“The role of a Sales and Marketing Director at any senior living community could not be any more important than right now. Here are the top five things I believe each director should be thinking about, planning for, and acting on.”

By: Cindy Phillips | Managing Partner, K4Advisors

June 16, 2020

Many communities are beginning to re-open and are allowing new resident move-ins after almost 35% (from Ziegler CFO Hotline survey) had closed this down during the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Other surveys project occupancy has dropped slightly, but recent news, especially in IL, shows some positive news that inquiries are rising again.  

Additionally, Covid-19 reportedly followed “I’m not ready yet”, “I’m uncertain about the effects on my finances,” and “I don’t want to leave my home,” as reasons for not moving to a senior living community. A lot has changed, but some things never do. 

The role of a Sales and Marketing Director at any senior living community could not be any more important than right now.  Here are the top five things I believe each director should be thinking about, planning for, and acting on (if you are not already): 

  1. Messaging/Proactive Public Relations – The last few months, the negative press around death rates in nursing homes has affected everyone’s reputation in the senior living industry. While unfair (in my opinion) to nursing home operators, this characterization must be met head on with a clear and consistent message from your sales team.  It should be shared proactively with prospects and their families, and include such topics as your community approach to safety and communication, services you provided during COVID (not available to them at home), precautions taken, stories of the staff heroes, the emphasis on social engagement even in stay-at-home times, and how the community overcame and learned from all of this to keep resident and staff safety as the #1 priority.

    There are a lot of very good stories out there, and it is incumbent on all of us to make sure they get heard. Every community, every team will have a unique message, but the Director must ensure it is assembled, updated as needed, and shared consistently by the sales team as well as other key staff across the organization. Everyone is a sales person right now. Good references on prospect sentiment can be found in survey results here and here.
  2. Lead Generation & Prospect Management Strategy – Most data points to a decreased sales pipeline of as much as 20%. If you were without a wait list pre-COVID, you are likely scrambling to re-evaluate your method of lead generation. Even if you did have one, where will your future leads come from? Couple this with the old paradigm of large events, tours, luncheons, and stayovers being no longer viable in the COVID-era. Sales teams must re-think their entire approach, including how to nurture prospects virtually – emails, blogs, webinars, etc. This may not be comfortable for either party at first, but even our prospects are getting good at Zoom these days. At K4Connect, we are exploring how the K4Community App can reach and engage with Prospects, please let us know if that is of interest to you.
  3. Staff Morale and Confidence – The two items above are enough to discourage any sales associate. It is essential to be mindful of their psyche and motivation in the face of declining commissions, and the potential fear or anxiety around their abilities to sell virtually.  For many, those skills were not needed previously, in fact their face-face skills may have been their strong suit. How will they pivot? What tools and training will you provide them? Will some have to change roles? Your ability to motivate and keep things positive will be put to the test, and no matter what great ideas emerge from #1 and #2, a Director’s ability to hold together the sales team will be the key to success.  
  1. Move-in Policies – As part of the messaging to prospects, or even to those who had already planned their move in 2020, you need clear expectations after move-in. How are you handling new residents? Will there still be quarantine periods? What will trigger those? What services will be available to them during this time? How can you engage new residents in creative ways to ensure they integrate despite the circumstances? You have been through this to some degree, but what have you learned and how can you make this difficult time more tolerable?  Perhaps even a member of your team is assigned this role if you did not have a designated Move-In coordinator. The uncertainty of a COVID-19 reoccurrence will make this policy fluid, so a timely and clear communication channel is key.
  2. Streamlining Paperwork and Payments – As an on-going advocate for using more technology in the sales process, I see no better place to start than the document signing and paperwork steps. Leveraging this virtual environment to incorporate cloud-based document review and storage tools, in addition to electronic signature software for contracts and disclosures, and credit cards or EFT payments for deposits or entrance fees. These keep the process moving, reduce time to drop out of the sale, and enable your sales team to focus on more valuable relationship building steps. Make the case and see if we can get it done!

These are not the only things a Sales and Marketing Director has on their mind right now, but I believe they are some of the most important. Work to limit your priorities, otherwise you will get overwhelmed by the challenges of our day. The future of Senior Living is still bright, and I am sure the team around has accomplished amazing things during these past 100 days. Tell the story – it deserves to be told!

Look for a future article with the 5 Things that Every Senior Living Activities/Wellness Director Needs to Think About Right Now. As always, you can reach me at Cindy.Phillips@K4Advisors.com, or (910)477-1556.  Keep doing good work!