, the right people need to be in place. In senior living, this means having good listeners that can qualify prospective residents on being a potential fit for the community and sell them on visiting to determine if they are. How the team arrives at this level of proficiency is a matter of preference. Hiring skilled sales professionals from within the industry can be the quickest way, but with proficiency can come pre-existing tendencies—both positive and negative. Another often chosen method to grow your team can be to promote from within the organization or cross-train someone into a new role but this choice can cause friction if a long-time employee doesn’t work out in the new role. Perhaps the most high-risk/high-reward option is to go in a different direction entirely, and bring in a candidate or a number of candidates for sales employment that need industry training and perhaps sales training as well. The obvious benefits are that you teach the skills you value but this could be more than offset by the time to attain proficiency and the training time investment, especially in a competitive market.
The right employees comprising your sales team is only part of the equation, of course. There are a number of key components to retaining the team that has been carefully crafted for the success of your organization:
- the right people filling the right roles
- clearly communicated expectations
- regular professional development and feedback
- a market competitive pay plan, incentivizing organizationally aligned results
Spectrum Consultants employs a relationship based approach to sales and marketing, designed to maximize sales with our consultative approach. We work with our clients in a number of areas, and coaching or even creating/helping to create Distinctive Sales Teams is only one of what we feel are actually 12 Key Elements of An Effective Marketing Plan.
If you feel like you would like to know more about maximizing the return on your marketing investment, and would like someone from our team to contact you to discuss the unique, multi-disciplined ways that we have worked with other communities around the country for nearly 40 years to achieve exceptional sales and occupancy results, please contact us.
By: Tony Snyder, Senior Marketing Consultant, Spectrum
For more information, visit www.spectrumconsults.com or call 704-865-6300.