How to help your residents and families tell their story…

By Pam McDonald

Testimonials are worth their weight in gold. Not just as a referral or recommendation, but also for the opportunity they provide sales staff to weave positive feedback into conversation with prospective residents.

Who wouldn’t want letters like these received by Jeanine Aspen, President of DEI Sales, a sales management and training system (and Senior Housing Forum Partner).

DEI is the only “Sales Training” I have attended over the last 15 years that makes sense. The tools I can use to be successful were articulated very well by Jeanine.

— A seasoned salesperson

Because I spent several successful years in Assisted Living sales, I didn’t think there would be much more for me to learn. After all, I’ve spent hundreds of hours in training with SunWest, Emeritus and Brookdale. However, this was an awesome training, and unlike all the others, clarifies with specific language and specific definitions WHO was a successful tour, and who wasn’t. No matter how nice, how wealthy and how much they need us, if there isn’t a time-activated next step, they were not a successful tour.

— Another salesperson

Midwest Health has 51 communities, which include IL, AL, Memory Care and Skilled Nursing. We have been working with Jeanine and DEI for about seven years and continue to see positive results in our census and improve the selling skills of our sales team.  DEI has become the basis of our sales process.

With over 20 years experience in Sales and Marketing, I have been a part of many sales trainings, including for Marriott Senior Living Services. Nothing I had experienced in the past had the approach of DEI, which includes a ‘makes sense’ approach, clear definitions of what qualifies as a prospect, the difference between sales and marketing, getting next steps, and a common language for Sales and Operations. The effect this process has on Operations’ understanding the sales process has been essential.

The continued support from DEI – the training modules, updated tools, selling skills training, and on-going communication of best practices – has contributed to our success as well. I highly recommend DEI.

— Lynn Tenbrink, Director of Marketing, Midwest Health

Testimonials, recommendations, and ensorsements  communicate the message:

You don’t just have to take my word for it, look at what our residents and families are saying . . ..”

When people are making a big decision – like moving to a new home – they are likely to feel out of their depth; maybe even a bit scared. A third-party opinion may provide just the assurance they need to make the move.

Getting endorsements isn’t just so you can put them up on a wall or website like a trophy case. More than that, positive feedback allows you to develop stories as prospects express concerns or objections, or ask about features your community doesn’t provide. Your residents’ stories become examples of why people happily choose your community over other options.

Getting testimonials starts with two cardinal rules:

            1. Ask.

            2. Make it as easy as possible.

Here are a few strategies to help your residents and families tell their story – and yours.

  • Train staff to listen for praise, jot it down, and ask if you can share these thoughts with others.
  • How you ask will make a big difference, so try something along theses lines:

“I’m so glad things are going so well, Mrs. Smith. Would you be willing to share your kind words so others can be inspired by you?”

Or, “May I share that story with others? Would that be okay?”

  • Create templates for the most common types of testimonials; those who want to support you can use these to gather their own thoughts. Or, have a page of actual testimonial printed and available.
  • Let residents and families know you can draft something for them.
  • Pick up the phone or make an in-person visit to a resident’s apartment. Face-to-face requests, typically, are so much more effective.
  • During your 30-, 60- or 90-day resident orientation process, you’ll have different staff members contacting residents. Remind staff that this is a great opportunity to confirm that the resident is happy. When the feedback is good have staff ask if that opinion can be shared.
  • Offer to video tape positive comments; just be careful to present them in the best light. (Lighting is everything in video. Good natural lighting is best, with as few shadows a possible.) Hair combed, dressed smart and looking good is the way you want to present your residents and supporters.

If your community provides an active, satisfying lifestyle; great food; exceptional supportive, health-related care; and an overall awe-inspiring experience, you will get great testimonial . . . if you ask.