Press "Enter" to skip to content

To Sell Prospects on Value, Senior Living Operators Must Do Their Sales ‘Homework’

With resident rates on the rise, many operators have emphasized the need to to demonstrate the value of senior living communities as a way to justify that cost. Doing so is not always easy.

Prospects and their loved ones don’t always come to the table with a grasp on what senior living is or why they should pay a premium for it. At the same time, more residents and their families are bringing with them a new slate of preferences and desires for what they want out of community living.

Many more prospects than before the pandemic are researching senior living communities online and using that research to choose a suitable community even before they’ve toured it.

But even while the values and concerns of the current generation of prospects have evolved, the tools that senior living operators can use have also evolved. On the cusp of 2023, senior living operators including Evanston, Illinois-based Mather are stressing value-based communication, staff training and an individualized approach to sales and operations.

“They’ve already done so much research … and then the boomer wants to control everything,” Mather Senior Vice President of Sales Gale Morgan said during a panel discussion at the recent 2022 Senior Housing News Sales Summit in Arlington, Virginia. “So, it’s critical that … we have to adjust to quickly identifying the value and getting to it.”

Mather operates life plan communities in Evanston, Illinois, and in Tucson, Arizona, and is building another in Tysons, Virginia.

Prospects do their research

It’s no secret in senior living sales that residents and their families are coming to the senior living sales process having done a little research.

According to recent research from Pew Research Center, almost half of all adults age 65 and older use a smartphone to buy things online. Another 67% say they use a desktop or laptop computer. For Americans age 18 to 49, a whopping 91% use a smartphone when shopping for goods or services.

What is clear from that data is that prospects and their families are doing their research early. And senior living salespeople should come prepared with the expectation that residents may already think they’ve made up their mind on where to live.

Morgan compared the process to buying a car at a dealership. One might think they know exactly the make and model they want after doing research online, but those plans could change on the showroom floor. Prospects and their families shop for senior living in a similar way.

“They’re comparing your floor plans, and they’re comparing your cost and the number of meals you have in your location – but they haven’t talked to us yet,” Morgan said. “They think they’ve done an excellent job, and they have made a great start. But I think they believe they’re further along than we think they are.”

What she means is that while residents may think they know what they want, salespeople do have room to educate them further and potentially sway their decision.

But just as residents have done their research, so too should sales associates, according to Jeff Gronemeyer, who is vice president of new business development at lead-generation marketing and tech company Conversion Logix.

For example, a prospective resident and their family might come to the process knowing what a senior living operator’s competitors offer in the way of discounts or incentives. And, they are prepared to ask about it.

As any seasoned senior living salesperson could tell you, there’s more to a community than discounts. Instead of making it a numbers game, operators should instead find out what motivates prospects.

“You have to get to the why,” Morgan said. “Why did they call you today? Why are they looking into you? And whatever that ‘why’ is, is probably the foundation for their values.”

Sometimes, salespeople can be incentivized to get at the “why.” One trick that Gronemeyer said he has used in sales coaching in the past is to offer $25 to any salesperson who could stay in the discovery process with prospects the longest – until “it’s almost uncomfortable.”

They ultimately care what it costs, but it’s not the single reason,” he said. “They feel seen. They feel known. They feel like they’re a person, and they feel like they belong there. And they’ll pay for that.”

‘Do your homework’

Equipped with an array of levers to generate leads and move-ins, sales staff have tools to create a unique experience for prospects before they even walk in the door. But that work isn’t all done when sitting in front of a prospect.

“You may not ever connect with that lead, so you have to do the homework,” Morgan said.

That homework may start with evidence of what the resident or their family want from a senior living community. For example, that prospect is usually leaving behind a “digital trail” showing where they went on an operator’s website and how often. That is valuable information for operators.

“Where did they go? They went to 14 pages; well, they went to this page four times. And at what point in their journey did they download the brochure?” Morgan said. “You have to do that before you talk to them.”

When prospects walk through the doors for an event or a meeting and tour, sales staff need to understand how important connection is and how best to be prepared for an individual prospect, according to Gronemeyer.

For example, if a prospect likes tennis and is coming in for a tour in the early part of July, having an event with strawberries, cream and champagne and inviting the prospect to join will show the value in their life created by the community, according to Gronemeyer.

“If they like tennis, we should know ten other residents or families that like tennis and like to do these things,” he said. “It’s discovery. It’s understanding and knowing who you’re talking to and what they want.”

Talking resident rates

For prospects who have done their research, resident rates and move-in incentives are often on the tip of their tongue. While that is important, Morgan believes that operators should start and end the conversation there..

While senior living residents who lived in the community through Covid might understand why a 10% or 15% rate increase is fair, given all of the recent challenges; prospects did not have the same experience.

At another recent senior living industry conference, Morgan said she attended a handful of panels with CEOs extolling how well residents took the recent rate increases.

“The only thing that really concerned me is, the prospects don’t understand,” Morgan said. “Every prospect that I deal with asks about our monthly service fee increase this year, and whatever you tell them, they assume it will be that way forever, and that’s a whole new challenge for us.”

Prospects wanting to know about rate increases isn’t new; however, it could be acutely impacted by a sputtering economy, according to Gronemeyer.

“When you offer price increases but the value of their homes is going up and food is cheap and gas isn’t $7 per gallon, then you have prospects come in and not care as much about [rate increases],” he said.“They feel flush by the general economy even though the general economy is probably not impacting them the way it is for someone at home.”

To that end, Gronemeyer believes that senior living salespeople must not only educate consumers, but follow up with them to make sure they’re still on the sales journey. He used dating as an example.

“You don’t go on a great date and then just hop out of the car on Friday after the movie and go ‘Well, I’ll check in with you later on,’ because you know they’re going to be swiping left and right,” he said. “And the next thing you know, somebody swoops in and you’re done. It’s the same thing for us. You have got to have a next step.”

Just like with a date that goes well, Gronemeyer said salespeople should also follow up with plans for another meeting. Engagement can often be a good indication of whether a prospect is grasping the message of value versus simply price.

“If I paid attention, I did good discovery, I didn’t do features tour that was boring and showed a bunch of empty parts of my building – if I can do all that, then I probably have a good chance,” he said.

The post To Sell Prospects on Value, Senior Living Operators Must Do Their Sales ‘Homework’ appeared first on Senior Housing News.

Source: For the full article please visit Senior Housing News

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: