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What Older Clients Really Want

March 25, 2014 by Sherpa

There are quite a few misconceptions about aging clients out there. But if you’ve spent time talking with your prospects and learning what they really want, you might know better.

In an article from WealthManagement.com, Kathleen Pritchard of Legg Mason uses research from John Hopkins University School of Nursing to reject myths about our older clients. For example, “Older adults are in poor health” is a big one. You get sicker the older you get, right? Those who work in assisted living in particular may associate aging with failing health; inquiries are made following a crisis or injury. The natural response to these inquiries is to address health concerns and medical needs in order to best match services and determine pricing. 

But these clients are “blue birds,” prospects who don’t have much of a choice to move anyway. What about independent living and higher-functioning residents? According to the John Hopkins research, “More than 76% of older adults describe themselves as being in good, very good or excellent health despite having an average of two or more chronic conditions.”

It looks like we’ll need a better approach, especially in independent living, to connect with prospects who don’t feel their health is an urgent or even relevant factor in their decision to move. Cultivating a lifestyle is more important than a community’s ability to treat illnesses. Instead of asking about medications, try asking them what their typical day is like.

Another misconception looked at in the article is that older adults “have been abandoned by their families.” The research, however, showed that 80% of aging parents see their adult children every one or two weeks. Sales counselors who have received inquiries from or worked with adult children know that they often have a strong relationship with their parents and want to extend and improve their lives. Connecting with both family and prospect as a guide (rather than a salesperson) is key in building trust and encouraging the right decision whether it be a move to your community or not.

Perhaps the most important myth busted in the article was that senior adults are “unable to learn or change.” Instead, the author points out that “Learning patterns do change with age and it may take a bit longer to learn something new. However, older adults do not become more rigid, and the basic capacity to learn is retained.” While our prospects might seem like or say that they will never change their mind, don’t give up. Using Prospect-Centered Selling and Sherpa together can help you as a sales counselor guide your prospects toward positive life changes, including a move to senior housing. You can help your clients realize the benefits of a change and make the decision themselves.

All in all, don’t make assumptions! Instead, ask direct and thoughtful questions. We’re better off learning more about who our prospect is first, and then we can formulate a strategy to inspire change, one based on what motivates them as an individual, not just as an older person.

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