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Hello Spring!

Posted April 8, 2016

 

Spring is just around the corner which means the flowers will begin to bloom, neighbors will come out of hibernation, and we get to enjoy a few more hours of sunlight each day. More than any other season, spring urges us to make changes. For some, it means getting in shape for summer. For others, it means spring cleaning and clearing out the unnecessary things we’ve been holding onto for years.

How many times has a prospect told you that they plan to wait until spring to downsize or put their house on the market? I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard that said many, many times. So, does that mean that during the fall and winter we put them on the backburner – mark them as “cold” and focus on other, more urgent moves?

During the winter months, we tend to see more need driven move-ins. Falls, illness and the loss of a spouse can all precipitate a move.   Our tendency as sales professionals is to spend a lot of time with these families, forgetting about those that still need our help but have put the idea of moving off for several months. Isn’t it true that if you have a solid back up team in place, any one of those people could handle those need driven moves just fine? And isn’t it true that once spring rolls around, the pipeline always seems pretty sparse?

What changes can you make today that will help ensure you have a strong pipeline regardless of which season it may be? Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Delegate! Delegate members of your team to help with tours, collecting paperwork from physicians and signing contracts, etc. – all of these things will eat away at your time and ability to focus solely on sales.
  • Plan! Plan out your day and take control of your time. Carve out time for planning tours, home visits and follow up calls. Failing to plan is planning to fail!
  • Be Creative! Be creative in your follow up and collaborate with your team to make sure you have unique, fun and personal ways to follow up with your prospects that will stand out!
  • Remember How to Eat an Elephant – One Bite at a Time! It’s easy when you feel overwhelmed to try to tackle everything all at once but in doing this, you actually accomplish very little. Take a few prospects and really work them. Trust the process and celebrate your victories!

Following a few simple, but not necessarily easy rules, will allow you to be proactive towards your work rather than reactive. It will help you be well positioned no matter what season it may be.

Happy Spring!

Jennifer Lottis
VP Client Services
jlottis@involvemanagement.com

How To Plan & Execute The Perfect Tour

Posted February 16, 2016

Register Today and Be One Step Closer to Higher Occupancy!

WHEN: Thursday, March 3, 2016 from 1:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST.

OVERVIEW: This webinar will cover how to really roll out the red carpet for your tours. We’ll offer tools that will provide a personalized experience and get your whole team engaged! Looking to improve tour conversions and grow occupancy? Then, this webinar is for you!

AGENDA:

The Top Discovery Questions to Uncover Wants, Needs & Motivation
Plan a Personalized Community Visit – Be Unforgettable
Rolling Out The Red Carpet and Wow Your Prospects
Tools & Resources to Increase Tour: Move-in Conversion

red-carpet-tours1

PRESENTER: Debbie Howard, CEO of Senior Living SMART and former VP of Sales & Marketing for Emeritus and Five Star Senior Living

Click here to Register Today!!

Hearing vs. Listening……there is a difference

Posted December 11, 2015

Listening

Have you ever been in conversation with someone who seemed like they were a million miles away?   Have you ever started reading something only to realize several pages in you have no idea what you’ve just read?  These things happen to me all the time.  Sometimes we hear the  same things over and over with our kids, clients or prospects and we unintentionally tune them out – hearing but not listening.  Yikes!

I recently read an article about the difference between “listening” and “hearing”, and I thought about how this really aligns with the work we do.  The University of Minnesota Duluth says, “Hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences.” Hearing is described as being “involuntary and uncontrollable”.

Hearing is perceiving sound by the ear and it just happens. Listening requires focus and concentration, so the brain processes words into meaning.

We work in an industry where being empathetic is very important to our work.  But how can we be empathetic when we are sitting across from a customer and/or their family and nod our heads as if we “get it” while we’re “hearing” them but not really listening?”  I think listening is a skill and I would argue that the majority of people are “hard of listening” rather than “hard of hearing.”

We work in a a profession that was created and designed around helping people.  So, I don’t know about you, but I often find myself thinking of a solution while I’m in the midst of a conversation and end up missing half of what the person is trying to tell me.  When I step back and think about what I’m really doing, I would say it’s not dissimilar to going to a doctor who tries to prescribe something before you’ve even finished telling him/her about all of your symptoms.  So, in both scenarios, we are missing the opportunity to make a significant change in ones life because we fail to listen.  And I would add that in our industry, people who feel listened to, trust us more.  So, how do we shift our behavior?

For me, I’ve learned to slow things down.  I have worked really hard to become mindful of being present with whoever I’m talking with.  If I’m onsite with a client, I know that my work is going to be much more effective if I truly “listen” to what my client is telling me and show some sincere interest and empathy to whatever is going on in their world vs “hearing”,  bypassing their feelings and throwing solutions in their lap.

Try these four techniques and see if they help you like they’ve helped me!  

  • Summarize – repeat back what you’ve just been told.
  • Validate – Here’s your chance to show some empathy!
  • Curb your tendency to offer quick suggestions or solutions.
  • Practice being mindful – whoa, this this easier said than done!

Jennifer Lottis
Vice President, Client Services & Business Development
jlottis@involvemanagment.com 

Growing Occupancy During the Holidays

Posted December 4, 2015

Research tell us that often when one is faced with having to make a decision, the tendency is to object.  This can be due to many reasons. Two of the biggest reasons being lack of information and/or fear.  Psychological research reveals that a major component of fear is a lack of information.

Making a decision about something as important as senior housing is scary and making a decision as significant as this requires a lot of information.  Information is what gives us comfort.

In the sales world, we are often faced with rejection and objections.  Why?  Lack of information and fear.  It is important to remember that objections don’t necessarily mean your customer is saying, “No”.   It means you need to dig deeper to uncover their concerns, fears and questions so you can address them.

Here are some tips to finding out what concerns need to be discussed along with some ideas to help you address the most common holiday objections.

  • Ask them to share all of their concerns or if there are unanswered questions: When someone gives us an objection, it is often a smokescreen to avoid discussing the real concern they may have.  You should ask for all of their concerns and then confirm which one is most important to them.
  • Clarify the Objection by validating and repeating back to your customer what you have heard. Don’t assume that what they say is what they mean.  Dig deep.
  • Offer resources and solutions or real life success stories of others who have worked through the same concerns:
    Sometimes the concern is as simple as a fear of making a big change in lifestyle. In this case; an individual needs you to align with them, to empathize with them, and to validate their fears and offer a listening ear.  Confirm whether or not the questions you answered or concerns you offered a solution to, solve that particular scenario.
  • Address the other concerns they have until they tell you there are no more.

house energy efficiency concept

The definition of “Instruct” is to furnish with knowledge.  Families tend to use the holiday and winter season as their backdrop for the excuses to delay the moving decision.  This is your opportunity to quell that “lack of information” that leads to fear.

Here are some common, holiday season objections, and their accompanying talking points to help instruct families about the benefits of moving to senior housing before the holiday/winter season.

  • Want Mom or Dad to spend upcoming holiday at home: This is still possible after someone moves in. Residents are free to come and go as they please and their family can bring them home for however many days they want during the holiday.
    There is an added benefit of moving in before the holiday!  The family will have more time and less stress to prepare for the holiday knowing their family member is living in a safe environment with qualified people caring for them.
  • Another benefit of moving in before the holiday is the fact that it is the time of year when people are susceptible to depression. The socialization and healthy routine, found in senior housing, will help lift a person’s spirits.
  • Some families will site the poor weather for waiting to move. The fact is that their family member will be safer moving to senior housing knowing they are not likely to go outside to get the mail, try removing snow or ice, etc.  It is a nice gesture to offer to help cover the expense of a moving company during inclement seasons for safety sake.

It is important to take an individual’s concerns and fears very seriously.  By demonstrating your willingness and ability to work alongside a person to help them through their difficult decision, you will help give that individual the comfort they are looking for when searching for a place to belong and to be well cared for.

Rick Macias
Vice President, Training
Rmacias@involvemanagement.com

Mystery Shops……Why do we bother?

Posted November 12, 2015

Sales counselors hear the words “mystery shop” and they cringe.  Most of us have been mystery shopped and if we haven’t, we’ve requested them for our buildings.  Purely from a time standpoint, I get that sales counselors get annoyed when they feel they have a big fish on the line only to find out they’ve been shopped.  But why do we do them and what do we do with the results?  How is that information being disseminated to your sales teams and used in a productive way that reinforces your sales philosophy and approach?

When we bring on new clients, one of the first things we do is mystery shop them – always by phone and if possible, in person.  Recently, I hired my mom to do some mystery shops for me for several communities spread throughout the country.  I wanted to get a fresh perspective on something I do on a routine basis.  I wanted to hear about the experience from someone who has actually been a prospect (looking for a family member), and compare it against what I typically observe.  I wasn’t interested in anything other than her initial impressions and overall experience in talking to the sales counselors.

When my mom called me to go over the results of her mystery shops, she gave me tons of information on pricing, room sizes, transportation boundaries, activities, cost of cable & internet, housekeeping schedules and dining options.  I stopped her and asked what the sales people had asked about her – what did you tell them about your situation and why you were looking?  She said, “They really didn’t ask.  When I said I was looking for information on Assisted Living, I really couldn’t get a word in.”  So, I asked her how that made her feel and she said there wasn’t one place she called that she would even consider going to visit.

My mom’s experience was no different that what we experience here at Involve. Some of the kindest people work in this industry, yet they fail to connect to people on the other end of the line. I honestly don’t think sales counselors realize that they focus 90% of their conversations on their communities and all they have to offer and maybe 10% on the callers themselves.

As we go into a very busy time of year, I encourage you to take the time to conduct a mystery shop of your own building.  We all have good days and off days but when we can analyze ourselves and ask the question, “is this how I want to be perceived by families and am I focusing on the right things?”, it’s a gentle reminder to help keep us on track.  Mystery shops aren’t meant, in my opinion, to be used as a tool to tell anyone they’re doing their job all wrong. They are meant to be used as a self-check to make sure that in the crazy busy days we have, we’re putting our best selves forward for our customers and creating great first impressions. They are meant to ensure we are connecting and being trusted advisers for families.

For a FREE mystery shop of your community, please contact me.

Jennifer Lottis
VP Client Services & Business Development
jlottis@involvemanagement.com
425-518-0607

 

The Emotional vs. Transactional Sale

Posted October 29, 2015

Recently, a friend who works in the software industry asked me what I look for when hiring sales people.  I told her I look for people who are curious to see what’s under the surface – people who want to get beyond the tip of the iceberg.

iceburgPNG1The senior housing industry is vastly different from selling software. Her business is needs based and transactional while mine is emotional and not always needs based (and even when it is, the customer is often in denial). This led to a discussion about the many different types of sales agreements that take place in the world and how important it is to understand the psychology behind the role of the sales professional in order to have the greatest chance of success.

When you’re working with a transactional sale, it’s typically because there is a defined need, which everyone is in agreement about and any negotiations that take place are typically about price and perhaps implementation; think shopping for a car. Depending on what it is you’re selling and the players involved, the sales cycle can be very short or last several years.

When you’re working with an emotional sale, rarely is everyone in agreement. And rarely are the negotiations focused on price alone. Like a transactional sale, the sales cycle can be short or it can take quite a long time to close.   The type of sales person dealing with an emotional sale can have a huge effect on the outcome and length of the sales cycle.

Sales professionals working in senior housing don’t need to understand the industry by mastering the lingo used in communities. Nor should they be focused on the features and benefits of their product. Instead, they should be focused on connecting with their prospect, understanding the world from their vantage point, asking good questions and then listening. They are innately curious and caring people. Emotional sales professionals aren’t in a rush to get the check; they are guides helping to lead their prospects to the right solution.

In my experience, most communities have sales counselors who are selling in a transactional way. Mystery shop after mystery shop I experience the verbal vomiting about features and benefits, room sizes and rates, but never leave the shop feeling that I connected in an emotional kind of way.

Are you hiring a transactional sales profile for an emotionally based sale? Learning how to connect with prospects isn’t always easy, but it’s always important.

For more information on how to coach and train your sales personnel to practice emotional based sales techniques, contact our team and let us help you dive below the surface.

Jennifer Lottis
VP Client Services and Business Development
jlottis@involvemanagement.com

Feed the Good Wolf

Posted October 2, 2015

In my recent blog, “Attitude”, I wrote about the importance of a positive attitude and the impact that it has on achieving success. Today, I am writing about the challenges we face as we try to keep both our positive and negative feelings in check, as they tend to drive our actions. The result of giving into negative thoughts or negative attitudes rarely yields positive outcomes.

While conducting research in developing a leadership presentation for a client, I came across the Native American legend about “The Wolves Within”.  To help clarify the message I am hoping to convey in this blog, please take a quick look at the short video below.

http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.htmlhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzZQm4yhPns

WolfPic

Show great respect for your fellow beings.

One of the things we’ve learned in our work is that professionals tend to have a difficult time being open to hearing and receiving constructive feedback.   All to often when I offer constructive feedback when coaching or training, the client immediately goes to a negative mindset and misses out on important learning opportunities by not having a positive attitude. This is a great example of how negative attitudes can yield poor results.

Another example of how the angry or bad wolf rears it’s head in the work we do can be in any of the following situations:

A family member verbally attacks us out of dissatisfaction, a team member calls off their shift or doesn’t follow proper procedures, upper management makes seemingly unrealistic demands, etc.

In all of these examples, if we allow ourselves to give power to negativity, we miss opportunity for true understanding. For instance, if I looked at these situations in a positive way, I might ask what might be going on for a family that they would lash out. Or if management is making demands that don’t seem fair, what might be going on for them that they are so unclear about the reality of a situation?

Research tells us that we are wired for survival and therefore it is normal for our defense mechanisms to kick in when our brain perceives a threat; whether it is physical or mental. It is important that we be aware of our feelings and attitudes so that we can redirect ourselves (as well as others), on how to shift our mindset to a positive place in order to have the best possible outcomes. Here are a few key ideas to keep in mind as you attempt to feed the good wolf inside of you:

  • Respond constructively to negative or threatening situations (Leadership by Example)
  • Be aware of defensive behaviors that limit your ability to grow and learn. Positive attitudes yield better outcomes.
  • Attempt to help those around you to be aware of their attitudes and the impact they have on others. Positivity breeds positivity.

We have a choice to think and act in a positive way or in a negative way as events unfold – whether that is in the workplace or in our personal lives.

Rick Macias
Vice President
rmacias@involvemanagement.com

Everyone Sells

Posted September 9, 2015

Creating a Sales Centered Culture

How many people are employed in your Senior Housing community to sell?

Everyone impacts sales, since they are all the face of the community and a representative thereof.

The above words are easy for a community to speak, but do you actually live by this mantra?

Most senior housing communities will do a good job of reminding their staff that they are the face of the company and that they need to make a good first impression, but how many leaders actually take the next step and educate their staff how to do so?

In order for your business to deliver the goods; you need to create a “Culture” that is sales centered.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Culture” as follows: The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.

Building a culture starts with good old fashioned communication in the form of education.
It is hard for employees to share your values or goals if they are excluded.  I am sure at this point you are thinking “we don’t exclude individuals; we work as a team”.  Have you ever heard the saying “Perception is reality”?  The senior living industry tends to conduct a closed door, Managers only, meeting each morning.  Your sales person and Executive Director get to have a personal cell phone in the building and attend off-site business.  You may think you function as a team, but it doesn’t always appear so from the perspective of your line staff.  I realized this when I was a community sales person and a care giver called me and the rest of the Director team “Suits”. This experience motivated me to change the direction of this culture and take a more team approach.

Here is how you can help grow a sustainable sales culture:

  • Educate: Teach and coach your team how to interact with a tour, how to give a basic tour, proper phone etiquette, first impressions, etc. It takes more than one and done.  Regular basic recurrent training always helps.
  • Recognize: Managers tend to always point out short comings and mistakes.  How often do you point out accomplishments of a job done well?  This recognition can be both in private with a strong personal touch or in front of their peers during an all staff meeting.
  • Include: Invite someone from your team to join you in management “suit” meetings.  You have hired adults that can think for themselves, so you should tap into the brain trust that exists in your organization.  Circling back to the education ingredient of this recipe; ask one of your star employees to help educate their teammates on a particular subject at the next all staff meeting.
  • Lead: We have all heard the sayings about “leadership from the top down” and “leadership through example”, but do you and your organization truly live by this?  Simply put,  “you have to walk the walk, before you talk the talk”.

For some of our clients, a positive effect of training the entire staff on a Sales Centered Culture has been increased occupancy and retention rates, along with employee satisfaction. Follow the link below to read a case study from the Involve Leadership Academy, which educates staff how to properly represent their organization.

http://involvemanagement.com/files/2614/4008/7422/Involve_CaseStudies_1page.pdf

Now that you have educated yourself on how to build a sustainable sales culture; go out and educate your team, recognize their accomplishments, include them and tap into their strengths, and practice what you preach; you will be blown away by the results!

For more information:

Rick Macias:
Vice President
(952) 201-9619

rmacias@involvemanagement.com

Simple Tips to Differentiate Yourself From the Competition

Posted September 1, 2015

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”-Albert Einstein

As a consultant, my job is to help my clients improve efficiencies by putting solid systems in place. We fix what’s broken and leverage what’s not. One of the ways we are able to assess how things are going is to mystery shop our clients (and frequently, their competitors).

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to shop numerous communities across the country and sadly, my shopping experiences have been pretty dismal. Rather than focus on what’s not going well in communities, I wanted to share with you some key things that will definitely differentiate your community from your competitors. I can say with certainty, if you and your team commit to following a few simple guidelines, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

welcome

  1. Create Lasting First Impressions – Greet each guest in your community as you would a guest in your home. Refer to them as such and do not call them a “walk in” or a “tour”. Offer your guest a beverage and be sincere in offering assistance. I will never forget Mary, a concierge at a community I recently shopped. She was incredibly warm, concerned about my situation and made me feel right at home. Being greeted by Mary was like getting a big hug when I walked in the door. Who is the Mary in your building and what can he or she start doing differently to make an incredible first impression for your guests?
  2. Engage with your Prospect– Time and time again, I am subject to verbal vomiting. Sales counselors are quick to give you the features and benefits of their building but fail to take the time to engage with their prospect or family. Forget about your building and all the great things inside it, and spend some time getting to know your prospective resident(s) and their family members. If you can connect with them on an emotional level and allow them to be vulnerable and open with you, you’re far more likely to advance that prospect to a sale.
  3. Don’t do the “Dog and Pony Show” Tour”– If you spend the time doing #2 above, then you’ll have no problem creating a meaningful tour experience for your guest. You don’t have to show everyone the entire building, show him or her what’s important given his or her situation. If a family is concerned about medication management or mom’s frequent falls, introduce the family to your community nurse. If the family is concerned about socialization, introduce them to your activity director and how them an ongoing activity. Most sales counselors will whip out an activity calendar or talk about what happens in the building but families need to see and experience these things for it to have the impact we intend.
  4. Follow Up – When I mystery shop, I always use my real phone number and address. Why? Because I’m not worried about being flooded with phone calls or mail. People rarely follow up. I am convinced that this is due to the lack of connection that takes place with the family during a tour and call reluctance kicks in. I don’t think their intention is bad, but for a variety of reasons, it’s just not happening. Follow up and have an agreed upon plan with your prospect before they leave your building.

If you are interested in having Involve complete a FREE in person mystery shop of your community, give me a call at 425-518-0607 or email me at jlottis@involvemanagement.com for more information.

Jennifer Lottis
VP Business Development & Client Relations
jlottis@involvemanagement.com
425-518-0607

The Road to Results in Senior Housing Sales

Posted August 5, 2015

Are Your Priorities in Alignment?

Country Highway
Picture a balloon fully blown up and then let loose before it’s tied. Can you imagine it whirling around the room, no real destination, just floundering about in the air; circling, drifting back and forth, doing a lot of nothing until it lands wherever it may fall? Sales professionals that don’t have the support of a strong leader who understands their business can be like these aimless balloons. Sales counselors are busy bouncing from tour to call and a halfway planned home visit to a meeting and then back to calls again. There is no real planning that takes place and the overhanging pressure of hitting all sales metrics set by management is a looming cloud that never goes away. As a result, one of two things happen: they flounder through these sales activities like a lost balloon, hoping to occasionally land on a sale or two. Or they work hard to hit their metrics and never invest time in the right places – the places that will ultimately produce results. Both of these scenarios lead to poor results.

I get why this happens. I’ve coached, trained many people who fall into one of these two categories, and I’ve been that sales person myself. I’ve tried it both ways, and what I’ve come to realize is, that if you’re priorities aren’t in the right place, the numbers will never come.

Forget the Metrics

At the end of the day, it’s all about results. There are many roads you can take to achieve results. I’ve learned that when you have 40-100 voice-to-voice calls to crank out in a week, your focus is on that – getting your calls in. I’ve worked for Executive Directors that just don’t get the work we’re trying to do. The job of a sales counselor is to connect with their prospect –to understand their pain, their fears, and their legacy. This is the disconnect I’ve experienced and see over and over again in the communities I work with. Occupancy drives everything, but what if you and your team took a different road – practiced a more prospected focused approach rather than a metric approach? I guarantee you the numbers will come.

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To learn more about how you can coach your team to success, contact us here at Involve. Let us show you what it means to get Involved!

Jennifer Lottis
Vice President
Business Development & Client Relations
jlottis@involvemanagement.com
425.518.0607