Written by David A. Smith, Co-Founder, CEO of Sherpa
The ongoing battle to eliminate vacancies is critical. The cost of vacancies affects cash flows and reduces overall project value for refinance or sale. Moreover, vacant units drive up marketing costs, create pressures to find lower-functioning prospects and create downward pressure on rents. Getting the Executive Director (ED) more directly involved in day-to-day sales efforts—especially with a meaningful sales conversion tool like Sherpa—will boost results.
1. Substantial bottom line dollar savings potential
Consider the bottom line costs of vacant units. At an assumed rental of $3,500 per month, each additional resident generates $42,000 per year or roughly $500,000 in capitalized value. What other area of operations or expense reductions offer the ED an opportunity to have this kind of impact on the bottom line?
2. The ED’s authority, credibility & visibility enhances selling
The creation of a trusting, intimate relationship is a necessary prerequisite for selling senior communities to reluctant prospects who say, “I’m not ready.” As the undisputed onsite “boss,” and the person in charge of delivering programs and services, the ED is in the best position to build confidence with reluctant prospects.
As part of the day-to-day sales effort, EDs brings a strong, credible source of leadership and motivation to the sales team. Their input and focus makes the sales staff more effective and helps reduce sales staff turnover.
3. The ED is in a unique position to create & maintain a supportive, customer-driven selling environment
Too often, an adversarial rather than a cooperative relationship develops between the sales and operational staff. Left to fester, such conflict can impair selling effectiveness. The ED is in the best position to eliminate selling barriers between departments.
- For example, direct ED involvement promotes cooperation in:
- Arranging telephone coverage
- Keeping vacant units clean
- Making dining services available outside of scheduled meal times
- Coverage for tours when no sales counselors are available
- Arranging payment for flowers or other creative follow-up
4. Get some customer-based reality to the top
Owners and senior managers often have very little first hand knowledge of what’s happening with individual prospects. Successful sales professionals are oriented to be relentlessly optimistic. So how does management get some transparency to know how solid the “Top Ten” prospects or pending depositors really are? There’s lots of room for creative interpretation of sales success, especially in numbers-driven CRMs and transaction-oriented sales reports. There are also some important things that you just can’t tell from reports. What is the quality or effectiveness of prospect calls verses the mere number of contacts? Can you achieve sales goals without additional spending to generate new leads?
Hands-on involvement by the ED, supported by the unique “Readiness of Change” metrics built into Sherpa, afford a much more transparent and real-time window into what’s happening. It also ensures a better assessment of and predictive indicators for: budgeting and personnel needs, pricing and special incentive strategies, and special prospect needs or requests.
5. Stay in touch with changing market conditions and opportunities
Jim Moore of Moore Diversified Services has observed that “the real challenge in our industry is not only to learn from past, but to have a clear, sharp vision of the future. Unfortunately, many providers are experiencing ‘market positioning myopia,’ characterized by short-sightedness and lack of vision for realistic future planning.”
Innovative providers must be flexible and accommodating to customer needs in a changing marketplace. Getting the ED directly in touch with incoming prospects is a cost-effective way to avoid “positioning myopia.”
This Is What Hands-On Executive Director Sales Involvement Means
- Make getting to—and sustaining—100% occupancy a top priority. Create a positive sense of urgency and focus for everyone working in your community.
- Set realistic goals and provide encouragement and support for key performance behaviors. Focus on sales behaviors that lead to increased conversion ratios. Sherpa defines these behaviors as spending time:
- In the “Selling Zone”
- Creating Personalized Creative Follow-Up
- Planning for meaningful next steps based on Stages of Readiness for Change. Post your results daily somewhere shared so that everyone involved with leasing and sales can see your results
- Provide direction and leadership to the entire selling effort. Support a “Prospect-Centered Sales” culture with the key metrics and sales behaviors embedded in Sherpa, and then encourage these behaviors in sales staff evaluation and incentive criteria.
- Make and review meaningful next-step action plans for each of your “10 best prospects” with the Sales Team daily. Check to see that they execute exactly what you planned.
- Be available to make calls and meet with prospects, especially during initial discovery and closing.
- Assist with creative prospect Follow-Up ideas and develop realistic options to meet special prospect needs.
- Improve your own selling skills. Study best-in-class processes then motivate and teach your staff what you’ve learned.