Like most of us, you’ve probably had the experience of walking onto a car dealership lot or into a furniture store, and immediately being approached by an overeager salesperson. Often, their pushy tactics make you want to turn around and leave, when all you really wanted was information or help as you do preliminary shopping for your next car or couch.
As a senior living sales counselor, it’s important to remind yourself that you are not just another salesperson, you serve a vital role as an advisor to the older adults and their children who are considering an important – and difficult – life change for themselves or their loved ones.
Based on the typical experiences most of us have had with salespeople, it’s not unusual for your prospects to call or visit the community with the expectation that you won’t be any different. You’ll be pushy, you’ll hand them a brochure and tell them about all the features of the community without any real insight into what the future resident wants and needs, you’ll be evasive on the pricing, and push them to move when they are not emotionally ready. Basically, they come to you immediately on the defensive. Reaching a position of trust with your prospects requires breaking those poor sales habits and changing your mindset to believe that you are a trusted advisor in this major life change.
Ask Questions, Then Listen
The decision to move into senior living is emotionally and logistically difficult and is usually the result of a specific need. For example, mom is becoming forgetful, grandma was recently widowed, or dad has had a fall that left him unable to get to a phone. By starting the conversation with, “What prompted you to call/visit us today?”, and then listening, you will gain valuable insight into your prospects’ needs and more importantly, what is driving them emotionally. The bigger the decision, the more emotions come into play. Most people want to share their story, so give them the opportunity by asking for it. Trust is built when a customer feels safe in opening up. This happens when the sales counselor listens with intent, asks additional questions and validates their customer’s feelings.
Know What You’re Going to Ask Before the Visit
Be prepared for any initial inquiry with a series of questions you will ask. Some suggestions are:
- What prompted you to pick up the phone/stop in for a visit today?
- Tell me about your/your mom’s/your dad’s typical day.
- What concerns do you have at this time?
- How has this situation affected your loved one? Your family?
- Who else is involved in making this decision?
- What is most important to you in making the decision to move?
- When do you think you will be ready to make this move?
Be a Resource
It might be that the prospective resident is planning to move or has recently moved to your town from elsewhere to be closer to their loved ones. By using what you have learned in their answers to your questions, you can make thoughtful suggestions based on their wants and needs. For example, you could suggest the local churches in their denomination, introduce them to the other Navy veterans in the community, show them the activities calendar and when the sudoku club meets, or tour the beauty salon where they can get their hair done.
It is a good habit to send out a hand-written thank you note to the prospective resident and their loved ones; this simple courtesy will stand out and make a strong and lasting impression. Also, plan to check in with them by phone at a predetermined time, for example, ask them at the end of their visit or call if it would be alright if you followed up with a call later that day or tomorrow to make sure they made it home OK and to answer any questions they might have thought of since talking with you.
To reinforce the positive relationship you’re building, plan the next step before you end your first contact with them. If your first contact was by phone, then set up a time to come in for a tour. If they were a walk-in, then suggest that they come in for a complimentary lunch followed by one of the group events on the calendar. The more contact you have with the prospective resident, the more at ease they will feel when talking with you. Defined and agreed-upon next steps clarify the process for all parties, make the customer’s journey easier, and move the sales cycle forward to close a sale.
Remember that you are there to be a trusted advisor through this difficult and life-changing decision; not just another pushy salesperson.