Establishing trust, building rapport, and ensuring prospects feel that they’re in capable hands is important for the success of any sales professional – but no more so than those in the senior living space.
Seniors and their loved ones are tasked with making big, emotional, and often difficult decisions about their future and well-being.
For this reason, it is imperative that senior living sales professionals act as trusted, reliable advisors.
5 ways to reach your occupancy goals
In this article, we cover strategies and best practices to add to your sales process that will boost response rates, increase move-ins, secure resident retention, and ultimately help you reach your occupancy goals.
1. Personalize your outreach
Establish genuine connections by humanizing the process, going the extra
mile, and building strong relationships from the first point of contact and beyond. By adding a personal touch to your outreach, you connect a face
with a name and let prospective residents know there’s a real person on the
other end who cares.
Replacing your plain text emails with a one-off video message is a powerfully simple way to personalize:
- Replies to inbound leads
- Health, safety, and wellness updates
- Virtual tours
- Ongoing communication with residents’ families
2. Act with empathy
When you respond with empathy, you let your prospects know you care and understand their needs. They want to be assured their interests will be valued and respected in their new living situation.
Video allows you to use nonverbal elements like tone, inflection, body language, and eye contact to express your sincere understanding of their situation - all of which cannot be conveyed through plain text alone.
3. Build trust and rapport
While communicating authentically and acting as a trusted, reliable advisor is a critical component of senior living sales, don’t just share facts and figures. Tell prospects about specific success stories with resident testimonials that highlight positive experiences within your community.
Topics can vary from culture, or activities to community amenities, and caring staff members. Regardless, the key to powerful testimonials is authenticity.
See the power of video testimonials firsthand:
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 72% of participants said positive testimonials significantly increased their trust in that specific business
- 2 of 3 people say they’d be more likely to make a purchase after watching a testimonial video demonstrating how a business, product or service helped someone like them.
4. Get facetime (virtually)
Pandemic restrictions, geographic limitations, and additional circumstances mean you might not be able to meet prospective residents in person.
This is a significant hurdle for sales, as face-to-face interactions between
reps and prospects are shown to have the greatest impact on conversion ratios.
In order to bridge the conversation ratio gap, sales reps are adjusting their virtual selling strategy by:
- Using video messages in place of plain-text emails and texts
- Scheduling virtual meetings to follow up with prospects and family members
- Recording personalized virtual tours
5. Spend More Time on Fewer Leads
Yes, you read that correctly. This may sound counterintuitive, but research shows the most successful senior living sales professionals prioritize quality leads over quantity.
One community, Dial Retirement, implemented this approach and redirected efforts towards quality leads and interactions, rather than the number of encounters. They asked questions like “Are we spending an appropriate amount of time with this prospect?” and “How can I spend quality time with this person?” As a result, the team trimmed its number of leads by nearly 85%, yet saw a 20% lift in occupancy. Likewise, their sales closing rates increased from 25% to 35-40%.
How to Boost Senior Living Sales in the Pandemic and Beyond
While senior living sales have suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is hope on the horizon. According to the 2021 Argentum & Lumen Largest Providers Report, by April 2021, providers were reporting resident move-in increases from between 34% and 57%. As more seniors are vaccinated against coronavirus and the ability of residences to combat coronavirus outbreaks continues to improve, move-ins are likely to increase through the end of 2021 and beyond.
As a senior living sales professional, it’s time for you to capitalize on this trend by upping your sales game. You can’t go back to the same old tried tactics from before the pandemic. Now, seniors and their families expect more opportunities to connect virtually, greater health and safety precautions, and better, more personalized communication between seniors, families, and residences. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you will need to implement new tactics into your sales repertoire that let seniors know that you personally care about them and their future in your senior living community.
In this article, we will go over strategies for how to reach more prospective residents, book more meetings, and keep residents and their families happy in the weeks after moving in. Specifically, we will cover tactics for:
- Building a personal relationship with prospective residents
- Conducting virtual meetings
- Implementing a senior-friendly website
- Conveying health and safety information
- Communicating with residents’ families after move-in
By implementing these strategies in your sales process, you will boost your response rate, increase move-ins, and secure resident retention.
It’s All About the Personal Connection
The truth is a prospective resident isn’t going to move into your community unless they have already developed a personal relationship to it. You can help formulate this relationship by connecting with prospective residents on a personal level during the sales process.
The best way to connect with prospective residents is by spending quality time with them. Generally, you should focus on cultivating a few quality leads over trying to get as many leads as possible. According to Sherpa, top sales performers spent 10-12 hours direct selling per sale for active adult, assisted living, and memory care and 17-20 hours for independent living. Despite this, 59% of sales counselors believe spending less than 10 hours directly selling to a prospect is optimal. Evidently, senior living salespeople tend to underestimate the amount of time they should spend per sale.
Dial Retirement Communities saw significant success when they implemented this approach. Dial began to focus on spending more time with quality leads instead of casting as wide of a net as possible. Consequently, their sales team trimmed nearly 85% of their leads yet saw a 20% increase in occupancy. They also saw an increase in sales closing rates from 25% to 35-40% (Inside the Science of Senior Living Sales).
According to Reed Davis, Dial’s corporate director of sales and marketing, the team moved away from tracking the quantity of encounters with prospects and instead focused on the quality of each encounter. They ask questions like “are we spending an appropriate amount of time with this prospect?” and “how can I spend quality time with this person”? This has directly led to an increase in the number of tours and deposits.
Act with Empathy
While spending more time with leads, you also need to make sure that this time is spent wisely. Your goal during meetings should be to cultivate that personal connection between you and the resident. The best way to do this is to act with empathy.
When you respond with empathy, you let your prospective resident know that you care about them and understand them. Prospects are more likely to buy from a seller who has built that personal relationship with them. They want to know that their feelings will be valued and respected in their new living situation.
Responding with empathy also means that you use the information you’ve gathered about your prospective resident in future conversations. If they tell you that Sunday morning church is important to them, then don’t call them up on Sunday morning. If they express fears over weather damage to their current house, then check in after a bad storm. Ask them about events they had expressed excitement for at a follow-up meeting. Make it clear that you’ve been listening actively when they speak so that they know you value the relationship beyond the sale.
Stuck? Try Personalized Video
If you’re having a hard time building a personal relationship with prospective residents, especially at the top of the funnel, then start using video to communicate virtually. You can send a personalized video to respond to inquiries, follow-up after meetings, and share any new information with prospective residents. Personalized videos are more likely to be opened, watched, and responded to than plain-text emails. They help prospective residents retain more information and put a face to the name of the person they will be working with during the sales process.
Best of all, with a personalized video platform like Covideo, prospects can reply to your video email with a video of their own, even if they don’t subscribe to a video email platform. Video email also works with CRMs like Sherpa and Enquire so you can include video in your regular day-to-day sales cadence. Video messaging is the #1 easiest way to grab prospects’ attention and begin a personal relationship with them.
Tips for Virtual Meetings
You should offer to meet with your prospective resident from first contact, with the option of meeting virtually. Virtual meetings are a great option for residents that can’t meet in-person due to distance, accessibility issues, or safety concerns.
When scheduling a virtual meeting with a prospective resident, give them as many options as possible, both in terms of time and medium. Remember, your prospective resident or their adult children might not be as tech-savvy as you are. Offer both phone and video meeting options. Also, offer a variety of options for meeting time and length if possible.
Once your meeting starts, treat it like a conversation. This is the time for you to introduce yourself, learn more about your prospective resident, and address any questions or concerns they may have. Get to know your prospective resident as a person so you can build a closer relationship and better alter your sales pitch towards them. If your prospect’s loved ones are also part of the conversation, then make sure to include them without letting them overshadow your prospective resident. The conversation should always be centered on the prospective resident and their wants and needs.
Here are some suggestions for topics that you should bring up when learning about your prospective resident as a person:
- Greatest achievements: This is a great way to get your prospective resident talking about their past. Ask them about what they’re most proud of accomplishing in their life. It’s even better if you can find a way to connect that to a service your residence offers or the accomplishments of a current resident!
- Hobbies: What does your prospective resident like to do? What were their main hobbies when they were younger? Has that changed, and what are their favorite hobbies now? Offer suggestions for how your residence can support them in these hobbies.
- Values: What does your prospective resident believe in? What do they value in life? This could be related to their impact on the community, goals for the future, or personal beliefs. Try to find a way to connect with your prospect’s values, even if they don’t fully align with yours.
- Important relationships: What have been the most important relationships in your prospect’s life? Ask about specific relationships in the areas of family, friends, community, and career.
- Goals: Your prospect’s life isn’t over just because they’ve entered senior living. What are their goals for the future? How can senior living help them accomplish these goals?
- Legacy: The above topics combined help define your prospective resident’s legacy. You can ask more specific questions about legacy at the end of your conversation. What does your prospective resident want to be known for? What legacy do they want to leave their families, communities, and world? What legacy do they want to be known for within their senior living community?
Remember to listen intently to your prospect’s answers to these questions and follow up with more specific questions for more details. Take notes so that you can look back on the conversation and consider how to tailor your sales strategies accordingly.
How to Make Your Website Senior-Friendly
Your residence’s website is your most valuable online asset. It is where prospective residents can discover your community or look up more information after first contact. As such, your website needs to be senior-friendly so that senior prospects can find the information they need without trouble.
A senior-friendly website is one with an accessible and easy-to-navigate web design. Seniors’ ability to use technology may be affected by age-related changes to cognition, vision, and mobility. Good web design can counteract difficulties associated with these changes by using the appropriate typeface, colors, writing style, and navigation structure.
Here are some key tips to making your website senior-friendly:
- Focus on clarity: Make sure that your website’s structure is clear and easy to navigate. Additionally, focus on presenting information in a clear and concise manner.
- Use short sections: Break information into short sections and paragraphs. This makes it easier for seniors to retain information if it is presented in smaller amounts.
- Use a site map: Create a clear site map and link to the map on every page.
- Put key information first: The most important information should stand out at the top of your web page.
- Define your terms: If you use a term that some people might be unfamiliar with, then be sure to provide a definition. In general, you should use words that are easy to understand.
- Space: Use sufficient white space between sections. This makes it easier to read and retain information.
- Use an easy-to-read typeface such as Arial, Verdana, or another san-serif typeface.
- Use 12-point or 14-point type size. You should also make it easy for viewers to change text size from their screen.
- Use medium or boldface typeface. Increase the size and weight for headings and key information.
- Use high-contrast color combinations that make it easier to read text. Avoid using different shades of the same color for text and background and clashing colors. Avoid using yellow, blue, and green in close proximity since it’s harder for seniors to distinguish between these colors.
- Use icons and buttons that are large and visible. Make it clear where buttons redirect to.
- Include other media such as pictures and videos. Provide transcripts for video and include captions.
- Provide a speech-to-text function for viewers that have difficulty reading text.
For more advice on how to make a senior-friendly website, check out the white paper “Making Your Website Senior Friendly” created by the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. Be sure to gather feedback from website visitors and prospects on how you can make your website more accessible and senior-friendly.
Communicate Health & Safety
The prospective residents you communicate with will undoubtedly have questions about the safety of your facilities and its policies.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by Sherpa, 45% of respondents list “visitation rules” as prospects’ number one concern when choosing a senior living community. An additional 20% chose “infection control protocols” as the area of most concern. Both of these coronavirus-related concerns ranked higher than concerns about price, activities and programming, and location.
Check out their tactics for effectively addressing prospective residents’ health and safety concerns:
Sell health and safety.
Selling health and safety means that you know exactly which policies have been put into place to protect residents and how these policies have demonstrably kept residents safe. Be prepared with information about air filters, masking and vaccination policies, social distancing policies, staff safety measures, and medical care available on-site.
However, instead of just relaying a series of facts, incorporate these policies within other information about the quality of life at your residence. Discuss how technology is used to facilitate virtual events that support residents and build communities. Share resident experiences with health and exercise programs that continued during the pandemic. Emphasize that your senior living community prioritizes physical, emotional, and mental health and talk about specific programs that promote each.
Finally, ask your prospective resident how they like to approach a healthy lifestyle. Focus not only on health concerns but also on goals and hobbies. This way, you can discuss which health programs, classes, or activities your resident will find the most useful or enjoyable.
Invite them to ask questions.
Don’t just wait for your prospective resident to speak up. Invite them to share their worries about senior living and safety. When you reply, don’t brush aside their concerns by rattling off a series of facts and figures. Make it clear that you understand their concerns and empathize with their situation. Ask them what kind of solutions they are looking for. Engage them in conversations centered around them as an individual and not just about your community.
If you don’t know the answer to every question, stay calm and be honest. Offer to look up more information or ask a member of your community who will know the answer. Once you have that answer, contact your prospect as soon as possible to demonstrate that you (and the rest of the community!) care about their concerns. Even better, ask your prospective resident to send you questions before meeting in-person or virtually so that you can come prepared with answers.
Keep up-to-date on coronavirus in your community.
If you’re going to assuage a prospective resident’s safety fears, then you need to know the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 in both the community you’re trying to sell and the surrounding area. Keep track of case numbers, government policies, and vaccination rates. Read up on the latest information from government health agencies and scientists. Be prepared to discuss this data with the prospect’s family, including those that might live out of state.
Discuss visitation options.
What is your policy for visitors? What restrictions are in place for visits and how will these restrictions change depending on future outbreaks? What virtual visitation options are available? Some questions concerning virtual visits include:
- Will residents have consistent access to video and phone communication?
- How often do caregivers contact families with updates?
- Are there any virtual community events that families and friends of residents can also participate in?
Emphasize that even when in-person visits are limited, there will still be a variety of ways for residents to connect with outside friends and families and for loved ones to reach caregivers. Make sure families know all of the ways they can keep up-to-date on current information about health and safety policies at the residence.
Keeping Families Happy
Once your resident has moved in, your job still isn’t done. While staff members will become your resident’s first point of contact, you are still a primary point of contact for outside family members. It’s up to you to keep families in the know about the move-in process and how their beloved senior is doing in your community.
Families that trust that their senior is being taken care of will leave better reviews and recommend your residence to others. Family testimonials are a vital sales tool, so you need to do everything you can to ensure that family members are happy with your residence.
Here are some ways that you can involve family members after the move-in process:
- Focus on personal communication, not mass communication: Most communication between families and residences during the COVID-19 pandemic has been in the form of email or letters. But for most families, these channels aren’t enough. Families want to receive personal communication about their loved ones, not just mass updates. They want to know that their resident is safe, happy, and healthy.
- Send frequent photo updates: It’s easy to quickly text or email a photo of your resident eating, socializing, or participating in a hobby. Show families how your resident is participating in their community.
- Set up calls with care staff: Families will feel confident that they are part of their loved one’s care team when they are able to directly communicate with care staff. Care staff may have more information than residents about care plans and progress. These calls are especially important for memory care and assisted living situations where residents may not be reliable conveyors of information.
- Video email: Instead of sending a plain-text email, try a video email. You can record a quick video with your phone of your resident and then embed it into the body of your email. Or you can help the resident take a webcam recording on a personal computer to send to their family. Video email is guaranteed to produce more open rates, replies, and happy families.
Personalized Video for Senior Living Sales
You can start meeting your sales goals and increase occupancy today by implementing personalized video. Video can be used to:
- Follow-up prospective resident inquiries
- Schedule in-person or virtual meetings
- Answer questions as they pop up
- Send family members updates after move-in
- And much, much more!
Learn more about how to use personalized video at every step in the senior living sales process in The Ultimate Guide to Increasing Occupancy with Personalized Video, offered as a free download by Covideo.