Emotional intelligence is essential to connecting with today’s senior living consumer

Feb 22, 2024 | Industry Trends

By Joan Kelly-Kincade

People considering a senior living community today are considerably more informed than 10 years ago, and yet they are no further along in the decision-making process. To be successful, sales teams need a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) to help prospects progress through that process.

Prospects typically begin their journey exploring the vast amount of easily searchable information online. This can trigger a flood of marketing communications, from emails and social media feeds to traditional mail. As a result, prospects are often inundated with feature dumping and data overload.

They may now have plenty of information about amenities, services, benefits and options, but they don’t have the time or ability to process all of it. Although well-informed, these prospects still struggle with having to make a change. And that’s because making a move is a deeply emotional decision.

Sales today requires a different approach

Smart, committed sales counselors know how to sell and how to close. But to be effective in the current environment, it is not enough to be a closer. Today’s successful sales counselor is a great “opener.” Openers understand that you have to let go of selling and connect on a personal level. And the best way to nurture that connection is by appreciating what matters most to the prospect.

Appreciative interviewing encourages people to tell their stories, share their experiences and examine their feelings. This approach taps into a depth of qualitative information that carries a wealth of meaning and often powerful emotions. People are more likely to come up with fresh insights on their own when encouraged to explore their feelings.

Appreciative and motivational interviewing is more important than ever. Equally important is establishing a sales team with demonstrated skills related to EQ.

Practicing EQ intentionally and consistently

EQ refers to people’s ability to recognize and manage their own emotions, as well as understand and empathize with the emotions of others. The key components are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

People with high EQ are skilled at active listening, asking open-ended questions, navigating difficult conversations and objections, and reading nonverbal cues. Having a team with a high EQ can be a game-changer as it enables them to develop stronger connections with your prospects, thereby building empathy, understanding, rapport and trust.

A key competitive differential

At Love and Company, we’ve seen beautiful communities with sought-after amenities and services that still struggle with occupancy rates. We’ve also seen unremarkable communities that have consistently filled wait lists. The difference? Often, a key element is the sales team and their ability to make an emotional connection with the prospect. After people complete all of their research, the decision to move and where they will go is typically made with their hearts, not their minds. They choose the option that feels right.

Your sales team may be passionate, knowledgeable and naturally perceptive, but learning to be consistently intentional about the way they open will greatly impact their success. Here are three essential tenets that can influence their effectiveness.

Meet prospects where they are

Whether it’s through traditional or digital channels, it’s critical to ascertain and understand how and why prospects came to you. What do they already know? Have they visited your website, taken virtual tours, researched competitors, or read your blogs or e-newsletters? Starting a conversation with a sales pitch runs the risk of patronizing and insulting them. Asking insightful questions will help determine what they already know and what they want to learn.

Listen—not to reply, but to understand

Why are they considering a move? Why are they looking at your community? What matters most to them? What makes them happy? People with high EQ listen for clarity instead of waiting for their turn to talk. They recognize nonverbal cues and make sure they understand what’s being said before they respond. This shows respect for the person talking and allows for an appropriate, thoughtful response.

Recognize where they are in the decision-making process

People visit communities at various levels of readiness. Astute, intuitive questions can help determine how close they are to making a decision.

An emotionally intelligent sales counselor recognizes a prospect’s level of readiness. As clarity is established, prospects begin to imagine a future in which they can once again enjoy what has always mattered most to them. They are now partners in decision-making with the sales counselor.

Empower your sales team to succeed

Your community may offer amazing amenities, services, opportunities, benefits, etc., but so do a lot of other communities. And while this might be what draws people to your door, what will most likely differentiate you from your competitors is how your sales team makes your visitors feel.

Make sure your team is adept at making that critical connection. Most likely, they already have a strong foundation and intuitively apply some of these approaches. Training in appreciative and motivational interviewing ensures these skills are consistently and intentionally applied.

Online resources can help you assess your team’s EQ and provide some guidance in strengthening EQ-related skills. There are also marketing firms (including Love and Company) that specialize in training your sales team to realize their EQ potential, hone their capabilities and significantly impact their success.

Empower your team to nurture the empathy, respect and trust people need to make the life-changing decision to move to your community.

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