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CW 116: Julie Podewitz

In this series, host Julie Podewitz takes a deep 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.

Today, Julie looks at solving the “hot enough sales” problem by looking at the factors that make up the Tour to Sale conversion.

The six episode-series 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 the goal.

Shop: Solving the Occupancy Puzzle by Julie Podewitz


So, what is it to experience, customer experience like? This is your show, your rehearsal, our prep and your communication.


Welcome to the Contributor Wednesday series on the Bridge the Gap Network. This series is sponsored by Peak Senior Living by Functional Pathways. Each week, you’ll hear from a thought leader discussing topics that are relevant and impactful to the senior living industry.


Welcome to the Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday podcast. I’m Julie Podewitz, CEO and Founder of Grow Your Occupancy, BTG Ambassador and author of Solving the Occupancy Puzzle, a senior living sales playbook. I’m glad to be back with you for part two of Solving the Occupancy Puzzle 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 the positive change in the way people view senior living. During each episode, we look at a piece of the occupancy puzzle: what determines the outcome, what action to take first, how to coach and measure results.


Sound fun? It really is. In the last episode, we reviewed the first step identifying what problem to solve, the factors that contribute to the outcome, to not react emotionally, but to use facts and data to better drill down to the root cause. So let’s get started on this week’s puzzle: not enough sales. Note: I’ll use the verbiage sales. In this example, you may use or measure deposits, leases, commitments, move-ins, or a combination of any of these. For this example, I’ll use the verbiage – sales. I love to dance, and I’ve taught dance for many years. I was also a choreographer for musical theater. When I listen to a score, I see the movement in my head, how it all comes together, big picture. I then break it down, measure by measure with the exact movements. I take notes, put it together, and then teach each number section by section, practice, provide critique, repeat, practice, repeat, provide more input.


Sometimes stopping mid-number, change, tweak as it all comes together. And as I watch from the audience until we have a show, senior living sales is very much the same as putting together a musical. You have to have the right actors or dancers. You’ve got to have a playbook, create the dance movements to fit the score, to teach the movements, teach the playbook. What are the expectations? Roll them out section by section. Practice. Provide input. Change what isn’t working. Rehearse. Communicate. Put costumes on, makeup, dress rehearsal. And voila – a Broadway hit ready to produce your Hamilton. Here we go. Again. The problem is not enough sales. So let’s look at the data without an emotion to identify where to start before offering advice as to what to do. First, start with activity. Specifically, how many tours is the tour volume at or above the benchmark? If you don’t have a benchmark for a number of tours, you need to set it now.


So for this example, let’s assume tour volume is at benchmark. Second, look at the tour to sale conversion. So how many sales from how many tours? Note: you’ll want to take a look at at least one month, a quarter, or one full quarter gives you a better, bigger picture because as we all know, senior living sales is not necessarily immediate. So looking at one week of data is not going to give you a clear enough picture of a skillset of tour to sale. So assuming, again, that your activity is near or at benchmark, there’s our quote-unquote – enough tours. The conversion metric needs to also be at benchmark. What is the benchmark? Great question. You need to start somewhere. First, start knowing what your benchmark is or what your outcomes are? Look at total tours or opportunities. And when I say total tours, if one family tours three times in that time period, you can only count that once.


Yes, they tour activity counts as activity, but it counts as one opportunity to sale or sell, right? So of opportunities, how many sales? So if you’re converting at 10%, that means you need 10 unique tours for every sale. If it’s 20% for those same 10 tours, you’re getting two sales. If it’s 30% for those same 10 tours, you’re getting three sales. If it’s 40% for those same 10 tours, you’re getting four sales and so on. You’ve got to know where you are now, not how you feel about it, but what the actual data tells you. So if you start with a standard 20 tour benchmark, again, this might not be enough. It may be too much, but if you start with that standard 20 tour benchmark and a minimum of 25% closing, one out four, you’d have five sales. If it’s a life plan, the expectation is probably, a lesser percentage.


Maybe it’s one out of five for a life plan. If it’s a higher level of care, perhaps it’s more like one out of three, or one out of four, or sometimes even one out of two, but consistently one out of two is, I mean, it’s great, but it’s rare. So start somewhere. If you’re at 10%, just go to 20% and know that if you’re at 20%, you have to have 20 tours to get four sales. If you want more than that, and you’re still converting at 20%, you need more tours. If 20 tours is very high activity, you wanna look more deeply at the skill set, because if you’re converting at 30%, you’d have six sales. Okay? So tour to sale, very simply, there are five factors that have the most impact on tour to sale conversion. 


Assuming your building is clean, it smells good. You know, the outside, the inside it presents well. Okay. Assuming all of that is in place. Here are the five factors. Number one: quality of discovery. In our musical example, this is the choreography. This is your roadmap. The quality of discovery: who is your customer or your customers, their names, their background, just a brief history. How do they like to spend their day? Or how are they spending it now? How would they like to spend their day or spend their time? What are their needs, their concerns, what are their wants? More importantly, how do they feel about considering this change? What are they looking forward to not having to do? What about their children or their influencers who is involved? How is it impacting them? What’s important to each person who’s involved? We never stop discovery, but we certainly don’t want to do a community tour without doing discovery.


We never stop discovering about people. This spring, I learned something new about my best friend of 40-plus years. Her name is Amy, and we talk almost every day. And I learned that she does not like peaches. I did not know that about Amy all these years. I was talking about ordering peaches from the peach truck. And by the way, they were absolutely amazing. And I was saying that peaches, a great peach is one of my top 10 favorite foods. And she told me she doesn’t like peaches. I almost fell over, but she doesn’t like ’em. So I added that to the list of things that I now know about Amy. It’s exciting to get, to continue to get to know people, right? And while we’re not gonna become necessarily best friends with our prospects, we do wanna know about them and who they are. And what’s important to them. As it relates to this decision – to move to senior living. So, number one, it’s always gonna go back to that quality of discovery. Your musical’s not gonna be very good if the choreography’s not good. 


Second is the tour planning and experience. And note: I’m using the term tour community tour. Some say community visit. The tour plan is the preparation and the rehearsal for your show. So your pre-tour planning, communicating to your team, involving your team, prepping those who are involved, making sure the community is tour-ready, quote unquote at all times, we are show ready, right? As we’re putting on a show. And we are putting on a show. So what is tour experience and customer experience like? This is your show, your rehearsal, and your prep and your communication, your customer-welcome. Is there a personalized sign? Is there a personalized or reserved parking space you offer valet parking? Is someone greeting them at the door?


You know, your guests are coming at two. You’re going to the show for the two o’clock. Someone greets you at the door and smiles. “So glad you’re here!” takes your ticket, shows you to where to get some snacks, right? Takes your coat, doing a coat check-in. Okay. Greeting: “We’re so excited you’re here.” Are we standing upon greeting? What is that first impression? Expectation: model is a model ready? What do we know about the prospect? If you knew I loved musicals, maybe you asked me what my favorite musical is. And, oh, it’s so hard to say. It’s like asking me my favorite dog, but I would say Matilda or Dear Evan Hanson or Hamilton, and maybe you would find the score to one of those musicals or maybe you would do a mix, right? And you would put it on shuffle and would be playing in the model or playing in the speakers. Right. As I come in, you’ve got your snacks ready. Then the discovery and the closing area in room is comfortable. The lights, the temperature, and this may sound really involved. It sounds more involved than it really is. If it’s a priority and you have a system and a routine. When it’s routine to have these things in place, it really is more of a check, check than a reinvention every time. So this is an action committing to putting on the best show possible. Right? So first is discovery. 


Second is the tour plan and tour experience customer experience. The third closing skills. I’ll use the example or the metaphor of a curtain call. So in our show, this is the curtain call with closing skills or closing. You’re gonna go back to the discovery room or a closing area. Maybe it’s in the model or sitting down, you’re gonna recap and reflect, ask your prospects, your families for their input. How is the experience compared to what they expected? And they’ve laid their cards out on the table. You’re gonna kind of pull them all together by recapping the things that you’ve heard. What’s important? Kind of trying to make sense of it all for them. When somebody hears another person recapping saying out loud what they have explained or said previously, a light goes off like, yes, that’s it. We need it gonna pull together because we’re in this emotional state. And there are so many moving pieces and parts, and a strong advisor keeps it all together. Does a great recap and then gives advice to a next step. What is it that they need to do or think about or decide your customer? What makes sense? And then confirming that this makes sense. And then setting specifics. A specific action step and how you will deliver your side, and what’s expected of them.


Number four: follow-up. This is the Encore. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Encore, Encore. We want more, we want more. Not gonna get up and leave yet, right? Do one more. So with follow up, it’s the activity meaning doing it. So what does that schedule look like? What is the cadence of follow-up? Right? So that’s the actual doing of it. And then how well it’s done is quality and skill, right? And this is part of a tour to sale conversion. Your follow-up can consist of a handwritten note. That’s powerful, a personal video message. It can be maybe a post-tour survey, either text or email, asking for their input. Some content that is of interest could be that personal touch or that one extra you learned that they love musicals. You learn that they love Matilda. Maybe you find something about Matilda or a fun fact or a little something that you can send them Amazon again, your best friend, follow up, follow up, follow up.


If you’ve agreed upon something before they’ve left, your follow-up is going to be that much more powerful or continuing the conversation. Continuing the show. The fifth and final is compelling reasons to keep your prospects engaged. So in the theater world, it may be signing them up for season tickets, right? They’re gonna keep ’em engaged. They’re gonna move into your community. So what are the compelling reasons if they’re not ready to deposit or not ready to commit to an apartment? Certainly if they are great, you are still wanting to compel, keep compelling reasons to keep them moving forward. What is your engagement calendar look like? What types of events are happenings? Might you invite your prospects to? What about something as simple as inviting them in to have tea with another resident or a happy hour or a lunch, or if, you know, someone loves to knit and there’s a knitting group, or, you know, someone loves to sing and they love music and you’ve got some singing and music happening and invite in for that.


A home visit home visits are proven to strengthen closing, and continue keeping prospects engaged. Engaging the family members, understanding who all of the decision makers or influencers ask for their input. Continue that discovery and continue the conversation. It’s simple. It’s just not always easy. But if you keep this in an outline, these five factors. Number one is the quality of discovery. Number two is tour planning and experience. Number three is closing skills. Number four is follow-up. Number five is compelling reasons to keep your prospects engaged. And you go back to the components that make up each one of these factors and stick with one and measure results to really find out which piece might be the cause. There certainly are other things about prospects being qualified and things like that. But as far as what we can control and what we can tweak and measure, start with these five. If you wanna email or message me, I’ll send you this outline, or you can download the transcription that accompanies this podcast and the outline will be there for you.


In the last podcast, I talked about the impact of the two things activity, what is done and skill, how well it’s done on an outcome. So I’ll indicate in this outline, which of the pieces are action and which are skill. If it’s activity or action, coaching is more about the actions and the habits, accountability, amount or number of calls or tours or outreach is action to benchmark. Are you at below or above? If it’s a skill, coaching becomes more of a role-play, skill building, and we will cover the building blocks of coaching during this series as we go along. But a quick hint in coaching use reflective language and open-ended questions. So instead of did you get an agreed-upon next step? Try, what was your suggested next step or what was ultimately agreed to. Questions that are open-ended that start with? What, who, and how will prompt discussion. So it’s much more of a coaching session versus I’m going to give you a bunch of suggestions that may or may not be the answers or solutions you’re looking for. And you may feel like you’ve got to give a reason why those things didn’t happen or kind of feel defensive, right? Even though the intention is very positive. As you continue this approach, 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


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CW 116: Julie Podewitz