“That’s Not Me. Yet.”

Why Prospects Won’t Move into a Life Plan Community…and How We Can Influence Decision-Making

Once upon a time, a prospect was a blank slate. He or she came to us with a handful of misconceptions about senior living and not much more. Today, it’s common for a prospect to understand the fundamental differences between a Life Plan Community and a rental community. The prospect is more likely to not put a senior living community in the same category as a nursing home. The prospect has toured, either virtually or in person, two or more communities, and likely has more than one friend who has already made a move. A skilled sales consultant can hit the ground running—or at least jogging—and begin to gain trust and uncover the prospect’s barriers to making a move.

Decades of marketing have sufficiently educated the consumer and moved the starting point in today’s discovery process. Still, the list of top concerns and objections remains remarkably unchanged and is familiar to experienced sales consultants. Love & Company’s strategic sales advisors, who work closely with all kinds of senior living communities across the country, took a moment to share their insights.

“Prospects see ‘old people’ and say they aren’t ready,” Strategic Sales Advisor Kate Leach says. “They aren’t emotionally ready, even when they understand the product and its benefits and know it’s the right thing to do.”

There’s much to unpack in the prospects’ “not me, yet” objection. It’s not only feeling they aren’t yet old enough for senior living (an opinion voiced by prospects ages 70 to 90+). Prospects may also believe they still need the space and ‘stuff’ that their current home accommodates, or they are emotionally attached to their house and its memories. They worry they won’t fit in with their new neighbors or be included. They may also be concerned about pulling the trigger too soon and stretching the limits of their assets.

Open the Conversation

“I find that many sales consultants don’t help people imagine what the decision will mean for them because they haven’t engaged in prospect-centered discovery,” Strategic Sales Advisor Joan Kelly-Kincade reports. “They’ve focused mainly on the product–amenities, floor plans, dining programs, etc.—instead of helping the prospect connect the dots between what makes them happy now and what will make them happy in the future. So, the prospect can’t see the move as aspirational and as something worth doing soon.”

It’s counterproductive for the sales consultant to start trying to close the sale before he or she has opened the conversation. Getting too transactional too quickly can cause a prospect to shut down.

People exploring a decision about senior living usually have a life history of wise decision-making. That’s why they’re income-qualified and able to contemplate senior living. Appreciating the prospect as an informed critical thinker is the first step the sales consultant must take to be accepted as a trusted advisor.

A successful sales consultant positions themselves alongside the prospect in the decision-making process. The consultant takes the role of an expert partner who can help identify what’s important to the prospect now and in the future and help him or her envision themselves as a community resident. The consultant can maintain objectivity in helping the prospect identify what’s holding him or her back from the decision to make a move. More importantly, the consultant can manifest a personalized value proposition.

Identifying Barriers Within

Each prospect comes with a personal collection of barriers. But what barriers to a sale may already exist in your community before they even arrive?

Is the Product Understandable?

“We’re seeing more and more communities getting creative with contract options to capture a greater array of prospects, such as offering a split contract for a couple when one spouse is health qualified and one is not,” Strategic Sales Consultant Genie Heer says.

On the one hand, expanding the product offering creates opportunities for occupancy growth. On the other hand, the complexity can confuse the consumer.

“Flexibility in contract options enables Life Plan Communities to serve more customers with varying wealth and income situations or health needs,” Kelly-Kincade adds. “But it can leave prospects struggling to sort out what makes sense for them. Now, more than ever, the sales consultant must be adept at guiding them to the solution that best fits their needs and presenting it understandably.”

Does the Whole Team Support the Sale?

Does the community’s whole team play a part in supporting the sales process? Strategic Sales Advisor Kate Leach says, “Leadership teams at successful communities have a ‘we’re all in’ attitude when it comes to sales. Everyone plays a part in making each prospect feel welcomed and wanted.” Sales training is not just for sales consultants.

Does the Messaging Match the Product?

“I am sometimes surprised when I look at a client’s website, advertising and collateral and then tour the community and look at their rates, services and amenities,” Leach says. “There’s often a disconnect that is working against them. Their marketing doesn’t accurately represent their product.”

Communities devote big budgets to generating leads and invest in sales consultants to convert those leads to prospects and—eventually—residents. How much of that expensive effort is squandered if the prospect embarks on the sales journey with fundamental product misconceptions about the community? Did the marketing lead the prospect to expect Target, and he or she arrived at the doorstep of Neiman Marcus—or vice versa?

Is the Website Doing Its Job?

“Your website has to help build value for the product,” Heer advises. “More and more, consumers expect to see rates on the website. They want to be able to do their homework, and they want detail. The risk is that they’ll see rates without context, and you’ll lose them. They won’t understand the value if the website content isn’t robust.”

“Today’s consumers want to self-direct their research and keep the salespeople at arm’s length until they feel informed enough to engage,” she adds. “That puts a much heavier burden than ever before on the quality of the content on the website and its user-friendliness.”

In addition to being able to find detailed information, can site visitors take a video tour, view apartment plans or ask a question via live chat? Features that were once considered bells and whistles are now expected.

What to Do

The prospects’ apprehensions are usually well understood by an experienced sales consultant. How to effectively address them might not be. Targeted training can help sales consultants grow from practicing product-centered to prospect-centered discovery, so they’ll be equipped to establish a connection between the prospect and the life he or she will experience in the community rather than merely a (less actionable) appreciation of the features of the community.

An in-depth assessment of the community’s messaging, in all its forms, will yield opportunities for improved conversions, and an evaluation of the sales consultant’s toolkit will ascertain if it adequately equips him or her to close sales.

We’re Here to Help

Love & Company’s team of seasoned sales and marketing professionals stands ready to help you achieve your goals. We welcome the opportunity to start a conversation. Contact us.

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