Senior living sales folks have many tools at their disposal in today’s world. If mystery shopping, call metrics, or proper training aren’t under their belts, an opportunity to close on leads and gather more tour requests could be missed.
That’s why we asked our friends at Senior Source Consulting, a group specializing in sales, marketing and closing the performance gap in senior living, a few questions about these powerful tools that you can easily implement into your own sales plans.
What does mystery shopping, sales training, and call tracking look like in senior living?
There are generally two types of mystery shops for senior living: in-person and telephone mystery shops.
In-person mystery shops walk through the entire prospect experience – from reviewing a community’s online reviews and website to placing the inquiry call and going on tour. Mystery shoppers describe the details of the entire process, commenting on the effectiveness (or not) of the sales process, team engagement, quality of the physical plant, dining and activities, pricing and apartment design, and follow up.
Ideally, this in-person shop is combined with a shop of a community’s top three competitors to uncover the client community’s relative strengths and potential weaknesses when compared to their competitors. This process mirrors what a typical prospect would do – compare and contrast three to four communities prior to making a decision.
When sales leaders consider the tools available to assess and enhance the skills of their sales teams, mystery shopping is perhaps one of the best ways to get an objective view of sales performance. Particularly, when compared to the competitors, teams can better understand which communities are doing the best job at winning the trust of prospects in the market.
With COVID-19, most senior living communities have stopped offering in-person tours. This has essentially put a halt on most in-person mystery shops. Consequently, the second type, telephone mystery shops, have risen in importance.
Considering that prospects cannot simply “pop in” to a community these days, prospects are required to either call-in or communicate with the community via their website (engaging with a chat feature or by sending in a request for information.)
This means a phone call — either in or out – will be the crucial next step in building trust with that prospect. Particularly in a COVID-19 world, community teams must be sure they are well-practiced on phone etiquette best practices and the art of discovery to help roll out the red carpet over the phone and provide assurance to the caller, even if the call comes in at 8 PM on a Tuesday evening or an early Sunday morning.
Telephone mystery shops an help assess the effectiveness of the community team during that important first step a prospect is taking as part of their evaluation process.
This telephone experience creates indelible, lasting impressions; impressions that can be either favorable or not. And when these telephone mystery shops are combined with shopping a community’s top competitors, sales leaders can know how their community is doing, and more importantly, know where to make any necessary adjustments to ensure their community teams come out on top relative to the competition.
Also, due to the coronavirus, communities have largely been forced to incorporate virtual tours in lieu of in-person tours. Many teams are comfortable transitioning to this technology, but for others, virtual tours require a learning curve.
Sales Training and Skills Development
When it comes to sales training and development, we recommend professionals like the Senior Source Consulting Group, who have performed more than 600 in-person mystery shops in the last 3 years, including assessing inquiry call performance and reviewing several virtual tours. Here’s what they have to say about sales training and skills development.
Based on SSCG’s findings of these mystery shops, a vast majority of sales teams are missing at least some portion of the sales process, reducing the likelihood of the tour resulting in a sale.
Also, only a handful of communities are adopting a “team approach to occupancy.” This represents a tremendous opportunity for many senior living providers to offer a “better and different” approach.
The following areas are frequently missed:
- No introductions are generally made to the Executive Director or other associates or department heads during tours
- No residents being formally introduced, or commonalities matched during tours to help friendships blossom
- Tours are largely building-oriented, “over here” tours: “over here is the dining room, over here is the fitness center, etc.”
- A personalized tour is rarely given (one that is focused on the interests, hobbies, concerns, and needs of the prospect), even when discovery has been conducted
- Rarely is a scheduled next step established
- Follow-up is frequently missing
- Nearly always, the close or trial close is missing
- And all too often, the visit concludes with, “thanks for coming in. Please give me a call if I can answer any additional questions.”
With so many salespeople desiring to do a good job, but simply not having mastered the most important aspects of selling senior living, simply replacing one salesperson with another is a low probability way to improve sales results.
A better way is to hire for the personality and aptitude (compassion and competitive spirit) and then investing in developing the skills of the salesperson (and Executive Director) to master the sales process. For a tour to result in a sale, deliberate steps need to take place in a specific order for sales to happen.
Call tracking can offer invaluable insight to your sales campaigns, too. Software like CallTrackingMetrics can enhance your sales team’s performance with recordings, but they can also reveal what callers are looking to find out about your community. Is it floor plans, pricing, availability, or all of the above? Are most of your calls leads? Knowing this information and gathering data from it can prove to be a huge benefit to your overall sales strategy.
SSCG says that consultants can reach out to a community via any call tracking phone number provided, be it PPC campaigns, ads, website, Google business listing, etc. to determine if appropriate messaging is being conveyed as well.
Why do you think these tactics are important?
SSCG and C&C believe that prospects deserve to have a caring, compassionate, and personalized experience when calling and visiting a senior living community. We also believe that most salespeople endeavor to do a good job. We know so many have their hearts in the right place, but many just have not been given the proper training to truly let their skills and abilities shine.
How can these tactics come together to form a powerful plan/strategy for senior living?
To help bring all sides together in a cohesive strategy, SSCG would encourage senior living leaders to invest in scheduled mystery shops to uncover opportunities for improvement, but then more importantly, to invest in developing the skills of their sales teams and Executive Directors to capitalize on what is found during mystery shops.
Mystery shops are a vital component for a VP of Sales to serve as an objective set of eyes and ears dedicated to uncovering areas for improvement. Particularly in a COVID-19 world, prospects have a heightened level of stress and worry. Community teams that can deliver an outstanding prospect-oriented experience over the phone and during a virtual tour, one that is focused on the prospect and allaying their fears, will be the community that will gain the trust of today’s discerning senior living consumer.
When a community can demonstrate to a prospect that the entire team, including residents, will enhance the prospect’s current situation and provide the entire family with invaluable peace of mind, that is a win for everyone involved.
For 2021, our friends at SSCG encourage senior living operators to budget adequately for sales training and for skills development programs for each new sales associate AND for each of their existing sales teams and Executive Directors. Far too often, sales leaders hire for “prior experience,” but previous experience is no indication of sales skills and ability. The cost of these training programs is far less than replacing an associate, and in today’s competitive markets, adopting an associate-centered approach will pay tremendous dividends in terms of recruitment, retention, and reputation.
Thank you SSCG for your insight, especially in today’s world. If you have any marketing needs, reach out to us and let’s chat!