Over the years, I’ve fielded lots of questions about prospect behavior. Generally those questions revolve around getting prospects to do something. You can fill in the blank with: Say yes to a home visit, call me back, talk about money, tell me what other competitors they are considering, give me permission to talk directly with their mother, etc.
My answer to those questions – based on countless interactions with prospects to date – is that one foundational skill above all others determines your success in senior housing sales. That skill is your ability to cultivate trust with your prospects
When thinking about trust, sometimes it’s easier to define what it is not before we can understand what it is. Cultivating trust involves more than being a product knowledge expert – that is competence. It is not just about getting people to “like” us. Trust goes deeper than product knowledge and niceties.
I like to think about trust as what you cultivate with another person in order to help them navigate uncertainty. It inspires feelings of connection and safety with someone. When it is present in a relationship, people will open up to you … talking about their family dynamics, their feelings of fear, sadness, loss, excitement, etc. Only then can you really understand how to provide guidance that is most appropriate for their unique needs. More importantly, you will create a safe, “non-salesy” zone where they can untangle their own emotions and thoughts about their situation.
If I haven’t mentioned it yet, building trust demands a suspension of judgement regarding their situation as well as your own self-interest. You can not be fully invested in helping them and they shouldn’t trust you if your own motivation to close outweighs finding a solution that is best for them. Here are a few other key strategies for building trust:
- State your intention: Tell the prospect the why behind your role, what you are trying to do. Otherwise, prospects will ascribe your intentions based on their fear of being sold. “Why should I trust you,” they think. “Your goal here is to sell me something, not help me.”
- Be brave and ditch the script. Empathize. Make yourself vulnerable so that they have permission to do the same. Listen to them with respect and discipline. Be curious.
- Do some planning before any call or visit. You will become trustworthy when you take a bit of time reviewing what you learned. Based on your intention to help them make a decision and what you learned, what is the best next step that you are going to help them take?
With these strategies in mind, here are a few tricks I personally use to ground myself in advance of a prospect interaction. I hope they will work for you!
Getting mindful: After I do some planning and immediately before I pick up the phone or go to meet a tour, I spend 30 seconds getting grounded. I close my eyes and just listen to the sounds around me. I think about the person I’m meeting and stimulate my own curiosity about them.
Shutting my ego off. When on the phone with the prospect, I will sometimes close my eyes. It helps me to shut off my ego and to listen better, without my own intentions blocking our discourse.
Leading with intention. I state and re-state my intentions – for my prospects but also for myself. It helps guide my own conversation back to what is most important and reassures prospects that I’m not there to sell them.
My mantra may sound a little like this: My intention is to try to understand your situation, and provide guidance and support along the way regardless of your decision.
I hope you found these strategies helpful in thinking through your own sales approach. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback on why cultivating trust with prospects is important to you.
Alex Fisher is cofounder and Chief Creative Officer at Sherpa, the only CRM built by senior living sales experts. Formally trained as a fine artist, Alex is also a principal at One on One, a co-owner of three senior living communities in the Midwest and a mother of three. Contact her with questions at AskAlex@sherpacrm.com.