From a big picture perspective, it is important to remember what Karen Nelson Crolius, Senior Vice President & Senior Consultant for SageAge Strategies, stated in Part 2: “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 the current situation is not working for them.”
Why the “Stages of Readiness” Sales Model Beats the Typical “Transaction” Model
There are evidence-based reasons why the Stages of Readiness strategy offers significantly higher sales conversion rates for your community.
Karen says, “The conventional transactional or product-centered model uses a typical sales pipeline that is based simply on hot, warm or cold to define the prospect. This approach offers very little in the way of knowledge and insight into the prospect’s history, thought process, family dynamics and other external influences. If we don’t know the person, how can we really understand their chief motivators for making a move?”
Karen adds, “The typical transactional approach uses a ‘simple sales’ approach. In simple or single-call sales, there are only two possible outcomes. Success means getting the order – period. As Jeffrey Gitomer puts it in his Sales Bible, ‘Either you sell the customer on ‘yes’ or he sells you on ‘no.’
“In the optimized ‘multi-call’ sales process that we advocate and do a lot of training on, Rackham, the author, identifies two additional logical outcomes and calls them ‘Advances’ and ‘Continuations.’ An Advance occurs when either in the call or after, something takes place that moves the sale forward toward a decision. Generally, this is an understanding or agreement with the prospect that requires some type of action on his or her part. An example of a typical Advance might be getting permission from the prospect to make a home visit. In the multi-call sale, each Advance is deemed a success.”
“The multi-call model is a step-wise process that builds trust incrementally and builds on the growing relationship to advance closer to the sale. In this model, the time invested in doing case studies on the prospect has a direct correlation to move-ins. On average, the time spent in the selling zone is 8-10 hours.”
The Four Stages of Change for Prospects
Prospect-Centered Selling organizes prospects into four primary stages:
- Denial –“I love my home. I am never leaving!”
- Thinking – “I am having problems. I wish they would go away.”
- Planning –“I need to move, but what would I do with all my stuff?”
- Action –“I am ready to choose a community to move to.”
Karen says, “Based on where the prospect is in the stage of change, our training focuses on advancing within the stage or moving forward to the next stage. Upon initial inquiry, prospects can be at any stage of readiness. However, you’ll find that most prospects will be in the Thinking Stage according to the data.”
Basic questions to ask prospects upon initial inquiry:
- Why might you even consider a move at this time? Let them rationalize why they believe a move is appropriate, as if they had to convince you.
- How ready do you think you are to make a decision, on a scale of 1 to 10? After their review of the reasons for a move, they will typically give you a relatively high number.
- Why didn’t you say a lower number? At this point, they will typically start talking about what is really going on… (The very important point here is that they are talking it through and don’t have the sense that someone is trying to push them through the process.)
Always present yourself as their resource and problem solver who is there to help meet their needs. Keep in mind that how well you treat them during the sales process is what they will remember. You are attempting to gain their trust and create a productive relationship that can keep advancing toward a move-in.
Planning for Meaningful Advances
“Unfortunately, selling stands out as one of the few endeavors where planning is undervalued or even absent,” says Karen. Good selling depends on good planning more than any other single factor.
“Nearly every senior living entity writes elaborate marketing plans as well as detailed financial plans and budgets. However, the bottom line is that you simply cannot achieve your underlying marketing or financial goals without successful sales results. Yet, far too few senior living Marketing Directors, General Managers and Sales Counselors pay enough attention to planning personalized, prospect-based selling campaigns.”
“Start your planning in terms of where they are in the four stages of change, and then look at their objections in the context of where they are.”
The Prospect Case Study Planning Format that we use organizes your plan into four key sections:
- Situation – Who is this Prospect? Create a meaningful profile for them.
- Key Motivators – Why Move at all? Why Now? Why Here?
- Sales History & Stated Objections
- Personalized Action Plan
We train you on how to use each section of the plan to keep the process moving forward while fully engaging the prospect in a highly collaborative manner. In addition to being more productive, this method also differentiates your community from other communities that use a traditional, “I’m going to ‘manage’ you through the process and ‘close’ you” approach, which often feels uncomfortable to the prospect and causes them to back away.
Your Prospect’s Perspective is the Key
With behavioral-based prospect-centered selling, the sales consultant’s role, interactions and planning responsibilities are unique and clearly defined:
- Sales Role – I am here to build your trust, get to know your situation and understand the emotions that it causes. I am here as a guide to help you make the best decisions for yourself, regardless if you move to my community or at all.
- Sales Interactions – I will interact with my prospects based upon their individual personalities, life stories and stages of emotional readiness and strategies needed to advance.
- Sales Planning – My preparation involves team meetings focused on individual prospects and their influencers. I will look at what I know about the prospect and what I don’t know yet. I will identify areas of inquiry based on a holistic view of the prospect. My next step will be based on the prospect’s stage of readiness, level of trust and my knowledge about them.
Karen concludes, “It is paramount to remember that ‘transition’ is not just about moving from one place to another. To your prospect, it’s about letting go of what feels comfortable and safe and the way their life used to be. The most successful prospect-centered sales professionals recognize this and act as advocates for the prospect’s future.”
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 / firstname.lastname@example.org.