Hispanic saleswoman talking to clients in living room
(Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images)

Senior living communities are showing move-in options “beautifully” during in-person tours, but their sales teams too often are weak at closing, extending the sales process longer than necessary, according to an industry expert.

Senior living marketing consultant Bild & Co. recently released a white paper focusing on first impressions, needs development, relationship building, sales presentation and next steps scheduled. Results are based on first- and second-quarter in-person mystery shoppings of senior living communities across the nation. 

“In-person closing is our biggest Achilles’ heel,” Bild & Co. CEO Jennifer Saxman told McKnight’s Senior Living. “The beauty of this is the fact that our physical plant — our communities — look great on a much higher percentage. We’re used to physical appearance, but we’re not taking the time to deliberately practice the close so we sound confident.”

Saxman said sales staff are consistently adding unnecessary steps to the sales cycle — especially in assisted living and memory care — “because we’re so weak, and we lack confidence at the in-person closing.”

Sales staff have been in what Saxman calls “excuse mode” for three years. Although the rationale and logic during the COVID-19 pandemic were justified, she said that it is time to move past those excuses and be more assertive at the end of tours.

In addition, leaders also have to move past the mindset that a prospect needs a repeat tour. Potential residents, particularly in assisted living and memory care, don’t need repeat tours, because they don’t have the luxury of waiting before it is no longer safe for them to live at home.

“People treat their time like a currency — they want a solution, especially if it’s assisted living or memory care,” she said, adding that repeat tours create inefficiencies in the sales process. “The problem is, we are allowing there to be unnecessary extra steps that make our close seem vague, a lot less confident, a lot less concise.”

Referencing Bild’s visit-planning tool, Saxman said that salespeople should highlight the high points they need to make on a tour, and doing so involves asking questions during the discovery phase, before a prospective resident and his or her family show up for a tour.

“We just treat everyone the same,” she said. “We should be thinking about who’s coming? Are there outside decision-makers that need to be involved?”

Saxman said that her biggest takeaway from the data is how well communities are showing, which she said “screams to the operational and sales synergy we didn’t always see.” The fact that so many are impressed with the physical plant, however, also means that communities have to deliver better on the sales side.

“Your competitors have caught up,” she said. “If you were always the bright, shiny new penny, everyone has caught up, as far as aesthetics and presentation. Now leadership and sales correspondence has to be stronger.”

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