In traditional, transactional sales, you’re trained to focus on convincing your customer that their lives would be better with your product or service. This is not the case when it comes to sales for senior living communities.
In senior living, it’s not about selling a need. It’s about providing support and being there as a coach or guide.
Though it may sound cliché, selling senior living is about listening deeply to people – in this case, prospective residents and their families or friends. This approach to discovery is what we call legacy learning, and you can use it to gain a deeper understanding of your customer.
“Legacy learning, at its core, is a deep conversation,” says Solutions Advisors’ vice president Mike Brindley, who has more than 23 years of service in senior living communities. “As the sales counselor, you must ask the right questions about the prospect’s life, family, career, anxieties, and goals. When they begin to open up and share, that’s when the magic happens,” says Brindley. “You’ll uncover ‘wow moments,’ find open doors to ask more pointed questions, and eventually guide them to offerings at your community.”
Remember: Your role is to support their needs and goals, not offer unsolicited advice and tell them what they need.
To get there, you must also first understand who the prospect is – and where they are in life.
Drivers of Older Adults
The prospect embraces his or her age and recognizes changes in their life, whether that is adapting to and enjoying retirement or facing the challenges that come with aging. Many also enjoy the independence and control they have over their lives, so it’s natural to link a phrase like “senior living community” to a loss of control, a chief fear of seniors. Such loss includes independence, sure, but also the loss of personal health, finances, family and friends, professional status, and appearance – not to mention their own home.
Prospects need Purpose
What prospective residents need is not tangible; that is to say, it’s not the Olympic-sized pool or the anytime-dining menu that your community may offer. To be sure, such features make superb amenities, but there is a deeper sense of purpose and belonging that a prospective resident truly needs.
Purpose is how a person views himself or herself, and this self-identity affects their consideration of moving into a senior living community. Your community must first and foremost support the prospect’s sense of purpose instead of diminishing quality of life. Avoid paternalism. Prospects at this stage don’t want to be ‘cared for.’ They want to maintain their identity as a productive member of society, and leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren.
Once you’ve established that your community can support their purpose and help build their legacy, then feel free to mention the pool and dining schedules.
To that end, we offer sales professionals in the senior living industry Six Techniques for Successful Legacy Learning.
Everyone has a story to tell, so let the prospect tell theirs. You’ll understand the things that are important to them, you’ll learn about their past, their professional life, their personal challenges, and their hopes for the future.
To get to the core of a prospect’s purpose, begin with a prompt:
It is an innate human need: to be listened to. Take the time to understand the person, and connect the dots to understand that individual’s goals and objectives.
If you’re truly listening, you respond with emotion and pointed follow-up questions. Be empathetic to the person’s anxieties and hopeful for their goals. Find the “wow” moments of your prospect’s life.
Undoubtedly, the customer will mention something about their life that you can connect to: a place they lived, a favorite movie or TV show, a car they drove, or a hobby that you, too, also enjoy. Use the opportunity to naturally connect over shared experiences.
It will take some time, but once you’ve established a personal connection to the prospect, you may feel more open to ask hard questions: about their health concerns, their fears, or even regrets in life. It’s also the opportunity to understand what they want in a senior living community.
Demonstrate that you listened and understood their goals and passions. If they have a dog, it may be natural to send a dog toy. But with proper discovery, you should have learned the dog’s name. So get it painted onto a bowl. Learn their favorite foods, sports teams, or provide a book that supports their interests. Go above and beyond, and be sincere in your follow-up. A successful follow-up will also lead to a reciprocal communication from the individual.
Legacy Learning takes an investment of your time to master, but is worth the effort over your sales career in the senior care industry. It is the key to better understanding a prospect’s stage of readiness, and grants you permission to slow down, make connections, build relationships and gain a deeper understanding of your customer.
Mike Brindley, Vice President of Associate Development for Solutions Advisors, has used his 20+ years of experience in senior housing to help our clients make a more meaningful impact on their sales operations. Mike is a frequent speaker at conferences where his presentations Top Sales Tips for Senior Living and The Discipline of Discovery for Senior Living Sales have garnered industry acclaim.