Ever wonder what it takes to maintain 98% occupancy across a senior living company’s entire enterprise for three years?

By Pam McDonald

Ever wonder what it takes to maintain 98% occupancy across a senior living company’s entire enterprise for three years? That’s the question Senior Housing Forum Publisher Steve Moran posed to Paul Peck, Sales Director for Carlton Senior Living.

Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Carlton maintained 98% occupancy for three years but recently dipped to 97%. Paul says they’re back on track to achieve a solid 98% again by the end of this quarter.

Watch the video below to learn what Paul believes contributes most to Carlton’s ongoing success with occupancy, including the following highlights.

Focus on Move-ins/Move-outs AND Operations

Explaining their success, Paul says, “I think one of the differences for Carlton is that we focus, not only on sales when we look at occupancy rates, we focus on sales and operations. Because, as we all know, occupancy is a net number between move-ins and move-outs. So if we focus [only] on move-ins, we tend to lose good salespeople because we tend to put pressure [on them and] . . . communities with more move-outs.”

He notes that operational changes, like losing a department head or higher turnover among caregivers, can result in more move-outs than normal. In those situations, he says, “most companies will turn to sales and say ‘well, you just need more move-ins’.

“That might be okay for a month or two,” Paul states, “but if you continue that focus on just move-ins, then we find occupancy will begin to tail off because you have to fix the operational concerns simultaneous with increasing sales.”

Hire Salespeople, then Train, Support, and Reward the Heck Out of Them

Another critical piece to achieving high occupancy, according to Paul, is to hire the right people. He recommends that Executive Directors or hiring teams take their time. And, he notes, you want people with a successful sales background – not “retirement counselors, not social workers, not marketing directors.”

He says, “My goal is to find salespeople, train them well, . . . [and] support the heck out of them. Make sure they feel the love, make sure they know they are valued and then reward them for their successes.

“If they’re not succeeding for a while, support them through that. But if it continues to be a problem, kick ‘em in the tail, cuz sometimes they need that too. And they know it comes from love, they know it comes from the caring that we have for them, [and] that we want to support them in what they do.”

Ensure Salespeople Focus on Sales Activities

Paul insists that salespeople can’t do their best if their focus is split. He says, “Because when they’re focused 100% on income-producing activity, on sales activities, we find success in move-ins.

“I have found . . . that when [salespeople are managers for the day or have other operations duties], you can’t hold them accountable for occupancy, for their portion of occupancy, if their focus is split.”

The key, he says, is “identifying what their day-to-day looks like with their Executive Directors, identifying those things that are definitely operational in nature, and removing those from their activities.”

Paul believes it’s also important to identify operations staff who can handle any non-incoming producing activities of the sales staff – like in-house transfers or resident events. He says, “We have 80 to 100 staff part- or full-time and [just] 2 people in sales. So, I think the 78 should be able to handle the operational focus.”

Plug All Staff into the Sales Process

To get all staff aware that they, too, are part of the sales process, Paul says, “they have to buy into that concept. So it usually starts with the Executive Director. That executive director must be the sales leader in the community. They don’t have to have a sales background but they have to understand that they create the culture for that community . . . a sales culture, a culture of customer service . . ..

Paul notes that every department and all staff need to see their connection to the community’s occupancy. He says, “So when everybody is functioning and doing their job well and everyone realizes that they influence the occupancy of that community, we see success.”

[Watch for Part 2 of the video where Paul reveals about their special sales sauce.]

Founded in 1985 and headquartered in Concord, California, Carlton Senior Living offers independent and assisted living, as well as memory care in 11 San Francisco East Bay communities – from Sacramento to San Jose. They’re currently constructing a new community in Santa Rosa, California, which is scheduled to open next year.