By Elizabeth George

Would you believe me if I told you that one of the top salespeople at a large senior living organization was responsible for selling one of the organization’s oldest communities?

As the senior housing industry continues its focus on hospitality with luxurious buildings and more and more amenities, it’s natural to feel either advantaged or disadvantaged by the state of the community you’re marketing.

Either way, this mindset is a mistake. Because it’s not the building you’re selling.

I asked Russell Rush, leading senior housing consultant and founder of R3R1, (a sales model and Senior Living Foresight partner), about this enigma.

“If the building were the main selling point,” Russell explains, “then all the fancy communities would be full with waiting lists. But that’s not the case. Many are struggling with census.”

He continues, “Over the years, senior living selling has become all about showing and less about explaining.” In other words, salespeople are spending most of their time selling the “what” – the movie theater, restaurants, and salons – and less time explaining the “why”; that is, why an individual needs to move out of their beloved home and into a place they may perceive negatively as an “institution”.

“Frankly, many times the potential resident’s home is far nicer with much more space for their beloved belongings than the apartment they are moving into. So, just showing the community rather than persuading the individual why they need to make this transition doesn’t work very often. In fact, showing the community may even convince the senior and their family to stay home.”

The more effective approach is to address what Russell calls “prior commitments”, beliefs that prospective residents are holding on to which conflict with the idea of a move to senior housing. These prior commitments, which represent the foundation of the R3R1 sales method, include:

    • Staying in their beloved home with all their possessions for the rest of their life. 
    • Wanting independence and solitude. 
    • Not wanting to spend money, but to leave an inheritance for the children and grandchildren.

Senior living communities that address these prior commitments will be the most successful at convincing prospective residents to make the transition – regardless of a community’s building or amenities.

How can salespeople address these effectively? By delivering a presentation that explains why the senior will have a much better outcome if they move into the community.

Russell says, “Put yourself in their shoes.” An older adult and their family decides to look at senior living to resolve a challenge they are facing, but the salesperson never explains that the residents of their community are better off than those individuals who have decided to stay home. Then that senior and their family meet with a salesperson at a second community, and that salesperson makes a compelling “reasoning” presentation – that the residents in the community are happy with the service and are far better off than if they had not moved into the community. Which one of those salespeople would cause you to act?

Russell explains that when senior living salespeople use outcomes during their presentations, they will dramatically increase the number of seniors who will move into their communities.

This approach is especially important for senior living salespeople who work in communities that do not have all the “bells and whistles” of some newer communities. It is even more important that they are explaining outcomes versus “showing” features because they will not win the showing game against the newer communities in their area.

Russell shares three insights from his own experiences about selling to outcomes:

Ask the prospective resident what questions they have for you and align your responses to demonstrate the goals your community shares with them – this will help convince them to break their prior commitments and make newer commitments to things like living longer, being healthier, and living in a safe environment.

    1.  Use factual evidence to demonstrate how residents who live in communities have better outcomes than those who don’t. Healthcare advertising leverages statistics frequently to show outcomes, such as the example of “four out of five doctors recommend this product”.
    2. Within senior housing, salespeople have a wealth of recent research to reference that describes the benefits of social connection and the negative impact that loneliness has on overall health.
    3. Share authentic stories about other residents similar to your prospect who have thrived in your community. For example, you might relate a story of a resident who was feeling lonely and having physical challenges and who, upon moving into the community, experienced greater energy and companionship, and became more joyful.

Russell concludes, “Many salespeople believe that when they are showing their communities, they are selling. Showing is just a small part of what needs to be done to convince most seniors and their influencers to take this giant leap.”

For more information, visit and request a demo outlining the R3R1 method.