By Susan Foley, Vice President, Sales Training
If I could change anything about the senior living prospects I meet (for independent living), it would be to open them up to considering change as a positive rather than a negative. Their opposition to change always amazes me because they have probably experienced more change in their lives than any other generation in recent history. They’ve witnessed major wars, radical societal and economic roller coasters. Many lost relatives to childhood illnesses that are easily overcome today. Many watched their immigrant parents work hard for the American dream; but as a result, their generation became the cornerstone of American society in building businesses, educating their children and owning their own homes. What, I ask, could possibly be more worrisome than what they’ve already lived through?
And then, I ask myself: Is it because of all of these changes they’ve experienced that makes them wary of what might be next? Is it the fear of the unknown that freezes them into a state of indecisiveness? How can we effectively communicate to them that their lack of future planning, and the changes that they fear as they get older, may actually have the biggest impact on their lives?
To be successful in promoting the benefits of a community lifestyle, trust and communication are key. It’s not just your pricing, your pretty lobby, or modern apartments that will ultimately lead to a decision. While those things are also important, you’ll want to focus on creating value, and help your prospects identify and recognize their concerns and fears aloud. The first step is to establish a trusting bond with them. In David Solie’s book, “How to Say It To Seniors” he helps us understand that the older adult will process information differently and that one of the major unseen drivers in their lives as they age is control. Recognizing this, you will need to adjust your behavior as well. When your prospect can feel that you are on the same page, you’ll gain their trust.
People working in senior living often tell me they “fell into it by accident” (as did I) and that they never regretted it or wanted to change. Why? Because we feel valued and that at the end of the day, we feel we made a difference in someone’s life. From my own experience, and from the experience of others in this industry, here are 5 ways to improve your personal selling skills by gaining your prospect’s trust.
1.) Take the time to allow yourself to really listen. Put away the gadgets; don’t think about anything else but the person you are speaking to. Your tone of voice can often say well more than words. Body language speaks volumes if you are paying attention. Referring back to How to Say It to Seniors, understanding how your prospect communicates (or doesn’t) their feelings really requires strong listening and negotiation skills.
2.) Keep the conversation going by saying, “Tell me more,” or “How do you feel about that?” The more you can learn from your prospect, the better. To help them feel that they are still in control, you need to allow them to participate in the decision-making process. Helping them see the differences between Decision A and Decision B, for example, you provide the opportunity for their personal choice and control.
3.) Make eye contact and sometimes even physical contact (a hand on the arm, a pat on the back) when appropriate. Physical contact may make certain prospects feel uncomfortable, so get to know your prospect first. Your guest should feel like he or she is the only person you are thinking about. As they say, “the eyes are the window to the soul”. When you are comfortable and confident enough to look someone in the eye, you are sharing an important bond.
4.) Become an advocate or ally. Often, your prospects are on a journey and need guidance. In establishing a trusting bond, your prospect is allowing you to help him or her make crucial decisions. Don’t take that responsibility lightly, and communicate how important that responsibility is to you. Often, the well-meaning adult child may be putting undue pressure on the parent. I’ve had wonderful success applying Solie’s suggestions to help a stressed out adult child work better with their parent for a mutually rewarding decision-making process. Your role in this exercise can make the world of difference for both the prospect and their well-meaning child.
5.) Don’t let them down. Do what you say you’ll do. You are more aware of the critical path and timing than your prospects will admit to themselves. Therefore, you must maintain the momentum and stay on top of the “next steps.”
For more information on how to improve your sales, contact Love & Company at
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