Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with two incredibly insightful sales professionals who have been in the selling trenches during the coronavirus pandemic. We discussed a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately: how to be a sales hero during Covid-19.
Krista Bracken is Associate Executive Director at Balfour Senior Living‘s Riverfront Park community in Colorado. With years of hands-on experience selling and leading sales teams, she successfully opened and filled her community within the first 12 months.
Melinda Stowe is Regional Director for Solutions Advisors. As a sales consultant, she works with teams on successful sales strategies. Recently, she has worked as a leasing counselor and has been in the selling trenches during Covid.
In the webinar we discussed what it means to be vulnerable as all of us–sales counselors and prospects alike–go through this challenging time, facing the isolation and uncertainty that goes along with it. For sales counselors, one particular area that has been affected is the psychological safety of our jobs and whether we will be as financially secure as we were before the pandemic.
How do I deal with changes in commission structure?
Of around 280 respondents from our webinar, 64% had not seen a change in commission structure during the months affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But a good portion of them had seen their compensation affected.
Can we stay as motivated as before? How can we keep up morale when sales counselors are not getting their usual commissions, and in many cases, have to work even harder to guide change in their prospects? Krista has a strategy that has been successful in motivating her sales team:
Krista: We are doing are small incentives for the sales team. We took our KPIs and we turned that into a competition. I took each day and split it up into one of those KPIs, whether it was advances during call-outs or the most face-to-faces, and then make up small incentives [Visa or restaurant gift cards, a counselor’s favorite food or drink] during that time. So, though we’re feeling a little unsteady and unsure as to where we’re going and in terms of move-outs, there are still things that we are doing in house to boost morale and to still give back to those counselors.
I want to emphasize that even though we have seen fewer or no move-ins during Covid-19, we can still focus on advances, no matter how small, and stay motivated as sales counselors to get more small advances (whether an agreement to do a video call or permission to follow up) with their existing prospects.
We haven’t been able to do home visits during Covid, or if we have, the nature of those visits has changed dramatically. And so we’ve needed to rely on other forms of connection, like voice-to-voice or with video messages. While apps like OneDay make the process much easier, there are still barriers to connecting with prospects using technology.
How can I make it easier to use technology to connect with prospects?
Technology posed difficulties for the majority of those who responded to the poll. While we included both team collaboration and prospect communication in this category, we also heard from participants that using technology to connect with prospects was a common challenge. It can be hard engaging with older adults for virtual tours or video chats. However, Melinda explained why video can be so impactful and Krista offered a strategy for getting the conversation started using video:
Melinda: The whole idea of really peering into their home, maybe asking them to show their favorite room, their favorite mementos, family photos–you can still do it using that kind of technology. Using OneDays to send out after every tour, before every tour there, there’s a lot of creative ways you can really use this technology to create better connections and more immediate connections.
One of the things we’ve deployed is the whole idea of filming a virtual tour ahead of time and then doing a Zoom call so that you can actually walk through that tour with the prospect and you can get reactions. You can have conversations. You can pause it and just have conversations about what you’re doing. So rather than doing just the true interactive, allowing the opportunity to just do it via Zoom and do the tour as you’re talking to them face-to-face.
Krista: My team here has been pretty comfortable with the use of technology. I think where they’re uncomfortable is when a prospect pushes back and says, “I don’t know how to use that technology.” So [sales counselors] say, “What are you using to call me now? Is it a cell phone? I’m just going to hang up, but I’m going to call you right back. Whatever you see on your screen, just answer the phone.” They’ll go ahead and FaceTime that prospect, and 8 times out of 10 it’s resulted in either virtual tour or a home visit.
I think it has been very helpful, and also I feel that the prospects see it as a resource then too. They’ll call and say, “You helped me walk through FaceTime with you. Can you tell me how to do it with my grandson?” And that’s building on the relationship
Taking to prospects about Covid-19
I was pleased when our poll showed that most of the webinar participants were able to talk to their prospects about Covid-19. I feel this is where the true sales-hero mentality comes through, and it’s also an opportunity to be vulnerable with our prospects. We are all going through a period of isolation and uncertainty. This is an opportunity for us as sales counselors to ask for advice and find common ground with older adults who can reflect on similar situations in their own lives and work through the path that lies ahead.
Melinda: One of the things that we’ve been doing is really talking to our prospects about seeking their advice… I’ve gotten stories about a woman living as a child through the polio epidemic in the ’40s. I’ve got stories from a gentleman who grew up in Germany when he was a child and lived through all the bombings.
And so asking them, “Have you lived through this kind of thing before, and what kind of advice do you have for me?” Because we’re all experiencing what these prospects are experiencing in terms of fears. Really just letting them share, letting them remember the hero inside of them, letting them now how courageous they have been. I think really seeking their advice is really powerful.
Krista: Seeking their advice, it’s just another way for us to connect with them and understand where they’re coming from, their point of view. In regards to getting them to respond in an email, I think the letters of intention are great if you can tie those two together: “My intention is to learn from you. I understand we’re all in this together, and perhaps you can share some insight with me as to how you dealt with this in the past.” I think those two things together would definitely elicit a response, even if it came through an email and not on the phone.
It was so valuable having Melinda and Krista join our webinar. They truly embody what it means to be courageous in their roles in senior living sales. I invite all of you to remember why we do what we do, to inspire and enrich the lives of older adults. We can do this by not trying to convince our prospect but instead to put aside our egos as sales counselors, get vulnerable and make a meaningful impact.
A huge thanks to our panelists and participants last week. As always, stay heroic!