Looking at how common language helps keep the sales process on track.

If we’re working toward the same goal and you say “tomato” while I say “tomatho,” it’s not that big of a deal, we’re likely to get each other. However, if you say “tomato” and I say “carrot stick,” we’ve got a problem. We’re likely to spend as much time trying to understand each other as we do achieving our objective. That’s just how important shared definitions are.

That’s why DEI Sales Central, a Senior Housing Forum Partner and sales management and training company, emphasizes the need for the sales team – executive directors, sales staff and regional sales managers – to develop and use a common language to describe the sales process.

In an article titled “How 10 Prospects Might Be Just the Right Number for You,” Jeanine Aspen, DEI Central President, explained that DEI classifies prospects only as active or inactive. Further, they narrowly defined the term active to mean that both the prospect and the salesperson have agreed to a next step and scheduled a time and date for that contact.

DEI has over 30 years experience in which they’ve trained half a million salespeople, For senior living they’ve found that a community needs to gain and maintain a minimum of 10 active prospects, while aspiring to 15 to 20. They also advocate tracking prospects by creating a Pipeline Picture, using a rule-based system that guides salespeople toward the right behavior and actions. The common language and definitions DEI recommends for pipeline tracking is below:

  • Opportunity: Name and contact information from incoming calls, emails, and other sources such as referral agencies like Caring.com.
  • Initial Engagement: Return phone calls, email replies, etc.
  • First Appointment: The initial meeting/engagement for a discussion with someone the salesperson wants to turn into an active prospect.
  • Zero Percent is the starting point in the process; it describes an individual whom the salesperson wants as a prospect but hasn’t yet secured a mutually agreed next step and next contact. That means many, if not most, of the names in your marketing tracking databases are at zero percent. As Jeanine points out, “Although you might not like what you see initially, with this slight change, your sales forecasts are on their way to becoming unbelievably accurate.”
  • Twenty-Five Percent: Someone with whom the salesperson has had a first appointment and has scheduled a time and date for a next meeting, but about whom they’re still learning the prospect’s situation while the prospect is learning about the community.
  • Fifty Percent: Someone who is a prospect with a dated next step in place, and about whom your sales team knows the following:
    • What services and pricing makes sense for this prospective resident
    • That the right decision makers are involved and verified
    • That the right budget is available to make the solution happen
  • Ninety Percent: A prospect about whom the above information is known but who additionally has given the salesperson a verbal commitment to buy and agreed to a date to sign the lease and to move in.
  • Closed: The prospect has formalized the move-in commitment by signing a lease agreement.

The passing of time will prove, at each step of the way, if the salesperson’s assessment is correct, because these terms communicate the timeframe in which the salesperson and community can expect to receive income from a new senior resident.

“Whether or not you were correct in your prediction will be known within two weeks, three at a maximum,” Jeanine noted. ”Tracked this way, your salespeople’s’ assessments create a valuable and highly accurate pipeline picture for forecasting.”

What terms do you use to describe how close a prospect is to move-in?