Focus your attention on behaviors that lead to sales conversions.

By Alexandra Fisher, Sherpa Co-Founder (Sherpa is a Senior Housing Forum partner)

Last week, I got to be the prospect. I was looking for a new management software solution for our company. I was quite ambivalent about it, because it required our business going through a significant change. I had booked a couple of hours with Kathy (name has been changed, the facts remain!), the solution expert. Going into my meeting with her, I was reluctant to make any decisions. But I was ready to engage with someone that cared about my problem and could help me sort it out. I was hoping for a dance of ideas, with someone that knows the territory better than me. Instead of dancing, however, it felt like Kathy’s agenda was to wrestle a “yes” from me.

Here is what I noticed:

  1. Kathy did a lot of talking about herself: her knowledge about the product, her expertise, how much her other clients liked her. She did not, however, demonstrate her expertise by applying it to my situation.
  2. She did not like it when I tried to interrupt her spiel with questions. She kept redirecting me to “I will cover that later”, or “we’ll get to that”, and I got the sense that she either did not like going “off-script” or perhaps didn’t have the answers.
  3. Kathy stayed on the surface and did not ask much about my company’s underlying needs. She made a lot of assumptions based on little specific information. She assumed I was ready to buy (I wasn’t, I just needed help figuring out whether to buy), and, at the end of the presentation, tried to pin me down to a “close.”

Kathy was very nice but it was obvious she cared more about getting the sale than about helping me decide whether to buy. Since I love analogies, I will call Kathy The Wrestler (AKA “the closer”). I felt she was trying to win, by convincing me. It felt like we were wrestling over control of the conversation. I felt I needed to protect myself from her. The Wrestler is great when it comes to selling a product that people have urgency and/or demand for. This transactional approach might have worked if I was buying, say, a couch. I became increasingly guarded, and eventually I shut down.

Obviously, changing management software is not nearly as painful a change as what senior housing prospects face when they consider moving. But there are similarities in the way that all of us make decisions when the stakes are high. It takes time, it is often emotionally laden, and we need guidance. We need a dance partner.

The Dancer, (AKA “The Sherpa”), is a relationship builder that shows keen interest in the potential buyer. Rather than going for the “close”, he/she attempts to “open” the prospect early, lets the prospect lead, and gets in alignment and lock-step. The Dancers gain and build trust; open up discovery, nurture the relationship and they don’t give up too soon. They assume most prospects are “not ready” to buy and gently advance their readiness to change. They plan for the next step and they follow up creatively. The results are amazing: higher conversions, stronger relationships with prospective and new residents, and a lot more fun and motivation for the sales team.

Around 90% of our prospective residents (leads) do not have any urgency nor do they think that what we have to offer is something desirable. They are very ambivalent and in emotional turmoil. Prospect-Centered SellingSM and Sherpa transform the sales culture of a business by focusing on the person — the customer. Let’s focus our attention on behaviors that lead to sales conversions.

Let’s dance!