I received a text from a dear friend on Monday:
“My dad is in a PT Rehab Hospital right now and I’m hunting for a new Assisted/Continuum of Care place for him (really unhappy where he is). I’m still digging in on the search, though.”
When I offered to connect her with someone who could help, she said,
“That would be awesome! Streamlining the process would be so great! It’s not that it’s an inconvenience, I would immensely appreciate it. The whole process IS horrible! It makes me want to create a whole new system.”
After I connected her to my contact (because I’m immersed in assisted living and most people are not), she wrote me and said,
“Hey there, I spoke with Susie, she called right away! Thank you so much for that! I’ll keep you posted. Tomorrow I’m going to see two places, you rock and so does Susie!”
And that is all it took to create a fan of both myself and Susie. We were the heroes in my friend’s day because we helped her simplify an extremely difficult process and sadly, only because Susie immediately called her back and helped her get tours scheduled. If this is our bar, it’s no wonder our industry is in so much financial trouble, with no end in immediate site.
We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect to get a different result. It’s time to step up, invest in sales and marketing infrastructure, inspect what you expect, and experience the difference systems can make in your business.
THE UPSIDE IS MASSIVE: NOW IS THE TIME TO SCALE
There is incredible opportunity in our industry for leaders who innovate, systematize the assisted living business (every aspect), develop strong leaders, and who demonstrate they can produce consistent results month over month, year over year. This is an investors dream!
Most seniors housing owners, developers, and operators are in growth mode. The first baby boomers will turn 80 in 2026; that’s five short years away (about the time it takes to develop a new community and open its doors).
If you intend to scale, this blog is essential to your success. Today I’m writing about the importance of systems; without which you will build your organization on hopes and dreams rather than processes, infrastructure, and stability. Trust me, I’ve been there and know the sinking feeling of taking on too much business without the framework to support it. I also know what it’s like to invest in that infrastructure and have peace of mind in knowing my company could support that growth and deliver on our promises again and again and again.
As a seniors housing sales and marketing expert, I learned early on that poor performance in sales, marketing, and operations was typically due to lack of systems. Operators put too much faith in individual experience and processes brought from prior operators. While this can work at a single site assisted or independent living community, when you begin to scale, it’s a recipe for disaster. If each assisted living community has its own sales and marketing or operational process for running the business, there is no consistency across the organization which makes managing them twice as hard.
On the other hand, implementing a system can be transforming and allow for seamless growth and consistency in performance month after month, year after year. Most of the time, when a business is struggling to perform, it’s because there is no system in place for that aspect of the business that is struggling.
Consider two of the seniors housing industry’s greatest barriers right now: staffing and occupancy; both the result of poor processes and systems. Typically, staff turnover is due to bad hires that are a direct result of a broken recruitment process. Same goes for occupancy; operators refuse to invest in sales and marketing directors due to the fear they will leave, and that investment is wasted. Instead, they seek prior experience with big operators they feel provided good training, cross their fingers, and pray the person can sell. Come on, you know it’s true and as you know, doesn’t work.
If you are an executive, it’s vital you invest in building out systems for each aspect of your business. Look how fast the seniors housing industry responded to and adapted to COVID-19; it was impressive! Why? Operators put laser focus on building out systems; from sourcing PPE and COVID testing to revamping resident life to allow for meals and activities to occur in the safety of their apartments. The response and outcomes were lifesaving and operators are still improving each day. Most have operational systems down pat as it relates to care.
Yet seniors housing involves resident turnover due to higher levels of care and death, what we call attrition. That means operators must be able to replace those residents with new ones on a consistent basis. Failing to do so will result in a rapid occupancy, revenue, and net operating income decline as we saw happen in second through fourth quarters of 2020.
Operators still have struggled to net up and grow occupancy and that has created tremendous tension among operators and investors (which is a whole different story). It’s not how much traffic you can get to a website or community, it’s how much of that traffic that closes to a moved in resident that matters, and this is where the industry is struggling. Before you implement marketing and incur that expense, you need to lock down sales systems to ensure those leads close.
The assisted living industry lacks professional sales and marketing systems. The traffic is there, we just can’t close it, and this is a rampant problem. Most senior living organizations have no system whatsoever and if there is one, rarely is it executed at the site level and it shows in both our numbers and in the buyer experience or should I say, lack thereof.
A fan or not, McDonald’s effectively invented the art of systemization; making it possible to replicate the success of one franchise in 1940 to over 38,000 restaurants serving 25 million people a day. To make this happen, McDonald’s employs over 1,900,000 people and hires 1,000,000 new employees annually. 93% of restaurants are franchises, meaning they have strong systems that allow franchisees to plug, play, and see immediate and consistent performance. None of this could happen without strong systems in place.
Odds are you’re a fan as most people are. Southwest was a pioneer in the aviation industry as it relates to thinking out of the box and implementing innovative and replicable systems. Under Herb Kelleher’s leadership, Southwest succeeded by a strategy of offering low fares to its passengers, eliminating unnecessary services, using a single aircraft type (the Boeing 737), avoiding the hub-and-spoke scheduling system used by other airlines in favor of building point-to-point traffic, and focusing on secondary airports such as Chicago-Midway (instead of Chicago-O’Hare ) and Orange County, California. The company he founded and built has consistently been named among the most admired companies in America in Fortune magazine’s annual poll. Fortune has also called him perhaps the best CEO in America. None of this would have happened without great systems that were executed consistently, no exception.
What I call “the genie in a bottle, your wish is my command, just give me two days!” This is the mega monster of all time when it comes to systems, allowing its founder Jeff Bezos to become one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Everything at Amazon has a process that is executed with precision every time. Merchants who fail to comply are quickly removed from its platform to protect the brand integrity Amazon has worked so hard to create. In fact, Amazon has four specific systems or processes that span innovation, management, monitoring, and automation.
These systems have led to the creation of 150 million Prime subscribers (think of that residual income), a 50 percent increase from 100 million in April 2018, wow! Why such growth? Because systems create the consistency buyers seek and make buying EASY. Based on a survey of more than 2000+ US customers, 89 percent of buyers agree that they’re more likely to buy products from Amazon than other ecommerce sites. The company made $75.5 billion in sales revenue in the first quarter of 2020, a 26 percent year-over-year increase from the first quarter of 2019. This is mind-blowing!
As an Amazon customer, just like when I go to McDonald’s or fly Southwest Airlines, I’m trained in their systems, which allows me to predict what my buyer experience will be each time I make a purchase with any of these companies. While seniors housing operators oftentimes assume people buy based on cost, I strongly believe they buy due to convenience. In other words, “who is going to make this process easier for me?”
1. IS YOUR BUYER PROCESS PREDICTABLE? Meaning, when a prospective buyer inquires at one, two, or three of your communities, will their experience be consistent at each or radically different depending on the experience of sales director they speak to, rather than the expected protocol and training process put in place corporately? If you have just one or two locations, will my inquiry experience be the same whether I call on a Monday or Friday at 9:00 am as compared to 4:00 pm, or alternatively on a Saturday?
2. CAN REFERRAL SOURCES EASILY REFER? Are valuable referral sources able to refer with confidence in knowing that families will have a seamless buyer experience with your assisted living or memory care communities? What type of feedback will families share with those individuals who referred them, and do you trust they will refer again with confidence? By the way, is there a specific process referral sources follow to ensure no leads fall through the cracks? How do you thank your referral sources and communicate with them consistently about admission capabilities? All of this must be systematized and executed at each location within your portfolio.
3. WILL INQUIRY CALLS TO YOUR COMMUNITIES BE ANSWERED, EVERY TIME, NO EXCEPTION? If I call five of your communities today, will the inquiry process be consistent? What type of buyer experience will take place and what is the expectation of sales and marketing directors? Will the person taking the inquiry ask a series of thought-provoking, open-ended questions to find wants, needs, and build value regarding the next step in the process or will he or she talk rather than listen, dump pricing and discounts on the table without prompting, rush the caller, and fail to connect emotionally? Are these conversations, if recorded, something you would be proud to have played in front of your peers or honestly, would you hide under a desk? Maybe you simply don’t know. It’s time to find out and you can do so now, for free. Gain access to a sample of shops in your portfolio and gain valuable answers by clicking here.
4. WHEN PROSPECTIVE BUYERS VISIT YOUR WEBSITE AND INQUIRE, WILL THEY RECEIVE A PERSONAL RESPONSE QUICKLY? How does your sales and marketing director respond or is it an impersonal auto bot? How long will it take to receive information or better yet a human response, what will he or she say or ask, what will the buyer receive that will help with their decision-making process, will the next step be communicated clearly because it’s really confusing, and will he or she feel heard and understood or spoken and sold to?
5. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PROSPECTIVE BUYER TOURS YOUR SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY VIRTUALLY OR IN PERSON? When touring, whether virtually or in person, is that experience and process consistent at each location, every time and more importantly will the sales and marketing director or whomever is helping the inquirer address their wants, needs, concerns, and fears? Will your sales and marketing director help me understand with clarity what is different about you as it compares to the competition, how your rates stack up, and why they are so different, as well as what the next step in the process is?
6. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A PROSPECTIVE BUYER ENGAGES WITH ONE OF YOUR COMMUNITIES? After speaking, touring, or email corresponding with your sales and marketing director (executive director, nurse, or whomever is responsible), will I receive a follow up telephone call, email, or notecard? Is there a consistent process or will it be dictated by the organization and effectiveness of the person I interact with? By the way, what happens in the first, second, third or even tenth follow up call? It is critical that each follow up is purposeful and designed to build value regarding the next step, so people advance forward rather than stall out.
These are just six systems that need addressed right away but there are many more from customer relationship management (CRM) expectations to reporting, event planning, and the marketing and lead gen itself. The truth is you must start somewhere so begin with the six systems I laid out in this blog, inspect what you expect, and get real about what’s happening at your individual assisted living communities. Once you know where the problems lie you can begin to fix them.
Operators need to move away from personal preference and reliance on experience and toward professionalization of the sales process within seniors housing and care communities. Only then can they create a consistent buyer experience that results in consistent performance results, no matter who sits in the sales and marketing seat. Right now, your performance results are most often a direct result of the person hired to fill it, not the potential of the community itself.
IF YOU HAVE NOT JOINED OUR EXECUTIVE BOOK CLUB , DO SO NOW AS OUR CURRENT SELECTION IS ZERO LOST REVENUE DAYS AND MAPS OUT WHAT YOU MUST DO TO SYSTEMATIZE SENIORS HOUSING SALES. JOIN HERE AND BE SURE TO FORWARD TO YOUR PEERS AND TEAM SO THEY CAN GROW TOO!