Top sellers focus on building deeper relationships with fewer customers

By Carolyn Milliman, Marketing Coordinator, One on One Sherpa

At a recent Sales and Marketing Summit in Jupiter, Florida, David Smith and Alex Fisher, Sherpa co‑founders, a Senior Housing Forum partner, challenged the senior housing industry’s use of the number of call outs and tours as leading indicators of sales results.  

Imagine a room filled with many of the industry’s top sales leaders and managers. They’re a captive audience, focused on how to reverse declining occupancies. At the same time, they’re troubled by an increase in costs for lead generation and in higher acuity residents in senior housing communities. Smith, who together with Fisher developed Prospect-Centered Selling SM, declared that the key to converting higher functioning prospects faster is “spending more time with fewer prospects.”

“Some things just take time—like having a baby, growing an orchard, or baking a cake.” Smith reminded his audience. “You just can’t bake twice as many cakes by cooking each one half as long.”  

More importantly, Smith noted, “It also takes time to make emotional connections, build trust, and help higher functioning prospects get ready.”

Correlation vs Causation

Most industry sales managers and CRMs rely on the number of new leads, call outs, and tours as predictive indicators of success. However, while each of these activities typically happens before a prospect closes, data from more than 1,000 Sherpa users now demonstrates that having more inquiries or doing more call outs and tours does not lead to (or cause) better sales results.  

To illustrate the difference between correlation and causation, Smith noted that “every summer on the east coast of Florida, ice cream sales go up in direct proportion to the number of shark attacks. While these two trends are correlated, ice cream sales are not the cause of increased shark attacks!”

Fisher compared sales results between different independent living and assisted living customers. These communities all use Sherpa; they’re similar in size, pricing, date opened, and level of occupancy. The data shows communities with more leads, more call outs, and more tours do not necessarily have more move-ins.  

The Selling Zone

Fisher drew the audience’s attention to this fact: the data shows the more time that is invested in The Selling Zone SM with each prospect, the more likely it is they will move in.

“More time with fewer leads drives better results,” Fisher said. This is consistent with the findings of Ryan Fuller, a reporter for the Harvard business Review.

“Depth trumps breadth. Top sellers focus on building deeper relationships with fewer customers rather than casting a wider net of shallow engagements. They spend 18 percent more time with customers, yet interact with 40 percent fewer accounts, allowing them more time with each one.”            

~ What Makes Great B2B Sales People

The Sherpa database reveals that of all the time spent in The Selling Zone, purposeful planning and personalized creative follow up has the greatest impact on sales performance. There’s no getting around getting to know people.

Sherpa’s top users invested 30% of each hour in The Selling Zone in planning and 15% in creative follow up. Lower performers spent much less time in these activities and more time doing call outs and tours. A ground breaking study of a set of Sherpa data is now underway by Dr. Margaret Wylde, CEO of The ProMatura Group and will be released this spring. Referring to the growing Sherpa database, Wylde noted that she has never seen as much qualitative and quantitative data collected regarding factors that impact sales results.

The senior housing industry’s belief in the practice of increasing sales velocity with more calls and tours is misplaced. As data from Sherpa now shows, it’s all about time.

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