Over the last few years, the Senior Living space has done an outstanding job attracting top educated talent to the industry. We have become very good at developing and working with complex models and plans in all aspects of the business. But, along the way, some of the very important little things have fallen through the cracks. These little details are specific to sales and marketing and are essential components in relating to prospects and closing a sale.
There are a lot of great sales and marketing systems out there. A lot of thought has been put into how sales counselors should interact with prospects in order to build a trustworthy relationship and close the sale. So while I think we have that end covered, I am more concerned with the way we go about handling the small stuff. These small details are the things that everyone takes for granted and assumes are being done, but unfortunately they aren’t in a lot of cases. When the prospect doesn’t make it to the person with the great plan or when they become hacked off in the process and as a result give up on your community, the greatest of marketing and sales plans are wasted.
When talking with Senior Living Executives, they find it hard to believe that these things still happen in 2017, but they do…..really! It is far too common for these executives to think that these issues couldn’t be happening at one of my communities. While I hope they are not as well, I would suspect that some of this happens everywhere, everyday unless management is 100% committed and focused on company culture and how their people handle and relate to prospects. Believe me when I say, this is still going on in our industry, even as late as this morning.
This morning I wasn’t exactly mystery shopping per say, I was actually calling a couple of operators that I have a good relationships with in order to get some other information. As a fortunate or unfortunate side effect (depending upon who you’re talking to, my girlfriend specifically) of this job is that I am always mystery shopping and trying to take it all in. People I come in contact with are either selling me on how they can do something or why they cant.
So here are a few things that happened on the phone this morning. Some of this can be situational, but I could argue it happens all too often and is part of a pattern. Again, this will not be the end-all-be-all list, it was fairly top of mind. The good news is that each and every point of contact with a prospect gives us a leaning opportunity.
- Phones rings in to your community correctly – This morning I called a community and the phone rang no less than 10 times, as I was going to hang up the phone went dead like someone answered. I waited a few minutes and a lady was hollering “hello, hello” on the other end. No company greeting but more like I surprised someone at home. This could very well be situational, but it happens a lot, so check it out every now and then. Two to three rings are optimal for answering, and every call should be answered professionally with the company greeting.
- Phone Trees (if necessary) work correctly – Ugh! What more can I say here? I got a phone tree that was stuck in a loop and I could never get to someone…and yes, it was within business hours. Phone trees are never a good idea when dealing with a population such as ours. I do realize that sometimes they are used as a last resort, but at least go through it every now and then to make sure it works correctly.
- Be prepared – Always expect it to be a prospect on the other end of the call. Don’t be taken by surprise. Have your CRM program open or a pencil and paper ready to take notes if necessary.
- Positive greeting – Always answer with a genuine and cheery “Good Morning” or “It’s a great day at …..”. This should be followed up with the name of the person answering, the community name, and “how can I help you.”
- Eliminate distractions – The desk or call center used as the first point of contact with prospects shouldn’t be the congregating area for other staff members. If there are going to be other staff in this area, explain to them that everything they say can be heard by the caller. It is also essential that when someone is on the phone it should be silent so the call taker can hear the caller better. Prospects don’t need to hear how Mary Jane isn’t doing her job or be asked to repeat themselves because the area is too loud for the call taker to hear the caller.
- A smiling voice on the other end – This is so very important I can’t put enough exclamation points after it!!!!! Today I got the grumpy lady who sounded like she just ran across the community to answer the phone. And she was not happy about it. She was huffing and puffing and very curt as if I was wasting her time. There should be a happy friendly voice that answers the phone on the second or third ring. Again with the company culture. The person answering the phone should make me want to come and see why they are so happy. If the person that answers your phone is not feeling well or just had a fight with their spouse, find them something else to do until there smile and happy demeanor returns. True story, when I called a community to ask for directions the person asked me “why did you called here?”
- Have someone available – How much do you pay per lead? Per move in? How much revenue does a new resident generate for you community? Whatever the price, you can’t afford to turn someone away, they are too precious. Can you imagine telling a prospect to call back tomorrow or worse yet, they show up on your door step from out of town and your staff sends them away? It happens! Instead of asking for the person I need by name I just asked for the marketing department. Four out of the eight calls I made said the Sales/Marketing person was off today or out of the office could I call back tomorrow or Wednesday….Really!! I know it is hard to believe, but I have actually been turned away when showing up in person at a community to tour.
I know this sounds simple, but no one should ever be turned away without getting the information they need. While they may not be as good as your Sales/Marketing person, every community needs a few backups. You should have a depth of employees that are capable of answering simple questions, provide tours, and act like they would be interested to have the prospect as a resident.
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Also, have community information readily available or have a contact for those after-hours visitors. Granted, I went in a community at 6pm on a Sunday evening, but there were three people searching and could not find a marketing packet to give me. It wasn’t bad enough I wandered through the community for 20 minutes before I bumped into someone, but they didn’t even know who to call to find the information to give me. I don’t blame the staff, they tried their hardest, but I don’t think they were given direction on how to handle after-hours visitors. The importance of prospects was not explained or taken seriously in this community. This is a great topic to address in new staff orientation and a gentle reminder in monthly staff meetings.
- Never blind transfer to voicemails – I really dislike this one. Unless you work in an office with hundreds of people, there should be no cause for this. Again, if I want to talk about moving someone into your community, your staff just missed an opportunity to interact with me. At the very least the caller should be notified Ms. X is not in, and the call taker should see if it’s something they can help with or maybe find someone else to assist them.
- Match caller speed and volume – This is actually a good tip to use anytime you’re talking to others. For example, I am old and from the south, so I talk slow and listen slow. It’s a great help to me when excitable people slow it down a bit so I can get all the information. This also works with prospects that may be unfamiliar with what you’re discussing with them.
- Take breaks and lunch away from desk – Again, what can I really say about this one? But, it happened today. Someone answered a community’s main number with a mouthful of something. Then I got to listen to the smacking and the swallowing….it was a treat! There should be enough cross-trained personnel at your community to relieve the call taker and let them have a break or lunch away from the phone.
While these tips primarily focus on incoming phone calls they are also useful when it comes to in person greetings.
These small customer friendly adjustments are where company culture sets apart those that do it right from those that don’t. When your focus is on your employees and residents, the little things show through. Developing the attitude of a service oriented culture is contagious! Hiring great people with awesome attitudes, training, and setting examples, has to be done daily, not just when occupancy gets low. By making these small adjustments potential clients are assured that their needs or the needs of their loved one will get met. When it comes to closing a deal the smallest details make the biggest impact on potential customers.
MDS can help you perform audits of your sales/marketing team and efforts to make sure your communities are on track. This can be performed through phone and in person mystery shopping, evaluation key sales/marketing metrics, digital footprint analysis, careful planning, and follow up. Give me a call and let’s get the process started.