‘Tis the Holiday Season
Working in the marketing and sales department of a senior living community can be a blessing and a curse this time of year.
The beauty of the decorations in the community lobbies, welcome centers, and on residents’ doors seems to electrify the spirits of everyone. Large trees decorated by residents. Twinkly lights in courtyards and on trees lining community streets. The smell of a gingerbread latte in the coffee shop. Fireplaces crackling with warmth while residents gather around to share stories about their grandkids’ accomplishments. Residents and team members sharing fresh baked goods, exchanging cookies, and giving thanks and well wishes for a wonderful holiday season and all the blessings our world offers.
These are the scenes inside communities during the next month.
Co-workers and residents alike are in festive spirits. They embrace those who no longer have family to visit. They become part of a much larger family, even if it’s for this brief period of time each year.
Yes, there religious denominations that feel their traditions should be given higher priority. There are a few scrooges and bah humbugs out there, but they are drowned out by the open hearts of the majority of people you’ll encounter.
Overall, a senior living community is a wonderful place to be, especially around the holidays. These are the blessings afforded the residents and employees who smile and give a warm hello, not just in December, but all year through.
Blessings & Curses
Blessings indeed. But ah, the curse.
If you live in any area where there is the possibility of snow and temps drop below 60 degrees, there is the old man winter curse upon the people in marketing and sales. If there is even the hint of a snowflake to fall, or rain could cause hazardous frozen roadways, which are typical scenes from December through March, you’ll not find an abundance of visitors to your community.
Time to make phone calls, get paperwork caught up, and plan for the peak season of April through September, right?!? I mean who wouldn’t want to take it a little easy at work for four straight months and ramp up their game for the busy season?
But wait. Aren’t there goals to accomplish in those four months? Don’t we need move-ins during the winter season as well? And let us not forget, anyone coming to look in January or February is far more serious than other times of the year. After all, they did brave the snow, ice, and otherwise dreadful temps to come see you. Especially if they come with their children.
Adult children are visiting family from Thanksgiving to New Year and suddenly realizing that mom or dad isn’t quite the same. Maybe the upkeep on the house is failing. Perhaps dad is having trouble shoveling the snow and mom gets a bit worn out with the cooking and cleaning. Maybe their memories aren’t as sharp as they once were.
You’ll certainly get more need driven prospects now. And follow up with your prospects who do visit in the slow season is vitally important. They’re making decisions now, not later. They want to know what’s available and how soon can they get in.
But what about those that haven’t had a sudden health incident? Or those who are thriving in their home of 40 years? How do you engage the vibrant, younger, senior living prospect that would move to your community for engagement and enjoyment? Perhaps engaging the prospect through the holiday season doesn’t necessarily mean them planting foot on your property.
Embrace the Home Visit
If including a home visit isn’t in your sales tool box, it should be.
Meeting prospective residents in their home provides a non-threating atmosphere where they feel most comfortable in divulging motivation. Your prospect will welcome you and open up about their concerns. Be observant, pick up on the cues they give, and you’ll find a whole host of topics to discuss about daily routines, the desire for more socialization, and the challenges they’re facing.
Visiting a prospect’s home gives you the ability to see the world through their eyes, and provides you with some distinct clarity into their life. You never want to trick someone into moving to your community, nor do you want to use scare tactics (see our blog series “Selling to Seniors” to learn more about why this is a really bad idea), but you can use your observations to have open and honest discussions once you’ve earned trust and gained permission.
Make it a Family Affair
Do you work in an independent living community where the adult kids seem to tag along and interject themselves into your sales presentation? If you’re dealing with perfectly healthy active adults (your prospect, not the kids), it may be a little more challenging to feel as though you’re communicating directly with the parents and you may wonder who is really running the show.
I say embrace it.
Discover the perspectives of each adult child to learn more about what is behind the decision-making process. The kids are maybe visiting from out of town, so why not host an event that features the whole family?
Host a visit with Santa for your prospects and their families. They’ll bring kids and grandkids and probably won’t even have to be the ones to drive. Remember the hint of a snowflake? Much less likely to be a major concern if they aren’t the ones driving. Leave it to the kids! Gift them with warm cookies, hot cocoa, and a visit from the big man himself.
Have a photography club? Have one of your resident photographers capture family photos in front of your community Christmas tree with Santa and give them away as a gift to every attendee. The family will love it and it will be an event that one wouldn’t think of in a (gasp) retirement community!
Make it special
Maybe they don’t have adult children. Perhaps your prospect is from out of the area. Engagement can happen with advance planning.
Invite them to spend the weekend at your community. That way, they don’t have to worry about driving to your community and back all in the same day. With shorter daylight hours, the weekend visit is a great way to bring in guests. They can arrive and leave during daytime and won’t have to worry about it getting dark.
Of course, include some special activities. Get them tickets to a show at a local theater and dinner at a local restaurant. You’ll want them to experience the community at large if they’re from out of town. Help them experience the best entertainment your community has to offer as well.
Have residents with similar interests and background host them for dinner. They’ll make a connection with the people that live there, which will make them want to come back for another visit! Never forget, your residents are the best sales people you have. Resident referrals and prospects that make an emotional connection with your community move in much faster than those who don’t have those connections.
Enjoy the holidays, have fun with the extra special things you can do with prospective residents now that you have time to breathe. Before you know it, the tulips will bloom and you’ll be busy with open houses and back to back appointments.