A solution to the Aggressive Vendor vs. Executive Gatekeeper problem.

By Steve Moran

This site exists exclusively to help great senior living professionals get even better. That being said, a few times a year I find myself wanting to have a little public chat with the vendor community, a group that represents 10-15% of Senior Housing Forum readers.  

What follows is two experiences I was a party to over the last year or so. They both made me cringe and laugh. I laughed because the vendors were so anxious to do it right but didn’t, and cringe because I can’t help but think that when I was on the vendor side, you could have probably told these stories about me.

Butt In . . . Then Butt Out

Several months ago I was at a conference and during the break I heard someone calling my name. I could see the person, but it was not someone I recognized. He introduced himself as a fan of Senior Housing Forum and when he told me his name, I was delighted because he was on my list of people I someday wanted to meet.

I sat down to chat and maybe 3 minutes into the conversation, an account manager for some company that  wanted to sell something to him, butted into our conversation. Honestly, I understood, as I have spent most of my life selling, even today selling is a part of my life. Still, it wasn’t exactly great form on the vendor’s part. It would have been nice if he had noticed I was there, but he was probably nervous and excited to have this meet-and-greet opportunity.  

Nonetheless, if you are a vendor . . . don’t do this!

Fortunately, for the vendors sake, the gentleman I speaking with was incredibly gracious to this guy.

But here is the thing . . . the vendor — despite his rude and unprofessional intrusion — achieved his goal. He got exactly what he wanted, a great opportunity. But it was only due to the patience of others. The overly aggressive vendor could have achieved the same goal by simply joining in the conversation, rather than interrupting it. Otherwise, he could have politely introduced himself and requested to chat later, leaving us to continue our pre-existing conversation.

I have no idea what happened between the sales guy and the senior living leader, but I am thinking that while the vendor made an opportunity for himself . . . he also risked a negative first impression by his approach.

When You Accomplish Your Goal: Stop Talking, Start Listening

I did a favor for a vendor that I had a relationship with, that I sort of regret to this day. Here is the story:

The vendor wanted to get in front of the leadership of a major senior living company. A company that is on any list of top 100 senior living companies. They will, in fact, know this story when they read it.

I set-up a conference call between the provider leadership and the vendor. The vendor had just one goal for this call and that was to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

I did the introductions, the vendor described what they did and then asked for a meeting. The senior living leaders said they would be glad to meet. It was simple wonderful, mission accomplished.

Nope, not quite . . . 

The vendor kept talking and selling and talking and selling and explaining . . . and talking and talking and talking. I kept running this little telepathic voice through my head saying shut-up . . . shut-up . . . shut-up!  

Finally, though it seemed to take forever, the vendor finally did shut-up and the meeting took place. Last time I talked to the senior living provider, no business had been done, though they did have the meeting. While I have no way to know if the lack of follow through with any business was a result of the vendor’s aggressive approach, I can’t help but presume it played a role in some way.

The Gatekeeper Problem

So why are aggressive, all-in sales approaches — like the ones listed above — so common? In truth, maybe the problem isn’t actually entirely due to the vendors. Maybe they have no choice but to push hard, fast and loud just to get past the gatekeepers! Gatekeepers are a huge problem for everyone in the senior living industry (actually every industry).  

Here is why:

  • Vendors need to have access to decision makers in order to grow their businesses and stay in business.

  • Vendors are the ones that come up with new and better ways to serve senior living providers.

  • Providers need to know about new products and services.

  • Providers need to not have all their time chewed up by vendors wanting to sell them stuff . . . too often stuff they don’t want and where the vendors don’t understand the providers’ needs.  

A Solution

I have become a big fan of the Marcus Evans Executive Summits held twice each year. On the East Coast in the Summer and the West Coast in the Winter (Marina Del Rey, this year in February). A select group of vendor solution providers foot the bill for a select group of senior living executives to meet at a luxury hotel, network and hear from great speakers.

The reason this system works for both vendors and senior living executives is that, in a very controlled environment, those executives get to meet with high level vendor teams to see if there is synergy. Vendors don’t have to deal with gatekeepers. The format allows for scheduled time with providers to have a one-on-one conversation, where vendors don’t have to interrupt someone else’s time.

It’s a great opportunity for vendors to introduce themselves directly to the people interested in their product and services. It allows the vendors to listen more to the provider and better understand their pain points, in order for the vendor to express how their solution could help them. It works well for the solution provider vendors, because it gives them access to decision making senior living leaders, with whom they would otherwise simply not be able to connect.  

I have been involved with them for nearly three years and it is consistently seen as a positive experience by both industry leaders and vendors. If you are interested in being a part of this event, fill out the form below and someone from Marcus Evans will get back to you

You can also get more details HERE