A few days ago in our Senior Living Leadership Facebook Group, a member of the group posted this question:
The Question (gently edited)
“I am new to leadership. How do you choose which vendors to give your time to when they come marketing? I get so much stuff across my desk and requests for a meeting . . . I don’t want to seem unavailable. However, I need to be able to do my job! I imagine once they get my email I will be overwhelmed that way too!”
The Responses in the Group (gently edited)
- I would never meet with anyone who did not make an appointment. Cold callers are my pet peeve.
- You have to figure out relationships that will be mutually beneficial.
- I always meet for just a few minutes with people who came-in and then ask them to make an appointment. Most important: Be honest about what you can and can’t do for them. But remember everyone is worthy of at least a few minutes of your time and respect.
- Unless I am with a family I meet with everyone even if it is just for 5 minutes. Everyone is a potential referral source . . . one last thing . . . everyone typically knows each other and you don’t want the reputation of someone who could not be bothered to give 5 minutes.
- Concentrate on the problems that you are trying to solve and putting your time into the vendors that can help solve those problems.
- It takes 2 min. to smile and say “Hello. It is nice to meet you. I am swamped as you might understand but willing to take your card”. By blowing them off, you will for sure develop a reputation. And that is not what you need when your census unexpectedly drops.
- Building relationships is the key! I set aside Friday mornings to meet with vendors by appointment. I also always answered emails with kind messages inviting them for a Friday meet up.
- Being hospitable wins every time. 😊
Are Providers Too Nice?
As someone who has spent much of his life on the vendor sales side of things, I found these responses to be largely encouraging. That being said, I have come to believe that providers are sometimes too nice to vendors. They take cards and even say things like “reach out to me later” because they are trying to be nice.
A few months ago I shared a cab with a CEO who was on a panel at a conference. He was mobbed with mostly vendors wanting to get his attention and we were talking about this phenomena. He pulled out a stack of vendor business cards and he had something like 7 cards from people in a particular single segment who now all thought that because he had taken their card . . . and likely given them his, they had a shot at his business.
The reality was that he had zero need at that time and was not likely to in the near future.
I would beg providers to be honest about what they can and cannot use.
Just so we are all on the same page . . . ghosting is when someone has started a relationship of some kind then just disappears without explanation. I have heard so many senior living operators complain about employees and employee prospects doing this. They are right, it is a terrible thing to do.
But honestly, operators are the very worst at this when it comes to vendors trying to sell them something. To just not respond is rude (sorry if you are someone who does this). It is not kinder than sending an email saying, “sorry we don’t have a need” or “contact me in 6 months” or even “I think you are a jerk, go away.”
When you take the 30 seconds or a minute it takes to do that, a bunch of really good things happen. That vendor will quit bugging you. You may someday find you need that product or service and it will go better. It is a profound act of kindness to that salesperson who is spending more time chasing you than you can possibly imagine.
Saying no seems cruel but it is kindness . . . and I hope that person I am chasing reads this. 😁
Oh . . . and if they say no, don’t be a jerk and keep bugging them.