As a sales professional in senior housing, it’s a scenario you are probably faced with regularly: unexpected openings and an urgent push to “fill up” and increase your census as quickly as possible. As a result of this situation, we consistently hear from our clients how this is the time they begin to focus on referral outreach. Common directives might be:
“Why don’t you get out there to all the doctors in the area? See if you can get our brochures in their office.”
“Why don’t we get referrals from that office? You need to get in there and find out what is going on.”
“Let’s do a marketing blitz. Drop off cookies and a basket with brochures to everyone in the area.”
Time and time again, we observe organizations struggling with professional referral outreach because it is used as a reactive tactic, rather than how it should be used – with a purposeful, proactive strategy that is truly linked to increased referrals.
If this sounds familiar to you, start by implementing some of these simple tips, and you will be on your way to more effective referral outreach.
1. Have a plan
Take some time to audit your current referral outreach program. Start with what we define as your Inner Circle: those referral sources who could and should be referring to you, because they are in touch with your clients on a regular basis. Can you identify your top 10 referral sources? If they aren’t currently referring, start with your top 10 wish list and work from that. Identify the person within in each organization who you want to partner with, and take that first step to reach out to them.
2. Purposeful Visits
This is the WHY behind your visit, and here’s a tip – you are not there to get a referral or laundry list your differentiating factors. Think about why you want to partner with this person. What’s in it for them? Why should they work with you? Think of how you can make each of your relationships a WIN/WIN. What do you want to learn about this referral source to better determine how you can work together?
3. Appointments vs “The Drop By”
It’s happened to all of us: the salesperson who either comes to your front door or stops in your office unexpectedly. They don’t have a plan, and their only purpose is to “drop in” and “remind” you of what it is they want. It’s rarely appreciated by anyone, and yet it is one of the most frequently used tactics with the least return on investment. Call ahead. Book an appointment. Get better results. Your referral sources will thank you!
4. Open Ended Questions
Before you head into that scheduled sales call, take some time to plan out the top 3 open ended questions you want to ask that referral source. Keep the focus on them and think about what you want to learn to strengthen the relationship. Know those questions before you go in the door!
5. Next Step
You’ve had a great appointment, and now it’s time to wrap up the visit. Don’t forget the most important part: setting the next steps. Grab your calendars and even if it’s setting another phone call, get that next step set up before you leave the appointment.
6. Protect your Time
We know and understand that most Sales Counselors have to focus on multiple kinds of income-producing activity to fill a building. So, just like you protect your time for a scheduled tour with a family, protect your referral outreach time. Schedule a block of time to donate to developing your strategy (at least once a month) and schedule time weekly to get out of the building. Go right from home, but save that time just for referral development.
Written by Jenny Dixon, VP of Sales at Bild & Company.
If you’d like to learn more about best practices for sales and outreach referrals, please reach out to the Bild Sales Team and get the conversation started.
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