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.

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