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The Relationship Economy: Chapters 10 & 11

THE MOST UNDERVALUED TRAIT SENIOR LIVING, ACTIVE ADULT, AND MULTI-FAMILY EMPLOYEES NEED TO FILL UP EVERY APARTMENT IN THEIR COMMUNITY

OPERATORS AND OWNERS SETTLE FOR BUDGET WHEN THEY COULD ACHIEVE ZERO LOST REVENUE DAYS BY SELLING EVERY LAST UNIT

When teaching people how to effectively close difficult prospective buyers to moved in residents, I reference that polarizing moment in the movie Jerry McGuire where Renee Zellweger says, “You had me at hello!” Anyone who saw the iconic movie has that line forever imprinted on their mind.

Something magical happens when you take the time to really get to know someone beyond the surface, learning what is important to them and what makes them tick. Doing so creates an unbreakable connection and establishes deep trust.

The unfortunate truth is that in assisted living, active adult, and multi-family environments, people simply don’t know how to do this. Most salespeople talk rather than listen, and are more interested in showing off their communities than learning about the people in front of them.

During the sales process, what you will typically hear in a close is something like this, “Well I’m so glad you came by for a visit today, I really think you will love it here and we for sure would love to have you. Just let me know when you are ready okay?”

If you want to have a prospective buyer at “hello” a close must sound more like this post tour, “Based on everything I’ve learned in our past two conversations Mrs. Blauser, it sounds like you’ve had a tough year with all your falls, rotator cuff surgeries, and hospital stays, not to mention what happened with your friends passing or moving away, that’s a lot for anyone to endure. I sense that while safety is important to you, what you really need are friends, people you can talk to maybe dine with, and to get back around like-minded people again, is that correct?”

When that prospective buyer responds with, “yes!” which she will because you nailed it, that my friend is when you know, “you have them at hello!”

It’s so rare to be heard and even more so if you’re a senior, people no longer listen or have a level of comfort with intimacy when it comes to connecting with someone new. While this sounds easy to do, it’s a skillset few seniors housing sales and marketing directors have. To do what I just role played in this scenario, a salesperson must know how to slow down, focus on the person in front of them, and really seek to unwrap the many layers behind the facade. I don’t care whether a salesperson thinks a prospective buyer is qualified or not; clearly there is a reason they picked up the phone and people will open up and tell you everything you need to know if you just take an interest in them and ask!

“People will tell you how to close them, all you must do is listen.”

- Traci Bild

As we close out The Relationship Economy with Chapters 10 and 11, you will understand that emotional connection is what creates customer loyalty, not a discount or overview of your parent company and how great they are! When people visit your senior living, active adult, or multi-family communities the energy you create and that they feel upon walking in along with the way you make them feel is what leads to moved in residents.

 

BE FULLY ENGAGED

 

According to a study conducted by Harvard University psychologists, adults spend only 50 percent of their time in the present moment. That means we are mentally checked out half the time. They also found that when we are in the present moment, we are at our happiest, no matter what we are doing.

As we learn in chapter 10, one of the leading predictors of success and happiness is developing strong relationships and one of the best ways to improve your ability to connect with others on a more meaningful level is learning to be present, which makes the people you are talking to feel understood, valued, and supported.

YOUR EMPLOYEES ARE ALWAYS ON STAGE

Even if you don’t see them, trust me, they see you. A prospective buyer who is considering your assisted living, active adult, or multi-family community is assessing everything- in fact, they are looking for reasons not to buy. I remember when I went to look at independent living for my mom, I was highly aware of everything going on from how the front desk treated my mom to the sincerity of the executive director, the type of residents in the community, how staff interacted with them and more. I was a skeptic as are most buyers and one employee that is “not on” can easily outweigh the five who are.

Employees must be reminded that they are always on stage, even when they think they are not. A prospective buyer who is visiting may not see the employee around the corner as they take a tour but may hear them complaining about the overtime worked that week, the request from a resident for maintenance “yet again” and how annoying it is that she “doesn’t get that we are short staffed and have no maintenance director right now.” Expectations and protocol must be clear so there is no misunderstanding as to how important this is.

 

Today every business is one experience away from going viral and even if it’s not viral, one person who has a poor experience on a tour, with a staff member serving their family member, or resolving a problem, will tell three to four people while damaging your reputation. With seniors housing in the media and even on mainstream television shows today, we must up our game and reinforce over and over how important it is to show up and realize that each employee is on stage 100 percent of the time.

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ENERGY

 

How many times have you walked into a seniors housing, active adult, or multi-family community and instantly wanted to leave? Conversely, how many times have you walked in and thought, “Wow, this place is incredible!” Odds are those emotions were not due to the look and feel of the building itself but the people in it and the energy you felt.

Energy attracts people like nothing else. People love energy! It’s a vibe, a person’s spirit, and the fire they have inside them. Mel Robbins a motivational speaker described it best, “Your energy introduces you before you even speak.” That is so true!

Why do you think Starbucks was and still is such a raving success despite all the new competition? It’s not the environment or even the coffee, it’s the energy- the hustle and bustle of positive movement. There are always a lot of people, music playing, vibrant smells, engaging baristas who call you by name and if you’re a regular, know what you want before you even order. People want to be around businesses like this.

CUSTOMER LOYALTY COMES FROM MICRO-EXPERIENCES

Loyalty doesn’t come from you just doing your job, it comes from going above and beyond what’s expected. If you have a toothache, you expect the dentist to fix it, that’s their job, right? That’s what you’re paying for! Yet if that’s all you get, meaning pain relief and a fix, there is a high probability you will not be a loyal customer. In fact, you could go to any dentist and get the same results. Customer loyalty is a result of the multiple positive micro-experiences a person has with a brand. It demonstrates that not only is that business great at the basics, but also that it has taught all its employees to be present in the moment at each touchpoint.

Leaders must educate and change the mindset of their employees regarding what drives customer loyalty. It’s the little things that add up to mean a lot! A micro-experience at the dentist might be the receptionist greeting you by name when you show up; or a waiter at your community remembering what you ordered the last few times you dined and asking if perhaps you would like that same thing (rather than asking for your order). Even something as simple as remembering a resident likes sweet, iced tea with extra ice is a big deal and can make your resident feel important! These are examples of positive micro-experiences that make big impact and drive customer loyalty.

URX

Employee apathy produces customer apathy. Employee apathy is a sign of a terminally ill business. We can’t let our leaders and employees use the pandemic as a crutch for the customer experience. People are indeed exhausted but it’s up to you as their leader to keep that bar high if you expect to remain viable into the future. Employees need to be reminded constantly that, “You are the eXperience (URX).” It’s about them and how they interact with the customer at every touch point. Employees and leaders themselves who connect rather than just communicate, create loyal customers, and consistently exceed performance expectations.

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Starbucks has cultivated an environment that’s welcoming and open. Every detail, from the lighting to the furniture, has been carefully considered to ensure customers feel at home in their stores. Take the round tables, for example, which were specifically chosen to help solo people feel less alone, but also open up communication with larger groups. This choice proves to be handy for everything from study sessions to work meetings. It also shows the attention Starbucks pays to detail. They’ve created a cozy environment that makes people want to return again and again, which is the goal of any thriving business. Notice how many times I used the word “feel”- that’s what energy is, something we feel, a vibe, and not only can a person have it but a physical environment.

 

A great exercise is to rank each of your communities, walk in the door and ask, “On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, what is the level of positive energy I feel from this community?” If it’s not a five, get with your executive director immediately and come up with a game plan to get people out of their apartments, conduct activities in the lobby area and along the tour path, add music throughout common areas and calm lighting features, and consider other details that make a community feel alive.

 

No one wants to go have a cup of coffee in a shop that is lifeless and depressing; and it’s just a cup of coffee! What we offer in seniors housing, active adult, and multi-family is a lifestyle and if it’s not one filled with good energy you are going to struggle to fill it up. We see this a lot with new development; communities with five or six residents and it’s tough to turn that energy switch on. It’s imperative if you have a new seniors housing or multi-family development that you find a way to create that energy buzz and level of excitement even if you must schedule on-site tours all on the same two days each week!

 

SCREW SMALL TALK, GO FOR BIG TALK

Okay, it’s the books subchapter title, not mine! As a sales and customer service expert with a team that has coached and trained thousands of communities the past twenty years as well as consulted on designing one-of-a-kind buyer experiences, I love this section of the book. When you learn to go deep with prospective buyers and their families, it completely transforms individual relationships and has an immediate impact on the velocity of new move ins. Think about it, if you were on a date (yes perhaps many moons ago) and the person you were with asked things like, “what do you do for a living, do you come to this place a lot, how long have you lived here?” and such it would be well, boring!

Yet if on that same date the person you are with asked things like, “if you could go any place in the world tomorrow morning- where would you go, why that location in particular, what would be on your must do list upon arrival, how would it feel to actually be there in person?” it would be enthralling, am I right?

Everyone can talk surface level convo, it’s the people who are sincerely interested (and you can see it in their eyes, they really look at you), curious, and connected that we are energetically attracted to and that sadly is a rarity.

Imagine if when talking to prospective buyers, meaning the prospective resident themselves your salespeople asked questions like:

Can you imagine?

It’s fair to say that no one is asking these types of questions and if so, it’s less than one percent of sales directors selling assisted living, active adult, or multi-family; the rest are keeping it on the surface and not even attempting to make a personal and emotional connections. It’s not our industries as much as it is our society; people are more disconnected than ever.

The good news is with proper training, reinforcement, and inspection of expectation, that can change. Yes, it takes work and requires an investment in your people who may ultimately turn over; but what’s the alternative?

For many operators and owners, it’s more of the same- mediocre occupancy, the community pays the bills, and residents are satisfied. Does this make you want to get up every day and be excited to go to work? I imagine not, and that probably is why your employees are disengaged, uninspired, and have one foot out the door.

Now is not the time to be complacent, it’s time to put laser focus on the sales, buyer, customer, and employee experience, to differentiate by being truly different, and putting human connections front and center in everything you do.

 

If you’ve not read my other seniors housing, active adult, and multi-family book club selections, you can do so here. We’ve covered everything from properly pricing your communities ( Confessions of The Pricing Man), to creating blue ocean space ( Blue Ocean Shift), and curating raving fans ( Fanocracy); all designed to fuel a growth mindset for you and the employees in your organization.

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