Solving the Occupancy Puzzle – What’s the Problem?

I drive a nine-year-old car. I love my car. It’s incredibly reliable. It’s not fancy, but it gets me where I need to go. I want to drive it forever. It’s always started when I get in.

Except for this week.

I got into my car. It wouldn’t start. And my heart sank.

I don’t know anything about cars other than how to drive them, to get where I need to go. I called my husband. He said, well, maybe it’s the starter. Maybe the battery’s dead. He’s not a mechanic either. So of course, I call the expert, and the car’s taken to the mechanic. And before throwing out possible solutions, she asked some questions. How long has this happened? Has this happened before? What are you hearing? What other problems have you had? Is this working? Is that working? There’s probably a checklist they go through, before diagnosing the problem.

Another example: if you’re a parent, maybe your child doesn’t want to go to school one day. There could be many reasons for that. Maybe it’s an illness. Maybe there’s a test that day that they didn’t study for. Maybe they’re being teased. Maybe they have a crush on somebody who doesn’t like them back and it’s painful. Maybe it’s PE day. Before you decide if they can stay home from school, you drill down by asking questions to identify why they don’t want to go.

The senior living sales analogy to these scenarios is a hot lead who comes in for a tour but then doesn’t make a deposit to move in. In fact, it’s just the opposite – they seem to cool off very fast. When the regional sales manager, executive director, or corporate sales director questions the sales director about why this hot lead didn’t deposit, the sales director hems and haws or is outright defensive when asked about the sales process:

“Did you personalize the tour experience based on what you learned during the inquiry process?” “Was the prospect greeted by name at the front desk?” “Did you show them features and amenities relevant to their wants and needs?”

We work in an incredibly emotional business, and the day-to-day work in a senior living community is a whirlwind. And certainly, COVID brought that whirlwind to an even higher level of difficulty. Unless you’ve really been in it, it’s difficult to wrap your head around the challenge of being proactive instead of reactive within this whirlwind. It takes a lot of practice and commitment and discipline to work proactively.

In the stress of the whirlwind, established sales processes and procedures slide. Sales directors “throw things against the wall and hope something sticks.” And as managers, instead of responding logically and thinking through a root cause analysis, it’s natural for most to react emotionally. That often leads to solving the wrong problem or taking a wide swing at trying to figure it out versus a more precise aim. How often have you heard a regional director or corporate-level manager say one of these?

“We need more leads.”

“We need to do more outreach.”

“We need better leads.”

“We need to make more calls.”

“We need to do more home visits.”

“We have to have a sense of urgency.”

These are all examples of reacting emotionally and trying to solve the wrong problem.

About five years ago, I was given a book called Traction by Gino Wickman. In it, he talks about solving the problem too soon, or before we know the primary cause. Wickman’s concept of “IDS” really hit me over the head. The concept is simple, and it’s changed my life. I’d like to share it with you.

IDS is also known as the Issues Solving Track. Wickman is all about simplifying processes, systems, messaging, and vision. He’s an expert in helping entrepreneurs build their business. The IDS in the Issue Solving Track is simply Identify, Discuss, Solve.

Start with identifying what problem we’re trying to solve. Many of us, myself included, often jump to solve the problem. With good intention, someone comes to us for advice, and we just give ’em some advice or really tell them what to do. We’re either in a hurry or we feel we know the answer, and maybe we do, but unless somebody takes that advice and implements it, we’re not going to know, is it the right advice or not?

Often, the time spent identifying is well worth the outcome. In other words, spending more time on the front end to get a better result at the end.

Let’s start with identify. What contributes to the result in senior living sales? It’s two components: action – what you do – and skill – how well you do it. The actions in our case are sales activities and outreach activities, and we’re concerned with the quantities: how many calls, tours, outreach appointments, lead source analysis, referrer analysis, conversion metrics, and so on. And the skill component is how well each of those are done.

To identify this problem, we need data – facts. Identify the problem based on facts, not emotion. Your senior living communities are hopefully using a CRM to log all their sales activity. (If they’re not, that’s your new problem to solve!) What is the data telling you? Establish some activity parameters.

For example, based on current sales conversions for the trailing 6 months and 12 months, how many tours or opportunities does it take to get a deposit? Very simply, if you’re converting at 25%, you’re going to need four opportunities, four tours, to get a deposit. Keep it simple.

Next is discuss. What are the contributing factors, how do they influence the outcomes, And then learn more: ask questions, investigate the answers, dig deeper, ask more questions, and discuss, discuss, discuss.

Only after identifying and discussing the problem can you begin to solve the problem. This also holds true for your sales directors working with prospects. Often, they jump to solve the prospect’s problem that moved them to consider senior living:

The prospect is no longer driving. Well, we have a van, we can drive you!

They’re not eating regularly and healthily? Oh, we have a chef-prepared meals!

They’re isolated and alone? Oh, well we have a great activity calendar!

Boom, boom, boom. Just solved all their problems. Why are they not moving in?

Identify. Discuss. Solve. We need to head back to identify what it is we’re really trying to solve. In this case, it’s what is really influencing the prospect’s decision that is influencing the sales performance outcomes.

As you begin this approach or elevate this approach in your world, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re in this together. Ready to take your senior living sales success to a new level by elevating your executive directors to community sales leaders?

Grow Your Occupancy provides the sales coaching, accountability coaching, and sales-skill coaching essential to fill that important role.

Learn more about Grow Your Occupancy’s sales coaching and training here. Or book your free 30-minute consultation today.

6 Tips to Be “Guest-Ready” at All Times for a Prospect Visit

The doorbell rings unexpectedly. You peek out the window and see a familiar car in the driveway. It’s a surprise guest at your front door. The first thing on your mind: the house is a mess! On the way to answer the door, you frantically pick up things left lying around and throw them in the coat closet.

Just like at home, guests – both scheduled and drop ins – are welcome at our senior living communities every day of the year. In the case of a visit to your community, making a stellar first impression is crucial.

The importance of making a great first impression

One of the biggest challenges we all have is to look objectively at something or someone we know well. Even people whose job depends on being able to observe objectively –to figuratively “take a step back” and see from a fresh perspective – really have challenges. This is usually the case with highly creative people like artists, musicians, writers, and architects, but you may be surprised that salespeople can also benefit from observing objectively.

Why? Because you can’t have a first impression your senior living community without an objective perspective.

First impressions are lasting impressions

Think about some businesses you’ve been to once or twice but no longer frequent. Maybe it was a restaurant where you were kept waiting a long time before being acknowledged. Or a boutique where the staff weren’t helpful. Or a car service center where the waiting room was filthy. Whether those experiences are representative of the way those businesses operate all the time doesn’t matter; your first impression wasn’t a good one, and it became a lasting impression because you remember it and don’t go back to those places.

The way your senior living community looks and feels represents your values, expectations, customer experience. How your staff interacts demonstrates what it’s like to work, experience, live in your community. All that plays a big part in the first impression. Your prospects are asking themselves: “can I see myself living here” / “can I picture my mom living here”, and if the first impression isn’t a good one, the answer is going to be a firm “no.”

6 tips to keep your senior living community guest-ready

Guests and prospects visit your community at any time, and often unannounced. Be prepared to welcome guests, be tour-ready, and be always guest-ready with these tips.

  1. View the community with a fresh set of eyes. Each day as you walk from your car and into your building, look around with a fresh set of eyes. Take note of details like trash, weeds, dead flowers, signs put on doors and walls with scotch tape, odors, stains on the carpet, scuffs on the walls, etc. Ask other staff members to do same – because a fresh set of eyes will see things you don’t, even as you’re trying to be objective. Pay close attention to the first impression your community presents upon entering the building: a welcome sign, fresh flowers, music playing, pleasant smells, and residents engaging in life in the front area should all be parts of the first impression whenever possible.
  2. Make “clean” a priority. Clean bathrooms, surfaces, floors, windows, and even the air all make a powerful impression that clean is a priority at the community.
  3. The concierge is first. The concierge or front desk manager is a powerful opportunity to make a good first impression. Set guidelines for greeting visitors that include standing when able, smiling, and greeting. If the concierge is on the phone, acknowledge the visitor. Greet scheduled guests at the front door and let them know they’re expected. Train, practice, and reinforce the first impression with the concierge.
  4. Keep the model apartment in show-ready condition. Keep the lights on, the music playing, the temperature cool, the air smelling fresh, the décor tidy, and pillows plumped.
  5. Set an “always guest-ready” expectation for the entire team. Visitors are a common and frequent occurrence in a senior living community and can include both scheduled and unexpected prospect tours, and visitors seeing a loved one. Communicate, train, and reinforce to all the staff the expectations when encountering a guest: acknowledge that there is a guest, make introductions when able, smile, make eye-contact, and be prepared to answer questions or defer to someone who can. Sales directors should know the team, know the residents, and acknowledge all by name.
  6. Be a gracious host. The discovery area – the space where you sit with prospects and their loved ones – should be a welcoming and comfortable area that is kept clean and fresh. Supply it with beverages and snacks and offer both to all guests.

Assess your guest-readiness

Keep tabs on your community’s guest-readiness by making these 3 activities part of your sales procedures: 1) Request feedback from residents and staff via periodic surveys. 2) Keep close tabs on your online reputation by regularly reading reviews on Google, Facebook, and elsewhere. 3) Solicit a 3rd party to mystery shop the community to evaluate first impressions and the customer experience.


Ready to take your senior living sales success to a new level by elevating your executive directors to community sales leaders? Grow Your Occupancy provides the sales coaching, accountability coaching, and sales-skill coaching essential to fill that important role. Learn more about Grow Your Occupancy’s sales coaching and training here. Or book your free 30-minute consultation today.