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Ask Alex: Managing a sales slump

January 12, 2018 by Sherpa

Every month, Sherpa Co-founder Alex Fisher answers your questions about senior living sales based on her experiences as a successful leasing counselor, sales director and community owner. Read more about Ask Alex in Alex’s Open Letter To Senior Housing Professionals.

To submit a question, email AskAlex@sherpacrm.com.

Dear Ask Alex,

My sales team hasn’t hit their move-in goals for the last three months. With the holidays over, I know I need to make some decisions and that my own job could be at risk if we can’t get back on track.  So, how would you describe the ideal sales team? And where should I start?

~ Anonymously hopeful

Dear Anonymously Hopeful (great name, by the way),


First, let me say, I understand the tough position you are in. It is a bummer at the very least, and very demoralizing. Without knowing all the details of your particular situation, I also want to issue a strong disclaimer.  My advice is a limited view of the larger issue and should be taken in context within your environment.

In my view, an ideal sales team knows each other’s strengths, they all work towards the same goal, and they give their prospects the full benefit of their different perspectives and personalities.

A great team shares “leads” and they have open conversations and planning sessions about their ideas, insights and strategies for each prospect they work with.  They don’t really care who “closes”, and they own the result together. They all contribute towards “opening,” meaning they work together towards greater insight into the issues their prospects are facing, they brainstorm on personalized creative follow up, they insist on focused planning and fresh strategies.

Having a great team helps with “empathy fatigue.” Guiding people towards a decision takes an emotional toll on any one individual; they share the burden.

It is common for Sales teams to get high when they close, and low when they don’t see results. It can be an emotional seesaw. The team leader maintains a feeling of equanimity, the state that is always confident about your ability to perform a task and focus, regardless of the situation.

In leading teams through vacancy slumps, I took my attention off “vacant units,” ‘new inquiries,” move-outs” and “competitors.” Since I really can’t control any of that, I tend to panic and the team feels demoralized. Instead, I shift my attention towards opportunities to advance the prospects I have and to the tasks at hand.

So, what can you do? This is where I would recommend starting…

First (and most importantly in my opinion), respect your energy.

Your energy is your time and focus. We are far too loose with it, and often we let other people with other priorities just take it away. (No, you can’t help the business office with the paperwork, or run off to buy balloons for the event). Your time is very valuable, you are a sales professional, and you will devote your time to what will make you and your team successful. No one would ask the surgeon to clean up the OR after the operation, or the nurse to go change a light bulb for a resident.

Next, identify leading indicators of daily success.

An ideal sales team is a team that produces results. But, practically speaking, it’s not effective to look at how many sales you have made on a daily basis.  Instead, think smaller. Know your conversion ratio. Set goals your teams can actually influence with their effort instead of focusing on the monthly, lagging outcomes of their efforts.  (More on goal setting coming soon!)

So, what is our plan of action?

  • Spend four hours in the Selling Zone® per sales team member daily

Here’s how we’re going to allocate that time…this will vary day to day, but on average:

  • An hour a day planning together for next steps with our “Top Ten” prospects
  • A half-hour per day individually preparing Creative Follow-Up for prospects
  • The remaining two-plus hours either Face-to-Face with our prospects at home or at our community or voice-to-voice with our prospects by phone, email or text.

Every day, we will measure and record how we spent our Time in the Selling Zone® in our daily sales meetings.

In establishing your leading indicators of success, you’ve given your team something they CAN control – their time – and helped them focus on the prospects they can work today.  (Sidenote:  In our studies of the most successful senior housing sales professionals, an independent research firm found they allocated their selling time in a similar manner. See the latest updates on that study here).

Finally, “go to the mattresses” for momentum.

In the classic film, The Godfather, going to the mattresses means declaring all-out war.  Watch Tom Hanks explain the concept to Meg Ryan here.  In a sales turnaround environment, make no mistake; you are at war with the status quo.

Focus on today. It is a new day; the “old lead” is a new lead today. Take a fresh look.

Over-celebrate.  Ring the bell every time you get an advance. Practice self-awareness: Am I afraid of losing my job? What will my regional think if I don’t get the move-ins? Am I willing to fail? Allow for your team members to do the same.

Don’t let the ‘bad’ days – (no one is calling us back, the tour was cancelled, I got pulled into Ops meetings, I lost someone to the competition)– make you waver from your goal: Here are the prospects we will focus on, and here is how we are going to spend our time with them today.

You see, Anonymously Helpful, once a sales team makes the decision to focus on what they can control and to eliminate distraction, they will take accountability for their own success or failure. By month’s end, you will have a team of individuals who feel confident, not necessarily in their ability to sign more contracts, but in their ability to meet their daily goals. And, they will certainly have more fun.

Stay heroic!


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