Selling to Seniors Part III: Relationships

A Different Kind of CRM

Continuum CRM changes the way you'll view customer relationship management tools in Senior Living. It goes beyond activity tracking for the Marketing & Sales department. It helps sales people manage relationships and marketers track campaigns. For managers and corporate team leaders, it’s a powerful data-driven machine capable of providing insights to achieve better budgeting and strategic measures.

Selling to Seniors Part III: Relationships

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Selling to Seniors Part 3: Building Relationships

In “Selling to Seniors Part II” we learned about some selling skills that can position you as a trusted advisor. Today we’re going to expand on that trust and relationship you’re building with your prospects to give you, the sales counselor, the best opportunity at success and happiness in your role.

Join Your Prospects on Their Journey

Ok, so if you’re going to position yourself as a trusted advisor, you have to first really be okay with your prospect choosing another community.

Yep, I said it.

Be really ok with losing a sale because your prospect fell in love with a home elsewhere.

You know what it will do for you? It will free you from the stress of selling, and enlighten you to the joy of truly helping someone and putting their needs first. They’ll feel it, hear it in your voice, and it will show in your genuine concern for them as people, and will continue to help you build trust.

You will be able to grow into your most authentic self. Which will win you sales. It works. I’ve even had prospects who ended up choosing another community, or electing not to move at all, refer us to their friends who did ultimately move in.

Advisors guide people in the direction that is best for them, not the direction that earns you the highest commission.

Get Comfortable Recommending Your Competition

Find out all you can about them and know when your prospect should be checking them out. This will do two things. First, it will solidify your relationship and trust because it will show your prospect you’re advocating for them, not necessarily your community. Second, they’ll tell you if they’ve already looked there and whether or not they like it.

What a great way to find out where else your prospect is looking without having to ask them!

Tell Your Prospect The Truth

Be honest when something they’re looking for just doesn’t match with your community’s infrastructure, culture, or with their personal values. If you don’t think they’re going to be comfortable with something, you need to tell them. Don’t sugar coat it.

If through conversation you discover your prospect has a fear of dogs, and your community has a large pet population, you have an obligation to tell them even if they don’t ask. It may or may not be a deal breaker for them. But you don’t want them finding out after they’ve signed and moved in next to the loudest barking dog in the building.

Don’t Shy Away from Difficult Conversations

Remember the old adage “The customer is always right?” We all know that’s a bunch of malarkey.

But the only way you earn the right to tell your customer they’re wrong (in a kind and respectful way), is if you’ve built a strong enough relationship with them that it’s okay for you to let them know they’re misinformed about something.

There have been times where a customer felt entitled to something free that I had to step in and kindly remind them not only were they not entitled, but they don’t actually own the home in exchange for the entrance fee, so they can’t just do whatever they want. Not the easiest of conversations, but it does happen in this industry. And you have to have built a good enough relationship to be able to say some of these things, or you’re just going to make people mad, and lose business.

This isn’t to be confused with always telling incoming residents “NO.” On the contrary, the consumer doesn’t take no and politely walk away. If there’s a reason they can’t have something, you better be willing and able to tell them why.

On the flip side, if there’s a way to come to a mutually acceptable resolution, you should work toward that. It may be something that’s a win for both parties and in the long run can enhance your community offerings. Most people are willing to pay the expense for the extras they’re looking for. And if your community doesn’t have to foot the bill for it, you’ve gone a long way to make something happen for someone, and allow them to make your apartment/cottage truly feel like home.

Your insights to your community can also be a great thing! As you get to know your prospective residents, you can leverage what you do know about them to help them along the journey. Knowing what they’re looking for, if it becomes available, you can help persuade them to move up their timeframe.

Letting them know all of the things they CAN do that they didn’t know they could is very powerful in the selection process. Helping them think outside the box in terms of the size of community vs. the size of their home may help them wrap their minds around purchasing a much smaller apartment than intended.

Maintain the Relationship After the Move-in

Remember, you’re not just at work, you’re in someone’s home. So yes, it is a different type of salesperson/customer relationship. Y

You run into your prospects (who are now residents) at the dining room, in the hall, or in the lobby. This relationship will hopefully last as long as you work there. There will even come a time you feel so close to a resident that you attend their memorial service. And you’ll cry. So this whole trust and relationship better be solid.

At the community I came from, and many others, resident referrals are the best leads you can get. They close faster and are better qualified than most of the other types of leads you receive through other marketing campaigns. They typically have already been sold on the community by the resident and often have already visited their friend’s new home. On average, 44% of our community’s annual sales were a result of resident referrals.

The sales counselor doesn’t stop selling just because they received a deposit. That means, as a sales counselor, your job is to maintain and further cultivate the relationship after the move-in.

A great sales counselor, who knows their best shot at making their sales goal is to cultivate their referral network, will do several if not all of the following.

  1. Visit the new resident on move-in day
  2. Ask for referrals from their new resident
  3. Offer to host the new resident and their friends for a small welcome luncheon or cocktail hour in their home or a community dining room
  4. Solicit the new resident to become a volunteer for sales, and encourage them to bring their friends to sales events where they’re volunteering

They Really are Friends

One thing that struck me odd when I started working in senior living was that everyone in our community promoted the “we’re like family” ideal when talking about the relationship with residents and team members. It was deeply engrained within the culture. I had been in B2B sales for nearly 20 years and nowhere did I feel like my customers were “family.”

But I soon learned the saying to be true. It was such an inherent part of the culture, that everything the organization strived for revolved around service to our residents, who were “our family.” This was abundantly evident not only at the community where I worked, but I’ve witnessed it at others as well. It’s different when you’re working in someone’s home and you see them day after day, year after year.

Building the relationship from the beginning is important for you, your prospect, and your residents.

Think about it this way, as a result of your relationship building skills, you have the power to affect your organization in a big way. Depending on how large your community is, you can single-handedly be responsible for increasing occupancy and reducing your community sales cycle. How awesome does that feel when you increase occupancy, reduce sales cycles, and make lifelong friends!?!


Kristin Hambleton

Kristin’s passion is in helping others succeed in the senior living industry. Her objective is to assist teams in becoming better sales people through consultative selling, and helping managers be more strategic in their roles through data mining and analysis. With her role at Continuum CRM, Kristin is able to focus on both of these efforts.