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CW 112: Julie Podewitz

During this series Julie Podewitz will take a deeper dive into how to solve the occupancy puzzle by first identifying the problem you’re trying to solve, determining strategy, what actions to take and how to get there.

These six podcasts each narrow in on a key area of the occupancy puzzle, what contributes to the outcome, what action to put in place and how to coach others to achieve goals.


Welcome to Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday. I’m Julie Podewitz, CEO and Founder of Grow Your Occupancy, Bridge the Gap ambassador, and author of Solving the Occupancy Puzzle, A Senior Living Sales Playbook. I’m thrilled to join you once a month on Contributor Wednesday through the rest of 2022. In this series, we’ll look at how to solve the occupancy puzzle. What factors are causing the problem you’re trying to solve and how to solve it? This is my professional life’s passion, opening up the sales funnel to move in a greater percentage of prospects who come to us with need, filling our communities, and serving the maximum number of residents, families, and team members. Ultimately making a positive change in the way people view senior living. In each episode, we’ll look at a piece of the occupancy puzzle. What determines that outcome? What action to take first, how to coach, and measure results. Sound fun. It really is. In this first episode, I’ll talk about step one in solving the occupancy puzzle, identifying what problem to solve. So let’s get started. 

Does this sound familiar? You’re doing a hot lead review with a sales director, an ed, a sales team, maybe a regional, and the regional asks or the executive director or VP, did we do a personal greeting at the front desk? Did we involve staff? Did we make the tour personal? Did we meet their needs? Did we agree upon a next step? Do we have a next step? And getting answers or heming and hawing or feeling defensive? If you’re the one asked these questions feeling like, oh, I don’t know if I have an answer. Lot of pressure and rusher and the regional then or the ED may say, well, it sounds like mom needs to come in for a tour. We have to show mom, we care. Let’s go ahead and bring mom some soup. Let’s go ahead and set up a home visit. Let’s go ahead. Call her now, set up that home. Visit, bring her some soup and let me know how that goes. Sound familiar? 

I call this approach while very well-intended throwing things against the wall, making suggestions with every good intention, we’re trying to help. What we’re doing though, is telling what to do before we really understand what problem we’re trying to solve. In other words, what factors led up to the result, in this case, not getting a deposit. 


I drive a nine year old car. I love my car. It’s incredibly reliable. I wanna drive it forever. It’s always started when I get in. It’s not fancy, but it gets me where I need to go. Except this week. I got into my car. It wouldn’t start. And my heart sank. 

I don’t know anything about cars other than how to drive them, to get where I need to go. I call my husband, he says, well, maybe it’s the starter. Maybe it’s the, you need a charge. Maybe the gas line’s flooded. He’s not a mechanic either. So of course I call the expert, and the car’s taken to the mechanic. And before throwing out possible solutions, she asked some questions. How long has this happened? Has this happened before? What, what are you hearing? What other problems have you had? Examines the vehicle again? I don’t know exactly how tests components, you know, is this working? Is this ex is this maybe has a checklist, before diagnosing the problem. 

Another example, if you’re a parent, maybe if your child has a problem, maybe your child doesn’t wanna go to school one day. There could be many reasons for that parent before saying, can you, can I stay home? You know, or decide, can you stay home versus going to school, maybe a parent drills down by asking more questions to identify why your child doesn’t wanna go to school? Is it an illness? Maybe there’s a test that day, they didn’t study for. Maybe they’re being teased. Maybe they have a crush on somebody who doesn’t like them back and it’s painful. Maybe it’s PE day, in my case. 

Really understanding the why or what factors go into “I don’t wanna go to school” before offering advice or deciding to let your child stay at home or not. 


So let’s get back to the occupancy puzzle. I’ve been in senior living for almost 20 years. I started as a sales director, and I was then gonna shifted to filling challenge buildings. Absolutely love that. I moved to the consultant side, identifying root cause, root cause analysis, you know, SWOTs in the sales arena, establishing infrastructure, teaching, coaching, worked in 46 states. I need to get to four more. Portfolio, that I work with over the course of eight years, increased more than 47 million dollars because of increased revenue. So, had really great success and was able to observe and work with hundreds of people, professionals in their roles before moving to the provider side as a Chief Marketing Officer in a VP of sales, and that’s been a phenomenal journey as well. And I’ve learned so much, hired and trained many sales people, many regional directors, some VPs of sales, executive directors, and continued to do many of the same things I did as a consultant. Infrastructure, sales processes, developing the trainings, did a lot of coaching, side by side outreach, needing to decide to maybe transition somebody or bringing another team member on, assessing talents and strength.


But there is one huge difference between the consultant side and the provider side, and that is the whirlwind. And there’s no coincidence that the whirlwind is the logo for my business. The whirlwind of the day to day in senior living, working in the proverbial whirlwind. And certainly COVID brought that whirlwind to an even higher level of difficulty. But even typical hurricane wind strength of about one or two. And unless you’ve really been in it, it’s difficult to wrap your head around the challenge of being proactive instead of reactive within this whirlwind, it takes a lot of practice and commitment and discipline. So what happens is, you know, we’re pulled in so many directions and we want to be helpful and we wanna provide answers. So we start throwing things against the wall and hope something sticks, or we throw the ball and we hope somebody catches it and runs with it.


We work in an incredibly emotional business and it’s natural for most to react emotionally, especially in an emotional whirlwind instead of responding logically and thinking through a root cause analysis. So it often leads to solving the wrong problem or taking a wide swing at trying to figure it out versus a more precise aim. So we need more leads, do more outreach. We need better leads. We need to make more calls. We need to do more home visits. We have to have a sense of urgency. Maybe the sales director needs to be turned, which is why Geno Wickman’s concept of IDs hit me over the head. About five years ago, I was given a book called traction by gen Wickman. And in his book, he talks about solving the problem too soon, or before we know the primary cause. His concept is simple and it’s changed my life.

And I’d like to share it with you. It’s IDS, his issues solving track. Geno Wickman is all about simplifying processes, systems, messaging, vision. He’s an expert in helping entrepreneurs build their business. He’s written many, many books. The issue solving track, he outlines is identify, discuss, solve. Always start with identify what problem we’re trying to solve. Many of us, myself included, often jump to solve. With good intention, someone comes to us for advice, and we just give ’em some advice or really tell them what to do. We’re either in a hurry or we feel we know the answer, and maybe we do, but unless somebody takes that advice and implements it, we’re not gonna know, is it the right advice or not? And oftentimes, the time spent identifying is well worth the outcome. In other words, spending more time on the front end to get a better result at the end.


So let’s start with identify. What contributes to result, in senior living sales. It’s two components, very simply, it’s action, what you do, and skill, how well you do it. And that really applies to most things, right? So in this business action, okay, is oftentimes called sales activity or outreach activity. We look in the CRM or the Excel spreadsheet. However you track what you’re doing, how many calls, how many tours, how many outreach appointments, lead source analysis, referer analysis, conversion metrics, and so on. And the skill is how well it’s done. So action, how much or the quantity, and skill would be the quality. There’s other factors, of course, we need to know our competition. What differentiates us? You know, what our customers are saying, et cetera, but it really boils down to action and skill. So to get started with the identify of the IDS, what problem we’re trying to solve, you need to know what’s happening. 

So we need data. If you’re not tracking very carefully in a CRM, that’s step number one. If you have a CRM and oh gosh, you know, it’s not being used or it’s not being utilized or, oh, you know, I did it, I just didn’t log it. That’s Stop Now, that’s number one. I mean, data in the CRM should be a job requirement. You’ve got to know your data. You have to have Intel, if you will, into the result. You’ve got to know the data and what it means. 

At whatever level you are on, you need to know your business. What is the data telling you? Establish some activity parameters, for example, based on current conversions or trailing 6 months, trailing 12 months conversions, how many tours or opportunities does it take to get a deposit? Very simply, if you’re converting at 25%, you’re going to need four opportunities, four tours, to get a deposit. You know, if you want five deposits, you’re gonna need around 20 tours. Keep it simple. Start there. This is a great benchmark to start with. Measuring that tour to deposit, or tour to move in, thats step number one. Keeping focused on that number of tours and how to get those tours, to stay focused and narrow, and what attributes to this conversion.  We will dive more deeply in subsequent episodes. 

So to recap, the power of micro change, identifying the problem based on facts, not emotion, shifting from a reactive to a proactive approach, even in the whirlwind. What contributing factors, influence outcomes, that’s the discuss. And then learn more, ask, investigate, dig deeper, ask questions, discuss, discuss, discuss, then begin to solve. Identify. Discuss. Solve. This holds true for your sales directors working with prospects. Often we jump to solve. Our prospects aren’t driving, well, we have a van. We can drive you. They’re not eating regular and healthily, oh, we have a chef prepared meals. They’re isolated. They’re alone. Oh, well we have a great activity calendar. Boom, boom, boom. Just solved all their problems. Why are they not moving in? 

Identify. Discuss. Solve. Need to head back to the identify, what we’re really trying to solve. What’s really influencing decision, in that case, what influences performance outcomes? So as you begin this approach or elevate this approach in your world, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re in this together. Thanks for listening to this week’s Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday. I’m Julie Podewitz. Please connect with me at, linkedin, or


CW 112: Julie Podewitz