5 Things You Can Do Now to GROW Leads

It’s easy to be complacent about attracting new senior living leads when your CRM database is full, but that’s the time to work hardest to keep your sales funnel full.

We all want more leads, but for most, this means more leads who will move NOW.  Keep in mind, there are multiple ways to grow your lead base.  Growing leads is a function of both marketing and sales efforts. 

If you find your CRM database getting thin and there aren’t enough leads to sustain the level of sales activity to result in your occupancy goals, read on!

5 things you can do now to GROW leads

 

#1: Maximize your digital strategy.

Digital channels are the primary source of senior living leads. The goal of your digital strategy is to drive people to your website, where you can educate them on your community and convert them from a visitor to a lead. We accomplish this by getting in front of them organically and through paid campaigns.

We want website visitors to stay a while, to visit multiple pages, and interact with the website, either by watching a video, downloading a piece of marketing material, or taking an action like scheduling a tour or connecting with the sales team. (We used to want visitors on and off our websites quickly. These were the days when our websites were little more than informational pages with a contact phone number. Times have changed!) 

#2: Capture your website visitors.

A lead capture system is key to converting a website visitor to a lead. Your website should be rich in lead engagement tools such as web forms. As mentioned in the previous item, we want them to take an action like downloading a piece of marketing material, scheduling a tour or connecting with the sales team. To do so, they should have to fill out their name and contact information. Those details are captured and added to your CRM, where they become a lead.

#3: Drive traffic by hosting events.

Prospective residents and their families want to know what it’s like to live in your community. The prospects who aren’t ready to move need to experience more of your community. Invite them in to meet the staff and residents, enjoy lunch or dinner, engage in an art project, join in on a sports, music, movie, or happy hour event, or take an exercise class.

Differentiate yourself by offering robust ways for prospects to engage. Events don’t need to be big, expensive parties. In fact, results show that smaller group events have greater impact. The benefits are lower cost, less preparation, and greater opportunities to engage with the prospects.

#4: Increase referrals from residents, families, staff, professionals, and community presence.

Consistency is key to keep referral traffic strong. The number of leads may be less than other sources but the conversion rate is much higher, so it’s worth the effort made in these areas.

Audit your friends/family/resident referral program. How is it communicated? By what channels? How often? You can’t mention it once, print a flyer and expect everyone to know you want (and need) referrals. Send a reminder about it in the monthly billing. Acknowledge a referral with a thank you message in your monthly newsletter. Post it to social media. Mention the program and recognize those who refer at monthly resident council meetings, during mealtimes, and on community bulletin boards.

#5: Keep the pipeline WARM – Finally, nurture the leads in your database.

A common error is only working “hot” leads, those who will move NOW, and ignoring the rest. As a result, the database is heavy in cold leads. Cold leads tend to be ignored because we don’t know what to do to keep prospects who aren’t ready yet engaged in the process.

Once the handful of “hots” move in, we look for more new leads and comb through them looking for more hot ones. This is a vicious cycle that will never grow occupancy, because only a third of those who move into a community do so within the first month of initial search. Maximize your sales by keeping more of your leads warm. Keeping the sales pipeline from being heavy in cold leads is an important component of growing leads.

Remember the days when lines would form for holiday shopping deals? Those first in line often got there the night before, camping out to be first in the door to get the best deal. Visualize the sales pipeline in a similar way. Everyone in line is a customer, not just those first five or ten. You want a long line – customers who are still standing there after the first bunch buy what they want. Those farther back are cooler, they won’t be coming into your store right away and may not buy something when they do, but you want them in line.

Ways to keep pipeline warm include:

  • Confirming a next step that makes sense to them based on where they are in their decision process.
  • Being strong and consistent in your follow through
  • Engage them through events and home visits.
  • Utilize marketing automation to keep them interested and your community top of mind
  • Post social media stories about what your residents are doing and what life is like living in your community.

Conclusion

Keeping your CRM database full of viable leads takes work, but it is achievable with the strategies we shared above. It’s truly a case of working smarter, not harder, and being methodical and disciplined.

Learn more

Looking for more ways to keep your senior living community full and thriving year-round? Grow Your Occupancy is here to help with sales coaching and training for your team, hiring and onboarding support, optimizing your sales funnel, and more. Reach out to us today at [email protected] and let’s take your senior living sales to the next level.

5 Habits of a Highly Successful Senior Living Sales Director

January is a time of “new.” New year’s resolutions, new commitments, new goals. While looking at how to enhance our life is a positive, what tends to happen is an overcommitment; a complete overhaul of behaviors or setting the goal out of reach. It leads to frustration and failure. In fact, over 90% of “new year’s resolutions” are forgotten by the end of January.  

To be successful in senior living sales, one must commit to focusing on income-producing activities. Evaluate how your time is currently spent. Be honest. How much of the day is spent talking with customers? 

Some statistics say that only two hours a day are spent on revenue-generating activity. This needs to shift. Maximize your time. Spend it with your leads.  

Sounds simple, right? It is simple, but it’s not easy. 

Most people have a tendency to procrastinate. There are many ways to get distracted away from sales, especially at a senior living community. If your goal is to achieve better outcomes (more sales = move-ins), commit to one of these habits at a time, until mastery of all is part of your daily schedule.  

Five (simple) habits of highly successful senior living sales professionals

#1: Pick up the phone. The phone is your friend. Remember, you are not “bugging” your customers.They reached out to you. They “raised their hand” for help. It’s our job to reach out to them, not theirs to reattempt to reach us. Even in this virtual world, our customers need to speak with us.

#2: Respond immediately to all new leads and continue attempting daily to connect for at least 5 days. Sprinkle in texts and emails, but remember, the connection is the next step in the process. These are warm leads, not cold calls. They reached out to you for help. Here is where your sense of urgency comes into play. You have a problem? It’s my priority! Waiting several days before attempting a phone call is a recipe for failure.

#3: Keep your CRM current. “I did it but it’s not in the CRM” is an excuse. Data entry may not be your favorite thing to do, but it is a vital part of sales. Your CRM is your business management tool. Treat it as such.

Past dues mean broken promises.  Prioritize your day for your CRM and lead follow-up. Don’t overschedule your day  and never go past due.

#4: Utilize the “Power Hour” strategy. Hang a sign on your door that you are unavailable and on important calls. Engage your A-Team to provide back-up for you while you are focused on your CRM. Do not allow interruptions. Redirect residents. If you have a lock, lock your door.  

Vary your call-out times to evenings and weekends to allow for ample opportunity to connect with customers. Ask your executive director is you can adjust your schedule to come in later on the day(s) you stay late to make calls. Track progress. You’ll be impressed with how much is accomplished during non-interrupted “Power Hour” time. 

#5: Prioritize your time. Revenue generation is your responsibility. Delegate tasks that are not income producing activities. Examples include putting together brochures, making copies, running errands, decorating, etc. Ask to be excluded from meetings that do not require sales director input.

And finally, 

#5 ½: Stop relying on email communication as your primary communication source. Emails are the LEAST effective form of communicating with leads. In fact, they provide a false sense of security that connection is occurring. There is zero correlation between the number of emails and number of sales. Emails are the least productive, but often the #1 sales activity. Pull a T12 sales activity report. What percentage of time is spent sending email? One resolution may be to reduce this percentage by 50%. Phone calls and text messages should always be the primary focus with emails offering secondary communication.

Learn more

Looking for more ways to keep your senior living community full and thriving year-round? Grow Your Occupancy is here to help with sales coaching and training for your team, hiring and onboarding support, optimizing your sales funnel, and more. Reach out to us today at [email protected] and let’s take your senior living sales to the next level.

Don’t Let Your Leads Get Snowed In! 4 Ways to Increase Occupancy This Winter

Winter is here, and as the snowflakes start to fall, you want your senior living community’s occupancy rates to continue to rise! This is a time that many “relax” and wait until after the holidays, after the winter. In our effort not to bother people, we fail to stay connected and prospects go “cold” (literally during the winter!) Remember, they raised their hand. Polite persistence and creative ways to engage can keep your prospects WARM and continue to grow your occupancy this winter.

4 ways to increase occupancy this winter

#1: Light a candle in the window with your digital strategy

Your senior living community’s welcome to prospective residents begins online. A well-rounded digital strategy is key to keep your new lead pipeline strong:

  • Be sure your website is optimized for accessibility and search engine visibility. It needs to be easy to find and easy to navigate.
  • Virtual tours and resident testimonials help create a comprehensive online experience for visitors. Make it immersive!
  • Engage in content marketing with articles and videos about senior lifestyles and community events, and establish your community as a knowledgeable resource. 
  • Use social media, like Facebook and Instagram, to connect with potential residents, sharing updates and educational content to create a sense of community. They want to know what is happening at your community. What are the residents doing? What are they missing by not living there?
  • Targeted email and SMS marketing will keep you in touch with prospects, so you can offer them tailored updates and information. Utilize online advertising, such as Google and Facebook Ads, to reach a wider audience and re-engage (through retargeting) interested individuals. 
  • Showcase positive reviews from residents to build trust. Form local partnerships and host online events to enhance visibility and community involvement. Using a tool like Occupancy Coach 
  • Don’t forget to use analytics tools to track the effectiveness of your digital strategies and adapt based on outcomes. Be sure you highlight your community’s unique attributes for a strong online presence.

If this sounds like a lot, Grow Your Occupancy can help you streamline your marketing funnel for optimal success! Learn more here. 

2: Unwrap the gift of discovery for your prospects

As you learn about what is meaningful for your potential residents, you can tailor their experience of discovering your community in a way that resonates with their unique needs.

Some effective ways to do this during the winter season are:

  • Connect prospects and families with a current resident—virtually. Even though the weather outside may be frightful, virtual meeting technologies can be a delightful way for potential residents to meet future neighbors and get to know your community.
  • Offer to drive when the weather is bad. Picking prospects up from their home and giving them transportation to your community for a visit will emphasize your community’s commitment to their convenience and safety.
  • Reach out to adult children of prospects with relevant seasonal information. For example, isolation is a common problem among older adults, and it tends to be more severe during the winter months. 

In your conversations with prospects and families, direct the discussions to WHY they are considering living in your community. How would it make life easier for them? What are the main reasons they would decide to move versus remain where they are?

Plant the seed in prospects’ and families’ minds that life in a caring, supportive senior living community like yours may be the best solution to the challenges they and their loved ones are facing during the winter.  

#3: ‘Tis the season for home visits

The winter can potentially be a lonely time for homebound seniors. Spread your community’s welcoming spirit beyond your walls by arranging home visits to prospects. 

●     Start by identifying potential residents from local sources such as senior centers or healthcare providers. 

●     Customize your visits to reflect each individual’s interests and needs. Be ready to address questions about costs, services, and care levels, and offer reassurance and clarity. 

●     Sharing elements like a sample meal or community newsletters can provide a real-life glimpse of your community. If possible, consider bringing along current residents who can offer authentic insights into community life. 

●     Following your visit, stay in touch with personalized notes or small gifts. Use technology like virtual tours for remote engagement or as a supplementary tool. 

●     Continually seek feedback to improve your approach, always respecting the potential resident’s privacy and scheduling visits professionally.  

Done right, with a focus on personalization and genuine care, home visits are an outstanding way to build trust and personal connections with potential residents and their families. 

#4: How are mom & dad after the holidays? Ask them what they want & need!

Open up a conversation among prospects, their families, and your sales team by developing a questionnaire focusing on key areas like care needs, lifestyle preferences, and financial considerations. Incorporate these questionnaires into your printed and digital marketing materials, and encourage readers and viewers to fill them out and turn them in.

You’ll need to train your sales team to interpret the responses to your questionnaire, so they can personalize follow-up discussions and address prospects’ specific concerns while highlighting the features and benefits your community offers. Regularly analyzing the responses to your questionnaire will also help you to adapt your services and marketing strategies so they best align with your prospects’ evolving needs. 

Be sure your questionnaire is easy to complete, and strictly adheres to data protection regulations to ensure privacy and build trust. Using questionnaires as part of your outreach fosters better engagement and educates prospects about your community, which will help your occupancy grow.

Now that you’re equipped with some evergreen ideas on how to grow your occupancy this winter, why not take the next step and learn more? 

Join us on Wednesday, December 13, 2023 at 1 p.m. EST for a complementary Sales Leadership Webinar hosted by Melisa Jones-Knight, Sr. VP of Sales & Marketing at Elegance Senior Living, and our very own founder and CEO, Julie Podewitz.

Don’t let those leads hibernate all winter! Reserve your spot at our free webinar today!

Learn more

Looking for more ways to keep your senior living community full and thriving year-round? Grow Your Occupancy is here to help with sales coaching and training for your team, hiring and onboarding support, optimizing your sales funnel, and more. Reach out to us today at [email protected] and let’s take your senior living sales to the next level.

7 Ways to Keep Senior Living Sales and Marketing Outreach Warm During the Holiday Season

As the holiday season twinkles on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to add some extra sparkle to your senior living community’s sales and marketing outreach efforts. Here are seven of our favorite ways to help you not only light up your occupancy rates but also bring joy and warmth to your community. Let’s unwrap these festive ideas together!

1. Unleash the magic of social media: Host a holiday contest

Get ready to sprinkle some digital cheer and show off your community’s holiday spirit online! Organize a holiday-themed contest, such as a competition for the best-decorated tree or the most creatively designed, scrumptious-looking holiday cookies. 

Encourage local professionals, family members, residents, and staff to post their entries on social media, tagging your community. For a first prize, offer something that’ll have them jingling all the way like a gourmet dinner or a festive holiday gift basket. Set a specific week, like the second week of December, for the contest. This digital festivity spreads holiday cheer far and wide and showcases the creativity, closeness and vibrant life at your community. 

2. Support a good cause: Host a heartwarming holiday drive

Imagine your community as Santa’s workshop—a place of giving, where kindness is the currency. Host a food drive, winter coat drive or Toys for Tots initiative, and watch as generosity fills the air. 

Transform a part of your community into a holiday photo booth, complete with twinkling lights and festive décor, where donors can capture their good deeds.  

This isn’t just about collecting donations; it’s an opportunity to showcase the warmth and welcoming nature of your community. It’s a fantastic way to get people through the doors and let them experience the holiday spirit that permeates your community.

3. Promote fellowship: Invite prospects for a holiday meal

The holidays can be a lonely time for many older adults. Extend an invitation to prospects, especially those who might be spending the holidays away from family, to share the camaraderie of a special holiday meal at your community. 

This gesture is not only an act of heartfelt kindness, but also a chance for them to experience firsthand the caring, family-like atmosphere your community offers. As you showcase the welcoming spirit, the sense of belonging and the nurturing environment that awaits potential residents, you give them a chance to taste the lifestyle, quite literally! An experience like this could be the deciding factor for those considering joining your community.

4. Deck the halls with creativity: Resident wreath and door decorating contests

Foster a festive atmosphere and let the creative spirits soar with a holiday wreath and resident door decorating contest. Invite everyone – residents, staff, local professionals and community members– to participate. 

Keep the excitement buzzing by running the contest for about 10 days or so and set up a voting system for the best decorations in various categories. Invite the public to vote, bringing in potential prospects. 

This event isn’t just about decoration; it’s about weaving a tapestry of community involvement and holiday spirit among residents, staff, and visitors. It’s a fun way to display the vibrancy and creativity of your community, making it attractive to potential new residents.

5. Spread joy beyond your doors: Reach out to homebound prospects

In the spirit of the season, why not extend your reach beyond your community? Reach out to your network of referrers, find out who’s homebound during the holidays and play Santa by preparing and delivering festive meals to folks who might be spending the holidays alone. It’s a gesture that says, “We care, no matter where,” and it’s a wonderful way to strengthen bonds with referrers while demonstrating your caring commitment to the broader community. 

6. Sweeten the holiday season with a community tour of lights and cookie deliveries

Another tasty way to spread the holiday cheer beyond your senior living community is by pairing a Festive Holiday Lights tour with cookie deliveries. 

First, gather residents and family members for a fun day of baking and packaging Christmas cookies. Then, embark on a tour of the local area in the community van to admire the dazzling holiday lights. Along the way, stop in at the fire department, city hall, and local businesses to share the homemade cookies. 

This delightful combination of sightseeing and spreading joy not only entertains residents but also strengthens community bonds, and shares the caring spirit of your senior living residence. 

7. Warm hearts with a holiday card party

Create a cozy gathering where residents, staff, and their families come together to sign and mail holiday cards donated by your referral partners. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, can add their personal touch with a warm message, while sharing Christmas treats. 

These cards filled with joy and good wishes will travel near and far, reaching service members overseas or brightening the day of local homebound seniors. It’s a simple yet beautiful way to weave together the threads of community, kindness and holiday warmth.

7½: Shine a light on isolation with insightful content

As a bonus, complement your holiday outreach with engaging content about the impacts of isolation, particularly during the holiday season. Share articles or videos that discuss the benefits of living in community, tailored for the holiday context. This will present your community as not just a place to live, but a place to thrive, especially in the challenging winter months.

Learn more

Looking for more ways to keep your senior living community full and thriving year-round? Grow Your Occupancy is here to help with sales coaching and training for your team, hiring and onboarding support, optimizing your sales funnel, and more. Reach out to us today at [email protected] and let’s take your senior living sales to the next level!

Navigating Rent Increases 

It’s that time of year again. Around mid-October, fear and despair come creeping in, sending shivers down the spine! 

It’s budget meetings season!  

A time when we must address the rising cost of doing business and – GASP! – rent increases!    

We’ve all been there. We don’t need to live in fear of raising our rates. Reverse your thinking: rent increases are a way to show how proud you are of your community, the quality of staff and the quality of services provided. 

Understand your market 

Raising rents starts with a thorough competitive analysis. Understanding your market and the competing offerings are key to a strong Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis. SWOTs allow you to capitalize on your strengths, know where your rates land and find your special place in the market.  

Share the competitive analysis with your leadership team and involve them in the SWOT process. This provides them the opportunity to look “ON” the business, to analyze facts, not react to feelings. It also allows them to see the value in your community through the scope of multiple departments. Team members need to see and believe in the community’s value to help ‘sell’ the increase to residents.   

Help your residents to see the value 

The perceived value of the community will ultimately translate into the value your prospects and residents perceive, but they have to FEEL and SEE the value. We cannot sell what we don’t believe. 

Prospects choose a community based on many factors, not solely on price. They choose based on their value. This generation of residents are aware of inflation and rising costs, so most of them will be willing to pay an increased rate if they perceive value. 

Communication softens the shock 

Communication, as always, is key to navigating rent increases. Communicate early, often, and via multiple channels. A personal phone call or visit from the executive director can go a long way in terms of developing a relationship and building rapport and trust.  

The psychology of pricing 

We read left to right, which makes the .99 cent theory something to pay attention to when increasing rates. Reading that your new rent is now $4,999 instead of $5,001 is somehow easier to swallow. Although it’s only a $2.00 difference, our brains think, “Oh good, it’s still $4,000!”, not, “My rent is now $5,000!” 

Spread out the increase if possible 

Split up the increase over the course of the year if possible. A 6% increase on January 1st and a 6% increase on April 1st is easier to swallow than a 12% increase on January 1st

No surprises 

No one loves a surprise, so set the yearly rent increase expectation at move-in. Explain that the amount is unknown and is based on the economy. Be transparent and upfront and you won’t have surprised residents and family members. 

Cover all the revenue bases 

Ensure that all revenue is captured: care revenue, rent, and ancillary services. Quarterly care level reviews are imperative to be sure that levels of care and staffing are in alignment. 

Don’t give away revenue by giving move-in concessions. Collect the community fees. Be proud of your product (after all, you now have a thorough competitive analysis to back you up). Most residents would rather not be given a concession than receive a 12% rent increase because the community gave so many concessions throughout the year. 

Respect your current residents 

Ensure your current residents’ raised rates are lower than the new market rates. If that’s not the case, review your costs and margin goals and adjust your market rate accordingly. 

We’re here to help 

Wondering if your community should roll out a large rent increase? Wondering where you truly sit in the market? Reach out to the Grow Your Occupancy team at [email protected] – we’re here to help with competitive analysis and SWOTs. 

5 Steps to Warm Up Cold Senior Living Leads

How many times have you looked in your CRM and noticed the cold lead numbers growing? 

Statistically, most senior living sales databases are heavily weighted in COLD leads. If a customer doesn’t move quickly through the funnel, or if they aren’t reached on the first or second call attempt, they often go COLD.

Companies vary on closing out leads. We have known some companies that do not close out cold leads closed until 20 call attempts have been made, or the prospect has passed. Even then, bi-yearly flyers are sent in case they know someone who may be looking. 

It is no wonder some people have a negative opinion of sales in senior living.

Cold leads are diamonds in the rough

It takes a special sales counselor to open this cave of wonders and find the hidden gems! Playing the detective, and combined with a determination and polite persistence, databases can be less “cold heavy.”

Finding out the following from the prospect may get results in warming up a cold lead:

  • What needs do they have that are not being met? 
  • Where are they on the journey? (This one is important. Creating a timeline with moving in at the end is a valuable sales tool.)
  • What is their emotional state? 

Once you can identify where they are, you have to meet them with grace and wisdom.

Meet the family where they are  

The chances of them fitting neatly into your sales cycle are slim. Each family is different and their journey is different. Yes, we see the same common themes, but complacency and making assumptions are the enemies of sales, so do not assume. Instead, ask and learn.

If you can’t go forward, go deeper  

Learn about your customer. On the one hand, delving deep into a cold lead conversation is rewarding. You may make someone’s day. On the other hand, not following through is a broken promise. Continuing to connect builds meaningful trust with the family and elevates you to a trusted advisor who helps them take the next steps forward.  

We all know situations can change on a dime. David Hopkins, Sales & Operations Specialist with Grow Your Occupancy, shares: “I reached out to a cold lead and the situation had changed. Instead of her mother needing care it was her father. The father had continuously covered and made it look like her mother was the one needing help. One bill to collections and the daughter realized what was going on. If we had been able to establish an in-person visit, we would have been able to help divert the disaster that awaited her. Making specific and customized recommendations helps the family know we are listening and become a trusted advisor.”

5 steps to warm up cold senior living leads

  1. Go back to the last notes in your CRM. (If you do not have notes, please call Grow Your Occupancy ASAP! We need to talk!). What was the problem?  Ask yourself why a solution wasn’t found. What is the specific problem they need help with? Start a conversation where you left off with a simple statement of fact: “I understand you started your search a year ago,” or “Your mom went through a long bout with pneumonia a few months ago.”
  2. Brainstorm with your team to determine the best advice to provide your customer. What should the prospect do, decide or think about? Where are they “stuck?” How can you help? It may be something tangible – a service to help the process along. It may be emotional, something they need time to talk through.
  3. Deliver uniquely. Sending another brochure will surely end up in the trash and cause more annoyance than helping. Perhaps send them a custom video sales message by email. Or schedule a senior move specialist or organizer to come to their home and provide 2 hours of “help” sorting their stuff. Often a simple home visit to learn more about your prospect is all they need to build a stronger connection and help them decide, “I want to live at your community.”  
  4. Be consistent. Think polite persistence. They raised their hand, be it a day or a year ago. They asked for help. It’s our job to continue the effort to be of service.
  5. Treat your “cold” leads as “new” leads. Start a brand new cadence of connecting. Do not space attempts weeks and months out. If a prospect has been in the database many months – or years – they are often the ones with the highest need today. Scheduling a call in 6 months does not help anyone in this process.    

Remember, we are experts, and families sometimes need our guidance to avoid the woulda, coulda, and shoulda. 

Ready to take your senior living occupancy growth success to a new level by warming up your cold leads? Grow Your Occupancy provides the sales coaching, accountability, onboarding, playbook, and marketing expertise essential to your senior living sales and marketing success. Learn more about Grow Your Occupancy here. Or book your free 30-minute consultation today.

5 Tips for Implementing Facebook into Your Senior Living Marketing Plan

Once the domain of teens and young adults, social media is now widely accepted by older adults and has become a part of their regular lives. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 69% of all US adults aged 55 and older have a Facebook account, and 60% use it daily or weekly. 

What’s the takeaway from this data for senior living sales and marketing professionals? Not only are your prospects utilizing Facebook in a big way, but so are their adult children. Here’s how to capitalize on seniors using Facebook by making it a part of your senior living marketing plan.

5 tips for implementing Facebook into your senior living marketing plan

Why focus on Facebook and not other social media avenues? 

In that same Gallup poll, we see that only 13% of adults 55 and older children are utilizing Twitter daily or weekly, and only 21% are on Instagram daily or weekly. Dani Merlino, Grow Your Occupancy’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, shared this story: 

“My sweet Gram is on Facebook despite her account being hacked about 15 times now! When I start to talk to her about other social media platforms, her eyes glaze over and she thinks it’s all nonsense. Facebook was the first platform she dared to try and it’s going to be the last. It took her four years to figure out how to post and to understand that when she was commenting on my pictures the rest of the world could also see her comments (which led to some fun conversations). Between Facebook and television that’s about as much technology as she can handle for the day. She knows how to use it to get neighborhood gossip. Why fix something that isn’t broken by adding more social media platforms?” 

How to capitalize on the 60% regularly using Facebook

Older adults are definitely using Facebook, so how do you use that to your senior living community’s advantage? Engage with them! Respond to their comments on Facebook. It will make them feel special that they were heard and acknowledged. 

Tailor your posts to be most enticing to them by post pictures instead of long written content. When you do post written content, be sure it is meaningful and relevant to them. 

Make Facebook fun and engaging by holding regular giveaways! Your prime audience loves freebies. Getting the freebie into their hands also creates prime opportunities to either visit them at their home or invite them into your community.

Consider Facebook ads. You don’t need to be a paid ads wiz to do this. Facebook allows you to easily boost most posts, within a budget of your choosing. Plus, you get to pick the call to action like a phone call, initiating a chat, or a visit to your website. 

How to make your Facebook ads relevant

Merlino shares: “I once worked with a digital advertising agency that designed an ad for one of my communities in a rural setting. The ad read, “Luxurious community with a 5 Star feel. Enjoy our fine dining.” It is a 40-bed community out in the middle of the country, surrounded by farmland. Our typical prospects were not interested in a luxurious community and fine dining.” 

What’s the takeaway from this story? Know what is important to the demographic you’re marketing to. In that story, that community’s residents were interested in a small-town feel, with home cooked meals and all the comforts of country living. Your Facebook ads should be realistic and not misleading. Be wary of using stock photos: do they really look like your residents? Do they portray the lifestyle your ideal prospects are seeking? Consider using images of your actual residents (with their permission) for your Facebook ads. 

Targeting options for Facebook ads

Facebook considers ads for senior living communities to be in the Housing Special Ad Category, therefore the ad targeting options like age and gender are not available. Facebook does target housing ads to users within a 10 mile radius of the community so they definitely are worthwhile, especially considering you can set your budget per ad as low a few dollars and still have a high likelihood of getting a few clicks.

Be strategic about including Facebook posts into your marketing plan

Let your short-term sales goals inform your marketing strategy, including a schedule of Facebook posts that reach the ideal prospects. For example:

Do you have a glut of independent living studio apartments? Plan out 5 meaningful Facebook posts per week that include pictures of actual residents participating in activities and partaking in your community’s nice amenities. Boost one of them as an ad each week.

Do the approaching winter months mean the likelihood of frigid temperatures and severe weather? Utilize resident testimonials to showcase the benefits of worry-free and maintenance-free living. 

In today’s world where more people are on Facebook than are receiving the daily newspaper, and you can advertise on Facebook for a minute fraction of a print ad, don’t count out Facebook as a key part of your senior living community marketing strategy.  

Ready to take your senior living occupancy growth success to a new level by incorporating Facebook into your senior living marketing plan? Grow Your Occupancy provides the sales coaching, accountability, onboarding, playbook, and marketing expertise essential to your senior living sales and marketing success. Learn more about Grow Your Occupancy here. Or book your free 30-minute consultation today.

The 3 Most Common Pitfalls in Senior Living Sales: Sales Specialists Speak

The Grow Your Occupancy Sales Specialists are a team of experienced and highly motivated senior living sales professionals who support our clients’ community sales teams, fill in when sales positions are open, when the sales team needs a boost and when cold databases need a “deep clean.”

They’ve worked in hundreds of our clients’ prospect databases. They find areas of opportunity and where sales gaps can be sealed for better outcomes. 

Below, we share the three most common pitfalls they’ve identified that impede sales success in senior living communities.

The 3 Most Common Pitfalls That Impede Senior Living Sales Success

Pitfall #1: Calls to Prospects Are Spaced Too Far Apart

This pitfall holds true for leads at every stage of sales funnel. Here are four common scenarios:

  • Slow New Lead call response, i.e. no speed-to-the-lead. Even when marketing automation is in place and an acknowledgement of an online inquiry takes just seconds, a personal call is key to starting a relationship with a prospect. However, we frequently see hours, days, and weeks pass before a calloutattempt is made to a web lead. Sometimes no call attempt is made. Speed of initial response AND cadence of attempts is key in reaching more of your new leads. Do not rely on emails-they give a false sense of security. 
  • Giving up on new leads too soon. All too often, we’re seeing salespeople make only one or two callout attempts and then giving up. In some cases, the lead is closed after only an email or text. You must continue trying until you reach the lead, and heavier at first! Texts and emails are no substitutes for calls, they are only additional routes to try to connect.
  • Losing the momentum post-tourThe tour is the linchpin in the process! Getting a prospect into the building for a tour is a key milestone in the sales process. It’s a time when they are as likely to make a decision as ever, so failing to keep the momentum going after the tour is a missed opportunity to close to a deposit. Don’t wait too long after the tour (it’s common to see a delay of 1-2 weeks after the tour before attempting another connection) before connecting. Pick up the phone later the same day or the next day to thank them for coming in and continue following through as promised. Failure to follow through is a broken promise.
  • Taking “we’re not thinking of moving for 2 years” at face value. Sure, there are prospects who mean it when they say they’re 2 or more years out, but it’s usually not the case. We see salespeople scheduling the next step 6 to 9 months out when they hear that. You want to respect and listen to your customer, but be proactive and plan on more consistent connections with them – or else they will forget about you and decide to stay home.  Often, “two years out” means, “I’m not ready to move today.” A series of small advances is necessary for prospects to move forward. Waiting until they call you is a plan for failure. 

Pitfall #2: Lead Pipelines That Are Primarily “COLD”

When a prospect tells you they aren’t ready right now, and you space your next follow-up step with them 6 months later, it’s no wonder they go cold! As a salesperson, you are in the driver’s seat.  You are the trusted advisory.

Closing strong doesn’t mean trying to close to a sale at every connection, closing strong means using your sales skills to suggest the best next step for them: what they should do, decide, or think about. 

Plan your next reconnection when you connect. Give useful advice. Give every connection a purpose, not a “just checking in” call. 

Pitfall #3: Rushing the Sale

In our attempt to not be “salesy,” our actions can come across as “salesy.” Failing to do adequate discovery because we feel it’s “too pushy” results in inadequate information to make a connection with the prospect. 

We see salespeople showing prospects apartments that are too big or expensive because they didn’t ask the right questions early on. They ask, “Do you want the one bedroom with a patio or the two bedroom?” “Do you want to put down a deposit?” “Are you ready to schedule an assessment?” Instead, they get marked down as a “cold” lead when they say they’re not ready now, because of a failure to truly discover the motivation and where the customer “is” in their thought process.

Don’t skimp on the discovery. Ask questions, find out what the prospect wants and needs. Offer appropriate options. If you can’t go linear, go deeper. Learn more.

Bonus Pitfall: The Pipeline Is Heavy in Paid Referral Sources

Depending on paid referral sources to fill your sales pipeline is an expensive way to grow your occupancy. There are lead generation alternatives that convert at a much higher rate and at a lower cost, including a strong network of professional referral sources, a program of referrals from friends, families, and current residents, and “word of mouth” referrals that result in your community’s solid reputation.

Enhance your outreach/business development. Be consistent. Plan events that attract new business as well as potential referral sources. Reinforce and communicate your friends, family, resident and team member referral programs often. 

Ready to take your senior living occupancy growth success to a new level by identifying and avoiding the most common sales pitfalls? Grow Your Occupancy provides the sales coaching, accountability, onboarding, playbook, and marketing expertise essential to your senior living sales and marketing success. Learn more about Grow Your Occupancy’s sales coaching and training here. Or book your free 30-minute consultation today.

5 Steps to Get 10 Senior Living Move-Ins in a Month

Converting 10 senior living prospects to move-ins in a month sure sounds like an impossible task! It’s right up there with monthly goals like walking 100 miles, reading 4 books, doing 20 random acts of kindness to strangers, or losing 10 pounds.

With the right mindset and strategy, they’re all achievable goals for most people. Since we are not fitness experts, we will steer clear of advice in those areas. We do have advice on what needs to be in place to accomplish double digit move-ins.

Here are our five tips for senior living sales success.

5 steps senior living salespeople can take to get 10 move-ins in a month

1. Culture

What is one trait that most successful businesses have in common? Culture. It is common in most industries to talk about creating a sales-focused culture, but even in 2023, sales is still perceived as a dirty word in the senior living industry.

It is imperative to remember that in the senior living industry, sales equals helping people.

The biggest complaint I hear from staff in other areas of senior living communities is, “Sales will move ANYONE in,” because they’re worried about staffing ratios and how they’re going to care for those new residents.

Big-picture thinking, though, would realize that more residents equal more revenue, which in turn affords the community the ability to hire more staff at competitive wages. In a sales-focused culture, EVERYONE should want to move in more residents each month.

An excellent sales culture starts with the recruitment process.  Sales is introduced and emphasized at the very first interaction. Recruiting for positive mindset and a “We can do this” culture is the first step to achieving high occupancy.

2. Communication

A common new move-in delay is the assessment process. Common culprits are a lack of communication, lack of urgency, and a weak or non-existent assessment system. A move-in should never be pushed back due to inability to complete the assessment timely.

Every community should have well-documented systems and processes in place for new resident assessments. This process could look different for each community – it’s what works for YOUR team.

Communication between departments is key. Sharing an assessment schedule calendar and communicating between the departments during morning stand-up will prevent the clinical team from being caught off guard. Coordinating with nurses at your sister communities in the area is a great backstop in the event of an absence or other scheduling conflict.

3. Be strategic about your sales and marketing activities

All too often, we see the activity logs in our clients’ CRMs filled with meaningless activities. We’re talking about dropping off flyers and brochures at area businesses that don’t have the clientele to refer to your community; attending networking groups that really don’t have members that overlap with senior living; spending excessive time creating posts for the community’s social media accounts; or ‘just checking in’ calls and emails to prospects without setting a next action step to name a few we’ve seen.

Instead, your strategic marketing plan should map out your path to successfully meeting your monthly move-in goal. What should be in your plan?

  • Tap into your CRM database to uncover prospects that are “low hanging fruit” prime for a follow-up call. Pull the Post-Tour Prospects T90 days – these are the prospects who have experienced your community, have been considering this for some time, and have had multiple contacts.  This is your “low hanging fruit” – not the “new leads” who we think will move quickly. We could stop here, because this is a sure-fire way to get to 10 move-ins a month.
  • Utilize your CRM to the fullest. We’re talking about logging all activity, recording calls, taking detailed notes, always scheduling next steps, and following the discovery path to truly get to know prospects and their needs.
  • Nurture relationships with the professional referral sources in your area most likely to refer prospective residents. Geriatric care specialists, case workers and discharge planners at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, elder law attorneys, financial planners, and clergy have tremendous influence with seniors and their loved ones. Forming and maintaining valued relationships with them will pay off in the long run.

4. Believe in your product – and your team

A sales team member who does not believe in the community is a liability. Apathy about or a lack of confidence in the community shows during discovery and tours. We talked earlier about the importance of the sales culture, but the community’s culture of caring for its residents is equally – if not more – important for the entire team to buy into. Rely on regional and corporate team members to assist with any obstacles that are in your (or a teammate’s) way of believing in your community.

If YOU don’t believe you can move in 10 residents a month, then it will never happen.

5. Tour and inquiry training  

There is such a thing as a bad tour. A bad tour can drive a hot prospect to your competitor’s door in no time flat. As a sales director, it’s imperative to continually train all staff members (yes, ALL staff members) in the community on etiquette when they encounter a tour. Staff meetings are the perfect time to grab a few staff members and have them shadow you on a mock tour. Have a tour tip sheet available for all team members: a grab and go tool that maps out the tour and prompts answers to common prospect questions they may be asked.

As a sales director, unless you want to work 24/7 (you probably already feel like you do) you need a back up team. Work with your executive director to establish a backup team who can handle inquiry calls in your absence.

Train the backup team in your procedure for handling inquiry calls. Practice with them often.  

Converting 10 prospects to move-ins in a month is not impossible. It takes confidence that it can happen, a positive mindset, sticking to a winning strategy, and the entire community team’s involvement. You need to have a plan and a process, communicate often, work through challenges, strategically plan time in the highest impact areas, and identify any gaps in your processes and address them before they become larger problems.

Ready to take your senior living sales success to a new level by empowering your sales leaders to achieve their goals? 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.

Optimizing the Three Phases of the Senior Living Sales Cycle for Occupancy Growth Success

In the increasingly competitive senior living industry, guiding leads to, and through, the sales cycle is essential for occupancy growth success. This article explores the three crucial phases prospects take in senior living sales cycle:

  • Finding the funnel through digital marketing
  • Stepping into the funnel with lead engagement and conversion tools
  • Moving through the funnel by nurturing prospects through the sales process

By optimizing each phase of the sales cycle, senior living providers can improve the prospect experience, increase conversions, and ultimately grow their occupancy. 

Let’s dive into these three phases and discover key techniques for achieving sales excellence in senior living.

Find the Funnel – Digital Marketing 

Senior living providers must embrace digital marketing strategies to capture the attention of potential customers. It is essential to have a strong online presence if you want your prospects to find your senior living community. This includes creating a user-friendly and informative website, optimizing search engine visibility, and maintaining an active presence on social media platforms.

Senior living providers can leverage digital marketing tools such as search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure their website ranks highly in search engine results. This helps attract organic traffic and increases the chances of potential customers finding the funnel. 

Additionally, targeted online advertising campaigns and content marketing can effectively generate leads by promoting relevant and engaging content to prospective residents and their families. This is commonly knows as pay per click or search engine marketing.

Step into the Funnel – Lead Engagement and Conversion Tools 

Once potential customers enter the funnel (find your website,) it’s crucial to engage and nurture them effectively. Lead engagement and conversion tools play a vital role in this phase. Interactive chatbots, surveys, tour schedulers, and downloadable content are valuable tools for capturing leads.

Chatbots provide instant responses and personalized assistance, helping potential residents navigate their options and address specific concerns. Some can also schedule tours and appointments, ensuring a seamless customer experience. 

Surveys help gather feedback and better understand the needs and preferences of prospective residents, enabling sales teams to tailor their approach accordingly.

Downloadable content, such as e-books and guides, serves as a valuable resource for educating potential customers about senior living options, care services, and amenities. By providing informative and helpful content, senior living providers can build trust and establish themselves as industry experts.

Offering a variety of engagement tools allows customers to engage at every stage of the funnel – matching their journey.  If a website visitor does not want to speak with someone but downloads content, they are put in nurturing campaigns until they are ready to move to the next step.  

Move Through the Funnel – Nurturing Prospects Toward Moving in 

In the final phase, senior living providers must focus on advising customers throughout the sales process. This involves the critical role of the community sales director, delivering an exceptional prospect experience, and ensuring follow-up and follow-through.

A skilled sales director is the linchpin of a successful sales process. They possess in-depth knowledge about the community, care services, and amenities, allowing them to offer personalized guidance and recommendations. 

A strong sales director builds rapport with potential residents and their families, answering questions, addressing concerns, and demonstrating empathy throughout the decision-making journey.

Creating a positive prospect experience is paramount in senior living sales. Promptly responding to inquiries (speed to the lead), providing valuable information, and offering personalized tours can significantly influence the decision-making process. Going the extra mile by arranging meetings with current residents or organizing special events showcases the community’s vibrancy and helps potential customers envision themselves as part of the senior living community.

Lastly, diligent follow-up and follow-through are essential for closing sales and ensuring future customer satisfaction. Maintaining regular communication with prospects, providing timely information, and addressing any remaining concerns demonstrates commitment and professionalism. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools can help sales teams stay organized, track interactions, and streamline the sales process.

Mastering the senior living sales cycle requires a strategic approach that encompasses finding the funnel through digital marketing, engaging leads with conversion tools, and providing exceptional guidance throughout the sales process. By optimizing each phase, senior living providers can enhance their sales strategies, improve customer experiences, and increase conversions. 

Embracing digital marketing, leveraging lead engagement and conversion tools, and focusing on delivering personalized advice and excellent customer service are key to success in the senior living industry. With a strategic approach to the three phases of the sales cycle, senior living providers can improve their sales outcomes and grow their occupancy.

Want to learn more, or need help implementing these strategies? Book a 20-minute Occupancy Coach discovery call today. Gain clear direction on your sales and marketing approach and grow your occupancy!

Dare To Be Different – Five Ways to Make Your Senior Living Community Stand Out From The Rest

There are endless choices today for seniors and their families when the time comes to consider a move to a senior living community. The National Center for Assisted Living reports that around 28,900 assisted living communities are currently operating in the United States. You don’t want to get lost in that crowd! 

The single most important point to remember as you market your community and seek to stand out above the competition is this:

For seniors, and for their families, choosing a senior living community is an emotional process.

Of course practical considerations like services and amenities, price, and logistical considerations like staying close to family play an important role.

But in the end it is the way the prospect feels about your community that will determine whether they move in, or move on.

Read on as we explore five key ways to make your senior living community stand out from the rest by connecting with seniors and their families on a deeper level that builds rapport and trust, guides them toward their best decision, and results in increased sales and occupancy.

Five ways your senior living sales team can stand out from the rest

1) Demonstrate genuine empathy and compassion

It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your potential residents and their loved ones and show real understanding for the unique challenges and feelings that seniors and their families may experience when considering a senior living community. By demonstrating empathy, you create a connection with your potential residents and establish trust.

Compassion motivates you to take action to alleviate their concerns and fears by answering their questions, providing reassurance, and offering resources and support that can help them make informed decisions.

Empathy and compassion will help you build strong, meaningful relationships with your potential residents and their families, and create a positive experience for them during a challenging time. This will lead to more sales.

2) Forget about the sale

Not completely, and just for a little while! But the initial connection with a prospect, whether in person, over the phone, or even over social media, is not the time to try and “close the deal.” Instead, step back and take the time to listen to their needs and concerns (empathy and compassion) and to connect with them on a person-to-person level. This is an essential step because….

3) People prefer to do business with other people who they know, like, and trust

This is especially true when considering a life-changing “business decision” like a move to a senior living community. By taking the time to listen and connect with prospects, and demonstrating empathy and compassion for their difficulties, you will meet the know, like, and trust criteria and be far more likely to eventually make the sale.

4) Make the tour a time to stand out

The customer experience during their tour of your community is another area where, with some thoughtful attention to detail, you can make your community stand out. When hosting a prospect and their family, consider:

  • Sending them an itinerary ahead of time, so they know what to expect during their visit, and can budget their time and energy accordingly.
  • Have a plan in place within your team, including operations staff, that facilitates the tour while showing the community at it’s best–for example hold off on vacuuming areas where the tour is in progress, having vacant rooms presentable for viewing, etc.
  • Make parking easy! This detail gets noticed, especially if you can arrange for valet parking for guests.
  • Roll out the red carpet! Meet them at the door, have a personalized welcome sign in the lobby, find out their favorite music ahead of time and have it playing….you’ll never go wrong making your prospect feel as if they are the most important person to ever walk through your doors.

5) Don’t miss following up post-tour as a time to make a lasting impression.

Post-tour follow up is another way to go the extra mile and cement a positive relationship with your prospect. Send a thank you note with a small gift, or even a personalized video message from the Executive Director using a video communication service like Covideo. If it hasn’t happened yet, a visit to your prospect’s home may be in order. No matter what, stay in touch, always be helpful and give prospects and families the time and space they need to make a comfortable and happy decision. If you’ve followed the steps listed here, there’s a great chance their decision will be to move into your community!

That concludes our list, but be sure to register now for Grow Your Occupancy’s complimentary Sales Leadership webinar on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, where our CEO, Julie Podewitz, and a panel of expert guests will discuss this topic in more detail. See you there!

A Senior Living Investor’s Views on Occupancy And Sales

Julie Podewitz, CEO and Founder of Grow Your Occupancy, had the opportunity recently to sit down with special guest Rick Shamberg on the Grow Your Occupancy Podcast and hear some of his stories and insights from twenty years in the Senior Living business. 

Today, Rick is the Managing Director of Scarp Ridge Capital Partners, a private real estate investment firm focused on distressed, opportunistic, and value-add investing across the U.S. Previously, he served for 11 years as a co-managing partner of Cerulean Partners, a senior living investment and advisory firm.   

But back in the mid-2000s, Rick was immersed in the often-grueling process of learning the business from the ground up as a consultant working to rehabilitate troubled properties.  

Living onsite at fifteen different properties in the course of three years, moving in nearly a thousand families as a leasing counselor, serving coffee in the dining room, cleaning the community toilets….Rick earned his “second MBA” and gained invaluable experience in what it takes to make the challenging, complex business of running senior living communities a success. 

Collaborating for Success 

The credibility Rick has earned over the years through his in-depth operational and sales experience makes Scarp Ridge more than just a holding company concerned with the operators’ bottom line. “Given our background, operators know that we can be a part of the solution, that we can brainstorm ideas and roll up our sleeves together.” 

As prospective residents and their families explore a community for the first time, credibility also plays a crucial role. Community operators must strive to create “The Place to Be,” and that can mean spending money, even what Rick calls “investing into a loss” to shore up weak areas, such as quality of dining, staff shortages, or maintenance of the physical plant.  

Support and Cooperation from Operations 

Marketing and sales is a team effort that involves a community’s operations as well. Rick tells a great story in the podcast about Mrs. Jones’ baking class, and how you often need to come up with an individual sales campaign and an individual marketing plan for each individual prospect. What works for one may not work for another. As a senior living sales professional, you need to have outstanding communication within your community and advocate for the support you need. 

Operations has to support the community’s sales and marketing efforts. The brochure has to match the reality of the building. Outstanding operations allow the sales team to do their job with confidence and conviction. The end goal is not just full occupancy, but grateful families after move-in because the care experience matches or exceeds the sales pitch. 

Exercising Empathy  

Senior living is a gratifying but tough business. When a prospective resident is reluctant and has their defensive walls up, asking questions from an empathetic perspective can be the key that unlocks the reasons why a move is necessary. An example Rick gives is asking the prospect on a visit to their home, “You have such a beautiful home–why would you want to move?” Their answers will reveal the challenges they are facing staying in their home, and help you build a bridge from your home to their community. 

The “One Thing” You Need to Learn 

As Rick’s mentor told him back when he was starting out in 2003, “If you want to learn the senior living business, you have to learn one thing, and that is how to move families into senior housing. If you can do that, then you can be successful in this business.”  

Are you ready to master the “One Thing?” Grow Your Occupancy provides sales coaching, accountability coaching, and sales-skill coaching to translate your team’s credibility and empathy into measurable success. Learn more about Grow Your Occupancy’s sales coaching and training here. Or book your free 30-minute consultation today.

Focus on These 3 KPIs to Move the Senior Living Sales Needle

Key Performance Indicators – KPIs. This practice of measuring performance in business has been around in one form or another for a long time. Depending on who you ask, KPIs have been around possibly as far back as the third century A.D. in China! They’ve only become mainstream for most of us in sales in the past decade or so. (Aren’t quite sure what a KPI is? Check out this great blog, “What is a KPI?” by Monday.com.)

If you’re like most sales professionals you’ve not only heard of KPIs but are probably being measured by at least a dozen of them. In some extreme examples, you might be dealing with dozens of KPIs. Don’t get us wrong, we firmly believe in the value of measuring performance through collecting and analyzing data. For the sake of salespeople in senior living communities though, focusing on a manageable 3 KPIs daily can contribute to desired occupancy growth.

3 Senior Living Sales KPIs That Move the Needle

Lead Source Analysis

Leads for prospective senior living residents come to us from a variety of sources: our website, any of the many digital marketing channels, word of mouth, professional referral sources, current residents, friends and families of residents and staff, events, and paid lead aggregators.

The KPI to track here has two parts: the conversion rate of leads to tours for each lead source, and the conversion rate of leads to move-ins for each lead source.

Why track referrals by lead source? Because a) it helps you know which sources are the most productive and should be prioritized; b) it helps to determine  acquisition cost per lead, per tour and per move-in and c) helps in allocating marketing budget spend.

Number of Tours

It’s no secret that prospects typically don’t decide to move to your community unless they tour it first. Reaching move-in goals first depends on prospect tours. How many tours do you need to reach your move-in goals? Glad you asked…

Tour to Move-In Conversion

As we said above, move-ins don’t happen without tours. To determine how many tours need to be conducted to produce a move-in, the tour to move-in conversion is the KPI you want to measure.

To set your target tour to move-in conversion, first look at the trailing 12 months of data for tours and move-ins. Divide move-ins by tours to determine your actual conversion rate. Were 20 move-ins the result of 100 tours? That’s a 20% tour to move-in conversion. An optimal tour to move-in conversion goal might be 35% depending on the level of care. If you’re not hitting your optimal conversion, look at factors such as tour planning, the customer tour experience, closing skills, and follow up.

Start by setting a number of tours needed per community per month. 20 tours converting at 20% is 4 move-ins, converting at 25%, 5 move-ins. Smaller communities may not have the traffic to support 20 tours. Work it backward by starting with the number of move-ins needed.

KPIs are great for measuring progress and making business decisions, but don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by watching too many at once. By minding the 3 KPIs  mentioned above, senior living salespeople can remain focused on selling, keeping it as simple as possible, and at the same time be aware of the bigger sales picture.

Ready to take your senior living sales success to a new level by elevating your 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.

3 Takeaways from 2022 to Reinvigorate Senior Living Sales in 2023

2022 is behind us, whew!

For many of us in senior living sales, 2022 marked a symbolic turning of a corner away from the pandemic upheaval of previous years. Our community doors opened again to prospective residents, masks were mostly put away, staff returned to the workplace, and the fears that senior living communities were a hotbed of infection were put to rest.

The start of 2023 is an opportunity to take a closer look at all we in senior living sales have been through since the quarantines first went into effect, and consider the lessons we’ve learned. It’s also an opportunity to improve our systems and processes and reinvigorate ourselves and our teams.

Takeaway #1: Consistency is key.

One of the go-to phrases we hear a lot when results are under benchmark is:

“The definition of insanity if doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

(It’s just one of “13 Inspiring Einstein Quotes Never Actually Said by Einstein”, by the way.) It’s a valid concept, but when it’s used as the justification for making changes to sales systems, people, and processes we need to be careful. Why? Because of the temptation of solving the problem too soon, or before we know the primary cause.

To improve sales outcomes, consistency is key. Without consistency, it is impossible to accurately measure your current systems and processes, analyze the data, and devise ways to solve the shortcomings. Before taking a “let’s throw new ideas against the wall and see what sticks” approach to solving a problem, look to see if your sales systems and processes are being followed consistently.  In other words, WHAT is being done, how often and how well (or not.)  Doing the same thing over and over makes sense, IF the WHAT is defined and understood.

Takeaway #2: Sales continues to be a neglected silo.

We see this over and over: the sales department in senior living companies continues to be an under supported and underappreciated silo pushed to the fringes of the corporate structure. It seems like sales doesn’t get the respect it deserves because it is often misunderstood. Expectations don’t align with training, support, budget, compensation. As a result, when margins get tight and budgets are cut, sales suffers more than other departments.

Even though the sales department is the primary revenue source for senior living operators, its budget is among the first to get slashed. When sales departments are forced to cut back, they do away with training, support, and technology. Don’t squeeze out sales! Your NOI will thank you for it.

Takeaway #3: Selling senior living takes grit.

Success in senior living sales takes grit. The job requires a resilient mindset to survive. It’s a long game; the conventional wisdom that it takes 6-8 touches to make a sale is way off the mark in senior living. It’s more like 22-28 touches over 3 months to a year or more, depending on the level of care.

There is a lot of rejection. In sales there are more losses than wins. You’ve got to make dozens of call attempts to connect with the prospects in your database. Then they ghost you or tell you – after months of connecting with them – that they’re no longer interested, or they’re moving to a competitor.

Sales leaders: don’t forget grit. As you’re working with your sales teams, remember that it takes grit to succeed, so recognize it and acknowledge it when you see it. When you’re looking to hire new salespeople, look for grit as a key trait for success. Grit is going to yield results in senior living sales more often than just about anything else.

What are your takeaways from 2022 that you’re going to apply to 2023? Want to share how you’re planning to reinvigorate sales in your senior living company in 2023? We’d love to hear from you!

Ready to take your senior living sales success to a new level by elevating your 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.

Don’t Squeeze Out Sales!

Depending on who you ask, the U.S. is either heading into a recession or is already in one. According to a recent poll in The Wall Street Journal, economists think there is a 63% chance of a recession in 2023.

If a recession in 2023 really does pan out, what might that mean for senior living operators? You can bet we’ll see higher expenses in the form of increased costs of everything from financing to labor to food to supplies. As expenses increase, NOI is squeezed; when NOI takes a hit, budgets get tightened.

When budgets go under the microscope to reduce expenses, it’s tempting to cut sales and marketing. It’s often the first area to go when things get tight.

Maintaining your target NOI

As costs are expected to rise, revenue growth is more important than ever before to maintain a target NOI. Revenue growth in senior living can come from raising rates, or by growing occupancy. In an up economy, raising rates might be the tactic to take, but with recession fears weighing on everyone – especially seniors who might be seeing their retirement income suddenly not stretching as far – selling at a competitive market rate is going to be a competitive advantage for you.

Don’t give in to the temptation to offer discounts and concessions to fill your communities though; remember that the consumer equates lower prices with lower quality. How do you increase occupancy without giving away the profits then?

Your greatest asset right now

Your sales department’s output is your organization’s greatest asset. Motivated, results-oriented, and proven sales leaders are your secret weapon for achieving occupancy growth – right now and in the coming year. But like any other motivated, results-oriented professionals, they need training and coaching to stay in top form; think of your sales leaders as Olympic athletes and you won’t be too far off the mark.

Sales training and coaching

Adopt the mindset that your sales leaders are the best asset your organization has heading into a turbulent economy. Don’t forget that the best deserves the best in professional development, so don’t skimp on training and coaching. Senior living is a high-level sale that needs top talent to make the sales happen, so continue coaching up their skills.

Development and retention

Finally, place a priority on developing new talent and retaining the existing talent in your organization’s sales department. Invest in their professional development by providing them with ongoing training and support. Reassess your rewards structure, whether it’s bonuses, perks, or both, because employee retention increases when top producers are rewarded.

Ready to take your senior living sales success to a new level by elevating your 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.

The Sales Lessons We Can Learn from the Hemline Index

By Melinda Haney

As we head out of the pandemic, we head into 2023 nervous about the economy. Cost of doing business is higher than ever, therefore budgets are squeezed. As difficult as it is, now is the time to invest in your sales teams. With the economy weighing heavily on our minds, history can teach us a lesson on how to get through rough times in a fashionable way.

Since the turn of the last century the length of ladies’ hemlines up and down the leg have followed the stock market – the highs corresponded to miniskirts and the lows to floor length dresses. This is called the hemline index theory.

How does The hemline index mirror senior living sales? When people had less to spend, fashion demanded an investment in more fabric to cover the full leg. When the economy was better, women spent money on hosiery, spending more on less. Buying shorter skirt lengths showed they could afford nicer undergarments.

The sales lessons of the hemline index

During the 2008 recession, the senior living communities that invested in their sales teams had record high occupancy, while those that didn’t suffered – and in some cases went out of business. This time mirrors lessons learned then. Invest in the fabric of your sales team. Thoroughly review the aspects of your lead generation, prospect management, sales training, and referral management. Make sure you do not have any holes in your fabric. Don’t be skimpy.

Another fashion trend during hard economic times is lipstick. I know, it seems far away from senior living but once again, it applies (pun intended). When times were tough and people were unable to afford travel or expensive gifts, more women purchased makeup, especially lipstick. Lipstick became a luxury; it was a noticeable fashion statement and women started to put their “faces on” before leaving the house. Looking put-together mattered more during hard economic times.

Attracting the most talented sales professionals is more important than ever. Sales teams should offer a great first impression of your community. A well-trained sales team should make it look natural – this takes commitment and practice. Sales can be demanding and stressful, it takes practice, coaching, and having the necessary tools and support to grow conversions, census, and revenue.

When the going gets tough, well, you know the rest. We need to get tough to face more challenges, more competition, rising costs, and customer fear. Each day offers an opportunity to advance a sale and it is never too much to expect results. Elevating skills and talent and adding time to sales (team effort) will pay off in additional move-ins and higher occupancy.

Moving into a senior living community is an emotional decision. Often a resident decides to move into the community based on a feeling. The feeling of the community or community culture is made up of many intentionally meaningful details. When the leadership of the executive director and the team of directors in a community plans and executes a strong culture, the community, as they say, sells itself. This is not effortless. To be executed with consistency it requires a fully aligned and executed sales infrastructure behind the scenes.

So, with interest rates are rising and economic times are difficult for many, remember we are in this together. With years of senior living experience, supporting sales teams is our passion. Forecasting and celebrating success is what we like most. We honor the seniors who fashioned themselves using the Hemline Theory and continue to enrich our lives with every exchange.

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 Ways to Improve Collaboration Efforts in Your Company

By guest contributor Emma Grace Brown

Senior living owners and operators today should be well-versed in the concept of collaboration. Some researchers say that working with people of varying backgrounds and different areas of expertise will generate stronger ideas. When put into action, your employees should feel the effects of collaboration and be comfortable with speaking to you about their ideas for the company. If you want to create a more efficient work environment, consider these six ways to improve collaboration efforts, courtesy of Grow Your Occupancy.

1. Nurture Effective Communication

Communication is the foundation of teamwork, both within and across department divisions. Consider training programs to help your team understand the benefits of using positive body language and maintaining eye contact when they speak. These techniques show that the speaker is self-assured and interested in the conversation. Additionally, keeping your arms to your side makes you appear more confident and relaxed, whereas crossing your arms can appear aggressive or distant.

2. Improved Software Tools

Collaborative software tools can boost communication through email, digital voicemail, chat forums, and instant messaging. Remote work relies heavily on software tools that allow video conferencing and document-sharing. If you give employees the ability to call conference meetings or collaborate quickly online with minimal effort, you’ll find they communicate with each other more often.

You should also take advantage of tools that will greatly streamline your interaction with customers. For instance, an online invoice generator simplifies record-keeping while also facilitating faster and more efficient payments from customers. And best of all, it’s free!

3. Encourage Feedback

If you create a work environment that promotes consistent feedback, you’ll notice that operations will improve all around. You also show your team that you have faith in their ideas and respect their opinions. For those team members that are shyer about speaking up, offer a platform for them to share their thoughts anonymously or in private.

Another way to effect positive leadership with your team is to make time to connect one-on-one with each of your team members. In the busy senior living community environment, this may seem impossible at first blush. But the benefits to trust and empowerment within your team are worth it. A team that feels comfortable offering feedback is one that can collaborate effectively.

4. Reward Efforts

Openly reward your team when their collaborative work pays off. If you see a project come to fruition, give them positive feedback in front of the office. Have weekly or monthly company meetings where you discuss successes and recognize the employees that made them happen. Offer incentives for important goals and follow through with your promises in a timely manner.

5. Build a Creative Environment

There are many ways that you can build a creative work environment. Get to know your employees and try to incorporate their interests into the office culture. For example, if your senior living community or headquarters office allows pets – and it doesn’t interfere with staff duties – allow office pet days.

If you allow pets, find fun ways to incorporate them into the workday, such as having a walking meeting outside. Search online for a Walk Score map first. This is a great way to locate and evaluate at a glance the areas near your office that are best suited for walking. You, your team, and their pets will all feel energized and engaged with the occasionally walking meeting.

Avoid micromanaging employees. Allow them to take risks, and you’ll create an environment that fosters innovation. Also, promote opportunities for continuous learning, and when you have employees that are actively learning new ways to benefit the company, ask them to share them with the other employees. This creates an environment where everyone feels comfortable learning from one another and asking each other for help when they need it.

6. Strategize Cross-Team Collaboration

Cross-team collaboration is the creation of an interdepartmental team to work on a single project. You can boost collaboration among departments by:

  • Choosing team members that understand each other
  • Assigning a leader to delegate
  • Aligning project goals and communicating them to the team
  • Encouraging members to understand each department’s goals
  • Setting a timeline for the project

Another way to foster collaboration is to create a process map using a template. A process map will allow you to define project goals, brainstorm ideas and solutions, and determine the steps involved. This can keep your team organized and improve efficiency.

Obviously, collaboration hinges on good communication. When you encourage people to work together and help them better understand one another, you create a work environment that nurtures productivity. Your goal as a leader should always be to make sure your team members are happy at work.

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.

The 5 Hottest Marketing Ideas for Nursing Homes

By guest contributor Dr. Cameron Zargar, Content Director, Experience Care

Digital marketing has not only changed the business world but also the long-term care industry, though the latter has been a bit slower to adjust. “Senior living long-term care tends to lag a bit in its adoption of certain things like technology and marketing automation,” said Julie Podewitz, the founder of Grow Your Occupancy, during her recent appearance on the LTC Heroes podcast. She then shared with Experience Care’s Peter Murphy Lewis her hottest marketing ideas for nursing homes. Watch the discussion below:

 

Here we will summarize Podewitz’s five best tips for marketing in long-term care. These are divided into two sections, one on the basis of nursing home marketing and sales, the other specifically about branding and messaging, or nursing home advertising in the digital age. 

 

The Essential Nursing Home Marketing Ideas

According to Podewitz, many of the best nursing home marketing ideas simply aren’t being utilized enough because they are still new to some marketers. “Back in the day, it was phone calls, walk-ins, and referrals,” she said. “But now 80% of our customers find us through digital channels – either organic search or paid search,” she noted on the podcast.  So how does one keep up? 

Tip #1: Value Every Lead 

Digital marketing moves quickly. And the number of prospective nursing homes your target audience is looking at is higher than it ever was before. That is why one of the best marketing ideas for nursing homes is to act fast. “The biggest difference is that we now need to respond quickly when leads are coming to us and be diligent in our attempts to connect,” Podewitz said. “So, the way that we approach sales is a slight tweak of that initial inquiry.” 

Even with the rise in online campaigns, though, Podewitz emphasizes first and foremost telephone conversations. “First of all, pick up the phone,” she said. “Pick up the phone, because we still have the challenge of lost leads or mismanaged new leads in our industry.” 

Tip #2: Connect With Your Local Community

It’s easy to get caught up in the metrics of Google ads or email click and open rates, but marketers in long-term care would be wise to keep in mind their immediate surroundings, Podewitz said. “Local networking, local outreach to influencers, and potential referral sources in the local area still have a huge impact,” she said. 

The logic behind this strategy is that potential residents and their families want to know that you actually care, and the best way to convey that is to really engage them. “We’ve got to have meaningful conversations,” Podewitz said. “We just have to. We want them to feel seen and heard and then take the next steps with a great follow-up, differentiating ourselves and, finally, closing to the final decision.”

Regardless of one’s preferred approach to interacting with the community, the bottom line is, marketers have to be more active. When Lewis asked Podewitz what she thinks marketers aren’t doing correctly in their community engagement, she replied: “They’re just not doing enough. They’re not doing enough local “boots on the ground” marketing, networking, messaging, and engaging with the local community.” Another way of establishing a presence is to form partnerships with local businesses, pharmacies, and institutions of learning.  

Tip #3 Emphasize Closing Sales

Marketing can only be sustainable if you have a plan for converting those leads into sales. According to Podewitz, that makes finding a “sales driver” an absolute necessity. “You need someone who is competitive, who wants to go for the win, who doesn’t give up, and who’s motivated in that arena,” she said. 

What are the signs of a good sales driver in long-term care? “Look for curiosity,” she advised. “During the interview, ask yourself, ‘How curious are they? What kind of questions do they ask? How much research have they done?’” But while they should be competitive and competent, they must also be caring. “They still need to love working with older adults, and they need to understand metrics,” she said. It is that knowledge and interest in the industry that will better guide their success. 

 

The Secrets to Effective Senior Living Advertising 

Tip #4 Create Educational Content

Improving census numbers is not always about promoting your organization. Rather, savvy marketers responsible for nursing home advertising will know that one of the best marketing ideas for nursing homes is to create awareness about the industry and demonstrate their dedication to it. “Content marketing is critical in our business because senior care isn’t something that people know much about,” Podewitz said. “It’s not usually in our vernacular until there’s a crisis or we have a problem.” By exploring the concerns of the target market for nursing homes, your organization can stand out from the rest and demonstrate its dedication to a higher culture of care.

Tip #5 Capture Emotion

Podewitz reminds long-term care leaders that they should remember their roles as caregivers when speaking with prospects. “We’re not selling a commodity but rather serving in an advisory capacity,” she said. While obvious, keeping that in mind will better shape the messaging of your brand. In part, that means avoiding stereotypes about long-term care, eliminating fear, and highlighting activities important to seniors. 

Meanwhile, for families, the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is a big one. So those looking for the best nursing home marketing ideas must “understand the impact of empathy” and learn to connect with prospects. “Because it’s such an emotional decision and so emotionally difficult, this isn’t based solely on logic,” she said, “so your message has got to get to the core emotional components of what drives people.”

Perhaps the most valuable of the marketing strategies for elder care that Podewitz offers is: listen. “Really try to lean in and understand what they tell you and the emotional components of their words,” she said. “Don’t jump to solve (their problem) right away. Rather, identify what the heart of the matter is for them, and only after obtaining that should you present the solutions you offer.” Honest communication with potential residents and their families plays an important role in alleviating their fears and helping them make a decision.

 

A Summary of the Best Marketing Ideas for Nursing Homes

The marketing ideas for nursing homes that Podewitz provided on the podcast can be boiled down to two things: capture your culture and be efficient. It is by demonstrating your dedication to care—at your organization and in general as well—that you will set yourself apart. Still, you must get the word out and take advantage of any interest received from prospects, as the other available options are usually well-known to your target demographic. 

 

The 5 “P”s of Networking and Prospect Events

As COVID-19 restrictions have eased, in-person networking and prospect events have been added back onto the schedule at senior living communities. And for good reason: well-planned events attract new customers to your community. (If you haven’t added them back to your schedule, now is the time to start.)

While virtual events have produced mixed to positive results for the senior living communities, there is no denying that in-person events that welcome people into the communities produce greater results and strengthen reputation and community “buzz”.

As we roll into September, the time is perfect to begin planning networking and prospect events for the busy end-of-year holiday season.

Don’t know where to start? Need some inspiration? Here are the five “P”s of networking and prospect events to know to pull together in time for strong year of year results.

 

#1.  Plan

Events do not need to be huge parties to be considered successful. Smaller events – like holding a lunch and learn for 3 to 5 prospects or hosting the local garden club’s luncheon – can be considered a success if it results in one hot prospect that eventually moves in. A small event that produces a move-in is a successful event outcome! 

Ideally, an event is scheduled 90 days in advance so there’s time to prepare and promote, but there is still time to promote and hold successful events for fall.

Establish your objective. More on this in part #2 but knowing what you want to get out of an event – whether it’s connections with referrers or moving prospects along in their journey – is a key part of planning.

You’ll want to establish your budget and make sticking to it a priority. As we enter the last quarter, you may need to be careful in the use of the budget.

Consider pooling budgets with other departments, such as the sales and marketing budget being pooled with the activities department budget. This can provide some extra funding to make the event even more spectacular.

Another consideration is to join forces with another company or organization. Co-marketing a prospect event with a complementary business or seeking sponsorships for a networking event benefit everyone involved.

Know the holidays and plan around them. Holding your event adjacent to but not on one of the major religious celebrations will increase the attendance. Here are the 2022 dates of the year-end religious holidays:

  • Halloween: October 31
  • Thanksgiving: November 24
  • Hanukkah: December 18 – 26
  • Christmas Eve and Christmas: December 24 – 25
  • Kwanzaa December 26, 2022 – January 1, 2023

 

#2.  Pick Your Audience: Prospects or Referrers (or Both)

Is your event intended for prospects, current residents and their loved ones, referral sources, or some combination of all of these? (Note: Your events calendar should include some events for just prospects and others for just referrers.) Is it an open house or is it by invitation-only? Are you serving appetizers or is it a sit-down holiday dinner? Is it non-denominational or religious holiday-themed? The budget plays a part in some of these questions, so be mindful of the cost of each option as you plan.

 

#3.  Pull Together a Team

Who at the community is the captain of the event? The executive director, the sales director, and the activities director should all be involved, but assigning ownership to one person will improve the organizational structure, focus, and direction. Other department heads in the community that may have a role to play in the event include culinary, dining, and maintenance.

Assign responsibilities for:

Decorating: Add a warm and personal touch to the event by supplementing the community’s holiday decorations with handmade decorations, gifts, and signs made by the residents. Not only are they great activities for the residents to work on but they help the budget.

Food and beverages: It’s key to involve the culinary team early on so they can deliver on food and beverage planning, preparation, and serving.

Entertainment: Live holiday music contributes to the warm and welcoming feel of the event. Some options include enlisting the community’s favorite piano or guitar player who regularly entertains the residents; or inviting a local student choir or instrument ensemble. Entertainment talent books up early so schedule them now!

Set-up and clean-up: Who will be responsible for setting up before and cleaning up after the event? Keep this in mind as you plan the event so that ample staff is scheduled to be on hand.

 

#4.  Promote

What’s your game plan for letting your invitees or the public know about your event? What tools are at your disposal? Here are some possibilities:

  • Schedule posts on your community’s Facebook page
  • Include a story in your monthly e-newsletter
  • Send out event-specific email blasts with an RSVP included
  • Hand out event announcement flyers
  • Deliver personal invitations to prospects or referrers
  • Make an invitation to the event the purpose of a prospect or referrer call
  • Send Sales Mail or One Day video e-blast invitations

Keep in mind that people need to feel invited. A mass posting won’t drive traffic nearly as much as an invitation that feels personal. Plan to personally call every event attendee within 72 hours before the event. Remember to track all event activity in your CRM!

 

#5.  Perform the Post-Event Protocol

After your event, plan to track all the leads through to move in. This is critical to determining your event’s Return on Investment (ROI). ROI is the relationship between how much your event cost (the investment), and how many move-ins resulted from it.

Get the most marketing value out of any pictures and videos you and your staff took at the event by posting them to social media. Write personal thank you notes to attendees and send them out within a few days of the event.

 

Hopefully these 5 “P”s of networking and prospect events encourages you to begin planning your events for the busy end-of-year holiday season! We love to hear about successful events, so drop us a line and let us know what works for you!

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 Steps for Successful Marketing Event Planning

Marketing events are a goldmine for attracting both highly motivated prospects and referral sources to your senior living community. If you don’t have an active calendar of marketing events in your sales toolkit, you’re missing out!

Planning and executing effective marketing events doesn’t require a small army of event planners and staff. These 6 steps will help you successfully plan your next marketing event.

  1. Think Small. An effective marketing event doesn’t need to a) be elaborate, and b) draw a massive crowd. Coming out of the pandemic, many people are still shy when it comes to large crowds, so small group events will still draw attendees. Events like lunch n’ learns, educational speakers, art classes, cooking demos, outdoor gatherings, etc. are in this small event category. Promote the fact that it’s a small event by promoting the intimacy, i.e. don’t be afraid to say that space is extremely limited.
  2. Plan Ahead. Last-minute events typically aren’t successful. Why? First, just about every event has a lot of moving pieces, many of which have lead time involved. Second, prospects and professional referral sources need some advance notice get it on their calendar. Don’t go overboard though, 2-3 weeks is sweet spot between the time they are invited to the date of the event.
  3. Hold Events Outside. Whenever possible, take advantage of fresh air and the beauty of the warmer months to bring people together outdoors. Have a back-up plan in place for rain/weather contingencies though. For example, be ready to pivot to a drive through grab-and-go event in which the hors d’oeuvres you were going to serve are now bagged take-out style!
  4. Bring the Event to Those Who Can’t Attend. Do you have a few folks who expressed interest but cannot attend due to a conflict or other reason? Offer to record the presentation, deliver the meal, enter them for a chance to win a door prize, etc. Did someone RSVP but not show up? Give them the same service!
  5. Extend Invitations Personally. Don’t rely on postcards, social media posts, or mass emails only. People respond much better to a personal invitation. Invite prospects and referral sources in person or by phone calls (leaving a voice mail counts) first, then follow up with video message, email, or text.
  6. Text a Reminder. We all have forgotten about an event that we said we would attend. Want to boost attendance to your event? Text a reminder to your RSVPs the day before the event.

Finally, as I’m writing this article in August, the time to be planning your fall and holiday events is NOW! Don’t let the prime opportunity to hold an open house, giftwrapping party, after-5 mixer, canned goods or toy drive event, or other seasonal networking event go by – use our 6 steps above and start planning your upcoming events today.

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.

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.

The Handwritten Note – And 6 Reasons Why You Should Make Them a Sales Habit

Senior living is a high-touch, emotional business. In our ever-growing digital world, technology is taking on a greater role in sales almost before our eyes, but there is still tremendous value in a truly personal touch.

During a recent sales workshop a top sales director was asked to share her tips and tricks. Her response, “I don’t have any. Just do the work. Be consistent. Stay focused on selling, make your calls, plan your tours, practice your skills, make strong outreach connections. Most importantly, personalize the experience.”

Since buying decisions are heavily influenced by our emotions, creating a personalized, meaningful experience is critical in senior living sales success. A simple example of personalization is the hand-written note.

I’ve been thinking about the hand-written note a lot lately. I talk a lot about doing them in the course of the prospect’s journey. I’m curious how many still do, especially in this digital age.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears

Recently, a sales associate shared a move -in success story. He is focused on creating hand-written notes, especially for warm or even cooler database prospects. He committed to (and is following through on) sending five handwritten notes weekly.

Imagine his surprise when the phone started ringing.

Within one month of sending his first batch of notes (approximately 20) he has given four tours and has received two additional phone calls thanking him for his kindness.

He also took a deposit and signed a lease with a prospect he’s been working with – on and off – for over a year. She’s been hot, warm, cooler, warmer, cooler, hot and back to cool. She called him after receiving his note and told him she is now ready to move forward. When asked what is was that prompted her today she said, “Your cards and notes have meant the world to me. You didn’t give up, even after I cancelled two tours. No one else has been so kind. You even remembered my birthday.”

We all love the sales that happen quickly, the prospects who speed through the sales funnel. The truth is though, most don’t. The salespeople who continue prospect conversations with personalization are rewarded with unexpected “bluebirds” that fall from the sky; the sales that seem to come out of nowhere.

Today’s sales wins (lagging measures) are a result of past efforts (leading measures). That hand-written card mailed six months ago is still remembered today.

 

6 reasons you should be sending out handwritten notes

  1. Your competitors aren’t doing it. It sets you apart from the other senior living communities your prospect is considering. It keeps you at the top of their mind.
  2. It’s a tangible reminder of their connection with you. The envelope with your name in the return address and the card with a recap of your last conversation will help them to remember their connection with you a lot longer than the email that was deleted as soon as it was read.
  3. It’s respectful. It’s a statement that older adults can relate to and appreciate – because it was once a common courtesy that has mostly disappeared from today’s society.
  4. It’s a guaranteed open. In our digital world of tracking opens on emails, we’re lucky if we get more than a 20% open rate. A personal, hand-written note in their mailbox will almost certainly be opened.
  5. It’s an opportunity for a next step. The note can include an invitation to visit the community for lunch, for example. That will then give you an opportunity to follow up with a call: “I’m calling about the invitation to lunch I sent you…”
  6. It is an efficient use of your time. Writing a handwritten note takes less time than several unsuccessful call-out attempts.

 

Are you writing and sending out handwritten notes as part of your regular sales routine? Have you made it part of your company’s sales procedure? I’d like to hear from you about your successes with handwritten notes! I’d love to hear from you! Email me at [email protected] – or better yet, drop me a handwritten note to me at:

Grow Your Occupancy

Attn: Julie Podewitz

5500 Maryland Way, Suite 320

Brentwood, TN 37027

 

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.

3 Reasons to Empower Executive Directors to Be Senior Living Community Sales Leaders

Senior living providers who expect and empower their community executive directors to be sales leaders know this is essential for optimum performance. The sales leadership structure of most senior living organizations looks like this:

CEO → VP of Sales → Regional Directors of Sales → Community Sales Director

The result is often a community sales director who feels isolated and not supported, and it shows in their sales performance.

Executive directors are responsible for net operating income. Top-line revenue is the first part of this equation. High occupancy cures many problems. When executive directors are part of an organization’s sales team – filling a role as a community sales leader between the regional director of sales and the community sales director – the leadership and support they provide is essential to the success of the community.

Here are 3 specific reasons why executive directors should be empowered to be senior living community sales leaders.

  1. They’re Responsible for Maintaining the Mission–Margin Balance

The executive director of a senior living community is the manager and leader of their business. They are responsible for the mission of the business, which is to provide high-quality care, amenities, and services to the community’s residents. They are also responsible for the margin of the business, which is the relationship between revenue and expenses.

The success of the senior living community depends on maintaining a balance between mission and margin. A senior living community that doesn’t fulfill its mission will fail. A senior living community that doesn’t keep the margin in profitability territory will fail. Executive directors that turn their back on their community’s occupancy success are not supporting the mission-margin balance. Leading sales is every bit as important as leading the resident experience.

An executive director’s role as community sales leader includes:

    • Supporting a sales process that is clear, coherent, and simple. Ensuring that everyone in the organization follows the process.
    • Expectations and benchmarks are clearly communicated.
    • Promoting the alignment of the department managers’ goals with the sales process and goals.
    • Participating and prioritizing outreach into the greater community.
  1. They’re the Champion of the Culture

Executive directors are the culture champions of the community. Every community has its own unique energy that can be felt as soon as you walk in the front entrance. The staff feels it, the residents feel it, and their loved ones feel it. Customers decide to move based on emotion over every other factor. The community needs to “feel” good. This starts with a strong culture.

Culture is no single thing, it’s a lot of little things. It’s how the team members engage with the residents and each other. It’s the way staff members greet visitors and residents alike. It’s sensory inputs too, like the music, temperature, and smells (Think about how you feel when you smell fresh-baked cookies or fresh popcorn at the movies.).

The executive director knows the community, team members, and residents. They have the power to create and influence the culture. If the executive director makes sales a positive and strong focus in the community’s culture, the team is going to focus on it too. In senior living communities where sales is a part of the culture, it’s not uncommon to see residents take an interest in “selling” the community by volunteering to be resident ambassadors or open their apartments to prospective residents touring the community.

  1. They Hold the Team Accountable – AND Celebrate Its Successes

An executive director who clearly communicates expectations to the team also has the responsibility of holding them accountable. Benchmarks and measurements are key components of every sales system. When sales is a part of the culture and every department’s goals are aligned with sales, accountability depends on the ability to measure team performance against the benchmarks.

Performance shortcomings need to be addressed. Part of holding others accountable is to find ways to remedy the shortcomings. The other part is to take corrective action if necessary, up to and including removing and replacing an individual.

The positive side of benchmarks and measuring performance is that successes can be identified, and success deserves to be celebrated. Oh, and celebrating the successes of not only individuals but as a whole team pays big dividends to the culture of the organization.

What successes should be celebrated in a senior living community? All of them. Net occupancy growth. Keeping expenses down. Positive reviews by residents and families. A deficiency-free inspection. Staff certifications. Years on the job. You name it. It all benefits the culture.

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.

How to Solve Your Staffing Pain With a Sales Solution

Staffing and sales are worlds apart in business – they couldn’t be any farther apart, right?

If you’re thinking that the pain points you’re feeling when trying to fill positions in your senior living company can’t be solved with sales solutions, we’re here to tell you it’s just not the case!

Pain Points

At first glance, the pain points of filling positions and increasing occupancy might not seem to have much in common, but when you think about it, they’re not that dissimilar:

The Sales Pain Point: Increasing Occupancy

The sales department within your senior living has the heavy burden of driving revenue and NOI, and the way to do that is by increasing occupancy so that it exceeds census losses.

The Staffing Pain Point: Filling Positions

Similarly, your senior living company’s HR department has the heavy burden of filling positions in a highly staff-dependent business. In a care-based business, filling caregiver, operational, hospitality, business, and sales positions is vital to the survival of the business.

The Solution

This is a case of not needing to reinvent the wheel. The solution to applying a tried-and-true sales strategy to your staffing challenges only requires understanding a process that works well in one part of the business, some creativity to tweak it so it works in another, and willingness to do what it takes to make it work. The key components of this solution are: systems & processes, and metrics.

Systems & Processes

Systems and processes serve some very important functions in business: they maintain a high level of organization, consistency, accountability, and production. If you already work in an HR capacity, you almost certainly have systems and processes in place to keep you organized and in compliance when onboarding new staff. But what you most likely lack is strong systems and processes for attracting and engaging with top talent prior to an offer of employment. Here’s where applying sales systems and processes really shine.

Technology really is your best friend here. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software really revolutionized sales in the 1980s when it began to displace the Rolodex, account card files, and spreadsheets as a way to keep track of the customer relationship. CRMs have evolved since then into a highly effective, intuitive, and automated system for moving sales prospects through a journey we like to call the sales funnel (think of a funnel where lots of sales prospects go in the top, and out of the bottom comes sales). Without going off on a tangent of all the incredible things modern CRMs do (like automatically sending out emails and texts, prompting the sales person with activity to-dos, and so much more), it’s safe to say that using sales technology to manage job applicants is a no-brainer.

Metrics

Metrics are relatively simple data analytics that are very valuable and easy to understand. In the case of senior living sales, a key metric is inquiries-to-tours, which is the percentage of people inquiring about a senior living community who then – as a result of contact with the sales person – come in for a tour. So, if you get 10 inquiries, and 5 come in for a tour, the inquiry-to-tour metric is 50%. In the case of staffing, some valuable metrics to track are:

  • Job posting views-to-applications received – How many applications do you receive in relation to the number of views an online job posting received.
  • Speed-to-lead – How quickly do you respond to the receipt of an application? This one is so important – we can’t stress it enough that treating applicants like highly sought-after prospective clients makes a big difference in attracting top talent. More about speed-to-lead below.
  • Applications received-to-interviews offered – How many interviews did you offer compared to the total applications received?
  • Interviews offered-to-interviews conducted – How many applicants actually followed through on your interview offer?
  • Interviews-to-job offers – How many job offers did you extend compared to interviews conducted?
  • Offers-to-acceptance – How many offers of employment were accepted?
  • Acceptance-to-hires – How many accepted offers of employment were actually hired?

The Whys of Metrics

Why track metrics for staffing in the same way we do for sales? Because it’s really challenging to know where the weaknesses and gaps are in your systems and processes. Without data, you’re just making educated guesses and basing often costly decisions on them. For example, if your offers-to-acceptance metric is low, you may want to look at the competitiveness of your compensation package. It’s worth noting that metrics and benchmarking go hand-in-hand. The more you know about your metrics month by month and year by year, the better you can set goals – benchmarks – to enforce accountability of your systems and processes.

Speed-to-Lead
As we stated above, the quicker you can respond to an applicant, the better the impression your company is going to make on them, and the more likely they are going to consider your company as a place they want to work. What does effective speed-to-lead look like?

  • Within 10 minutes: An automated response – email, text, or phone call – thanking them for their interest in your company.
  • Within 4 hours: A personal call with a short, quick, and meaningful dialogue to learn more about them and let them know you care about them.

Recruiting top talent is often a pain point for senior living providers, but it doesn’t need to be! A systems and procedures approach based on a proven prospect management system like the one your sales department uses might be just what you need to turn around the challenges your HR department faces. Need creative recruiting thinking for your senior living company’s HR department? Grow Your Occupancy is here to help! Book your free 30-minute consultation to find out how!

The 3 Pain Points Felt by C-Level Executives in the Senior Living Industry Today

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, if you asked any C-Level executive in the senior living industry, “What has been your biggest pain point during the last 15 years?” the answer almost certainly was: low occupancy. They needed more sales, more move-ins, more revenue, and increased NOI. While this is still a major concern, two others have risen to the top, thanks to the unforeseen consequences of the pandemic.

The top 3 pain points senior living C-level executives are feeling today:

#1: Recruiting top sales talent

Despite the fact that sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter and others have made it easier than ever to a) post a listing for an open sales position to a wide audience, b) target your ideal candidates, and c) efficiently accept resumes, the fact remains that weeding through a stack of unqualified or inexperienced applicants for a senior living sales position sometimes feels like a monumental task. Couple that with high competition for well-qualified sales professionals – both within senior living and across other industries – and upward pressures on compensation, and you can begin to see the scope of this pain point.

Solution: In the current environment of staffing shortages and a wider variety of open positions to apply for, applicants are evaluating your company just as much as you are evaluating them. Want to stand out as a great place to work? Take a page from your sales funnel and treat applicants like you do sales inquiries: acknowledge their application with a timely follow-up call or email. with them. Offer enticing opportunities for professional growth including training and coaching toward mastery. Paint a positive picture of your company culture by sharing testimonials of happy staff.

#2: Retaining sales staff

A great sales team is like a championship sports team – they need continuous training and coaching to stay in top winning form. They need the support and encouragement of leaders that understand the challenges they face and acknowledge the hard work it takes to move the occupancy needle. They also need a positive workplace culture in the community to keep up not only their own morale but that of everyone on staff.

Solution: A strong and positive culture in the workplace makes for happy staff that want to stick around. It doesn’t happen by itself though; it has to be established and nurtured by the leadership on a daily basis. Giving out kudos, bringing in lunch for the staff on a regular basis, and maintaining an atmosphere of positivity are all good examples of a strong culture. Also, look for ways to support the professional and personal needs of your staff, like ongoing opportunities for training, coaching, and mentoring.

#3: Low occupancy levels

While filling senior living communities to 100% has never been easy, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the difficulties faced by sales teams. Negative stories in the press slowed the flow of qualified leads. Hinderances like locked down buildings that prevented in-person tours made moving prospects along in the sales cycle more difficult than ever. Vacancies or scheduling gaps in sales director positions at communities let inquiries fall through the cracks.

Solution: Hiring good sales talent is just part of the solution. It’s also necessary to retain great people by providing opportunities for professional growth, and train and coach them to mastery and success. The last part of the solution is to make sure the community’s back-up team is always rounded out, providing continuous coverage by key staff members trained in the basics of the sales system so no lead gets lost.

These pain points for senior living industry C-level leaders don’t need to continue being a source of grief. Others have been where you are and have solved the challenges and moved beyond them. Consider enlisting the help of an executive coach with senior living industry experience for a fresh perspective on your challenging pain points – and some solutions you can implement.

Ready to find out how Grow Your Occupancy can help you? Book your complimentary 30-minute strategy session here.

4 Tips for Leading Sales Teams to Success

Sales leadership in senior living is much more than giving out “rah-rahs” to sales directors for their successes and calling them out with “gotchas” for their mistakes. Sales leadership is about ensuring the company’s sales culture and processes are in place to have a meaningful impact on the overall success of the organization. It’s also about inspiring sales teams to achieve greater success by delivering specific messaging, consistency, expectations, and communication.

Here are four (and a half) tips can help sales leaders be more effective in leading sales teams to success.

 

Tip 1: Review the CRM Reports Before You Go

We hear it all the time: a regional director of sales and marketing arrives at a senior living community to work with the sales director for the day, but they have no plan in place for what they hope to accomplish during their time there. The result is time and money wasted by having to uncover the challenges the community faces once they get onsite. Not just the regional’s time, but also the sales director’s time.

The irony is that the CRM has the all the data and reporting the regional director needs to identify challenges and opportunities in the community ahead of time. Use this data to build strategy and identify areas of focus.

Don’t wait until you get onsite.  Do your research in the CRM prior so your strategy is in place. To address the challenges, and build a plan of action.

Send the agenda a few days in advance. Are call out attempts low? Plan to spend the day making calls. Are professional outreach appointments not producing results? Plan on visiting referral sources and work on those skills. Are prospects not moving from tours to deposits? Plan on a morning of calling hot prospects and asking them for deposits.

 

Tip 2: Set Specific Benchmarks and Expectations

Not knowing what to expect is the number one cause of job dissatisfaction.

All too often, a regional director rolls into the community to work with the sales director, presents them with a set of targets and goals, and then exits at the end of the day without having given guidance on how to meet the objectives. This type of sales leadership can not only cause action paralysis, it can also conflict with standard processes and past training.

Don’t leave your sales director hanging without direction. Offer clear steps to success and skill building support and keep it all aligned with the framework of your sales process. Set a cadence for following up after your visit to ensure the time, effort, and energy spent translates to the results you expect.

 

Tip 3: Set Goals That Are Measurable and Incremental, and Collaborate to Gain Buy-In

The “I have all the answers, I’m an expert” leadership style isn’t effective in managing sales teams. Sales directors in senior living communities need a regional director who can clear the path to success, create energy and opportunity, and course correct as needed. These skills and traits build confidence in the sales teams that if they follow the plan, good results will happen.

Everyone wants to have a voice. Take input from the team and promote their ownership of the strategies you put in place. Include the other relevant staff and departments beyond the sales team as well to support and strengthen buy in.

 

Tip 4: Set – and Stick to – a Regular Coaching Session Schedule

Sales coaching is like dieting or any other habit intended to create a positive change: it’s easy to set out the steps and processes but not so easy to stick to them! As with many things in business, having an established routine and sticking to it creates efficiencies, and sales coaching is no different. Here are 4 parts that all of your coaching sessions should have that are worth sticking to:

  1. Set an agenda – in writing – and follow it.
  2. Send the agenda a day or more prior to the coaching session.
  3. Assign homework with the expectation that it will be done.
  4. Ask these ‘Five Sales Coaching Questions’ every time, with the expectation that each will be answered:
    • What challenges and roadblocks do you need help with?
    • What have you been focused on improving?
    • What is holding you back?
    • What have you been doing that has been working well?
    • How can I help support you?

 

BONUS TIP 4.5: Be Consistent

Sales leadership and coaching need to be ongoing, repetitive, and reinforced to be effective. Leading and coaching only when there is a crisis is not an effective leadership style. In fact, crisis leadership and coaching may actually be contributing factors to the crisis itself!

 

At Grow Your Occupancy, we’re experts in senior living sales management and we’re here to help you manage and coach your sales teams. Ready to find out how Grow Your Occupancy can help you? Book your complimentary 30-minute strategy session here.

The 4 Sales Management Missteps Senior Living Operators Make

Learning from our own missteps is a sign of maturity. Learning from the missteps of others and applying those lessons when working with those you manage is a key trait of a successful manager. In the senior living industry, there are some sales management missteps that are all too common. Here are the top 4, and the fix for each of them.

 

#1 Not managing expectations.

It usually goes something like this: One of your senior living sales directors, who up to now has produced results, begins to slip in their performance. Upon close inspection, you find that they’re not hitting their sales activity benchmarks, or utilizing the CRM, or following the sales system. When you ask them about it, they respond with, “Well you never told me to do that!” And you know what? They’re right, and you didn’t.

The fix: Formalize your company’s specific expectations and benchmarks in writing. Review it with them upon their hiring and have them sign off on it. Review the expectations and benchmarks regularly as part of your scheduled performance reviews.

#2 Lack of consistency in coaching.

Coaching yourself to sales success is just plain difficult. Why? Coaching requires objectivity, honesty, and accountability, three things most of us have trouble turning inward on ourselves. Professionals who are expected to perform at a certain level benefit greatly from having a coach. If the coaching is not consistent or too infrequent, though, the results are a loss of motivation, a decline in skills, and missing performance goals.

The fix: Schedule frequent coaching sessions with your sales directors to work on sharpening sales skills. Aim for a 30 minute session twice a month. Block it out on the calendar, send out invitations, and set an agenda so it doesn’t get “into the weeds” with other details that are not related to coaching.

#3 Infrequent feedback – or none at all.

This one is along the same lines as managing expectations. Maybe you’re reviewing your senior living sales director’s inquiry call recordings, and you find that they aren’t asking open-ended questions during inquiry calls, or getting contact details, or regularly suggesting a tour. Maybe they’re hitting their benchmarks so you don’t give them feedback about it, but it’s kind of bugging you because they’re not following the sales system! And all the while they’re probably thinking, “I must be doing alright, because no one is telling me any different.”

The fix: Allowing too much time to go by without feedback – or not giving it at all – can cause frustration and resentment in the long run. Address your concerns in a timely manner and in a constructive fashion so they are teaching opportunities instead of confrontations.

#4 Tolerating poor performance for too long.

A senior living sales director is just not meeting their sales benchmarks month after month, despite all your efforts to work with them to improve. But we like them because they’re nice or they’re funny or they’re so good with the residents and the staff loves them, so we overlook the fact that they’re not moving in new residents.

The fix: The fix for this one is not easy an easy one for the simple reason that it can be emotional. It’s hard sometimes to take emotion out of accountability, but cutting loose a poor performer is sometimes what is required.

 

Many figures in history from Eleanor Roosevelt to Groucho Marx have said, “Learn from the mistakes of others, because you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself,” and the same is true in business – there are lessons to be learned from the missteps of others when it comes to managing others to success. At Grow Your Occupancy, we’re experts in senior living sales management and we’re here to help you manage and coach your sales teams. Ready to find out how Grow Your Occupancy can help you? Book your complimentary 30-minute strategy session here.

You’ve Got the Leads, Now What?

“We need more leads!”

How often have we heard this from our senior living sales directors? How often have we said this ourselves? Saying it is almost a reflex when the question of “why is occupancy down?” comes up. After all, new leads are the top of the sales pipeline for all sales, so more leads in = more move-ins, right?

So we crank up our lead generation machine. We optimize our website and refine our marketing automation and implement our paid social ads strategy. We get lots of potential residents finding us in Google searches, and filling out forms on our websites, and clicking our ads  – and as a result, we get more leads into the top of the pipeline. But what happens in many cases? The occupancy needle doesn’t move.

Why?

Keeping the funnel topped off with new leads is important, but a lack of leads is not necessarily the problem in most occupancy bottleneck situations. The problem is a lack of selling.

Most of us who work in sales have heard the rule of 7 of sales and marketing a million times. It’s the average number of times we need to interact with a customer before they decide to buy, or in the case of senior living sales, decide to move in. But if we’re not following our systems and actually interacting with our potential residents (i.e. responding to their initial inquiry, following up, inviting them for a tour, following up, asking for the deposit, following up – you get the idea), we’re not keeping them interested and engaged, and not moving them forward in the pipeline toward moving in.

What do you have to gain by using our sales systems?

I’ve heard it said anecdotally in recent years that the sales pipeline in our industry converts leads to move-ins at a rate of approximately 10-12% across all senior living categories. I estimate that just 1 in 5 sales directors working at a senior living community where a sales process and a sales culture are in place are actually adhering to their process. So just imagine the results if it was more like 2 in 5 (or 3 in 5, or 4 in 5) who are diligently selling. Hypothetically, if we converted at 20% – just 8-10 basis points more than where we are now – the industry would quite literally run out of beds!

4 keys to increasing occupancy

The secret to growing occupancy in senior living communities comes down to doing 4 things:

Hire great sales directors. Hire for attributes like coachability, positive attitude, and a willingness to adhere to a tried-and-true sales system.

Foster a great sales culture. The best sales director, if forced to work in a vacuum or an unsupportive environment, will not be nearly as successful as one who works in an environment where sales is appreciated and supported at all levels.

Focus on selling. It wasn’t all that long ago when sales directors in senior living communities needed to wear a lot of different hats including generating leads and marketing their community. Today, thanks to strong SEO, marketing automation, and social media advertising, leads come to your community, and your online presence does most of the marketing for you. That leaves the sales directors to focus on what they do best – and what is most productive – selling.

Use the sales system. It really doesn’t matter which system is you’re using, as long as you’re using it consistently. Sure, some are better than others, but none will produce results if they’re not used by the sales directors.

Converting senior living leads to move-ins isn’t an unsolvable puzzle as long as the pieces are there. Take a close look at your communities and see if the keys to occupancy growth are there – great sales directors, in a great sales culture, focused on selling, using a sales system. If a piece is missing, give us a call, we’re experts at solving the occupancy puzzle, and we’ll help you grow your occupancy.

Ready to find out how Grow Your Occupancy can help you? Book your complimentary 30-minute strategy session here.

The Sales and Marketing Tool Every Senior Living Operator Must Have

Wouldn’t it be great if your senior living company had a reference source for all things sales and marketing? A single point of truth that everyone in your organization can refer to for guidance on sales and marketing processes, procedures, best practices, expectations, and benchmarks? Do your company – and yourself – the biggest favor by establishing a sales playbook, an indispensable tool every senior living operator should have.

A sales playbook is an invaluable go-to reference guide that provides clear, concise, and definitive guidance and answers for your team. It has the added benefit of saving time because your sales directors can consult the sales playbook when a question arises instead of inquiring with your senior living sales leadership team. Here are just a few of the sections every senior living sales playbook should include:

Sales Director New Hire Procedures and Checklist

This section covers every onboarding activity that needs to take place in the first few weeks after a new sales professional is hired into your senior living company. This includes meeting the team; setting up logins for all the systems they’ll use; reviewing materials, sales tools, and marketing plans; training on your company’s sales systems and CRM; sales skills practice sessions; and more.

Benchmarks & Expectations

This section covers in detail the senior living sales activity benchmarks like numbers of call attempts, tours, deposits, and move-ins, and target conversion ratios. It also covers expectations over the first 30-60-90 day periods and beyond, starting with all the new hire onboarding activities and going all the way through achieving all benchmarks and goals.

The Details of Your Sales System

Whether it’s your own homebrewed sales system or one you’ve adopted from a sales consultant or other source, here’s the place to outline and explain the specifics of the system, from the basics to the finer details. You’ll want to include all your sales tools and processes, from the initial inquiry through conducting tours and closing. Note that this section will comprise the majority of your sales playbook.

Marketing Plans

A marketing plan is a high-level tool for managing prospect and referral source events, outreach, advertising, and promotion. The marketing plan pulls together the budget, schedule, focus, details, and the expected impact on leads and occupancy into a month-by-month summary that’s easy for all parties involved to refer to.

Referral Sources Outreach & External Business Development

Referrals of prospective residents can come from a variety of sources including friends, employees, current residents, paid agencies, and professionals. Developing relationships with professionals who can, should, and will refer to your community is critical to growing occupancy. In this section of your sales playbook, you’ll want to outline your processes, tools, and resources needed to maintain a strong referral source outreach program.

Networking

Networking and outreach are two different activities, even though they both involve your sales directors getting out into the community to build relationships. Outreach – as mentioned above – is developing relationships with the professionals who can reasonably be expected to refer to your community. Networking on the other hand is casting a large net to get to know as many people as you can for the purposes of building awareness of your community and finding new referral sources. This section outlines your networking program’s processes, tools, and resources.

Events

Events are in-person or virtual gatherings sponsored and run by your community for the purpose of attracting qualified leads, referral sources, and influencers to your community. Your sales playbook presents the details, tools, and resources necessary for holding a successful event of any size.

Glossary of Terms

There isn’t a sales organization today that doesn’t rely on a large vocabulary of terms, phrases, and acronyms. You’ll want to list and define all your terms in your sales playbook’s glossary so everyone in your organization is “on the same page” with the lingo.

 

Your sales playbook needs some extra attention to keep it a useful and valuable resource for your organization, so you’ll need to:

  • Work out where it will be kept to make it easily accessible to your team. A permanent location in your company’s online file sharing system is a great solution.
  • Keep it current by setting a timeline for review and revision cycles. At least once a year the guide should be reviewed by the corporate sales leadership. Be sure to note the current version on the cover, such as naming it “(your company’s) 2022 Sales Playbook”.

Need a best-in-class sales playbook for your senior living company’s sales department? Grow Your Occupancy is here to help! Book your free 30-minute consultation to find out how!

The 5½ Senior Living Sales Metrics to Master

Sales people are like Olympic athletes – they train, practice, and are coached to perform at high levels. And like athletes, their performance is measured. Just think about a sprinter that trains to run the 100-meter dash, only they never paid any attention to their time. They have no way of knowing if they are improving, or if they are in the running to compete against other sprinters. That would be silly, wouldn’t it? The same is true for sales professionals – it would be silly to not measure sales performance. We call measuring performance metrics.

In senior living sales, there are 5 metrics every sales professional needs to know and measure regularly. We’ve also thrown in an extra half metric for good measure!

Metric #1: Overall Lead-to-Connect Ratio

Of all your new leads, how many have you contacted?

A connection happens when a) you pick up the phone, b) the prospect answers, and c) you have an initial conversation – a connection. Keeping track of call outs and connections is easy. If your CRM doesn’t track this for you, a low-tech way of tracking it is keeping a sticky note by the phone. Make a checkmark every time the phone is picked up. If the call is answered, circle the checkmark.

Metric #2: Prospect-to-Tour Ratio

Of all your new prospects – meaning new leads you’ve spoken with – what percentage of those come in for a tour?

Since 70%+ of senior living leads are coming from the Internet, the challenge of first connecting with a new lead is greater than ever before. We need to connect with a lead first, do discovery and then schedule a tour or home visit. Strong discovery and emotional connection at this stage will increase the conversion to tour ratio.

Metric #3: Tour-to-Sale Ratio

A.K.A. Tour-to-Deposit. Of tours held, in any given time, what percentage close to the sale?

A sale is simply collecting the check, taking a deposit. If your Tour-to-Sale ratio is 10%, the question to ask is, what decision did the other 90% make? Did they choose another community? Did they choose to stay in their home? How can you build more value with your prospects to increase this ratio? Knowing this conversion helps determine how many tours are needed to get to the number of sales needed.

Metric #4: Deposit-to-Move-In Ratio

Of all your deposits, what percentage move in?

Why is this metric important? There are reasons within our control and beyond our control why a prospect who made a deposit doesn’t move in. The reasons beyond our control are death and acuity higher than your community can provide care for. The reasons over and above that – the ones within our control – are the ones that may be an issue that warrants a closer look by sales management.

 

Metric #5: Outreach Appointment-to-Professional Referral Received Ratio

Of all your professional outreach appointments held, what percentage resulted in a referral received?

Simply put, it’s the number of referrals received from a professional in a given time period compared to the number of outreach appointments completed. For example, a Sales Director completes 20 face-to-face outreach appointments this month, and during this same month the community received 4 professional referrals. The appointment-to-referral ratio is 20%. For every 5 appointments completed, a referral was received. A second example: 10 appointments, 1 referral received. 10 to 1, 10% appointment-to-referral ratio.

We place high importance on this metric because referrals from professionals in your community convert to prospects at a significantly higher rate than referrals from paid referral sources – often 5 times more often.

 

And the ½ Metric: The In-Out Grid

Occupancy growth requires that a community have more move-ins than move-outs over a time frame like a month, quarter, or year. We call it netting up when there are more move-ins than move-outs, and netting down when opposite. There’s an easy way for sales professionals to keep track of their move-ins and move-outs to arrive at their net occupancy change: the In-Out Grid. It looks like this:

Move-Ins Move-Outs
1/5 Henry 1/1 Johnson
1/10 Smith 1/22 Rivers
1/14 Jones
1/31 James
Total Ins: 4 Total Outs: 2

In this example, in January there were four move-ins and 2 move-outs. The result of the 4 ins and 2 outs is net of +2, or they netted up 2.

Measuring sales performance with metrics and paying close attention to them on a regular basis is vital to knowing where the weaknesses and gaps are in your systems and processes. By keeping on top of a handful of key metrics like the ones above, it makes the task of improving sales skills much easier for the sales professional and managers.

Need a best-in-class sales playbook for your senior living company’s sales department? Grow Your Occupancy is here to help! Book your free 30-minute consultation to find out how!

Senior Living Regional Directors – An Underappreciated Resource

The Regional Director of Sales and Marketing is a role that is pivotal to a senior living operator’s success; they can make a tremendous impact on occupancy levels, the health of the community sales teams, and most importantly the revenue of the company. But the challenges senior living Regional Directors of Sales and Marketing face today in leading the sales teams in senior living communities to occupancy growth are many:

  • Competition among senior living communities is fierce, not only in the choice of physical community, but also in lifestyle, amenities, and monthly rates.
  • Families are taking longer to make a decision. Greater access to information online is lengthening the decision-making process.
  • Sales teams require more support, better support, expert guidance, and accountability to achieve the desired results.
  • Sales team turnover remains high for a variety of reasons both internal and external.
  • The characteristics of our customers’ personas are ever evolving, requiring constant tweaking of sales and marketing strategies.
  • The digital marketing landscape seems to change before our eyes. New tools, technologies, ways of communicating, and social media platforms come and go on a regular basis.

Despite these challenges, the fundamentals of relationship-based selling have stayed the same. Fact: sales systems and processes work. Even the most naturally gifted salesperson will produce more when using a system. But success with a sales system requires mastery, and mastery requires practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it is required to master senior living selling skills.

The Regional Director of Sales and Marketing supports it all. It is a challenging job; one that often goes undervalued and underappreciated by leadership above and sales teams below. A regional director wears many hats and carries a heavy load. The highest expectations are at the regional level, and the responsibilities are many and the pressure is high. Yet, there is often a lack of specific expectation, training, and guidance. All too often, they lack the structural foundations – such as a playbook, training, expectations, coaching, and ongoing support – necessary for success. This causes stress, which leads to burnout and turnover, which in turn stops the forward momentum of sales success.


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The biggest gap in supporting this pivotal position is caused by a lack of tools, training, and guidance. We ask the regional directors to manage multiple communities, hold others accountable, identify problems, and create solutions. We require success yet fail to provide a roadmap to achieving it.

The lack of established regional director fundamental training may be because the job is so multi-faceted. Many corporate sales executives do not know where to start. Many do not have a roadmap. Often, a highly successful community sales director is elevated into a regional manager role, a role in which they lack the needed experience and skills in planning, training, mentoring, and accountability.

Three ways to support and strengthen your regional director sales team:

  • Provide a playbook. Also known as a sales manual, this is a written guide to your company’s sales policies, procedures, measurables, and exercises.
  • Set and support expectations. Outline your company’s specific expectations for sales success and provide your regional directors with the tools to support and achieve the expectations.
  • Provide leadership coaching. Being an effective leader is not an innate talent, it’s a skill that needs to be developed, practiced, and refined. Provide your regional directors with a leadership coach who understands both sales and leading others to success.

Despite the many challenges faced by senior living providers today, sales management is one area where investing in the people can have a measurable impact. Giving your Regional Directors of Sales and Marketing the tools and support they need to be successful pays off in a healthy sales team, occupancy growth, and increased revenue.

Ready to find out how Grow Your Occupancy can help you? Book your complimentary 30-minute strategy session here.