Why? 3 Questions Every Senior Living CEO Needs to Ask

As a CEO, CFO, or COO there are days you must sit at your desk, stare at reports and ask, “Why”?

  • Why can’t we move the needle on occupancy?
  • Why do we consistently have one to two properties red flagged and struggling?
  • Why do we plateau once we hit 91-92% occupancy?
  • Why don’t we convert more of our leads to residents?
  • Why do we keep losing market share to new competitors?

I’ve studied senior housing sales for nearly two decades – closely. What I know for sure is selling senior living is a science; but not rocket science. No matter what project my team is working on or how difficult, I always come back to these basic questions:

  1. How many leads are coming in a week? So as there are ten more, I don’t fret.
  2. How many leads are converting to on-site tours?
  3. How many total tours are converting to new residents?

As the leader of your organization, it may not be your job to manage the sales process; but it is your job to produce results. The buck ultimately stops with you.

While you have a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips and access to dozens of reports, with lots of details; at the end of the day, it boils down to these two questions: Do you have leads and are they converting to residents?

Is It a Traffic Problem?

If you don’t have leads it’s a traffic problem- which means your teams need to do more professional outreach to drive referrals or you can spend dollars on marketing to drive more leads. If you want to work smart, then focus on outreach. Why? Because outreach leads close four times faster than non-referred leads. If you want to work hard and simply work the numbers, focus your dollars on more marketing.

If you do have leads but they aren’t qualified – you have a communication problem. Your messaging is wrong. And keep in mind when considering traffic, sales counselors will always say they need more leads. You must look at the evidence.

Is it a Closing Problem?

If you do have qualified leads but they aren’t converting to residents, you have a training problem. Sure you will always get that one out of ten that automatically moves in- but in a competitive environment with high attrition, you can’t survive on this. You need strong closing conversion ratios, closer to 40% to keep up with the outs and to ensure you net up and grow. How exactly do you do that?

Well, you get your sales people trained. I know, it’s healthcare and great service should do the job, right? Or – can’t my VP of Marketing do this – it’s her job? If that were the case you wouldn’t be still reading this blog and asking “why?” The truth is that leadership comes from the top down. How involved are you sales? What’s your expectation? Are you putting up barriers or paving the way to success by providing resources and open dialogue about what’s really going on?

Having trained thousands of sales counselors in seniors housing, one thing I’ve learned is that 90% of the people in our space are trainable. So you can sit, wait and hope they get better with time, which normally they don’t; or you can take control and teach them what they don’t know.

The role of sales counselor has dramatically changed over the past decade. The job is twice as hard, the stress tenfold and what used to work no longer does. We have mass attrition- which means a sales counselor has to sell two to three times what they used to sell in a month just to net even, strong competition, meaning a longer sales cycle with more barriers to close and prospects who bulk when they do come on-site to visit and see the acuity of residents- who in turn become more difficult to move because they feel they are too young and not yet ready for such a move.

To make matters worse, we haven’t increased salaries or commissions for sales counselors nor provided the training needed to be successful.

My goal isn’t to frustrate you but to put the evidence on the table so you can better understand what is happening within your portfolio- whether you have two, five or ten communities. If you are struggling to net up and grow there is a very specific reason. Do not fall for excuses- instead, look at the evidence and create a plan of action to breakthrough to the next level of success.

Raise the Bar

As the leader of your organization I can tell you with confidence- people will rise to the level you expect of them. This is one of the most amazing human conditions I’ve experienced in my career. People look to their leaders and respond to the level of performance expected. Meaning – it’s likely your Executive Directors and Sales Counselors are capable of much more than they are giving you. The question to ask is, “What is my expectation?”

Take Time to Work ON Your Business versus IN It

So step back – time to work ON the business versus IN it and put together a solid game plan. If you have 25 vacant units right now, feasibly you could have just 10 vacancies eight months from now and an increase of $60K per month in cash flow (going straight to the bottom line). Does that motivate you? I sure hope so because we’re talking $720K a year in revenue and that’s netting up just 15 units. It all goes back to my question “Where’s your bar set?” Are you satisfied with 90% occupancy or is it 93% or 95%? What if it were 97% with premium pricing on all remaining units (to push rents) and a verifiable wait list of 20?

Am I making you uncomfortable? If so, I’m doing my job. My goal is to get you out of your comfort zone and into a place of strength, where you are leading your organization toward zero lost revenue, very satisfied residents and 100% fulfillment of your company’s mission.

You need clarity; I’m here to provide it.

On Thursday, June 18th from 11:30-12:30PM ET I will be holding a small group webinar for just five executives who want the answers to their “why” questions, I am confident I can help you breakthrough and move beyond current barriers. If you are a CEO, COO, CFO, President or owner of your company, please register by filling out the form below and you will receive an invite to this small group event. There will be no more than five people on this call so we can have time for dialogue in regards to your challenges. You will walk away with at least one solid plan of action to move forward in your business and get answers as to “why” you can’t seem to move your organization forward. If you prefer to have a one on one call just let me know in your comments below:

Fill out my online form.


Written by Traci Bild, founder of Bild & Company

Our mission is to partner with small to mid-size Long-Term Care Providers to implement the sales and marketing infrastructure and support needed- from start up to stabilization; to maximize occupancy, revenue and net operating income as well as grow the overall value of their organization.

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