Customized Sales Training- Because One Size Does Not Fit All

Solutions Advisors has developed customized sales workshops for several organizations including Schlegel Villages, a Canadian-owned organization with more than a dozen senior rental communities throughout Ontario; Providence Life Services with a wide array of senior care and housing including CCRCs throughout the Midwest; and Canvas Valley Forge, a 55+ rental community in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  In each case, the organization’s story is carefully woven into the training, reflecting the mission and philosophy, along with a thorough understanding of the audience and product. Our sales consultants have experience in selling full service life plan communities, rental independent living and owner-equity communities along with free-standing assisted living and memory care, and have a keen understanding of the different sales strategies needed for successful sales outcomes.

“We use StoryTree to show sales counselors how they can tell the story of their organization much more effectively than just selling features and benefits,” said Paul O’Brien, Senior Vice President of Solutions Advisors.  “Every organization has a story to tell, and sharing those stories is more compelling than trying to sell a swimming pool or fitness center.  Your story is what makes you unique and begins to develop the relationship with the customer and opens them up to telling their own story.”

Customized sales training also depends on the type of product, said O’Brien.  “The sales cycle of a CCRC may be years while the sales cycle for a rental community might be months and for an assisted living community it could be even shorter.  The customer is different, too.  The CCRC customer is likely the prospective resident, but for assisted living you are more likely to deal with the adult child. All of these factors are taken in consideration when we develop a customized sales training workshop for clients.”

Marketing strategies are also customized according to the organization, product type and marketplace, said O’Brien.  “We find that a creative direct mail piece with a specific call to action works well for life plan communities where you want the customer to really experience the community through an event that reflects that community’s strengths.  For assisted living, it’s more about referral-based marketing and networking events.”  A key component of Solutions Advisors’ sales training is finding ways to creatively follow up with customers following an event or tour.  “We have a great toolbox full of fun and memorable ways to make your community stand out from the rest,” said O’Brien.

Solutions Advisors’ sales training workshops can be a one-time event or take place over a series of months or even years.  One organization with communities in the northwest and California requests annual sales training to review and refresh their sales teams and provide training for new staff.  Whatever your needs, Solutions Advisors can provide a customized sales workshop for you.

Meet Mike Brindley – our expert Vice President with a passion for story-telling and colorful socks!

Mike-newspost2Mike brings more than 23 years’ experience in operations, sales and marketing. He joined Solutions Advisors in 2013 after having served as Regional Director of Operations for both Sunrise Senior Living and Holiday Retirement, two giants of the senior living industry. Mike works with clients across the country to imbue a sales culture throughout the organization, from leadership to line staff, not just to increase occupancy but also to instill a greater sense of enthusiasm, pride and achievement.  Mike works collaboratively with the sales team, helping them become more strategic in the sales process while at the same time inspiring them to learn about prospects through their stories and to develop meaningful and creative follow up. Most recently Mike has helped Concordia Life Care Community achieve remarkable success in just a short time through coaching and collaboration.

Mike-newspost3Mike is known for many things: his love for his family, attending Notre Dame sporting events with his son and brother, his zany sense of humor, his willingness to hop on a plane on short notice, but mostly for his colorful sock collection!


We Celebrate… Concordia Lifecare Community!

ConcordiaHard work, collaboration, creativity and partnership…all describe what’s behind the tremendous success at Concordia Life Care Community on the western edge of Oklahoma City. Following a sales and marketing assessment in April 2016, Solutions Advisors was retained to provide on-site sales consultation for this faith-based life plan community, with a focus on increasing qualified lead generation through strategic marketing efforts as well as on sales coaching to increase tours and ultimately increase move-ins.  With occupancy stalled at 84%, Concordia was faced with a low number of inquiries, sluggish sales and move-outs exceeding move-ins.  Fortunately, both leadership and the sales team were open to new ideas and eager to initiate a true sales culture to take them from ordinary to extraordinary.  Armed with new selling tools and techniques, the sales team showed improvements in nearly all key performance indicators:

  • Initial Inquiries – from 18 to 27 per month
  • Initial Tours –  from 7 to 15 per month
  • Inquiries to Tours – from 38% to 55%
  • Inquiries to Move-Ins – from 6% to 8%

Most impressively, time in the selling zone as measured by the Sherpa CRM, soared from 20% to 45%, a clear indication of the team’s new enthusiasm and dedication to sales.  As of July, occupancy was at 95.8% with the remaining vacancies expected to full by year-end.

“Solutions Advisors has been an amazing partner for Concordia as we have seen tremendous results since our relationship with them began.  They came in at a time when we had multiple vacancies in our Independent Living and as we began to implement their recommendations for new strategies, our sales began to increase.  Over the past year, our sales have been over double what they were the 2 years prior to working with Solutions Advisors.  We are very pleased with this partnership and look forward to continued sales success.” Danny Eischen, Executive Director, Concordia Life Care Community

Solutions Advisors wins ELEVEN Mature Media Awards!

2017mmawinner_logo_color_webWe don’t usually brag but…
Solutions Advisors wins ELEVEN Mature Media Awards!

It was a record-breaking haul for Solutions Advisors, bringing home two Gold, two Silver, six Bronze and one Merit award for an array of creative marketing materials. Both Gold awards went to websites created for our clients Applewood in New Jersey and Fox Hill in Bethesda, Maryland. Direct mail pieces for Fox Hill and The Clare in Chicago won Silver awards while Bronze awards were won in categories of direct mail, brochures, and marketing and advertising campaigns for a variety of clients including Fox Hill, Medford Leas, New Jersey; Wesley Willows, Rockford Illinois; and Immanuel Lutheran Communities in Kalispell, Montana. Watch for next month’s enewsletter featuring our blog on website design and development featuring our Gold winners!

Applewood Homepage

Solutions Advisors was honored with the following awards:

FXH1650     CLARE1628FH1639FXH1635FXH1644ILC1623ML1509WW1601FXH1620

Stop the Jargon. Show me the Results.

SA_July_17_header.finalMetrics Senior Living Executives Need To Know About Digital Marketing

If you’re hearing terms like contextual targeting, demand side platform, geofencing, interstitial ads or schema markup from your digital marketing provider in monthly reporting meetings, it may be time to pump the brakes.

At worst, word-dropping technical vernacular in monthly digital reporting may be a smokescreen to prevent an underperforming campaign from being exposed. Or it may be that the digital provider is overzealous to impress their client and prove their expertise in all things related to search engine optimization, content marketing, social media and pay-per-click advertising. But more often, it’s lack of understanding as to what you (the senior living CEO, Executive Director, or Director of Sales and Marketing) need to be sure that your digital marketing resources, strategy and budgets are helping you meet your business and strategic goals.

To that end, we’ve identified four key metrics a senior living executive should be paying attention to:

Metric #1 – Website Visitor Traffic

Expecting double digit jumps in website visitor traffic from month-to-month might not be realistic, but you certainly want to see positive movement in traffic from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year. Increases in web traffic will come through keyword optimization, content marketing (on-site, blogging, social media, etc.), link building and technical search engine optimization efforts. Results can be a valuable indicator of the level of attention your digital provider is giving your campaign. Monitoring web traffic can also help determine trends in how, when and at what frequency prospects are searching for a community like yours.

Key sources of traffic you’ll want to measure each month are:

  • Organic – visitors who come to your site by clicking through from search engines.
  • Paid – visitors who come to your site by clicking on a search or display ad.
  • Referral – visitors who come to your site from other websites that have a link back to your community. Outreach and link-building by your digital marketing team is key to making this channel successful.
  • Direct Key – visitors who key your URL directly into their browser. This may be the result of any number of branding efforts such as general media advertising, direct mail, outdoor, radio, or even your bus wrap.

Metric #2 – Lead Conversions

Leads are those visitors who took some kind of action after landing on your website. For senior living, that typically means they made a phone call or filled out a contact form. If you’re not seeing the number of phone calls in your monthly reporting from organic and pay-per-click sources, it’s imperative that a call-tracking program be implemented. We consider a conversion rate (number of website visits divided by number of actions taken) benchmark of 3% to be the minimum target. Most of our community clients are in the 5% – 6% range with some in the 10%+ range. Variables such as the site’s navigation and user-friendliness, relevant content, optimized calls-to-action and many other attributes all play a contributing factor in the conversion rate.

Related: People Are Talking About Your Community. Are You Listening?

 Metric #3 – Costs Per Lead

Many senior living executives can tell you exactly how much they pay per lead through traditional marketing channels such as direct mail, print advertising and resident referrals, yet struggle to understand the cost per lead from website sources. While cost per lead can change from month-to-month and quarter-to-quarter, you should establish a range you feel comfortable with. This is an important metric for your digital marketing team to track as it relays how much budget is appropriate to spend in order to find new leads. Spend too much on competitive keywords and you run the risk of burning through your monthly pay-per-click budget too quickly which leaves less budget to target additional prospects. While many variables contribute to a website cost per lead, we typically see a targeted benchmark of $50 per lead through digital marketing efforts.

Related: Multi-generational Marketing is Critical to Your Community’s Success

Metric #4 – Rankings in Search Engines       

One of the most important factors that determines whether prospects will find your community’s website is your search engine ranking. Being in the number one position for your own brand name should be an automatic given, but how your community ranks in Google, Yahoo and Bing for non-branded terms is critical to being found. These terms will likely include a combination of your location and key services (independent living, assisted living, memory care, respite care, etc.) offered but could also include terms unique to your community such as ‘only Life Care community in XYZ County’.

Your digital marketing provider should provide a report of terms searched and where those search results for your community are positioned in search engine pages. For instance, search terms should be numbered 1 through 50 with the goal of always moving listings for your community further and further up search engine results pages to the number one position through an array of search engine optimization tactics. If you are not seeing successive ‘wins’ in this metric, a discussion with your digital marking provider about performance is needed.

One of the best attributes of digital marketing is that its’ measurable and based on strong statistical evidence and cold hard facts. For senior living executives, that provides a baseline for holding accountable those you entrust with your digital marketing campaigns. If you have any questions about additional metrics to hold your digital marketing team accountable or to learn more about our digital strategies, please contact Jeff Felton, Director of Marketing Services for Solutions Advisors, at


Why does an organization with 98% occupancy want sales training?

Schlegel VillagesSchlegel Villages, a Canadian-owned group of 17 communities in Ontario, Canada, is the newest Solutions Advisors’ client to come on board. Founded in 1953 by Wilfred Schlegel, this family-run organization consists of independent, assisted living and long-term care communities. In April, Solutions Advisors was hired to develop and conduct a customized sales platform for the organization. This was to be no ordinary sales training, however, as the Villages boast 98% occupancy across the board. Instead, Schlegel Villages requested a sales platform incorporating the company’s values of deep respect for the customer, passion for customer service and doing the right thing. Solutions Advisors’ President and CEO Kristin Ward worked with leadership to develop content and to introduce the organization’s Sales Values at their annual sales summit in June. The next exciting step is a more in-depth sales workshop slated for September including a full sales manual based on the organization’s values and brand. We congratulate Schlegel Villages for its goal of going from good to great!



Get to know… Caroline Bailey

IMG_1545 1 FullSizeRender 2One of the original team members, Caroline Bailey is now celebrating her seventh anniversary with Solutions Advisors (including its past iterations as By Design Solutions and Retiring by Design), having joined the company in 2010, just 11 months after its founding.  Truly an original in more ways than one, Caroline once wrote comedy for theater and hopes someday to return to it.  A lover of all things furry, Caroline takes part in fundraisers for local dog and cat shelters.  Her small apartment in Brooklyn is filled with plants, a veritable jungle for her several kitties.  It’s no wonder that her number one strength on the Strengths Finder™ grid is empathy. Having literally grown up with Solutions Advisors, Caroline now holds the title of Project Director for both Solutions Advisors and its sister company Solvere Senior Living, a title that is pretty much all-encompassing.  You’ll find her both behind the scene orchestrating schedules and managing client accounts, as well as on stage presenting in front of LeadingAge audiences.

Happy Anniversary Caroline Bailey!

5 Ways to Improve Your Marketing Messaging to Focus on the Customer

SA_June_17_header_AIn retail, real estate, and other transaction-heavy industries, good marketing is driven by convincing your customer to buy your product or service, and persuading your prospects to choose your brand over the competition.

Yet in the senior living industry, we deal with people’s lives – a responsibility that we do not take lightly. We believe proper marketing should reflect the empathy with which we approach this unique marketplace.

As we have discussed in prior blogs selling begins by listening deeply to prospective residents and their family members to discover their story, their purpose in life and the experiences that drive them. This “storytelling” approach gives you a deeper understanding of your customer, allowing you to better tailor what your community offers to the resident’s unique objectives. Your sales and marketing messages should create communications that support the prospect’s sense of purpose and empower individuals to be the best they can be, says Lauren Messmer, chief operating officer at Solutions Advisors.

The overall marketing message that embraces the idea that people continue to develop and grow no matter their age is consistent across all levels of care: independent, assisted, and memory care. When you can do that properly – and not simply talk about your community’s features – you’ll truly differentiate your location from others.

To that end, we offer five ways to build customer-centered marketing messaging for the senior care industry.

1. Establish All the Ways Your Community Offers a Sense of Purpose.

Create marketing messaging that communicates the community’s support for residents and highlights all the ways it empowers people to live their best life, through activities and programs, events, and convenient amenities.

Understand where potential residents’ minds are. David Solie tells us that maintaining control is a key driver for older persons as so many feel losses each day – of strength, health, peers, authority, identity, and financial independence. Think about these implications and fine-tune your marketing message to their objectives.

“In the messaging we create, we try to avoid language about what we can do for them – and instead focus on how we can support them in their journey to get where they want to go,” Messmer says.

2. Remember: You Operate the House, but Residents Create the Home.

Whether online or in print, your marketing messages should capture the lifestyle and ways residents will feel empowered and engaged in the community. You create the environment to empower residents to live to the fullest and the residents bring the culture to life through activities and programs.

3. Build a Style Guide.

There are terms we purposefully avoid in our marketing messaging – “facility,” “retiree,” “unit” and other such “cold” terms. We are communities and neighborhoods…use of “facility” connotes a clinical, uninviting setting. In general, use welcoming phrases and terms that foster a sense of connection, engagement, and empowerment.

The irony is that prospects tend to use such “cold” words, in part because they are used to seeing them on senior living brochures or websites. But just because they say it, doesn’t mean you should. Make your writing and style stand apart from the rest.

A style or brand guide – two or three pages of terms to use and those to avoid – is a critical tool for both your sales and marketing teams and will ensure consistency across your organization in how to speak to prospective residents and their families.

4. Remain Respectful.

When reading your marketing messages, place yourself in the position of the prospect: Is the message condescending or unintentionally disrespectful? Ensure your tone and intent speaks to the prospect’s level.

Note, too, that courtesy and manners were paramount in the younger adult years for those now in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. People knew each other’s names and treated each other with respect in every business interaction. Replicate that same level of courtesy and regard.

5. Lead with Lifestyle – not Real Estate.

While your instinct may be to talk about the buildings and gardens, consider leading with the lifestyle and program elements of the community: What’s it like to live here? What is there to do? How can the community continue growing a resident’s sense of purpose?

As beautiful and stylish as your community may be, it’s hard to compete with the familiarity of one’s own home. Instead, show new residents all they can do at the neighborhood – and how engaged and fulfilled their life will continue to be.


We encourage you to review your marketing messages with these five points in mind. Are you over-emphasizing how residents are “taken care of,” and not including enough verbiage around creating a sense of purpose? Are you focusing too much on real estate, and not enough on lifestyle? Is your message condescending? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, it could be time to rework your marketing messages.

Get to know… Paul O’Brien

Paul4Paul joined Solutions Advisors in 2011 after working in human services for nearly 27 years, focused primarily on older adults. Paul has done it all in senior living sales, from working the phones to developing strategic marketing plans to on-site mentoring and coaching of sales teams. He has crossed off many items on his personal bucket list, the most fascinating of which is performing as a stand-up comedian after studying comedy for several years. (He’s also really good at karaoke!) His focus, however, is his family, wife Denise and daughter Bridget, and contributing his time and talents to his family friends and community. Famous for his sense of humor, Paul takes seriously the business of sales, developing sales strategies to help clients achieve their occupancy goals.

Look for Paul at Leading Age New Jersey and Leading Age Pennsylvania. Paul3Paul2

Look at all the cool stuff happening in Montana!

As ILC celebrates its 60th Anniversary, expansion and renovation continues across the campus…

Kalispell, Montana-based Immanuel Lutheran Communities opened the doors to The Retreat, its newly expanded leading-edge rehabilitative care center! Over 100 people attended ribbon-cutting festivities for the center which features a new Therapy Gym, Recreational Space, Dining Room and Guest Suites. The newly expanded Retreat gives older adults who’ve been hospitalized for an illness, surgery or injury an opportunity to recover in warm, healing environment. With the expansion, The Retreat has tripled in capacity, growing from 16 to 48 private suites. This innovative post-acute short-term recovery center features the latest in rehabilitation equipment, including the Flathead Valley’s only antigravity treadmill.

Wooden Nickel RenderingILC is preparing for three big milestones in late June:  opening of the new Wooden Nickel Coffee Bar and Lounge plus the renovated Claremont Restaurant featuring a new reservation-only Steakhouse dining option; and opening of The Lodge at Buffalo Hill, a new memory care support center.  Construction continues for a 2018 opening of The Villas at Buffalo Hill, 36 fully-reserved apartments offered under a new entrance fee contract. Solutions Advisors, ILC’s marketing partner since June 2015, congratulates the staff, residents and board on these great accomplishments!