7 Ways You're Setting Up Senior Living Sales Reps to Fail

If I were to ask you, "Would you like to see sales by the end of this year exceed sales generated last year" you'd likely tell me yes. The challenge is, (as the saying goes) if you do the same things over and over again, you'll likely generate the same results. To be honest, it baffles me that there are still organizations that don't have a CRM (customer relationship management system), and concerns me even more that those that do really only use 20-30% of it's full functionality.

Let me just say that I've had the pleasure of working with senior living sales leaders all across the United States and I don't think any single of them intentionally wants to see a sales rep fail. That being said, fear of change and a "that's how we've always done it" mentality won't generate sustainable high occupancy.

So here's my .02 when it comes to the 7 greatest challenges sales reps face today.

1) They aren't compensated based on performance.

"But Michelle, we work in healthcare." And....? Trust me, we aren't looking for cut-throat used car sales reps. But, if you want highly motivated sales reps, they should be compensated to perform. This is on both ends of the spectrum. Those that work hard to fill a building should be compensated accordingly. Just as those who maintain a high occupancy should equally be compensated.

2) Training

I've worked with companies that focus heavily on sales methodology (the how) and companies that focus heavily on sales process (the what), but few senior living organizations have an integrated approach that supplied sales reps with both the ideal steps for progressing a lead, as well as the tools to overcome obstacles and barriers. What missing elements have I noticed? Sales process maps that incorporate if/then processes, sales email templates, sales training playbooks, and ongoing sales coaching are among the most common gaps I noticed in 2017.

3) Technology

That leads me to leveraging technology. Customer Relationship Management Systems don't just store valuable information related to sales activity, they hold valuable insight that will shed light on gaps in the sales process you've implemented. Aligning the sales process with stages of the buyer's journey allows you to identify where within the sales process prospects get held up, and in turn what tools might help progress leads along faster. Whether it be creating educational sales email templates that prevent sales reps from playing "marketer" (which isn't typically their strong suit), or creating a resident on-boarding program that lends itself to higher retention and resident satisfaction after move in, long gone are the days of just using a CRM to measure call outs, appointments and sales.

4) Sales and Marketing Alignment

Let me just say that one of the most powerful initiatives your organization could undertake is sales and marketing alignment. Sales holds powerful information and insight that can amplify the results of marketing campaigns. Marketing has the ability to generate more qualified leads for your sales reps, and shed light on the buyer's journey prior to inquiry at a community. It's more than just being aligned in the vision for your product; it's about having a mutual understanding of the needs, wants, and desires of the customer, and allowing that mutual understanding to create collaboration that drives a customer-centric marketing and sales strategy.

5) Lack of Urgency/Skill

Most sales people don't follow up because they lack the skills to identify an effective follow up strategy. Disagree? Consider this, when is the last time your organization trained sales reps to effectively use email to nurture leads? What about following up by telephone? One of the most common missed opportunities is effective progression of a lead after attendance at an on-site event or a home visit has been completed.

In some cases, it's a complete lack of urgency that becomes the problem. A "they'll come to me when they're ready" attitude doesn't progress leads forward. It leaves you at the mercy of waiting for crisis to strike and a decision to be inevitable. Let me just say that in the long list of training topics I've seen from senior living organizations, I haven't yet come across an organization that teaches the stages of the decision making process and counseling techniques for the stages of grief when families struggle with making the decision.

6) Lack of Qualified Leads

If your website still resembles the tri-fold brochure in the sales office, the only website leads your sales reps are likely seeing, are bottom of funnel leads who merely used your website to find the telephone number. Quite honestly, nearly 70% of healthcare related research involves searching online, and as much as 60% of the buyer's decision is made before they even speak with you. A good, healthy pipeline involves developing a strategy that attracts buyers at various stages of the decision making process, not just buyers who have an urgent need.

7) You expect them to do to much

The average senior living community data base is over 1,000 prospects deep. Would you rather sales reps try and connect with everyone, or those with whom the relationship has progressed? Let re-inquiry campaigns nurture cold or disinterested leads back to sales reps, allowing them to focus their time, energy and efforts on progressing relationships that show promise.

With January already closed, and February well on its way, are you prepared to disrupt the status quo to generate higher sales conversions than you did last year? 

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