Hello Sales Heroes,

We’ve been holding a series of Ask Alex webinars and blog posts that look at ways you can make meaningful connections, build trust and implement Prospect-Centered Selling during the current pandemic. You’ve given us some wonderful insights and questions. We’d like to address them here and in an upcoming webinar that looks at sales data and metrics during Covid-19 on Wednesday, May 6th:

My fellow Sherpa co-founder David Smith will be joining us once again for next week’s webinar and has addressed some of your questions and comments below. We’re looking forward to seeing you next week. Until then, stay heroic!

-Alex

Do we know just how much of an impact Covid-19 has had on the senior living industry?

David: As you can imagine, the impact has been dire so far. Operators on the front line have made it a priority to protect their residents and staff, as they should. But ensuring the safety of more than two million senior living residents has been a challenge. 

  • The New York Times reports that over 10,000 people living in nursing homes have died from Covid-19, and numbers will likely rise.
    • Over 70% of senior living communities have had at least one resident or staff member become infected
    • Generally testing has only been put in place for people with symptoms yet carriers can be asymptomatic
    • Occupancies are falling according to NIC data gathered from April 20-26:
      • 68% of independent living and memory care units reported a decrease in occupancy from the prior month
      • 81% of assisted living and 82% of of nursing care respondents reported a decline from the prior month
      • Between 67% and 71% of respondents saw the pace of move-ins decelerate
    • McKnight’s reports that many new developments will be delayed and some operators will likely go out of business

What are the longer-term impacts on sales?

David: There are fewer inquiries with G5 reporting a decrease of total new leads by 43% year-on-year.

  • A large number of skilled nursing facility deaths could create more prospect resistance and a negative sentiment to all iterations of senior living, as covered by The New York Times 
  • Yet the potential for more seniors to isolate at home is also increasing awareness of risks, which could increase market penetration for: 
    • Higher-functioning prospects who stay longer and have a higher recurring revenue per sale
    • Even a very small increase in current capture rates would virtually eliminate vacant units for all existing senior living properties: for example, an average increase of 10% to 12% could offset negative perceptions

How can I increase my Time in the Selling Zone (TSZ) without face-to-face interactions?

David: This is an important question, as TSZ is one of the key metrics we use to drive conversions and predict success. Pre-Covid, top performers in the Sherpa database invested 35% of their time in face-to-face interactions, 30% in planning, 20% in phone or email conversations and 15% with creative follow-up. You can see the average times spent on these activities, and how they’ve since changed, below.

From the Sherpa Universe: how time spent on TSZ activities have been impacted by Covid-19.

We need to invest TSZ to cultivate and nurture our current prospects, rather than looking for new, urgency-based leads Focusing on assessing and advancing readiness to move through planning and effective—but safe—interactions.

Spend more time planning

Review, assess and look for readiness advance opportunities with prospects in the Thinking and Planning stages. Specifically take time to think about their core values, underlying motivators and sources of objections. Plan relevant, readiness-oriented assessments and next steps using the sMART Grid as featured in the previous Ask Alex post.

Engage in virtual interactions

Use a video conferencing app like Zoom, Facetime or Skype with your prospects and their families. The goal is to get to know your prospects’ personal stories and nurture the connection you share. This should become your go-to option when tours aren’t immediately possible, as with out-of-town prospects.

Create and send OneDay or other self-made videos. For prospects with whom you haven’t yet had a face-to-face interaction, send them an introduction video. In fact, you could include a video in interactions with all new inquiries. Introduce yourself, your role and your intentions. Don’t focus on the product or a solution your community can offer.

If the sales team is not onsite, enlist staff (the chef, activities director, facilities director, executive director, etc.) who are willing to be featured in or create:

  • Virtual tours
  • Introductions, personalized messages and testimonials from residents, family members and/or key staff members

Create meaningful and tailored creative follow-up

Spending time planning and creating follow-up counts as TSZ. Find out what your prospect’s interests are and send them links to virtual classes, games, articles or presentations. You can find a full library of resources on culture, entertainment, sports and spirituality at www.slvirtual.com or total brain health classes on YouTube.

How do I measure advances if my community isn’t allowing tours or move-ins?

David: Even if they aren’t able to move in, your prospect can agree to a lease or a move-in once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Think of the move-in process as how we treat pre-opening sales during an initial fill or the openingof a new expansion.

Focus on strengthening empathic connections by soliciting legacy stories andgaining trust-breakthroughs. Seek permission to talk to influencers or to sendinformation or follow-up. Aim to get small micro-advances like an agreement for another call or a change in thinking, and build them one on top of another.

How should I be spending my planning time?

David: Continue with your daily sales team meetings to review advances and plan next steps for your top prospects. Having the executive director present makes a big difference: we found that the highest-performing EDs spent 57% of their direct selling time in planning. Focus on your Top Ten prospects and look for opportunities for small, micro-advances.

You can also reach out to prospects with no next steps planned. Catch up on overdue tasks relating to discovery and focus on updating your readiness assessments (Denial, Thinking, Planning and Action).

Analyze your prospect profiles or case studies. Try not to be literal with the information you’ve been given! Identify emotional motivators and barriers bylistening for story themes and values. Find ways to acknowledge and validateyour prospect’s emotional resistance as well as any thoughts or fears relatedto Covid-19. If they ask how your community is handling the pandemic, be honest and express your concern for the safety of your residents.

If you use SherpaCRM, enrich the Case Studies you have. Research and reachout to prospects to add photos, life stories, home values and influencers. Review the Sales Journal to populate your Case Study with information that was not yet transferred. Use this information to prepare questions to explore during the next interaction.

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