Written by Sherpa founder David Smith
I sold a lot of residential real estate to pay for college and law school. When I first tried to apply what I had learned in home sales to filling The Gatesworth, our flagship senior living community in St. Louis, I found things to be quite different. I quickly realized that, except for those with immediate health needs, no one wants to move to senior housing.
There are challenges in senior housing sales that make it different than selling single-family homes. Converting higher-functioning prospects (who are also typically more resistant to a move) into residents is a much more difficult, time consuming and emotional process.
In terms of sales results, assigning each prospect to a specific sales counselor and then incentivizing them based on deposits from those leads (as we did with home sales) turns out to be less effective than team selling.
Outside of sales, senior housing professionals deal with difficult challenges all the time such as delivering nursing care or preparing and serving meals. These and other departments in our communities operate as a team rather than as groups of individual members. So why should the sales staff operate differently?
In our communities and in a growing number of others that employ more than one sales counselor, the sales office works together toward common goals rather than individual ones.
What Makes it Team Selling?
- Every prospect is “owned by” or “belongs to” the community and not any particular sales counselor. Sales counselors plan, follow up and prioritize as a team working towards common goals and milestones.
- Although base compensation and the amount paid at each milestone may differ among sales team members, the payment milestones are the same for everyone. For example, at sustaining occupancy all of our team members get incentives based on the number vacant days each month regardless of how many deposits we get or who takes the check. However, Counselor A might get a higher base plus $500 at the first milestone while Counselor B might have a lower base and only get $250. Yet the common goal remains the same.
- Each counselor can play a role that supports their individual strengths: one counselor may be more successful with home visits while another is more adept at producing creative follow-up materials. Again, whatever will help reach the common goal to get more sales advances.
- In addition to playing on people’s strengths, Team selling promotes a better prioritization of selling time. This time can be spent planning for next steps and maximizing personalized, creative follow-up.
- When multiple sales counselors work with a shared prospect, they can schedule more home visits with different people that allows for more opportunities for an advance in the sale.
Benefits of Team Selling
- Connecting with more than one sales counselor during the decision-making process better reflects your operating culture. This shows that residents interact with multiple staff every day, which is a huge benefit of senior housing over home care.
- Prospects learn from the beginning of their relationship with you and your community that multiple people care about them and are readily accessible. They are important to you and your team, and it shows.
- Team-oriented planning and follow-up promotes creativity, curiosity as well as more focused and effective activities.
- A sense of shared responsibility for guiding and helping each prospect through the decision-making process will help counselors overcome the natural ego-driven fears of rejection, failure and intimacy inherent in the selling process.
All in all, we have found that team selling is more effective, more rewarding and more fun for each counselor. What process works best for your team?3