The Prospect-Centered Discovery Process (Part 2 of 3)


Jun 17, 2015 | Sales/Sales Training

In Part 1 of our series on Prospect-Centered Selling℠, we discussed the current senior living sales environment; why the conventional wisdom on sales is very limiting; and the basic concept behind Prospect-Centered Selling℠ – an evidence-based process that has proven to achieve much improved “tour to sale” rates. In Part Two, we’ll address how the Prospect-Centered Discovery Process works.

Why Conventional Discovery Techniques Are Not Optimal

Karen Nelson Crolius, Senior Vice President & Senior Consultant for SageAge Strategies, says,“To be brutally honest, the current state of the senior housing industry in terms of Discovery is awful! Everyone that you have qualified knows they are better off living with you. Why? Because they picked up the phone and called. They have essentially self-identified that their current situation is not working for them and sought you out.”

“The first thing we typically do in senior living is talk about qualifiers ­– which is wrong. So we disqualify them and say to ourselves, ‘Well, at least I completed the task, I didn’t get push back or rejection, and I didn’t waste my time.”

“We also qualify based on how ‘hot’ the prospect is, and we answer their objections (e.g. apartment’s not big enough, etc.). In general, prospect objections are actually statements of ‘I don’t trust you!’”

As an illustration of the present sales environment, here are the results of 500 “mystery shopping” calls to senior living communities:

  • Asked Name of Prospect – 20%
  • Made Some Attempt to Build Trust – 10%
  • Asked About Problems or Difficulties – 5%
  • Data Dump – 75%
  • Voice Mail or Call Back – 38%

Karen advises, “The key to more effective Discovery is asking better questions and becoming more of a problem solver. For example, if you were a physician, you would not write a prescription without a proper diagnosis. That would be malpractice.”

Why “Surrendering Control” Is a Good Thing!

A fundamental premise of Prospect-Centered Discovery is giving up being in control – at least in terms of pushing the conversation toward a quick “close.” On the other hand, transactional product-oriented discovery attempts to match every point of discovery with a solution designed to move the prospect closer to the sale.

Unfortunately, transactional discovery methods are often counter productive and instead of creating trust and confidence in your sales team, they cause prospects to become defensive, wary and push further away. When prospects feel like they are being controlled, every time you take one-step forward, they take one-step backward.

Karen says, “By contrast, the Prospect-Centered Selling℠ Discovery Process applies the fundamentals of basic human behavior and recognizes that alarm bells go off when humans sense they are being managed or “channeled” toward another person’s end objectives.

“A major strength of Prospect-Centered Discovery is that it cedes control to the prospect and focuses the sales person on being empathetic, interested in the prospect’s personal story, listening to them talk about their problems and needs, what motivated them to “make the call,” and taking a “I’m here to help you regardless of the outcome” approach. It conveys the sense that ultimately, ‘it’s up to you (the prospect), but I’m happy to do whatever I can to help you.’”

The Basics Elements of Prospect-Centered Discovery

What is your current attitude about asking and probing as part of Discovery? What approach are you now using today? Is it based on taking control or problem solving?

  • Control – “I want to ask you questions that will lead you and set you up for what I want to convince you of.” This approach is a projection of our ego side.
  • Problem Solving – “I want to ask you questions so I can understand your situation and help you – even if you don’t ever move in.” This method is aspirational in nature and places the sales person in a “hero” role as opposed to a “closer” role.

Prospect-Centered Selling Support

As we mentioned in Part One, Prospect-Centered Selling℠ was developed by One On One Founder and CEO, David Smith. It is tied to a highly innovative CRM system called SHERPA, which is the only system today that supports and guides sales staff through the Prospect-Centered Selling℠ process. The SHERPA program encourages better Discovery by creating a unique inventory of your current prospects that includes:

  • Pertinent information about your prospects and their key family members who are involved in the decision-making process.
  • Quick links to the relevant prospect and influencer’s web pages, such as e-mail and Facebook.

Prospect-Centered Selling, as the name so clearly states, places the prospect at the center of the entire discussion. It’s all about them. This is a very personal approach to Discovery. The Sales Representative is tasked with asking and learning about the prospect’s:

  • Life Story (who is this person? Ask about marriage, family, career, accomplishments)
  • Legacy (What does this prospect value? What are the themes in the stories he/she tells?)
  • Typical Day (What does a typical day include? What does he or she do for meals, shopping, transportation, home chores, etc.?)
  • Health (what is the prospects current health? Does he or she feel well? Healthy? Active? What is his or her support system?)
  • Financial (Can the prospect afford your community? What are their assets? Home value? Income? VA-eligible? Family?
  • Adult Children/Influencers (Who are the adult children or other trusted people in their lives?)
  • Problems in Current Living Situation (What challenges are they facing that made them pick up the phone and call? Meal preparation? Need help with ADLs? Not feeling safe or secure living alone?)

By taking the time to actually talk – and more importantly listen – to your prospects and their families, you can place yourself in the unique position of being a hero. You can solve their problems. It’s as simple as taking time in the discovery process to learn who your prospect is and how you and your community can help.

In the third and final part of our blog on Prospect-Centered Selling℠, we’ll review Generating Advances Through Stages of Readiness for Change.

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 833-240-0655 ext. 202 / [email protected].

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