By Elizabeth George

How long on average do salespeople stay with your community? Raise your hand (metaphorically, that is) if it’s:

10 years or more

5-10 years

2-5 years

1 year or less?

For those answering a year or less, maybe you’re thinking this is fine. That any short length of service means that the salesperson probably wasn’t that good anyway. That it’s best for everyone involved to cut the cord early and move on to find another, better person to take their place.

Ahem, it might not be that easy to find that special someone anymore.

A few market dynamics have been in play for some time within the senior living industry that can make it tough to attract top talent:

  • Senior living is not always perceived to be a “sexy business” for recruits.
  • Sales compensation packages don’t always compete with packages in other industries. 
  • Unlike other disciplines, there aren’t a multitude of people, particularly early on in their careers, who are eagerly becoming sales professionals.

And currently, the employment market is super tight.

As a result, most of us are probably looking at candidate pipelines that are narrower than we’d like.

Tell Me There’s an Easy Way Out

Okay, so there’s an easy way out. Pay more in salary and incentives so you can attract greater talent to your community.

I’m going to assume that if your organization believed it could do that, it would do that. But that’s probably not the case.

The good news is that there is another solution; hire the best talent you can find with what you have to offer and help the new team member learn how to do sales well.

Russell Rush, Managing Partner of R3R1 Consulting Group (a Senior Living Foresight partner), has some wisdom to share in this area. He’s a seasoned and successful senior living sales executive who is also focusing his time and attention on training other salespeople to get better results.

I asked him for his perspective on how the senior living industry can work within the current market dynamics and grow their sales talent to succeed and to stay.

He shares three recommendations:

  1. Recognize and value the skills required of good salespeople. “Good salespeople will stay in their roles when they are successful,” says Russell. “What I’m seeing in the industry now is that we’re attracting lesser experienced people to sales roles, expecting — and, quite frankly, praying — they will be successful within a short space of time. Often, we are not providing the training they need to do that. It’s creating a cycle that’s not only leading to high turnover and lower occupancy but also contributing to a reputation that we’re an industry of churn and burn. It’s counter to what we are all about, which is to care for people and help them live longer, healthier lives.”

    Russell’s belief? “Sales skills can be taught and nurtured over time.”

  2. Focus new salespeople on three skill areas. “We are attracting candidates from outside our industry, which can certainly be enriching for our communities,” continues Russell. “In widening our net, however, we also need to be intentional about educating these individuals about our industry, about the particular communities they are selling so they can tell the story effectively to prospective residents, and, most importantly, we need to teach all salespeople the science of sales.”

    The R3R1 approach is based upon a deep understanding of human behavior, the psychology of how to sell, and why people buy. Says Russell, “Effective selling is about translating knowledge of human behavior into an effective sales presentation that persuades a senior to buy. People who apply this science-based framework consistently are far more likely to be successful than those who do not.”

  3. Repetition breeds mastery. Emphasize presentation delivery performance. “Salespeople will deliver the same presentation repeatedly — just like an actor who gives multiple performances of the same play for perhaps years on end,” he says. “If a newly hired salesperson understands that repetition is part of the job and accepts it – using it to become more effective over time – it will lessen adversity and be viewed as an advantage. Each presentation is an opportunity to refine one’s craft and create even more effective presentations, ultimately closing more sales.”

With the right tools and mindset, we can create a positive cycle in senior living: as an industry that spots diverse talent, helps people become their best, and retains people who are fulfilled and rewarded by serving the mission.

Learn a proven method to convert more leads to move-ins. Sign up for the R3R1 Science of Selling Academy. 

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