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Cultivating Readiness in a New Era of Senior Living Sales

How we reevaluate and rebuild the foundations of what we do in the new sales landscape.

Amanda McGrory-Dixon, 16th April 2020

The senior living industry has gone through some serious changes in the last few years. Operational and labor costs have increased substantially. Senior living operators everywhere have had to learn how to do more with less. Families expect more transparency when it comes to how their loved ones are cared for.

And through it all, an opportunity has taken shape — a chance for us to fundamentally change and improve the way we sell senior living.

David Smith pioneered relationship-based selling in senior living and co-created the methodology behind Sherpa by Aline. In his book It’s About Time!: How to Grow Revenue with Prospect-Centered Selling® he writes:

It’s time to redefine what we think day-to-day “success” means in senior living sales. Time to clarify the intended target of our efforts. To fully succeed, we shouldn’t try to connect and untangle resistance with our prospects solely for the sake of building relationships. While that may be a useful cause, our primary outcome, and that of our operators and investors, should be for us to convert more prospects into residents faster.

Top sales performers who use Prospect-Centered Selling don’t make an either/or choice between emotional connection and a sales outcome. A successful sales effort with qualified, higher functioning prospects will lead to more emotional connections, more untangling resistance and more prospects that buy.

For many operators using a transactional, volume-and-velocity method (including myself early on), there are only a very limited set of milestones to evaluate sales performance. How many new prospects inquired? Of those who did inquire, how many came in for at least one tour? Of the qualified new inquiries that toured, how many moved in? Not many options or short term outcomes to target if you get stuck along the way.

The reason we’ve been getting stuck is that our usual sales tactics options do not address the most common barrier our prospects have to moving, namely “I’m not ready yet.” 

After spending years in the sales trenches, David Smith found that we are missing countless opportunities to help our prospective residents, the ones we have already categorized as “cold leads”, get ready to make a buying decision.

Sales strategy: “hunting” vs. “cultivating”

Senior living presents us with a very unique, deeply emotional, complex selling scenario. Unfortunately, as we attempt to over-simplify this complex sale, we focus on the “hot/urgent” prospect. This is what we call “hunting for urgency.”

Pressure from increased competition for the very limited number of “hot” prospects, has made us rely on excessive lead generation and discounts. We focus on the few people that are ready because they have to move. Yet, we believe that selling is about helping people make a choice. So, why focus almost exclusively on those that don’t really have one?

Now is a brilliant time to slow down and cultivate readiness with the majority of the prospects in our lead base who aren’t ready.

What do we mean by cultivating readiness? Let’s explore a new model that helps us understand, assess and begin the work of nurturing prospects toward a buying decision.

Without depending wholly on tours, how do we advance the sale?

  1. Assess readiness. Sherpa by Aline uses a Stages of Change model to help identify where prospects are in their decision-making process. We developed tools such as the SMART grid to frame conversations and uncover opportunities based on a prospect’s unique situation:
    – Mermaids represent the fantasy of carrying on in a current situation that no longer works
    – Alligators are the dangers of staying in the situation
    – Risks are what keep someone from making a move
    – Treasure is what awaits once they finally do
  2. Engage in conversations that give you and your prospects a better understanding of their readiness to move or buy. Typically, 90% of our leads need to untangle the emotional resistance they have towards leaving their home – before they can logically consider moving.

Fostering readiness (without forcing it)

Aline wants to help you be able to cultivate readiness. To that end, here’s a webinar from Alex Fisher and David Smith, the creators of Prospect-Centered Selling, that dives into how fostering readiness leads to better outcomes than hunting for urgency.

To finalize, here is another snippet from David Smith’s book:

The basic premise that distinguishes our sales approach from a volume and velocity one, is our core belief that we can help otherwise cold prospects get ready. Untangling takes place, if at all, inside of the prospect’s own thoughts and feelings. The power of Prospect-Centered Selling lies in motivating and guiding the prospect to talk about their resistance openly to us as an empathic listener. They can trust us and share thoughts about their journey through the untangling or getting-ready process. We can then track progress through small advances through distinct actionable stages that we can identify, work with and build a sales pipeline around.

Get in touch to see how Sherpa by Aline bolsters your sales culture and increases occupancy – starting now. Book a Demo.

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