- Try to avoid quoting prices on the first call. Focus on amenities and services and tell prospects, "We have a competitive range of prices." Most residents don't make their decision on price, anyway. Giving away the price before real needs are assessed and the value is presented encourages prospects to stay on the phone instead of coming in for a visit.
- A business office can be intimidating to a prospective buyer. It is best to visit in the dining room. This is a familiar environment — the kitchen and dining room table are where potential customers are most comfortable with informal discussions and decisions.
- Be flexible and willing to try new techniques. Many sales associates falter because they are used to a rigid routine. In sales training sessions, the marginal salesman frequently responds to the training by saying, "That's not the way I do it." Quality salespeople are learners.
- When sales staff members encounter objections from a prospective resident, they often "step on the gas" to accelerate the dialogue. Instead, they need to slow down, back up and start over with the customer by honestly addressing the issues and working through them. You know the risks when you run a red light. There is a good chance you will "crash and burn." Listening and patience can pay dividends.
Most consultant firms are staffed to conduct about 30 performance audits per year in seniors communities. They review marketing, advertising, promotion materials, inquiries, deposits, leases and a demographic analysis of residents and prospects.
Like a physical exam, the seniors housing audits help determine why marketing results are below expectations, and suggest ways to modify management systems to improve short-and long-term sales and move-ins. The fee for most audits is around $6,000 to $7,000.
Mystery shopping can be a powerful tool to increase move-ins. The consultant conducts telephone and in-person visits to spot problems and lay the groundwork for future sales training. These specialists also provide demographic data analysis and marketing-decision support services. This helps seniors housing developers manage their risks and maximize their marketing, sales and financial performance.
Community managers report that when sales people know in advance they will be shopped and evaluated, it helps overcome the feeling that someone is spying on them. This can be a non-threatening technique that provides insights on how to improve sales. The fees for most mystery shopping services are usually around $100 to $150 per call.
In summary, a good sales effort involves building rapport, asking good questions, listening, evaluating staff performance, asking for the order and following up on leads.
William J. Nowell is the president and CEO of ServiceTRAC, LLC, a Scottsdale, AZ-based firm that provides state-of-the-art systems, resources and tools to companies in the seniors housing industry. ServiceTRAC works with industry professionals to develop national benchmarks that measure performance in sales and service. Nowell has 24 years of sales, customer service and training experience, in addition to 15 years in seniors housing management. He founded ServiceTRAC in 1993 and is widely recognized as a trainer, speaker and author on seniors marketing, research and sales training. E-mail Nowell or call him at 800-951-6606.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing or boomers, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
BuilderBooks.com Has Publications About Seniors Housing
BuilderBooks.com offers a variety of publications about the seniors housing market. To view or purchase these publications, click here and type “seniors” in the search engine.
2004 Seniors Housing Symposium
To learn more about the seniors housing market, plan to attend the 2004 Seniors Housing Symposium, Building for Boomers & Beyond: It's All About Lifestyle in Chicago from April 14-16. The symposium will focus on the lifestyle component of 50+ seniors housing.
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