I don’t know about you, but my life pretty much revolves around food. Lunch hours are sacred. Cooking dinner is a cherished ritual, and each meal come with its own little ceremonies (setting the table, serving courses in the right order, and so on). We all have to eat. Who doesn’t love a good meal? For aging adults, however, food can become more a matter of convenience than celebration. For those of us who have gone on home visits to prospects’ homes will likely find a freezer full of TV dinners or a cupboard filled with canned foods. There’s not much love on those plates. And there’s more than enough sodium.
Aside from unexciting routines, seniors can miss out on many benefits when they sustain themselves on processed foods. Not having access to balanced meals is one of the perils of living at home, a result of limited mobility and resources. These meals fall under the category of “Alligators”—what we at Sherpa call the problems or dissatisfactions of living at home.
On the flip side of these junk-food Alligators we find what we call the “Treasure,” or the benefits or advantages to senior living. In this case it’s freshly prepared, balanced meals. We’ll lay out the tablecloth and do the dishes for you! And hey, if you still want TV dinners, we’ll get those for you. But will you really miss frozen food?
The senior living industry as a whole has really upped their game when it comes to dining. Meals are a major selling point when it comes to choosing a community. Yet the unshakable stereotype of the retirement community with bland, mushy food is widespread, and it’s another barrier to overcome when selling.
True story time: an adult child made an inquiry into independent living for their aging father, but the dad refused to visit the community. One of the main reasons he wanted nothing to do with senior living was that the food was terrible in “those places.” But not so for this community. It employed a highly skilled head chef, and the food was quite good. Yet the prospect needed convincing that went beyond the brochure. With the help of the adult child, the sales counselor learned that the prospect’s favorite food was lamb chops.
The head chef prepared a meal featuring this prized protein and served it at the prospect’s home, saying he was from a new restaurant in town that was letting local residents sample the cuisine. He never mentioned that the restaurant was actually part of the senior living community the prospect had been refusing to visit. The diner said the chops were the best he’d ever had, and he was curious to learn more about the restaurant and it’s chef. The son later revealed that the chef was from a senior living community, one of “those places,” and that the lamb chops were going on the menu as a special item. The prospect made the decision to move in soon after.
The way to my heart is often through my stomach, and I’m not the only one. When a sales effort appeals to a prospect’s senses, emotions and dispels negative preconceived notions of senior living, it has a better chance for success. As far as creative follow-up goes, the lamb chop dinner is outrageous, expensive and does not guarantee a move-in. But what would have happened if that prospect had never stepped foot in the community? All based on a food prejudice? It was a chance the sales counselor couldn’t afford not to take. Here’s the takeaway from the lamb chops anecdote:
- Let those who work at the community be involved in the sales process (chef, fitness trainers, executive director, etc.).
- Get the adult children to help or facilitate when possible.
- Conduct discovery (what are their likes, dislikes, etc.) in order to deliver more personalized, impactful follow-up.
- Don’t hammer in obvious connections to the community (we have a chef!), but instead let the prospect make these connections for themselves.
- Don’t be boring or cheap. Make an impact.