By Kent Mulkey

No matter how much you work to spin it, differentiate it, price it, renovate it, hope for it, fast for it, do a sage cleansing, program it, walk around it seven times . . . most people won’t move in to your senior community. Senior living is simply not for everyone.

As Joe Friday said on Dragnet, “Those are the facts, ma’am.”

We all have apartments to fill (and to keep refilling). A few industry experts suggest only 10% of all senior communities maintain a 95% stable occupancy.

That leaves a ton of room for improvement. Many markets are fighting a tough battle for occupancy because of the rise in home care and oversupply of inventory. Many communities are struggling because they simply don’t employ a professional model for selling.

So . . . what can you do, as a senior living sales professional, to elevate occupancy, to inch toward 80%, 85%, or 90%?

It depends on what you choose to focus on. Your building (and courtyards, walking paths, fountains, putting green)? Your programs? Your marketing collateral?  Or, your prospects and their families?

There are hundreds, if not thousands of you out there in senior living who are professionals and could probably write this article far better than I can, with keener insight.

Here are a few things I have learned over the years from great training, watching experts, and practicing the art of selling for over 10,000 hours. It’s not easy. It takes time to learn and the willingness to be vulnerable with people. It means getting down in the mud; getting dirty and messy with people.

  1. Ask them questions. When you think you have run out of things to ask about, ask more questions. Keep the focus on the prospect, not yourself.
  2. Listen with the intent to understand. If you don’t understand something they are telling you, ask it again.
  3. Reflect to them what you believe you have heard. Ask them if you got it right or are close.
  4. Be clear with them that this is a huge decision and it is totally up to them. You are not there to sell them anything, no matter how low your occupancy is!
  5. Ask them to move in. Pretty simple.
  6. Don’t give up. If you truly like them, tell them. If you would like to visit them in their home, ask for it. If there is a gift you would like to bring to them, do so. It’s all about engaging people and helping them feel that you really want them to live there.

Most people won’t move in. Make it life-changing for those who do. They will stick around and love the folks who are coming along behind them.