By Susan Saldibar

Did you ever take one of those sales tests to find out if you were a “hunter” or a “farmer”? Hunters, as you may know, are the ones most driven to get the sale. Farmers are the tillers and seed planters; better at nurturing and building rapport. I was designated a hunter, and rightfully so as I had little patience with calling to ask, “How’s it going?” And there was a farmer colleague of mine, a super skilled nurturer, but she couldn’t close worth a dime.

Why Are You Trying to Force Farming on Your Hunters?

Most businesses need both farmers and hunters. But when budgets are tight, it’s usually the hunters you look for. Some say they can find people with both skills. Maybe they can. But hunters will gravitate towards working to get the tour and move-in. They don’t have the time and patience to nurture. So, without farmers, there’s no “tilling”, so the seeds don’t grow. And, ultimately, occupancy suffers.

What made me think about hunters and farmers was a chat I had recently with Kathleen McNair, SVP of Consumer Operations for RealPage (a Senior Living Foresight partner). Kathleen spoke with pride about their senior contact center filled with seasoned nurturers hired for their ability to empathize, build trust, and know when a lead is ready to schedule a tour, so the community hunters can get the move-in.

“You hire your best sales counselors to convert tours to move-ins,” Kathleen says. “But there is a large portion of leads that need to be brought along slowly and steadily. You need skilled nurturers who can empathize, steadily build trust in your brand, and schedule the tour when the lead is ready” she adds.

Can a Lead Nurturer Change the Way You Feel About a Company?

Lead nurturing also means being able to answer questions that pop up as a prospect’s circumstances change. And, as Kathleen points out, it’s an emotional process. “Having been a purchaser of senior services myself, I know that it can be an emotional roller coaster,” Kathleen says. “One minute you realize your mom or dad needs help, the next they seem better and you think, ‘Maybe I don’t need this’”. It’s a roller coaster. And nurturing means understanding those twists and turns and adjusting your communications style and tone to meet them.”

Kathleen shared an experience she had herself, being on the receiving end of great nurturing. “I’m going through a move right now and looking at houses. I was given the name of 3 lenders, but the process has been protracted due to issues with my own house. When I said things are on hold; one of the lenders asked for my permission to reach out to me once a week. He asked, ‘Should I email? Call? Which works better for you?’ In that, he conveyed a genuine sense of caring. In fact, he changed my impression of the company from one I wouldn’t consider doing business with, to one that’s willing to work for my business. So, assuming it pans out properly, I have every intention of using them.”

For the most part, however, when an adult child calls a local senior community and asks about their options, they’ll get bombarded with a list of all the amenities. “But what if home care is a better choice, at least temporarily?” Kathleen asks. “So often, even if a senior care provider has home care, the sales counselors will gravitate to what they want you to buy, not necessarily what the best option is for you. With lead nurturing, you are getting someone to help, not just sell. They are familiar with the entire portfolio of a senior living community. So they can offer available alternatives. And they know when to offer them,” she explains.

But What About the ROI?

I can see where all this can lead to higher occupancy in that you are basically leaving no leads to wither and die. But what about the expense of using a contact center? Kathleen is quick to note that they are not inexpensive. Which is why she says you really need to look at the ROI. “We have proven ROI on every lead nurturing campaign we’ve done,” she tells me. She gave an example of a client, an operator of about 200 communities, who started a nurturing program with a batch of prospects who had either recently visited and not signed a lease, or were highly qualified but didn’t schedule a visit.

The 6-month program costs $78,000. They received 23 leases they attributed to the program. At a conservative average of $3,000/month, that makes for a total of $828,000. That’s a 10.6 x return on investment. And, as Kathleen points out, $3,000 was the conservative average. “Even if only 50% had converted, you’re still way ahead,” she says. And, she noted that it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that only about 60% of leads are typically followed up on, which almost doubles your cost per lead. “That’s why you need nurturers,” she says. “And that’s where a good contact center can make the difference.”

So who are your farmers? Or are your sales counselors “hunters”, inclined to go for today’s “gold”, leaving tomorrow’s harvest untilled? Do you need a few good farmers? Can a contact center fill that role? Something to think about.

For more information about RealPage Contact Center, watch this video, or visit their website.