Senior living sales is all about family, personal relationships, trust and confidence. The people who represent your brand to prospective residents and their adult children become the face and the heart of your organization. As the article, “What’s Your Brand?” describes it, “Your brand walks on two legs,” i.e. the people who represent your brand to your customers actually define your brand and become your brand in the customer’s mind. Therefore, having the right sales personnel is critical for your senior community.
Approaches to Training New Sales Personnel
In her article, How to Train a “Green” Senior Living Sales Person, author Diane Masson shares techniques for successfully training new sales associates.
Ms. Masson points out that there are really four basic approaches you can take in training a new person:
- Shadowing an existing sales person.
- Throwing the new “green” person (with no senior housing experience) “in the deep end” to just start selling. (Not the brightest idea for many reasons)
- Sending him/her out to study the competition.
- Conducting dedicated training.
A Four Step Process
Her recommended training and development approach uses all the steps above, except “throwing him/her in the deep end to sink or swim.” In a competitive world, the stakes for your senior living community are simply too high!
Described below are the key steps Ms. Masson prescribes:
Step 1: Begin with an all-day training session with your marketing team. This enables the new sales person to gain immediate knowledge of how the business works and what priority customer needs and preferences are in play. Teach the new person how to engage with a prospective resident and/or his/her adult child, build a relationship in a short time and help him/her make a decision to move to your community for the next chapter of his or her life. Ensure your new recruit has the opportunity to learn from the successes of your other retirement sales counselors and begins to visualize how easy this business can really be.
Step 2: Allow your sales trainee to shadow some quality senior living sales people, so the all day training will sink in a little more and provide a sense of on-the-job reality. This is a great opportunity to transform sales concepts into real applications.
Step 3: Have your sales trainee spend time studying the competition. This helps them to identify key points of differentiation and distinguishing features for your community, as well as to articulate the strengths and weaknesses of your brand versus the retirement community down the street. Your trainee can also see the business through the eyes of the senior customer by “mystery shopping” and learn what a senior housing “interrogation” from one of your competitors can feel like.
Step 4: Have your new associate start to become a student of the business. Allow him/her to study your web site, review all of your marketing materials and stay abreast of the current literature on consumer trends and senior housing marketing. Built into the training schedule can be opportunities for the “green” person to read a chapter of a senior housing sales training book, such as “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full.”
Once your “green” trainee understands the real needs and motivations of senior adults and their adult children (often the primary shopper), masters the right way to build a relationship with a prospective resident and is knowledgeable about your brand’s strengths and your competitors’ shortcomings, he/she can then represent your brand to your customers. Keep in mind that for your new sales person to be truly successful, it is vital for him/her to believe in his/her heart that your retirement community is the best and is a great value for the money.
Implications for Senior Living Providers
Having the right sales people to engage your customers and represent your brand effectively is essential to achieving your sales objectives and keeping your community full. Therefore, it is critical to devote sufficient time, energy and resources up front to ensure your new sales associates will perform at the highest levels possible.
If you don’t have the in-house resources to do this yourself, there are outside organizations you can partner with to achieve the desired results. For best results, be sure to do your due diligence and consider a sales and marketing support organization that focuses exclusively on senior living and has the experience, expertise and performance track record in sales recruitment, training, planning and sales support to make your organization grow.