Kent is committed to elevating the lives of people and creating dynamic communities where people live in joy and meaningful connection. He has logged over 10,000 hours in one to one selling to seniors and their families, spoken to over 750 audiences and has managed 10 senior communities to record occupancy and sound financial performance. He currently serves as Executive Director, Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village in Meridian, Idaho. You can reach Kent at [email protected].
1. How does your approach to sales differs from the rest of the organization?
Traditional senior housing sales consists of appealing to the rational, logical side of a prospective resident without much acknowledgement that people are emotional, irrational and unpredictable. In other words, a traditional approach sees people as a puzzle to be solved vs. a mystery to be understood. Moving to senior living is thought to be the biggest and scariest (and most expensive) move a person (generally over 75) ever makes. In fact, 90% of seniors won’t even consider leaving their home. So, how we go about getting seniors to look at what is working and not working in their life and see that where they live actually matters, and that place is not always in their home. As an industry and in most companies, the results are abysmal, meaning that reaching an occupancy in senior housing of 85-88% is considered normal, albeit very average. There had to be a better way, namely, to focus in on the wants, needs, fears, values of the prospective resident and help them work through the changes needed to make such a big leap (and hopefully make it more of a big step instead). For me, average wasn’t good enough – if a property had 100 apartments for someone to live in, why would filling just 85 of those apartments be acceptable? We began to go deeper with our prospects and guide them through true and lasting change so that the decision is wholly their own and more likely to stick.
2. Why did you decide to take a different approach? What challenges did you encounter along the way? How did you overcome those challenges?
Traditional selling models focus on volume, for example, number of callouts to prospect in a day or a week. But high volume lacks effectiveness; in reality, sales counselors are trying to be efficient, and prospects can tell if they are treated as another number and not as a person. An unprecedented study was conducted by ProMatura, a leading global marketing and research firm, to find the best method for converting senior living prospects. To conduct the study, ProMatura utilized Sherpa, a senior living CRM and sales conversion system (and my chief mentors in learning prospect-centered selling), where they analyzed over 300,000 encounters between sales counselors and families. The results? Spending more time with each prospect, rather than contacting as many leads as possible, is the most successful way to convert leads. It’s about taking time to get to know the customer and dispels the myth (that most providers pour incredible amounts of money into) to amass more leads, do more callouts, meeting with more prospects. As Ryan Fuller, in a HBR article on What Makes Great Salespeople said, “Depth trumps breadth – top sellers focused on building deeper relationships with fewer prospects rather than casting a wider net of shallower engagement. Top performers spent 20% more time with prospects and interacted with 40% fewer people.
3. Why hasn’t your approach, despite its proven track record, been adopted by the larger organization?
The larger organization I worked for was committed to doubling down on traditional methods. After all, it got them from the doldrums to the “average” and they operated as a loss averse organization. Rather than risking something new which may not work, they stuck to the existing methods. Also, a prospect-centered approach means getting “dirty” with people, truly knowing their fears about moving and showing empathy to them in their grueling process to consider moving. It is baffling to me how organizations that are in the “people” business could allow themselves to treat people as a transaction rather than a person who needs and requires empathy, acceptance, understanding, patience and trusting one’s own ability to change their situation. (We train our sales counselors in the discipline of Motivational Interviewing as a guide for change.) We teach that we are farming (cultivating a relationship, honoring the time it takes to change, etc.) and are not hunting – out to capture people immediately. I cherish the time to slow down the process and simply be with a prospect – to listen and understand. Once I had a woman tell me that if she moved to our community she would likely have to stop driving, something she had done for close to 70 years. I could have said, “That’s OK, we have a bus to get you around,” which was not the point. The issue for her was loss – of freedom, independence, doing what she wanted. She still felt 16 when she could explore the world. So instead I asked her to tell me about her first car. Thirty minutes later I had heard about her life, or part of it. Then, she could consider letting go of the car as her years as a driver of a car was honored and celebrated.