Why the newest CRM might be just the thing you need.
Before ALFA I had seen some buzz about a new CRM system for senior living and not really paid much attention to it. Then a few days before ALFA I got a call wondering if I would be interested in meeting with David Smith, the co-founder of Sherpa, to learn more about this new CRM system.
If I am honest, I wasn’t all that interested and yet . . . I always want to meet everyone and hear their story, to find out how they are impacting senior living. Even more embarrassing, I later discovered that David is well known in the industry and has developed and operated one of the most amazing senior living communities in the whole country.
He and Alexandra (Alex) Fisher, his partner in Sherpa, met me at my hotel where another event was just winding down. It took close to an hour before we all extracted ourselves from other conversations and sat down to talk. It was a stimulating, thought provoking, and enlightening conversation. Alex and David walked me through how Sherpa came to be and gave me a brief demo of the system. More importantly they talked about the philosophy and psychology behind the selling that is the foundation of the Sherpa system.
50% Close Rate
David and Alex made the audacious claim that they are consistently seeing a 50% close rate, a number that is so astronomical as to be unbelievable. When I challenged them, David made this statement that continues to rattle around my head:
“No one calls a brain surgeon, divorce attorney, or senior housing community unless they have a real need.”
I found myself thinking that this rings true; with rare exceptions, people don’t call senior living communities unless they do have a real need. Given that reality, it would seem possible that if we were offering the right product and using the right sales techniques a 50% close rate could be achievable. I find myself wondering if we did a better job of building relationships with prospects and families we would have fewer seniors choosing to stay at home.
What Makes Sherpa Work
The traditional sales model is based on velocity, meaning that if you make enough calls, send enough emails, and give enough tours, some of those people are bound to become residents. . . Throw enough mud on the wall some is bound to stick. David’s approach, and the underlying assumption behind the Sherpa CRM tool, is that rather than trying to manage and touch many, many people it is much better to build deep relationships with qualified prospects with the goal of being helpful. In David and Alex’s thinking being helpful means helping those seniors and families make the best choice, even if it is staying home or moving into a different senior community.
The Selling Process
What this looks like from a sales perspective is spending much more time with a smaller number of prospects developing deep trusting relationships. This means a sales person would typically have many fewer contacts a week but that those contacts would be much richer. The Sherpa Tool then helps to build a narrative about the resident and gives the sales team the tools they need to be helpful to prospects and move those prospects toward the decision that is right for them. At the end of the process sales people are a lot happier; residents have a much higher degree of confidence that they made the right decision and if someone chooses to not move into your community they are still going to have great things to say about you. This video tells the story better than I can:
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Talk about how to sustain a sales culture in a department…this is it! So excited to be using Sherpa, I can’t imagine having to use anything else now! Thanks David and Alex, for changing my approach!
Finally, someone talking sense. I have never, and I repeat-never – subscribed to quantity over quality. I know sales needs measurable results for ROI, however “dialing for dollars” (as I sarcastically call it) is a dinosaur model to which many in our industry still subscribe. If we truly don’t want the “needy” to swarm our doors, we need to focus on those relationships that are good fits for our communities. That takes time, sometimes years, but the results are proven as stated in this article. Impressively long wait lists say little more to me than the sales team is not combing through it carefully enough. The sales process is about human interaction, good manners, thoughtfulness – not a math problem.
The key is that the Sherpa system is not just another CRM. It is based on the Sherpa philosophy and psychology of selling. David is the first person I heard a number of years ago talk about the importance of measuring the quality of sales contacts, not just the quantity. I disagree with him that no one calls a retirement community unless they have a need. I have encountered many who are planners and are getting their ducks in a row for the future and many who have needs beyond what we can meet in independent living, assisted living or memory care. But the Sherpa approach to sales makes so much sense.
After hearing David and Alex quite a few times over the past 4 years, I was probably one of their biggest skeptic. Listening to their presentation this Spring, I was still the skeptic but decided maybe they did have a good point. Sales were not as strong as I would have liked and what was holding me back from trying their Sherpa-ology. I knew in the future that our CRM would be their new Sherpa system so I decided to jump in with both feet. It was a tough transition but now our team focuses on the main needs of fewer prospects with a greater concentration of personal contact from all of our team. We have to remember that Rome was not built in a day or as Alex and David theory is that we are “cultivating not hunting”. Yes we have had a good amount of sales contracts and yes we are knowing our clients much better. Our team has good handle on our hottest prospects and everyone is aware of their unique needs and wants. One of the hardest things to let go of was meeting the daily total of contact with prospects, be it by phone, email, or creative follow up. What I didn’t expect was that our totals really did not differ that much. The magic is that we now engaged our focus group of hottest prospects and the prospects did not hesitate to pick up the phone, stop by and visit, or email us triple the amount that would have normally taken place. My hardest adjustment is my task list is not up to date with prospects but Alex says not to worry you will start to reap the rewards in the future. One thing that is happening, our team is now excited about increasing our occupancy and I don’t just mean the sales team, this is includes the entire staff. The staff is engaging, inviting and just plain enjoying our visitors/prospects along with our members (a little bit of the Sherpa magic?). We will be switching to Sherpa in the near future and quite frankly, we can’t wait.