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Who Should We Hire to Sell Senior Living?

October 07, 2020 by Alex Fisher

Hello Sales Heroes!

We had an amazing discussion this week with two giants in the industry, both from Sunrise Senior Living. Kelly Singleton-Myers, Senior VP of Sales, and Cory Benson, VP of Sales Training and Development, spoke with me about what it’s like to build a successful sales program. And of course what it takes to be a great salesperson.

There was also a surprise visit from my Sherpa co-founder David Smith who has led dozens of fill-up campaigns across the country including at his own communities. He’s been in the selling trenches in the past few months and brings his perspective as an owner and operator.

I’ll get into the takeaways from our discussion, but first here are links to both TED Talks discussed in the webinar:

I’d also like to share our Sales Hero Manifesto that outlines what we consider to be the most important elements of being an effective salesperson in senior living.

Professionalizing sales in senior living

There’s a certain perception out there of salespeople, no matter the industry, that their job is to convince people to buy something they don’t necessarily want or need. If we hire people who are like-able and convincing, they should make good salespeople, right? Cory Benson says there’s more to it than personality and .

Sales is “a role that requires practice and skill-building, and really unique skillsets that can be grown and developed,” she explains. “It’s not just people that are nice, that can connect with others. There’s so much more that goes into the role.”

We all know that trying to convince people doesn’t work, especially in senior living sales where prospects don’t often “want” the product until it becomes a serious need. So while personality can help, sales counselors need to be adept in not only making meaningful connections but also knowing when and how to advance the sale. Great salespeople aren’t those who “love to help” but instead those who know how to be an advocate and guide the decision-making process.

Curiosity vs. control in sales

Great sales counselors learn from listening. By understanding our prospects including their fears, motivators and aspirations, we can be better positioned to guide them. The successful salesperson acts out of genuine curiosity rather than a need to control the outcomes. These intentions become obvious to the prospects from even the earliest sales interactions and no matter how “helpful” they may seem.

Especially in the current climate, “everyone gets in a rush to make those quotas, make those sales,” says Kelly Singleton-Myers. “And with that you’re missing this great opportunity to really, truly and genuinely understand that prospective resident’s current situation, their perspective on things, who they are as a whole human being versus who they are right now in this moment. It’s really important for us as sales professionals to slow down to be more successful.”

The hiring process

One way to attract the right kind of talent is to start with making sure we know what the job is really about. Kelly notes that it’s about building strategic relationships with prospects and influencers. Cory adds that being entrenched in the broader community, including online advocacy organizations, is something worth looking for. It’s hard to identify curiosity and some of the key traits of a successful salesperson from a single interview, but we can first understand the person we’re looking for.

Open-mindedness is another great feature to look for, especially in team selling. This is the ability of a sales counselor to adapt to new selling situations and look for ways of advancing the sale where they may not have looked before. This especially applies to a team selling situation where each person contributing to a sale may bring a different skillset or strategy that needs to work together.

“I’ve always found that a mediocre team can do better than a great single performer,” says David Smith. This especially applies to creativity and having multiple people bringing to the table that genuine curiosity we’ve been talking about.

The idea of teamwork also applies to team interviewing when hiring for sales roles, a practice Kelly and Cory say really helps with selecting the right person for the job.

In conclusion…

We need to hire for curiosity. But let’s step back and truly define the role that we’re hiring for. This is a job that requires a certain set of skills (and not just the “right personality”) and a person who self-identifies with the traits and desires that make a great sales counselor, like empathy and emotional intelligence.

I believe we should be investing more into our sales teams through hiring the right talent and supporting them through training and coaching. We have too many leads and not enough time, so adding a new sales person or more sales time will lead to more successful outcomes, especially during Covid-19.

A huge thank you to our guests and those who joined this week’s webinar.

Stay heroic!

Alex

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