It’s a numbers game that simply doesn’t work.

By Kent Mulkey

No one who has sat in the seat of a salesperson in senior housing would say it is easy. It’s not. It takes a lot of time. It’s emotionally taxing. You hear most people say no to the idea of moving, especially at first.

A few things some folks miss when evaluating their sales success is the invariable increase in local competition, the meteoric rise of home care, increased operating costs of senior housing, and seniors who are staying longer in their homes. If I remember correctly, the average age of move into senior housing was about 82 in the ’90s. Now it’s about 87.

Stuck in the Past

So, here is the big fat question: Why do so many senior housing providers resort to sales approaches that come from the days of pioneers heading west in covered wagons? In the old days, before a flood of providers in the market, volume worked . . . sort of. One senior housing leader recently referred to it as “dialing for dollars,” as if that is a good thing. The belief is that the more you dial the phone, the more success you will see. It’s a numbers game that simply doesn’t work. Not anymore, if ever.

Here are a few key principles that industry experts have taught me and thousands of others who sell to seniors. Thank goodness.

  1. Slow down. Change takes time. It took the pioneers more than a week to move west.

  2. When calling prospects track quality over quantity. I would never make it in a high-volume environment. I like getting to know people and hearing their story.

  3. Make it your goal to be helpful, regardless of whether they move to your community.

  4. Make the interaction about them, not about you and your “fabulous” community.

  5. Prospects don’t much care about our product. They care about themselves and their own needs.

  6. Develop habits instead of chasing goals. It’s the process, not the outcome that matters.

  7. The prospect doesn’t walk in the door to develop a relationship with you. They are there to solve a problem. You can help them solve it.

  8. If I hear one more sales counselor invite a prospect in for “lunch and a tour,” I am going to scream.

  9. Dump the hot/warm/cold model. How can we possibly know when people are ready to move in?

  10. Cut the insider jargon, such as “Are you looking for IL or AL?”

Years ago, when people still went to the post office, the line was (of course) out the door, with only one counter person. I noticed he was cool as a cat. When I got to the front of the line, I asked him how he did it. His reply was classic, “I can only help one person at a time.”

Work smart. Pay attention to the person in front of you.