older couple taking selfie in new place, with moving boxes
(Credit: Getty Images)

Older adults are still looking to make a move into senior living, but sales teams are going to have to step up their tour conversion game to prevent losing prospective residents, according to one industry expert.

For a new white paper, Bild & Co. analyzed senior living community sales conversion trends in the second quarter related to inquiries, tours, deposits and move-ins. The data showed a decline from the first quarter in several areas, with the biggest red flags in the 21-hour “speed to lead” time, combined with a drop in tours actually converting into a deposit.

This, Bild Director of Training Dana Asche said, is a problem.

The data showed that the average community was converting 24.4% of new leads to tours each month, which trended approximately 2% below first-quarter conversions. Bild did see an increased inquiry-to-tour conversion average of 7.55% in the second quarter, as well as a 3.3% increase in tour to move-in conversions, however.

But data also revealed that in the first quarter, 21.8% of tours converted to a deposit, whereas there was a significant decrease in the second quarter, with only 13% of tours converting to a deposit.

“This is telling me that communities are not doing a good job to do a good tour,” Asche said. “They are not connecting with them [prospects] really, to build that emotion. Emotion is really what drives and helps people to buy when they are saying yes to a community.”

Seeing the decrease should be a red flag for owners and operators to identify whether they have a tour process in place; they should be looking at tour conversions, tour planning and involving executive directors with those tours, in addition to sales, she said. 

To increase those numbers, Asche said it comes down to basic pieces of pre-planning related to the tour. Scheduling a tour is not good enough, she said, adding that sales teams need to create customized visits that show people things they want to see versus a “laundry-list experience” that overwhelms them. 

Asche also recommended that communities have plans in place to bring prospective residents back if they initially aren’t ready to close; schedule a tour with family members, or invite them back for a meal or an event. It’s important to plan that next step, she said.

Speed to lead

The other red flag Asche saw from the data was the extended amount of time it is taking for sales team members to get back to a lead. That “speed to lead” time is 21 hours. 

Asche compared the scenario with shopping on Amazon. If one seller is out of stock for a particular item or can’t ship it fast enough, shoppers are going to scroll down and find another option. 

“What this is telling us is, you were interested, you wanted information, but we made you sit and wait 21 hours before someone called you back,” she said.

The solution, Asche said, is making sure a process is in place to identify the person who will respond to inquiries, whether they are phone calls or digital leads — including on nights and weekends. Owners and operators also should know each community’s average response time.  

The good news

The analysis did yield some good news. 

Overall, judging by the number of leads still coming in, people are continuing to look to make a move into senior living. 

“We’re not seeing a shift in the industry saying senior living isn’t a need and not something people are looking for. The need is still there,” Asche said, adding that it’s great news for operators and investors. “It still means they’re building and running things people need.”

The bottom line, she said, is that it’s important to have a process in place to respond to leads, reducing the speed to lead time and helping people.

“Speed to lead and helping people is a big shift in our industry,” Asche said. “We need to make it that easy for people and that quick in our response to be able to help them. Without that, we open the door that they can go elsewhere.”

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