If you are intent on figuring out how to go the last mile in your senior living community it is almost impossible to do without a set of outside eyes.

If you are intent on figuring out how to go the last mile in your senior living community it is almost impossible to do without a set of outside eyes that allow you to see things you would otherwise miss. Being too close to your own community and company can give you myopic vision. As a follow-up to my recent article, “Top 3 reasons You Should Leave the Secret Shopping to the Professionals,” I reached out to one of those pros, Freddi Hoffmann, Strategic Marketing, Sales & Fund Development Specialist with Sage Age Strategies. I wanted to dig a bit deeper into my own experience and learn about some of the lessons she has learned – and now teaches – after conducting secret shopping for Sage Age clients.

The Lessons

  1. Answering the Phone – Not enough time is put into training and monitoring how the phone is being answered. The first and most critical step is to make sure the front desk staff are trained, trained again and periodically monitored. But beyond that, every team member who might ever answer the phone (don’t forget those who answer the phone in the middle of the night) need training.

This area is so critical and is the focus of so much interest that it will be the primary subject of an upcoming article to be published in the coming weeks.

  1. Sell Your Benefits Not Your Services – Freddi also shared with me that, when she conducts these mystery shops, too often the sales person immediately launches into the features of the building. A nice view, transportation, good food, robust activity program, etc. Those are nice features, but they are nearly universal and, even more so, it misses the bigger picture and is not the most effective approach.

Potential residents (and their children) are looking at senior housing from the perspective of, what benefits will I get from those things? The only way this can happen is for the sales person to spend those first crucial contact moments asking questions about the needs, desires and fears of the perspective resident. Getting to know their “story” and knowing your place in it will give you a huge advantage moving forward.

  1. Have a Good Close – Every step of the sales process needs a have good close. This means the first phone call, the first email inquiry, the first visit and so on. Each close should include the prospects name and the benefits they will receive. It should also include a request for permission to take the next specific step in the sales process.
  1. Follow-up – It is consistent and crazy that, as Sage Age conducts mystery shopping for their clients, close to 50% of the time there is no follow-up after sending an initial package of information to a prospect. Given the competitive environment today and the cost of generating a lead, I personally find this insane. Someone reaches out to your community asking for information; your sales team takes the time to put together a package and sends it by mail or email;

and then . . . (insert sound of chirping crickets here)…just when they are already on the way towards a new move-in, they forfeit the game.

Every community needs to have a culture of follow-up and a bullet proof system for tracking leads and making sure follow-up happens.

  1. PDF Materials – We know today around 80% of senior living prospects start their search on the Internet and senior living communities need to be able to put their best foot forward electronically. The added benefit to you is that printed materials are expensive and PDF’s are virtually free to send out. You do, however, need to think strategically about what you will send. For instance, when do you send price information? Finally, don’t overwhelm your prospects with too much information. If you pile on too much information, whether hard copy or electronic (another version of feature dumping), little if any of the information will be read or – even worse – the wrong things will be read.
  1. Lost Opportunities – There are also many little things that the Sage Age team sees communities doing wrong. None are huge issues individually, but they can certainly add up and make a big difference:
  • How is your voicemail for those times that a call can’t be answered?
  • Is your hold message upbeat and informative or bad county music?
  • Does your email signature take full advantage of that little moment to tell your story again?

Again, not huge issues individually, but just as an individual termite may be insignificant, you sure don’t want them to breed. Ultimately they will eat away at your bottom line.

Sage Age has made available for download a pdf of a LeadingAge presentation that offers more detail and additional tips that will help your team do a better job.  No registration required for this download:

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Do you have other items that should be added to this list? Particularly, what other little things do you see that provide an extra edge? John Gonzales

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