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Sales Training: Expense or an Investment? Part 1

If there’s one thing I’ve never been very good at, it’s keeping quiet when things are bothering me and right now, I’m extremely frustrated with the management of the sales department within senior living operations. What are we doing?

Over the past fifteen years we made so much progress as an industry. Implementing sales systems, changing titles and compensation plans to attract true sales talent, improving the prospect experience, implementing CRM, monitoring metrics, and pushing ourselves to drive rents and close revenue gaps for a strong, high performing operation that does incredibly good in the world.

For a period of time, we saw the sales department and the training of those people as an investment in our futures and the success of our companies. Post-recession, with occupancy hovering at 89-90% and the pressure to perform replaced with the pressure to expand; the sales department and training of its people have become an expense. The results are evident.

More exasperating is sales people are working harder than ever to net up and grow move ins- against a never ending tide of attrition. It’s no wonder we see such incredible turnover in the sales department. How do you succeed without the tools or training to do so? Senior housing sales is nothing like it used to be; it’s a whole new ball game where professional selling skills are critical to the long-term success of your organization.

Even worse is sales leadership, from VPSM to RDSM they’re screaming for help and operational leadership is shutting them down. Oh, and those buildings that are performing? Expenses are being further cut; ultimately leading to a decline in move ins and what some refer to as a cyclical revenue cycle that is really the result of taking the eye off sales and running an entire department on bare bones.

See my frustration?


The question I can’t seem to wrap my head around is this: Why is the engine that drives revenue- the sales department, the most underfunded and undermanaged department in the operation? In most cases sales people are reporting to managers who don’t even understand their job.

As a business owner, I’ve always believed that sales, revenue and cash flow solves most problems. How can operators leave 8-10% of their portfolio vacant when that revenue (when captured) goes straight to the bottom line? What am I missing? Why do operators see investing in advanced training skills that result in closed revenue gaps, as an expense when at the end of the day, the return on investment is easily ten to one? Is this just further proof that operation’s does not understand sales?

In moderating a panel last week in Texas for Senior Housing News, what hit me is that operators simply don’t understand the impact of sales training. Sales should be perceived as much as a niche position as nursing. Only those properly trained through schooling, experience and ongoing training should be performing the specialized role. Just as a nurse can provide better care when trained properly, a sales person can close more sales when trained properly too. As a trainer for most my life, I advocate with such passion because I see first-hand the impact it makes and the potential within organizations that exist! You can’t do better until you know better so get ready- Mass change is underway in our industry and we must prepare for it NOW.


Deals, deals, deals…they are everywhere! Talk to anyone within our space and they are developing, acquiring or selling. So much is happening it’s enough to make your head spin and it is indeed very exciting to see our industry get so much attention. Yet with these deals, important details are being neglected- so take some time today to use this as a litmus test to make sure you are not falling into one of the following traps.

  1. Are you an existing provider who is growing? Perhaps people are approaching you, asking you to develop and operate three, four or five new communities- how exciting! While you’ve earned it and no doubt will be successful, my challenge to you is the following: Whose watching the back of the house? Meaning- as you grow and develop new units, who is making sure that the ones you already have are kept full, at market rate and producing revenue? Do you have a sizable revenue gap that you are neglecting due to your focus on the future? If so, stop and address this now because everyone else is growing too and that means increased competition- and attrition is not slowing down. It won’t get easier, in fact- it’s getting harder to net up and grow with each passing month.
  1. Are you new to the senior living space? Investors from multi-family and 55+ are jumping into our business daily, with over 40 new operators in the past year alone. While we’re glad you are here, investing in the care of seniors, please know that this business is very different than multi-family housing and 55+ apartment sales. As you pour investments into your new properties, make sure you incorporate solid funds into the sales and marketing department and the proper training of your people- the engine that will drive your revenue and the success of your organization going forward. The return will be well worth the investments made.
  1. Are you an existing provider who is not growing but simply holding your own? If so, wonderful! Not everyone is up for a rapid growth strategy. My advice is to get proactive, strengthen your sales and service-making you an untouchable market leader. The best time to advance your skills is when you are at the top of your game. Focus on selling the last four to five apartments, build a strong wait list, implement innovative events, zero in on PR and solidify your brand so those new competitors don’t impact you.

In working with hundreds of communities nationally for close to two decades, it still puzzles me to find, more often than not, that the sales department is the only department to lack proper policy and procedures or actual sales systems.

This department is typically left in the hands of the person holding the seat- and when they leave- which they do often, the process goes with them. How can the business department, maintenance, dietary and nursing all have solid, measurable systems that are monitored – yet sales has none? This is the question I want to leave burning in your mind and to compel you to take some sort of action.

What if?

Imagine what you could do with the right sales infrastructure, systems and metrics in place. What could you do with an additional $15,000-$20,000 in monthly revenue? What would it feel like to have a highly motivated sales counselor, who feels vested in and generates consistent results- and is thrilled with the job and has no intentions of leaving?

Thinking a bit further into the future…how would it feel to be properly positioned for what’s about to ensue- A mad rash of competition, discounting, saturation of markets and a struggle to maintain budgeted occupancy and cash flow?

My question to you- what are you going to do about it? Now that you know better, will you do better?

My passion, as the founder of Bild & Co is helping solve people’s problems (can you tell, ha!) and showing them how to take their business to the next level. If I’ve peaked your curiosity but you’re not sure what to do, let us take a peek under the hood. I’ll personally review your current sales infrastructure and provide you with a ten step action plan to move it forward. The first 10 operators to respond will get this service on the house, a $10K value. Shoot me an email at tbild@tracibild.com or text 813-390-3349 with your name and number and I’ll get the process started. What are you waiting for?

Written by Traci Bild, Founder Bild & Company and author of Zero Lost Revenue Days

For more information on how Bild & Company can help advise with your sales strategy, please contact us →

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