Prospect-Centered Selling®: A Different and Better Sales Conversion Strategy (Part 1 of 3)


Jun 10, 2015 | Programming & Outreach

National statistics tell us that the current industry average for “tour to sale” conversion is 22 percent. How would you like to have a “tour to sale” ratio of 50 percent or higher?

According to Karen Nelson CroliusSenior Vice President & Senior Consultant for SageAge Strategies, you can!

“Thanks to an evidence-based best-practice sales protocol, significantly higher selling success is entirely achievable today,” says Karen. “Called Prospect-Centered Selling®, it is a new sales counseling paradigm that works!”

Prospect-Centered Selling® was developed by national sales consultant company One On One founder and CEO David Smith. It ties to a CRM system called SHERPA, which is the only CRM system out there that supports Person-Centered Selling®.

In this first of our three-part series, we’ll review the current senior living sales environment, why the conventional wisdom on sales is very limiting; and the basic concept behind Prospect-Centered Selling®.

The Current Selling Environment

The most common indicators of sales effectiveness in the world of senior housing today are called “conversion ratios.” These measure “lead to tour” and “tour to close” success:

  • Leads to Tour – Calculated for any particular timeframe by dividing the total number of initial tours by the number of new leads generated.
    • Industry averages show that for every 100 new leads, 45 will engage in an initial visit. Rates are a little higher for Assisted Living and Memory Care and a little lower for Independent Living.
    • Prospect-Centered Selling® can generate 75 initial visits. (Notes Karen, “Our results are a bit skewed because we measure initial face-to-face tours and home visits.”)
  • Tours to Close – Calculated by dividing the total number of sales by the number of initial tours or personal visits.
    • Industry averages show that 22 percent of people that have had an initial tour will close. Again, rates are a little higher for Assisted Living and Memory Care and a little lower for Independent Living.
    • Prospect-Centered Selling® converts 50 percent of initial visits.

Karen says, “From the same 100 leads, the industry average is 10 sales. We are generating over 35 sales with Prospect-Centered Selling®.

Why What You’ve Been Taught in the Past Doesn’t Always Work

Says Karen, “Most senior living providers seem to have given up on improving existing selling ratios. As a result, most rely heavily on increasing sales by working hard to generate more leads.”

If conversion ratios are “fixed,” the only ways to increase sales in the short-term are to:

  • Generate more leads.
  • Generate more initial tours – even if they are just to attend an event.
  • Ignore leads that are not “urgent.”

Typical senior housing selling styles used today include:

  • Passive Order-Taking
  • Transactional Product-Oriented Selling – Using product-focused selling systems or scripts, responding to each discovered need with “matching” solutions and enumerating how your community is different and better

Karen adds, “Passive order-taking only works for those with ‘doctor or daughter-directed’ moves. These are the most urgent, need-driven prospects.”

“Unfortunately, when we use the transactional approach with someone not yet in the action stage they typically resist, which is highly counterproductive to our end goal. While product differentiation and benefit enumeration certainly have their place for those that have an urgent health need or have already made the decision to make a move, early-stage prospects can be highly resistant to being moved through the process too quickly, or eve feeling like they are.”

The Art and Science of Prospect-Centered Selling®

So, if the conventional approaches work best with higher-acuity prospects that are already in crisis mode, what are the key factors that produce better conversion ratios with higher functioning, less urgent prospects?

According to Karen, this selling style is prospect rather than product-centered and is characterized by spending more quality time building relationships, ongoing planning and purposeful initiatives designed to inspire change.

“First, we have to address the very nature of the community-prospect relationship. The sales counselor’s primary role within the relationship is to build the level of trust. As we all acknowledge, establishing trust and confidence is essential in a profession where the circumstances for our clients are often highly emotional – be it leaving a home full of memories or dealing with the progressive effects of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the counselor’s attitude and approach are perhaps more important than their particular selling skills. This mindset is fundamental to Prospect-Centered Selling®.”

 Key principals for a sales professional to remember:

  • Our role is collaborative – “We’re in this together.”
  • We build trust by connecting emotionally, being accepting rather than judgmental, attentive in the moment and respectfully curious.
  • While contrary to most sales training, we want to acknowledge the prospect’s autonomy and control (e.g. “It’s all about what you want and need, Mrs. Smith. I’m always here to help regardless of what you decide.”).
  • Giving up control (as if we really had it to begin with!) helps us align with prospects so that we can see, understand and evaluate the situation from their point of view.

In part two of this three-part series, we will examine The Discovery Process – Asking Better Questions and why a “prescription without a proper diagnosis is ‘malpractice.’ ”

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions on the value of behavioral selling methods and best-practice sales training, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any experiences you’ve had in these areas, whether they have been successful or not. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Growth-Focused Sales Training Assistance Is Available Today

SageAge Strategies is the ideal partner for strategically growing your sales and building your census. If you are a senior living provider considering the need for assistance in increasing your sales through best-practice sales training, customer service and growth strategies, we encourage you to contact us for more information.

SageAge Strategies is a multiple award-winning, strategic growth and marketing organization that operates exclusively in the senior living industry and was recently named one of Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America. For more information, please call or e-mail Adrienne Mansfield Straub at 570-601-1720 ext. 202 /

Contact us today!

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