By Mike Miller
As professional athletes know so well, no matter how many victories you have, you never lose the bitter taste of defeat. Professional salespeople in the senior living business also are familiar with the taste of defeat. When a potential resident or family member walks out their door and through the doors of their competitors, it hurts. But not for long. Unlike professional athletes, salespeople don’t have to wait very long to get back into the game. As soon as the next prospect becomes a new resident, the agony of defeat is erased.
In the senior living business, sales quotas are often used to hold sales professionals accountable. The patently accepted idea that “sales is a numbers game” leads salespeople and managers, even upper-level management, to look only at the number of sales and the amount of revenue. As long as the quota is being made, all is right with the world. As long as the community is operating at or above budget, life is good.
But what about the flip side of sales quotas—the lost sales? If you want a true analysis of your company’s sales, you need to see what you’re losing. Consider two eye-opening statistics:
80 percent of deals are lost over the phone.
A Loss Lead study conducted by Primo Solutions found that most prospects (residents or family members) typically called eight to 10 communities to gather more information, yet only visited two to three communities. The truth is that when the prospect gets off the phone with you, he or she isn’t looking for a reason to come and visit you, but rather a reason to mark your community off the list of 10. You may have heard this statistic, but it doesn’t have to be a given.
80 percent of prospects eventually move into a senior living community.
This statistic is every bit as important as the first. Prospects’ typical reasons for not taking action now, such as they can’t afford it, they have to sell their home, this is just not the right time, or they just started looking, are often fibs. Most humans would rather tell a white lie to avoid
hurting another’s feelings (even a salesperson’s feelings) than to be honest and be responsible for the feeling of rejection. There are two huge opportunities here to pick up additional sales. But you need to offer something, whether it’s on that initial phone call or the first visit, that creates a unique experience. What can change your prospect’s experience? What is missing from the equation? For example, consider this experience of an adult son seeking care for his mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. It was extremely emotional for both him and his wife. He had called 10-12 communities but only visited three or four. His most vivid takeaway of this entire ordeal? Not one time (telephone or onsite visit) did anyone ask him how he and his wife were handling the decision. In this very personal experience, he felt as if no one cared what he and his wife were going through.
Recorded telephone mystery shops reveal that salespeople rarely ask about how the family member is doing or how they’re handling this decision. This is true in studies conducted on in-person sales calls, too. Salespeople typically don’t go into this level of discovery. Even in reviews of salespeople’s notes in their customer relationship management databases, you’ll rarely find that information. That is a huge piece of crucial information that should and would make the notes if discovered. 80 percent of phone leads never visit the community and 80
percent of visitors choose another community. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Why aren’t these numbers being discussed? Most managers have a fear of losing their jobs if they were to bring those numbers to the next weekly sales meeting. So, instead of focusing on the facts and discovering ways to reduce the lost deals, they’d rather discuss the deals that have closed.
This fear directly converts to how management measures sales. Salespeople and their managers may subconsciously move into an atmosphere of selling that revolves more around meeting quotas than around helping the prospect. They get so wrapped up in closing the deal that they forget the main reason they’re there in the first place. When it is time to look at the numbers, sales quotas are always going to be the first number that management reviews. But closing ratios reveal much more of what’s really happening within your sales departments.
Take the time to examine the deals that aren’t closing. It’s inevitable that some people will not move into any community this month. When quotas are being met (and especially when they are not), it is time to examine the inefficiencies in the system. Fortunately, the starting point is obvious. Remember, it’s not just a deal. It’s a human being with real emotions and real needs. Great organizations will not shy away from the bitter taste of defeat. They will use it to spur themselves on and raise the bar to unparalleled heights.
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