When new prospects are not flocking to your door, how do you and your sales team make business happen?

By Lori Juneau-Alford

The million dollar question:

When new prospects are not flocking to your door, how do you and your sales team make business happen?

A Weird Paradox

Studies consistently demonstrate seniors and their families are increasingly technologically sophisticated, using electronic media in their initial search for senior housing options. At the same time, studies show that most people prefer a face-to-face experience when learning about senior housing services and products.

Regardless of your current occupancy level, your salespeople need to be in the marketplace “hunting” new business. It is tough getting past the gatekeepers so when it happens you must be able to make a lasting impression.

The biggest mistake senior housing sales and management organizations make is failing to provide training on how to be effective selling outside the community. A sales call is not a time for a “social visit” – it is a well-articulated, targeted message.

If you need to increase your inquiries, professional referral sources are a gold mine. Outside sales is a blend of art and science but when done properly it can produce amazing results — particularly when your marketing budget is limited! Done right, outside marketing can more than double your professional referrals!

10 Ways to Increase Professional Referrals

  1. The messenger is more important than the message — Both are crucial, but don’t underestimate the power of your personality and your delivery — confidence is key. You are the expert so carry yourself that way.
  1. Speak English — Leave your buzzwords and other jargon at home.
  1. Tell Stories — Brief stories. People can relate to stories that speak to emotions. Be brief though to keep them captivated.
  1. Be clear about your message — Don’t feature dump. Stay on target so they can retain what you say. Less is more.
  1. A professional encounter is usually a brief discussion, not a seminar or lecture — A typical professional meeting runs about 15 minutes – or less. You have about 3 minutes to make your point so that your counterpart can ask questions and initiate a discussion.
  1. Your meeting will rarely follow the script you envision beforehand — Be prepared for the subject to change, and roll with it, if need be. You never know what good things might come from your flexibility.
  1. Anticipate tough questions and practice the answers — You should almost never be caught off guard or surprised.
  1. Never leave a meeting without a follow-up plan — Know what you want, the action you need or want the other party to take, and agree on next steps. A meeting for its own sake, with no plan for a next step, is usually a failure.
  1. You get one shot — You need to assume you are only going to get one chance to tell your story. Don’t plan on another.
  1. Always, always ask for the business! — This is a business call not a social one.

Lori Juneau-Alford is a seasoned senior housing executive and the Chief Operating Officer of Avanti Senior Living, which has over a decade of unique expertise in sales, marketing, and operations. She is passionate about helping senior housing providers improve their sales and marketing techniques to attract more referrals and market share, have closing ratios over 60% and increase their revenue and bottom line performance.

This updated article was first published at Senior Housing Forum in 2011.