To often in Senior Living marketing and sales as seen as interchangeable terms. This is wrong thinking and actually hurts the process of filling and keeping full senior housing communities.
I have been in Sales and Marketing for over 28 years and I have found that the two very different disciplines have been joined together like peanut butter and jelly, Jack and Diane. Unlike marketing, there are no degree programs in sales, only training classes.
Marketing is the activity that directs the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers. In advanced industrial economies, marketing considerations play a major role in determining corporate policy. Once primarily concerned with increasing sales through advertising and other promotional techniques, corporate marketing departments now focus on credit policies, product development, customer support, distribution, and corporate communications. Marketers may look for outlets through which to sell the company’s products, including retail stores, direct-mail marketing, and wholesaling. They may make psychological and demographic studies of a potential market, experiment with various marketing strategies, and conduct informal interviews with target audiences. Marketing is used both to increase sales of an existing product and to introduce new products.
Sales is a unique set of skills designed to do one thing–close. In Senior Housing we need to develop a clear and concise sales plan and execute it accordingly; Sales begins where marketing ends. Once a product or service is presented to the consumer and they respond, the sales process begins. The sales person will take the interested prospect down a path called the “Sales Process”. It typically begins with a warm up or time for the prospect and sales person to get to know each other. This is the first time that the prospect begins to develop a trust in the company and their representative. There are specific questions asked during this process that will allow the sales person to gain a better understanding of the prospect. After a thorough warm up, the sales person transitions to the product or service that they offer. They continue to ask questions which are more specific to the prospects needs, wants and desires. Once sales person understands these needs, they begin to match what they have to offer to the prospects needs. At this point the sales person presents their product which would include a tour the community. During the tour process, the sales person will actively focus on the prospects identified needs by introducing them to the staff members or residents that can meet their needs, wants and desires. During the tour, they ask specifically designed questions to elicit YES responses. These yes questions lead the prospect to the end–the close. After the sales person has demonstrated to the prospect that they can meet their needs, wants and desires, they move to the close by explaining simply what the next “logical” step is in the process . . . In other words . . . bringing mom or dad in to tour the community; scheduling a meal, if that was important; meet the executive director; participation in an activity and of course accepting a reservation or deposit.
Why Differentiation is Important
Because you are a great marketing person does not mean you are a great sales person, and in fact this is often the case. By the same token being a great sales person does not mean you will be a great marketing person. When we ask one person to fill both functions we often end-up with team members who are not great at either function. This hurts morale and it hurts occupancy.
Back when I worked for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, 3M Company, ElectroProducts Division to work in marketing you first had to work in sales. Marketeers could not function in marketing if they lacked first hand experience selling and overcoming objections.
True Dave. Many do not understand the differences and are even penalized in some cases. I have seen many “marketing” folks enter into sales positions only to realize all too quickly, that they “weren’t in Kansas anymore”.
From LinkedIn Groups
Great article…I would add that in the senior living industry, we tend to stay away from calling marketing staff “sales people,” even though they are ultimately in pursuit of a successful execution of the selling process. What we do at the “selling process level” is so very intimate and emotional that I prefer to think of our marketing staff as lifestyle counselors or coaches. Absolutely agree that the marketing process is a radically different from what an actual sales person sets about doing…but in this industry, we both have the same objective as we move towards the goals of conversions of prospects to residents…..just using different methods! Thanks again!
By Cindy Janssen
I have seen many Sales people get promoted to Marketing leadership roles in this industry with very little inclination to the other disciplines that Marketing encompasses. Considering Sales is just one vehicle of Marketing, and that it is also singularly transactional in nature, I would think that it would be next to impossible to grow a business only using this limited technique.
While I agree with the premise that there needs to be a clear separation between marketing and sales activities in today’s communities, I believe that the quality of sales training to those designated professionals needs to be improved so as to ensure that every community has the best chance of attaining full occupancy all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this old school approach to getting a sale… relating, delivering benefit and then an assumptive close! It’s just too bad this approach to sales in complicated transactions (such as moving your parents into a Senior Living Community) doesn’t work well in today’s day in age. As consumers become more educated in their buying decisions by using the websites like http://www.retirementhomes.com or social sites Google Plus or Quora.
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