By Elizabeth George

When Amazon first came on the scene years ago, did you imagine then that it would one day upend the entire retail sector? Not sure I did. But I also wouldn’t have guessed that an entire industry could be built around expensive coffee either.

Brick and mortar retail companies were struggling before the pandemic with sales migrating online, and in increasingly diverse product categories once believed to be things that people would never purchase online. Now with COVID-19 prompting more changes in consumer behavior, the shifts are turning out to be the death knell of many of these organizations.

Part of me misses the physical shopping experience and the interactions that you have when you visit a real place with real people working there. But, for me, the experience that physical retail offers in some aspects (but not all) often doesn’t exceed the convenience offered by Amazon.

And, honestly, I hate that convenience seems to win out on most occasions. Because a desire for convenience, in general, can lead us to miss out on some pretty rich experiences.

The Threat of Home Care to Senior Living

Have you seen this short video ad from Home Instead, one of the largest Home Care franchises? It represents an interesting messaging pivot and one that is directed right at customers considering both home care and senior housing solutions.

For the last several years, the home care industry has been growing. This is in large part because it’s able to play to the desire of seniors (and their influencers) to stay in their homes as they age. That desire is what Russell Rush, Managing Partner of R3R1 Consulting Group (a Senior Living Foresight partner), calls a prospect’s “prior commitment.”

According to Russell, “prior commitments” are beliefs prospective residents may be holding on to which compete with a move to senior housing. These prior commitments include:

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

With COVID-19, the home care industry is adding yet a new selling message: safety. And it plays on potential residents’ fears more strongly. From their perspective, staying home is not just a desire to be accommodated. It’s now essential to an older adult’s survival.

Missing the Point

It’s going to be tempting for senior living organizations to play defense when talking to prospects. To focus on describing all the ways that their community is minimizing the risk of illness. Communicating those assurances will, of course, be necessary.

But, Russell says, that misses the point and will not be effective in selling against home care. “We are selling something very different than the home care industry. The value of what we offer, in addition to meeting the care needs of those we serve, lies in social connection. And that’s been proven to be absolutely critical to longevity.”

Selling is Still Possible

Russell continues to successfully sell the senior living solution to prospective residents even during this challenging time. His success comes down to presenting a carefully constructed argument for why senior living is the best solution for older adults. And how it’s often a better one than the home care solution. “Home care can’t offer the connection, engagement, and sense of purpose that an older adult will experience in a senior living community. And these are all important contributors to extending and enjoying one’s life.”

Russell notes, however, that there are fewer and fewer chances to get in front of people with that message. “Levels of interest and tour numbers have certainly decreased amid COVID-19. That means we have to work harder and sell smarter to each person we see.”

The Biggest Concern

“If we do not appropriately address the prospective residents and their influencers’ prior commitment to staying home, particularly during this COVID crisis, the home care industry could devastate senior living companies just like Amazon has done to brick and mortar retail stores.”

In his training program, The Science of Selling Academy, Russell educates senior living salespeople on how to address the Prior Commitment Effect through his human behavior-based training program and how to put forward a persuasive and effective sales presentation.

“When we are facing greater pressures and increased competition,” he says, “presenting a powerful ‘Why’ for our solution – and believing fully in the value of what we do – become even more essential.”

Get a professional sales certification through the self-paced Science of Selling Academy. Learn more HERE.