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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

#ActivitiesStrong 10

Sales and marketing expert Traci Bild, Founder and CEO of Bild & Company, discusses how consumers now expect person-centered programming, social connectedness and a sense of community.  

With seniors housing occupancy at historic lows and communities operating at a loss, executives must professionalize selling with laser focus on relationship building skills that make people want to move, not have to. Resident and prospective buyer social engagement is a key piece of the puzzle and when leveraged properly can be a game changer for your organization.

What you will take away from this discussion:

    • Customize a unique buyer experience that hits a nerve with prospective buyers, differentiates you from competitors, and creates urgency to move now, not later
    • Leverage customer and employee equity to grow revenue, five-star reviews, and quality referrals that move four times faster than non-referred leads
    • Command market rate rent that reflects the lifestyle and wellness impact on residents no matter their age, preferences and acuity level and produces family members who are raving fans

Charles de Vilmorin 

Welcome to today October 5, 2021 Activities Strong webinar. This is actually part of our executive edition of Activity Strong. And as a reminder, Activities Strong was created to acknowledge the amazing work of activity and life enrichment professionals, but also to empower and educate you. And we do this in partnership with NAB, NCCAP, and Activity Connection. Now this executive edition that I mentioned is also done in partnership with Bridge the Gap. So today’s executive edition, why the executive edition? The purpose, as I mentioned, of Activities Strongest is to elevate the discussion about resident engagement, and we feel that we should be proactive in inviting our executives. So all of you that are executives in senior living, welcome. Please feel at home here. We love to hear your thoughts, but also we want to thank you for being here. If you’re a senior living professional and you feel that your executives should be part of these discussions, please feel free to invite them.

 

Everybody is welcome. Today’s topic is Creating Value and Urgency When Selling a Product People Don’t Want to Buy. How intriguing. Traci, thank you so much for joining us. Let me introduce a little bit about who we are, what we do, and then we’ll get into today’s presentation very shortly. As a quick note, because of the size of the audience, the chat is very active. If you want to use the chat, please make sure you select the ‘to,’ as in everyone. Because by default it just goes to our panelists. So if you want to be chatting with everybody, please select ‘everyone.’ If you have specific questions for today’s amazing speaker, please make sure to use the Q and A feature as sometimes the chat is so busy, it is difficult for us to monitor things. With that being said a little bit about myself, as Megan mentioned, I am the CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior. 

 

I’d like to say that I believe wholeheartedly that old people are cool, and that our industry, the senior living industry, is activity strong. Especially as we’ve been navigating the different people of COVID-19 and this staffing crisis. We are Activities Strong and we are an amazing industry. So we should be proud of that. Beyond that, we’ve always advocated at Linked Senior. As I mentioned, Old People are Cool.  We started this campaign seven years ago for a number of reasons. Two of them that are really dear and near to my heart. One is the fact that everybody is cool in society, including our elders. And also not being a very big fan of this segregation based on age, right? So again, a fun, healthy discussion to have with all of us. And obviously the second piece that we really, really feel strongly about is this notion of Activities Strong.

 

Again, we started this at the beginning of COVID. Welcome everyone. Thank you for being part of this discussion. Linked Senior, the company that I co-founded now 14 years ago is a resident engagement platform for senior living. So we work with thousands of team members like you that everyday show up at work to engage our elders and make sure that they have purpose in their day. So thank you for doing this. If you’re not part of our network, please feel free to reach out.  We would love to have a discussion. The discussion will be how we can help you save hours in your day and make sure that everybody, all of your residents are engaged the way you want it, and the way they deserve. So we focus a lot on efficiency, but also elevating resident engagement, where we are measuring and we’re optimizing. So again, we are a resident engagement company.

 

I mentioned measuring. We are very proud of our work in the sense that we are the only platform in the industry to be quote unquote, “evidence-based.” Our work was actually published in a peer reviewed journal in 2019 with amazing outcomes, some of which you can see on this slide. The one that we’re particularly proud of, as we continue to, quote unquote, “fight social isolation,” unfortunately is an increase in social engagement. Again, if you’re interested, please feel free to reach out anytime. With that being said, I wanted to do a quick word of introduction for Tracy before I leave the spotlight to her. As some of you know,  we are, and trust me, I am extremely passionate about activities. And I do believe that activity as this notion of person-centered care is fundamental to what our industry represents, right? We represent the voices of our residents.

 

We represent choice. And in all society choice is kind of almost everything, right? We know that seeking purpose is a basic human right, and all of that cannot happen without choice. Now, I also know that in activities in life enrichment, we’re sometimes, unfortunately, not great at getting credit for the amazing work that we do. And we should. Because one, it would help us elevate resident engagement. It would help us elevate what we do in our career. But I think that it would help our team help us and help the organization quote, unquote, “sell itself, “right? And so this is why I am so excited to bring you one of our industry’s top experts when it comes to marketing and sales. Her name is Traci Bild. Traci, welcome. And she is the founder and CEO of Bild and Company. And I’m going to let you, Traci, share away your slides. Take us away on this amazing discussion. And welcome, thank you for being with us.

Traci Bild 

Thank you so much. So I’m just gonna switch over here. I see a lot of names and people that I know. So, for those of you I do know, welcome. Good to be seeing you again on screen. For those I don’t, I’m so grateful for the privilege that Charles has given me today to get to impact you. I’m an educator, and my passion really is helping to help people work smarter and more efficiently. To make more impact and be able to really live their purpose through their work. So if you don’t know me, I’ll just give you a little insight. And our topic today is interesting, right? Let me just get this bar out of the way. About creating value and urgency when selling a product people don’t want. So I understand today we have a variety of attendees on. Some of you are selling independent, assisted memory care, skilled nursing.

Traci Bild 

Many of you have all levels of care at your communities. And I just want to say a big thank you. We know how hard you’re working out there to make impact and build value to get people to move that you know need to move. But for whatever reason they’re stalling. They’re afraid. They maybe can’t afford it, or they think they can’t afford it. There are so many real barriers today. And I just know that sales people in general, just like activities people, oftentimes aren’t getting the recognition that they deserve. It’s a thankless job sometimes, right? Because you can move in 12, and lose 14 and you’re net negative 2, and nobody’s celebrating your victories. So I get that. So today I want you to sit back. My goal for you today is to really walk away with one or two very clear ‘aha’ moments. Epiphanes that will actually make your job easier while increasing the velocity of those move-ins, which means many more changed lives.

Traci Bild

So how do we create value and urgency, especially urgency, when selling something that people don’t understand, they’re afraid of, and they think they can’t afford? So we have a big talk ahead of us today. I had put in the chat for you, and I’m just gonna check that real quick. If you want to put in the chat, I’m going to go back and look at this from time to time. Think about what are some of the barriers. So I see here Diana’s with Adult Medical Day. We have such a variety of individuals on this call. You’re taking your time, you’re here. What are the barriers that you’re facing in building value and getting people to move in under 30 days? Or under 15 days? How do we shorten your sales cycle so we can improve people’s quality of life?

Traci So if you have anything on your mind, drop that in the chat. I’ll be checking back on the chat and looking at what you’re saying. If you’re not familiar with me, I will keep this rather short. But basically I’ve been studying seniors’ housing sales and marketing for over 20 years. So time definitely goes fast when you’re having fun. And the reason I want you to really pay attention today, and some of the things I guarantee you’re going to think, “but I know that.” Right? You’re going to think, “oh I already do that.” What we find in our research here at build is that what people think they are doing and what they’re really doing are completely different. And that really impacts the resident experience, the buyer experience for those people that are looking to make a move. And one of the reasons I was passionate about doing this webinar in particular is because it’s really about the power of connecting on a very personal and detailed level.

Traci Bild (10:50).

And some of you don’t know we work nationally. We also work in the UK and Canada. We are in rural towns, metro markets, with all sides of the property. Your challenges are going to be very different. When I’m speaking to you today, since I’ve seen a number of you, I’ve seen a lot of Argentum or LeadingAge, or many different conferences over the last 20 years. I’ve actually moved my own mother into a life plan community in February. And as an expert who just went through this process myself, I’m going to speak very candidly to you today about some of those experiences. And when you’re buying, if you’ve done this, if you’re the adult caregiver, you know that you can know all things about senior living, but when you are a buyer, you’re walking through those halls. You’re having those conversations with the executive director or the sales person from an entirely different place.

Traci Bild 

I really want to stress that because I want you today to step into your buyer’s shoes. So whether it’s the adult child who’s making that decision for their mom, dad, or grandmother. Whether it’s the actual senior who’s looking to make a move into independent or a life plan community of some sort. I want you to try to step back and see the buyer experience through their eyes. Because this is a big area of opportunity that we’ve seen. And here at Bild, we’re doing upwards of 500 competitive analysis a month across the country. And one of the things that we’re really seeing is a big disconnect between what it is that that buyer is looking for, and the conversations they want to have, and what’s actually happening. To go so far as my daughter, which some of you I’ve known since my daughter was born, Paris, she’s actually in her first year of college. She works in our research division.

Traci Bild 

She’s actually doing these mystery shops. And it’s just so interesting to see her feedback about, “wow,” like “what is wrong?”People aren’t asking questions, they’re not listening. Why don’t they show empathy? Why don’t they know their pricing? Why are they giving so many discounts right off the bat? Why don’t they listen more? So these are all things, as I say them, that I guarantee you’re nodding your head thinking, “not me, not me.” So I want to ask today that you allow yourself to be a student. Christina obstacles, communication. Not enough help, I love it. So a lot of today’s conversation is going to be about communication. And I also want to address the barriers we’re facing on how do you communicate today? People aren’t answering their phones anymore, right? So how do we make sure we have multi forms of contacts? We can text. We can email. We can call.

Traci Bild 

We can use messenger on our social platforms. And this is really important for your referral sources too. So, as you’re taking notes, which I hope you have your pen and hand in your notepad. I want you thinking about the application of this material to your life. So this means you get double pay off for your effort here today. I promise you that everything I’m going to teach you, you will be able to use with your own family at home, with your employees and coworkers at work, with your prospective buyers. You will be able to use this with residents that maybe aren’t engaging like you want them to. They’re withdrawing more. Maybe they’re not as satisfied. They’re frustrated. They want to leave. My mom is back in lock down again. She’s life plan and they keep going into lockdown. So she cannot join activities.

Traci Bild 

She can’t use common spaces for card games or go to the dining room. So you guys have real, real barriers. And in addition to that, we know you’re short-staffed, and you’re being pulled into operations. So all of this is just so real. I’ve got communications so before I start, hey Tampa! We’ve got Stephanie learning for a senior building sales position. She’s going to be offered soon. Love that. So I just wanna make sure I check in with you guys. All right. So be sure to put your feedback. So how do you stand out from the competition? I find it interesting. I was just having a call today with Jennifer Saxman, who a lot of you know. She’s our COO here at Bild and Co. And I was asking her, “why are we doing so much competitive analysis, more than we’ve ever done?”

Traci Bild 

It’s crazy. And there was a couple answers to that. And as you think about how to stand out from your competitors, her response was a little disconcerting. And again, my goal today is to shift your entire mindset, and to get you to think about your job differently, and your approach to selling. Particularly as we talk about standing out from the competition. She was saying that she thinks one of the main reasons there’s so much competitive analysis going on is because people are trying to justify occupancy, right? We’re sitting at 78.7%. We were their first quarter. We were there in the second quarter. We’re going to get third quarter results here any day. It might have incrementally increased. I know a lot of you have seen a steady gain in occupancy, although it’s been very nominal. And what I want you to think about is what’s going to happen in this next quarter.

Traci Bild 

So we’ve got October, November, December, right at our doorstep. Like we’re in it, right? We’re in it. I can’t even believe it already. So my fear is that we’re going to lose the gains we’ve made. Now many operators are reporting they’ve seen four months, five months straight of incremental gains. But what we just saw coming out in the last few days is that it’s starting to slow down. And this is a prediction that I’ve been making since probably second quarter. And as we get into the content, I just want to set this stage for you. Third quarter was your quarter to really make your gains because historically for the last 12 years, the only quarter that has consistently shown growth in seniors housing is the third quarter. All other quarters have seen decline. So I don’t want to discourage you, but I also want you to be prepared that just going into fourth quarter hopeful is not enough.

Traci 

You need to be working both harder and smarter than you ever have. And those of you that know me know, I’ve always talked about work smart, not hard, work less, produce more. My message to you today, just like me and myself and my own company is we’re all working harder and we’re all working smarter. So my goal for you is to have 10 good quality leads that you really dive into like you never have before. That you really peel the onion back. And that you’re closing 5, 6, 7 of those rather than working 50 leads and closing 5 of those. So if you really heard what I just said that should excite you. Because if you are being pulled into operations, you’re serving tea, lunch, and you’re acting as a receptionist. And you’re helping with care in different ways and activities. You’re all pulling together.

Traci Bild 

Sales people have less time than they ever have in the sales zone, but you’re still supposed to, right? You’re still supposed to hit those sales goals. So how do we stand out from these competitors? Most of you probably have seven to eight competitors in your local market service area. A lot of them, new, shiny, bright. Penny, right? You may be a dated community. You might have community restrooms. One bedrooms that are very small that no one wants. All of these things, I just want you for one moment to think, “okay, I’m not going to focus on what I can’t control.” And we’re going to put your focus on what you can control. So what you can control is your side of the sales experience and what that’s like for the buyers. And one thing that we do not see, I would say maybe 1 out of 10 shops, is customization happening.

Traci Bild 

So if you’re using Linked Senior, you know it’s all about customization. It’s all about personalization. But we can’t personalize if we don’t know what it is that people really want and need. And what we tend to do, and I think it’s because people are burnt out. They’re disconnected. They’re literally fried. That we’re not going as deep into our conversations. And where I want to encourage you is nothing’s going to restore your soul or your love of your job in senior living more than doing what I’m going to ask you to do. And that’s slowing down and actually spending more time upfront in that initial discovery process to  …and I’m saying like literally 45 minutes  to an hour. If you are able to do that, and I know some of you are bulking right now, and I got to get my chat screen back up because I’m sure you’re streaming at me.

Traci Bild 

But if you were able to do that, you would be able to cut your sales cycle literally in half. Because when we’re dragging it out, because we’re getting a little bit of information here and there, whenever we happen to catch them. The goal I want you to think about is if someone’s calling you. So if a referral looking to be admitted to a skilled, for rehab, or long-term care, or someone who needs to move their mom to  a memory care community. Or even just a senior, like my mom, who is just so isolated. We need to stop taking calls and trying to pre-qualify and figure out who really is serious, who can afford it, who wants us? Because I’m going to tell you right now, every lead is a hot lead. And yes, we have to determine who can afford us, and who really is a legit lead. But we need as sales people and missions directors, EDs, you must learn to stop pre-qualifying and trust the process that if you really give everyone an equal opportunity for a stellar buyer experience, whether they ultimately move or not. You are going to see your conversions drastically improve. Your net move-ins increase.  

Traci Bild

Your length of sales cycle is going to drastically shorten because you’re not thinking about, “I need to move in.” You’re thinking about that individual, very cool, awesome human being in front of you at that moment. So customized unique buyer experience that makes people want to buy. When I say the buyer experience is in crisis right now, and it’s reflected in occupancy, I wish you all could just come spend a day in our ‘build bubble,’ right? We call it the ‘build bubble,’ because we’re just in all things sales. The buyer experience, assessing. What’s wrong with this property? Why can’t they net up? They have all the elements in place, but they are declining. They’re feeding cash in. What is the barrier and how do we turn it quickly? The first thing we always see is there is literally a crisis in the buyer experience.

Traci Bird 

We are now doing a great job getting the call. For a long time in our industry, we couldn’t even capture the calls. We are getting them. Front desks are doing a fabulous job of capturing and getting that sales call transferred over to sales. But where the barrier is now is in that experience that the senior or adult decision-maker referral source is having with that individual salesperson. Or as we’re finding, whoever it is that’s taking the call because it’s all hands on deck. It might be the leasing manager, or the business manager. It might be the executive director, or activities director. Everyone’s sort of all hands on deck. So what we’re finding is where an operator might say in an example, mystery shop, “well, that was the activities director.” We don’t care because with the sales process, that buyer doesn’t know, “oh, well, the person that just spent two minutes on the phone with me and asked me one question and then dumped a bunch of information and gave me pricing and discounts and room sizes and community fees.”

Traci Bild

In that two minutes, they don’t know what your role is and they really don’t care. So we need to start thinking about, it doesn’t matter. Anyone answering your phones, your inquiries, or taking a web inquiry, a walk in, they all need to be properly trained in sales communication. And this is a big gap of what’s missing. So I would encourage you to, if you have sister properties on this call today, just say, “hey, I saw artist is on. I’ll call your property if you call mine. Pose as a buyer and you tell me what that buyer experience was like on a scale of one to five. If everyone on this call found someone to do that for them today, you would be floored by what you see. And you would also understand why we’re not getting more foot traffic into the communities because we’re not even asking for the tours. We’re finding we’re still having people send information.

Traci Bild

“Call me when you’re ready.” We need to get back to business. No one’s moving in if they don’t come toward the communities first. So we need to focus on that. So one, we want to really zone in on what is the communication that’s taking place on all first impressions? No matter how an individual is inquiring to your communities. And then how well are we doing at getting beyond surface level conversation? And what I mean by that is I can pull a skilled nursing shop, or do a shop myself. And I’m pretty much the first thing I’m going to be asked when I say,  “yes, just want to get some information on your facility and see if you have beds available.” Is “Great! Is it male or female bed? Are they in the hospital? When will they be discharged?”

Traci Bild

It’s almost like transactional, right? Commodity. And while that’s accepted in skilled nursing, as the way it’s done, the skilled nursing individual is more emotional and in need of that human connection and personalization than the individual looking at independent living. Just like memory care, by the time someone actually calls they’re beyond exhausted and probably three months past due of when they actually should have called if not longer. So the number one key to getting beyond surface level conversation of,  “when are you looking to make a move? Does your mom still drive? Does she own a home? Why’d you call today?” Is starting to think about giving these inquiry calls more time. So rather than on average, the inquiry call on average is two minutes long. And the average salesperson asks two questions and then they start selling. How can you pivot to at least dedicate 30 minutes to an inquiry call? Which I know some of you are choking right now. 

 

So meaning if you get an inquiry call and you have a tour coming in and you don’t have 30 minutes, I would rather you say to that individual, “hey, Don, so glad that you called me today. I’m so anxious to speak with you. I understand you’re calling about your mom. I have a family coming in 20 minutes, and I really want to be able to speak with you about your mom because it is your mother. Can I call you back at two o’clock so I can actually spend the time to understand what you’re looking for, be a resource for you and give you as much information as possible?” A real prospect is going to agree to that. And then that would allow you to really go deep in the conversation. And I’m looking at Megan for Don, how can activity professionals work with leadership teams to drive admissions? And I’m going to get into that.

 

And the whole activity aspect is going to be huge to that buyer experience. So we’re going to get to that for sure. We want to get beyond the surface level, allow more time, not be afraid to set an appointment for a time later in the day, but definitely on that same day, to be able to really dig in. To understand their story, not just their medical situation, and really ask, “Who is this person?” When I was looking for my mom, I’m going to tell you the strangest things were coming to my mind. And as an adult daughter, when I got her to the community, I was a wreck. And all I could think about was who’s going to eat dinner with her? Is she going to eat alone? Is she going to feel uncomfortable and awkward? And who’s going to come and welcome her and invite her to join in on activities? 

 

And I was really observing her. I get emotional now just thinking about it because she was really scared. And she’s in decent health. And she was 75 when she moved in.  And she was terrified. And I’ll tell you, she’s been there about seven months and she’s still adjusting. And this is why again, activities are so important because the more she engages with activities and that personalization of her resident experience, the more comfortable she gets.  But it is a process. So who are they? My mom, I was wondering, so if she needs to ever go to the skilled nursing unit, are they still going to paint her toenails? Because my mom gets her nails done every week.  Right now they’re orange  with spider webs. Are they going to put the milk and the dollop of sugar in her tea and make sure she has toast every morning?

 

Or is she going to get a tray with whatever everybody else gets? Are they really going to know that my mom is special? Right? Every single adult child feels that way. Whether their parents are moving to a life plan, skilled memory care, or assisted living. And what is missing, and I believe in my heart and soul, that one of the reasons occupancy is really struggling to rebound is because we are not answering these questions. And we expect people to buy something they don’t want to buy that is extremely expensive. It is, not everybody has $5,000 or $8,000 laying around. And how do we get them to realize that the grass is greener on your side of the fence? Okay. And the only way to know that is to understand that individual story and not put them in the box with every other 80 year old, which is what we see happening consistently across this great land and the sales department.

 

There’s a lot of assumptions. And I gotta tell you, my mom is not like maybe your mom, right? And your mom is not like my mom. So what we need to do is get better at taking the time to dig in and really listen. So what does your mom like to do in a day? What’s a typical day for her like? Well, she’s not doing a lot, honestly. I would go visit my mom and she’d be all dressed up with no place to go. It broke my heart because I was the only one visiting her. Everyone else had died or moved. Or from politics literally just broke away as friends. So she was alone, right? So we need to understand my needs. Isolation was killing my mother. And every three months she ended up back in the hospital during COVID when we wanted to keep her out of the hospital. So she was an independent person who had severe needs. And I think as Charles says, “isolation is as bad as smoking about 15 cigarettes a day,” right? And that is very true. On a typical day, when your mom’s feeling good and she has friends around, what would she do? We need to learn to listen and pivot and really peel back that onion. I might say, you know what?  Her dog is her life. That’s really like her child. “What kind of dog does she have?” A Lhasa Apso. “Oh, that’s awesome.” “What is his name?” “It’s Airy.” “Oh, that’s very sophisticated.” “So is Airy going to move with her if she makes a move?” “Absolutely.” “Okay. Good to know.” Because then you can start to personalize. So at the end of the conversation, you can invite Airy to come on the tour with Brittany, right?

 

So that she feels more relaxed because that’s like her child. And that instantly is going to make you stand out over the competitor who’s now talking about pet fees of $500, non-refundable. How big is the dog? How many pounds is it? So do you see the difference? This is where I want to help you pivot because honestly we’ve not seen traffic be a problem. And I would love some chat information on that. What are you seeing with traffic?  I’m just going back to some of the questions because traffic is pretty consistent. And when I say consistent, even if you only are getting seven, eight leads a week, that’s still 30 to 40 a month. And if you have strong conversions and you’re working as a team with all department heads and staff, all hands on deck united to create a standout buyer experience. You can get people to move and you can get them to move in a fraction of the time.

 

But I just want you to think about if they’re standing at their home and it’s everything they know, all of their belongings, a place they feel safe and comfortable. And we’re asking them to sell all of that, if not almost, move into a community with a hundred plus strangers. People caring for them they’ve never met. In many cases, maybe switching caregivers, no longer driving, making new friends, not having access to make their own food. The grass is very different when you’re looking at it and standing in your home. So your real task as a team at any community, you should put this in your break room and put it everywhere, if you really expect people to move, the grass has to be greener on your side of the fence. The value of moving has to exceed the pain of making the move, of having the tough conversation. Forking out whether it’s the entry fee, the monthly rent. Going through the work to find out if you qualify for different VA benefits and funds available to you as a senior in your local community.

 

So how do you do that? And if you get off that inquiry call, that walk in, even an email communication could be a chat on your website, right? People are always reaching out. You need to really be able to ask, “how green were you able to make your grass?” And if it’s still brown, don’t even dare ask for the close. That’s what we’re going to start to really engage activities and care teams to really build the value. But before I get into that, it’s not so much our industry as it is our world. We are just not good listeners. And I’m going to be honest, even myself, right? I have to focus to actively listen, because there are so many distractions and we’re all guilty of this. But when you’re on that call or in front of that buyer, that resident, you always want to be learning about your competition or what other people are not. Oprah always says, “love is in the details.”

 

And when you really know someone at their core, and you know details. I love historical fiction. I’m always reading World War II novels, Russia and Germany. I love to learn about the world through my books. It’s where I escape. And it helps me to be grateful that I’m living in a time where I’m not in a war, right? So that’s a thing for me. I’m an avid gardener, but I’m a flower gardener. I kill everything vegetable related. I try, I just can’t do it,  right? I’m very athletic. I’m obsessed with being in the forest. I go camping. So if you know these little details about me, not just, I like to read, but what kind of books I like to read? Not that I like to just be outside, but I absolutely love to be in the forest camping.

 

Not that I like to garden, but that I specifically love native flowers and color, right? I would challenge you to think about the last three weeks that you had. So if you had a lead today, you had two yesterday. I would challenge you as an exercise after this session today to take 10 minutes, go back into your notes, and ask yourself what did you learn that was beyond the surface? That is something only a good friend would know, right? A good, good friend that’s known them for years. What did you learn that you can with confidence to say, “yeah, that was definitely below the surface.” And if you can’t find that this is good news because what that means is you have an opportunity to grow and convert more people today, starting today, into onsite tours. And the other thing I’ll remind you as I talk about that is that onsite tour conversions are at their lowest in history.

 

They’re at just 22%. Pre-pandemic they were at 45%. So we are dropping the ball. And in many cases we’re fine. People just aren’t asking people to come in. We’re kind of so burnt out we’re just sending them information again. An interesting contrast to that though, is that the tour to move-in conversions are their highest ever, as high as 38% –  35% to 38%. Whereas pre-pandemic, they were closer to 22% So what that means for you is that sales communication piece with all of your team members. So when somebody’s touring and engaging in activity, having lunch, talking to a care team member on the phone, emailing. We always want to be thinking, “what would be something I should learn about them, but only a friend of five years or more would know? What are the intricacies of this conversation that would be really fascinating?

 

What that’s going to make you do is fall back in love with your job. And we know right now, people are not in love with their jobs. They’re very disconnected. And the best way to heal yourself is to get back to that emotional connection that drew you to this business in the first place. So you’ve got your assignment okay, for after this session. The other thing is really listening and taking notes. There’s another aversion that we always found in training that people are very averse to taking notes. They feel like it’s violating. “Well, if someone’s sitting in front of me, I can’t take notes.” That’s just your own personal mind. I’m going to challenge you to take notes. And when you hear those triggers, those hot buttons, like my mom’s nails, right? Airy loves his treats, and he does five tricks for treats. You’re going to circle those details in your notes, because those are things that you’re going to remember.

 

And those are buttons you’re going to push later to continue to establish and build that relationship and stand out from your competitors. Because remember your competitors, most likely are going through the motions. They’re taking basic information, spending two to three minutes on an inquiry call. They’re getting all of the rates. The floor plan information is being emailed over. They’re giving all the discount options right there on that inquiry call. And that’s how they’re selling. They’re looking for that quick, easy sale. To stand out from the competition and to get market rate rent even in today’s competitive environment, you have to earn it and you have to do things differently. Because now as you’re gathering and you’re taking the notes and you’re imprinting these details on your mind, when they come into tour, then you’re able to really customize that tour. You’re able and stand up to take one minute to talk about each person coming into tour that day.

 

So your care team, your dining team, maintenance, housekeeping, everyone knows, Brittany Blouser’s coming in to tour today. She’s obsessed with her dog. Make sure you comment. Somebody comment on her beautiful nails because she takes a lot of pride in those and we need to make sure she has a cup of tea within five minutes of that tour. So dining, if you can make that happen, she’s going to be here at 1:00. That would be awesome. These things I think will help us to really let her know we’re glad she’s here and that we see her. This is going to unite your team. People are going to be able to collaborate, unite, and work together because it is all hands on deck, meaning customized. In training, what we see a lot is a big disconnect. So meaning even when you get to the level where you’re drilling down and you’re really good at sales communication, digging in, peeling back the onion.

 

Yeah. This person’s like, “you’re going to marry them, right? “They’re moving into your community. They’re becoming family. Make sure that you connect the dots. So it’s not just gathering information, but what are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it today to schedule the next step, and tomorrow on the actual onsite visit and in your follow-up? How are you going to thread their story with a  needle and thread into the experience they have with you and your team, as they decide if you are going to be their next place they call home? If you’re able to do that, your competition really isn’t going to matter. And yes, your competition might be running a rate that’s $500 cheaper for the whole length of stay. You can not let that bother you. Good for them. That is going to come out of care, dining, or something because those shortages have to be made up somewhere, money doesn’t grow on trees.

 

You’re going to sell on value and be able to charge the rate you need to have a phenomenal resident experience. And that’s all you’ve got to say to people. And I’m just going to tell you, if you’re discounting, it’s most likely because you’re not building value. When you build value, it’s insulting to press about discounts. It’s not meaning people aren’t going to ask, but it also doesn’t mean they’re not going to not move in just because you don’t give them a deal. So we’re going to customize. And before you get off any inquiries, tours, tomorrow stand up. Every single person you’re engaging with, you need to know at least three top wants, needs, and specific concerns. So if you’re an ED, an executive, and you have those daily stand-ups, we want to make sure sales gets at least one minute per tour coming in to be able to really communicate to the team how they can engage to demonstrate that you can deliver on these very specific wants, needs, and concerns.

 

And for me as an adult daughter, that was really about. I really believed my mom was going to die because she was so isolated and lonely. And that was leading to recurring hospital visits, falls, and depression. I can’t even begin to tell you what you do and how important it is. Because of my move, my mom’s moved to Regency Oaks. I’m going to tell you she will live guaranteed another 10 years. Her whole quality of life has changed. She has friends, she’s active, she’s always engaged in activities and experiences. So again, don’t take for granted the impact you’re making, but you really have to slow down and be in the moment to find the fulfillment that you once had in this business, and to be able to get people to move. All right. So I really drove that home because the next couple of slides really depend on…My mom just turned 76. So she’s a boomer.

 

I’m just able to take a question so I want to comment on that. And we actually have her on video. If you go to Westminster…. we have her on video at seniorlivingcandidconversations.com. I had to think. Senior livingcandidconversations.com. It’s a series that I’ve done with Westminster to raise awareness about senior living and have candid conversations. And my mom was the first person we interviewed and she is literally on camera. She’s real. She’s like, “I will never move to one of those places. They’re old people’s homes.” She was a nurse in nursing homes. She had horrible memories. Her father was in a nursing home. And literally two months later she was living in a life plan community. And it freaked the video crew out. It freaked us all out. But I’m going to tell you the exact process that led to the move, and it was the engagement with my mom. The willingness of Judy to take her lunch to her home with my permission.

 

When we stopped, we did an inquiry and we did not proceed and go to the next step. Judy facilitated taking my mom lunch. Before I knew it, my mom asked me to go toward the next day and we had paperwork signed and moved in a month. And this is someone that swore she’d never do it. But I’m going to tell you the details in the engagement, the onsite cocktail party, the touring of the resident apartments. Not the models, the actual resident apartments and the time standing in the rooms with the actual residents talking to my mom and reassuring her. That is the number one thing behind the lunch that Judy brought doing her job to facilitate the next step that got my mom to move. And that’s also why I say tell stories often. I feel like we’re not bringing the stories to life.

Traci 46:42:

And if you go to seniorlivingcandidconversations.com, there are so many stories on there of residents who had very candidly, and I’m the interviewer in this series, that said they would not want to be anywhere else during COVID. That they had more respect for their communities than they ever imagined. And that if they would have been home, it would have been a disaster. And then if another COVID surge had happened that they would not leave, they would stay, and they would advise people to move in. So there’s some really great stories. And I think that we all have to get better at sharing very detailed stories of how your community has transformed people’s lives in the past year. Because there’s a lot of fear, and people don’t remember facts. The news media can report all of the COVID cases, and all of the deaths, and all that all day long. 

 

But when you start over shadowing that with your stories, those facts are going to fall to the wayside, and they’re going to focus on your stories and that is proven. So bring your community to life. When you’re on a tour and you’re talking about the dining room. Don’t just talk about your menu, and your farm to table dining, and three meals a day, and delivery if there’s a shutdown. Talk about the engagement that happened last year between Henry and Maybelle in the dining room. And how she’d been a widow for 40 years, and she swore she would never get married again, and they met over a cup of coffee one morning. That’s how we’re going to bring the community to life and make it a home. And I want to remind you, homes are made up of memories, of stories. When you’re at your family table, and you go back to your parents’ house, I guarantee you’re telling stories around the table. We’ve got to get back to storytelling and demonstrate the person-centered care, the details that you’ve taken the time to learn, the impact that you’ve made on your residents’ lives. And we also need to not hide our residents, even our frail residents, we need to have them engaging and talking to our prospective buyers. My mom has told me several times, one of her best friends is wheelchair bound. Very elderly, she’s like 90 and beautiful. She’s one of my mom’s favorite people. She still lives in the IL. She’s not in the best of health, but my mom is like, “she is amazing!” She’s super active. And she’s realized this person has a lot to bring to the table.

 

And all we have to do to bring down that wall of fear is to have our prospective buyers engage in meaningful conversations with these residents who are already living in our communities. So in your stand-up meetings, when you’re brainstorming the details of your leads, you also want to talk to your department heads to say, “okay, how can we weave into this tour experience today from Shell? She’s bringing her mom, you’re going to lay out the details. I would love to take her into a resident apartment and have her meet one of our residents because she does not want to move. She says she’s not that old and she’s not going to do it. They’re coming, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. And you never know, the housekeeper might have a great story. Maybe she’s Puerto Rican and they have a great Puerto Rican resident in 405, who is just super outgoing, would love to have company.

 

You can do a part of the tour from her apartment, right? We need to thread these things into the tour experience so they feel more comfortable moving in because they are already building relationships. I can tell you before my mom moved into Regency Oaks here in Clearwater, she had already made two really good friends. And that came from being invited back again to the community for multiple experiences and events. And this was during COVID. It was open, but we were all masked. It was very cautious, but what I want to remind you too, as I say that at the end of every conversation with any lead, we want to make sure that we are scheduling the next step. So the next step is we need to get you in to actually see our community today. I’m so glad you called it. 

 

This is going to weigh on your mind, especially after discussion. And there’s no better way to understand what our community is like other than walk the halls, meet a few residents, dine in our dining room if you’d like. But talking over the phone is like marrying someone you’ve never met, right? In person. So what might work best? Are you available by chance this afternoon or would tomorrow morning work better? Once they come in to tour, before they leave, what’s the next step? And that’s also in your morning standup, you need to be clear. So after the tour, the next step if all goes well I’m going to invite them back for an activity. Jackie in activities! What do you have going on this week? Based on the top three wants, needs, and and details I’ve shared that you think would be really enticing to Michelle’s mom, because I need to be ready to invite her, right?

 

She loves nature. She loves walking. So maybe there’s a walking group she can go on. So you always want to schedule the next step before you get off the phone. And that also eliminates that pesky follow-up that so many people hate. If you keep sliding them into home base, you don’t have to track them down. Always make sure you’re getting an email and a cell phone so that you can text and you can email. I do both. I always encourage people, text them, but also say, “I’m sending you an email in case this is easier.” So they have it both ways. So again, tie in those stories, utilize your staff, and bring it home to a very personal and emotional level. I’m just going to check here on time. My phone crashed this morning. Can someone from the chat box tell me what time it is? I can go off my screen, but that would be great. I last saw 1:54.

 

Awesome. Yeah. Thank you. I had a challenging tech morning. I’m just making sure there’s no more questions here. You guys can tell I love to train. But, I know I have to wrap here and my PowerPoint, I kind of put a little more in than maybe I wanted to get. I want to leave you with this though, that as you’re kind of contemplating the takeaways to really get to know people, really emotionally connect, go beyond the surface. Please make sure that you are advocating. That you are not pleasing. We see so much pleasing right now. So listen to your words. The next step is, “would this afternoon or tomorrow work best? So we can look at apartment 305 or go back to 205. I know you wanted to be close to the elevator and not so high up, but you also really liked 305. Which would you like to come back and see tomorrow?”

 

It’s not, “do you think you might want to come in for a tour?” Or, “do you think this is something you might want to do?” Because if you’re not confident, there’s no way they’re going to be confident. So really pay attention. And I think the lesson here that I’m trying to impart on you is, really pay attention to your language, your word choices. Your questions should be open-ended, not yes or no. You should be digging in and allowing the time so you’re not rushed. This little bit of information, guys can absolutely transform your conversion ratios and ultimately your move-ins. And more importantly, people’s lives. If you liked my content, just to let you know at the end of the slides, you can get a…you can sign up for our  Mission and Margin, which is about twice a month blog content, very content rich.

 

And then you can also get a free copy of my book, “Zero Lost Revenue Days.” On my website there’s a PDF download and I’ll have it out in January my new book called, “The Shortcut to Sales and Marketing Success.” So I’m really excited to be wrapping that up. But in the meantime, if you’ve not read “Zero loss Revenue Days,” our updated edition from last year, you can get it on Amazon or you can download it for free, but everybody has access because we want you to be empowered. Thank you Charles and Megan for having me on, it’s always a privilege to be able to speak to all of you.

Charles de Vilmorin:

Thanks so much, Tracy. If you don’t mind I’m sharing my screen, what I’d love to do also is help you Tracy, by sharing your contact details. But let me just do that in a quick click. So Tracy, as I’m sure you know, activities, life enrichment, resident engagement is all about the person’s voice, and personalization and building person-centered care. And I have taken quite a few notes of your session, but essentially, the one thing that I heard you say on and on, but with different words is the fact that people want to be seen, right? And I just love that comment. And I think that what you’re saying, what I’ve heard you say many times is that if that starts, even before people move into our community and then their whole experience is going to be fantastic.

 

And as we know, the more satisfied people are, regardless of the setting, the more likely they are to quote, unquote, “provide us with referrals,” which is great for our business. So I think that for me, one of the big takeaways is as we as activity directors continue our work in personalizing and enhancing the experience. This is quote, unquote “the link,” to helping our business grow, and helping our organization attract new residents. So Tracy, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for entertaining us with a little bit of your leadership and sharing with what you’re seeing in the marketplace right now. Everyone in the slide here, I’m seeing Tracy. We know I am sure that she’d be delighted to continue answering questions by email or obviously feel free to visit her website. The slides will be made available. I have a couple of announcements that are Activities Strong related. 

 

Some of you might remember that last year we conducted the first of its kind at the time it was called the Resident Engagement Index Score. We had more than 700 organizations go through the survey and we found amazing outcomes that really correlated engagement with the clinical and business outcomes. And we’re back at it now. And this is an invitation for you, your organization, and your department to take on this free tool to help you understand where you are in terms of resident engagement. How good you are, where are your areas of opportunity, and how, as a team, as a department, as an organization, you can continuously work to improve the resident engagement experience. This year it’s called the Elder Engagement Performance Improvements. You’ll notice something similar to quality. We wanted to introduce a performance improvement aspect to it. 

 

And whoever takes this survey before the end of the month, we will be providing free coaching sessions led by Dr. Stelter from our team to help you understand what other organizations like you are doing, what are areas of improvement, and ultimately help you drive person-centered care in a measurable and manageable way. So that’s very exciting. Please take a minute. It’s the only of its kind. And we’ve already had, I think more than a hundred organization tickets. So we already have a very large amount of data that we’re very impatient to share with all of you. Last but not least, and as always, we have very exciting upcoming education sessions webinars. The next one, you’ll probably remember Vicki de Klerk-Rubin. She has been, I think, two or three times already. She’s essentially the leader when it comes to dementia care and building experiences for people living with cognitive change. As you might know myself, I’m a big fan of the Validation Training Institute.

 

I am trained in the Validation Method. I am on the board. And I recommend that any of you, if you work or interact with anyone that even has a slight cognitive change in your community, this is something not to be missed. And then on November 2nd, very important especially as we continue to navigate COVID, but even beyond, this winning partnership between social services and life enrichment, right? We all want our activity and life enrichment program departments to have help from other departments. This is a successful organization when we see other team members chime in and help. And like Tracy said, kind of help with engagement. And so Janean can use her years of experience enabling this in very large organizations and she’ll be sharing some of her best practices. Last but not least December 7th, a winter gathering. Count on something coming. With that, thank you so much for joining us today everyone. Thank you for spending time. Have a wonderful rest of the afternoon and we’ll be back here very shortly. Thank you very much.

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