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CW 134: Julie Podewitz

In this episode, Julie Podewitz takes us from The Office to Las Vegas! 

During this series, Julie takes a deep dive into how to solve the occupancy puzzle by identifying the problem, determining strategy, what actions to take, and how to get there.

These episodes 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.  

For this episode on making calls, Julie visits her Uncle Georgie’s house and travels to Las Vegas.

Listen to more Contributor Wednesday episodes here.


The thing is you’ve got to play to win. You’ve got to dig for change to even have a chance of winning.


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.

Julie 00:23

Welcome to Bridge The Gap contributor Wednesday. I’m Julie Podewitz, CEO and founder of Grow Your Occupancy, BTG ambassador and author of Solving the Occupancy Puzzle, a Senior Living Sales Leader Playbook. As I record this, we are heading into the holiday season. I’m grateful to be a part of the BTG Contributor Wednesday, and thankful you are all listening. I’m glad to be back with you for part six of Solving the Occupancy Puzzle. In this series, we look at a piece of the occupancy puzzle, what factors are causing the problem, what determines outcomes and steps to take to improve them. Leading with empathy, developing listening skills was the subject of the last episode. I used the example of Michael Scott, Steve Carell’s character on the office, the US version. Michael Scott’s lack of EQ is expertly played for laughs, but in reality, he would be a disaster in senior living sales.


He lacks a filter. He does not listen and is completely self-involved. While well intentioned and ultimately a good person, no one would or should hire him to lead their sales or any team. If you haven’t listened to episode five, listening to it now will help all of this make sense. So in this episode, we go from The Office to Uncle Georgie’s house. Growing up, we would often visit relatives. Uncle Georgie was a lifelong bachelor who lived a simple life in a small home in Pontiac, Michigan. He was deaf and mute, but we all understood what he was saying. Although this Sunday visiting my father liked to do was often excruciatingly boring to us kids we liked to visit Uncle Georgie. We thought he was cool and slightly mysterious. Uncle Georgie had a sofa he allowed us kids to jump on at home and everywhere else this was strictly forbidden. I can still see the couch in my mind, gray upholstery with a grow grain design. We would stick our hands in the cushions and often find change that had fallen out of his pocket. Pennies, nickels, even the occasional dime – jackpot! He always let us keep the change, and now that I think of it, I wonder if it really fell out of his pocket. The thing is, we didn’t find change every time. Sometimes we went home empty handed, but that did not discourage us from trying for change every time we visited. If there was a chance for change, we kept digging. If we didn’t dig, we would never hit the jackpot. 


And speaking of jackpots, we were in Las Vegas at the October SMASH conference recently. While not big gamblers, my husband and I enjoy playing the slots, the lights, the sounds, even some of the chairs vibrate. The virtual coins dance around the screen and, oh my gosh, you think you’re rich and in the end you’ve won $17. What do most keep doing? Play again and again and again. And while many like to brag about how much they win in Vegas, well, heck, Jim and I were up $22. Gambling is designed for the players to lose. The possibility of the big win keeps us going, even with a big loss. For those of us low rollers, we do not expect to hit it rich, but we play because of the boost the win provides, the music, the lights, the buzzers. Something happens in our brain, I know there’s science behind it, but we get that boost of serotonin and other naturally produced feel good chemicals. I’m told the experts in Vegas know this and they’ve carefully set up the odds to reward us just enough to keep us playing.


Many do not stop though, even with the big win and ultimately lose big. All right, so how does this all relate to solving the occupancy puzzle, you might ask? What is the one activity critical to success that Sales Directors dread most? You guessed it. Phone calls, follow up calls, call outs, database calls, “cold calling.” Even though in our business there really isn’t such a thing as “cold calling” as our customers have reached out to us first. I like to think of database calls, as we’ll call them here, in the same way as visiting Uncle Georgie or even going to Vegas. There’s definitely a chance to win and sometimes win big. The thing is, you’ve got to play to win. You’ve got to dig for change to even have a chance of winning. Database, calling, follow up calls, call outs to hots, warms, cools, new leads, it’s the same concept you have to play to win. And just like in Vegas, you will lose more than you’ll win. You’ll get voicemail. No answer. You might get hung up on way more times statistically than you will ultimately connect, but you will connect with someone if you keep calling and keep trying. We are beyond fortunate to have a guru of “database cleanup” on our team at Grow. She does what many will not or don’t do database cleanup, attempting to reach the unreachable, the never have been touched, or those that haven’t been contacted in months, sometimes years. She often refers to these assignments as cleaning up a dirty database, which means to her attempting all prospects, identifying who should be closed out and who should remain in the queue regardless of where they quote unquote are in their journey or decision making.


If she hasn’t reached them yet, they stay in the queue. She shares that a light bulb went off early in her career when a mentor pointed out a simple fact. Calls go up, contacts go up, tours go up, move-ins go up, calls go down, contacts go down, tours go down, move-ins go down. It’s so simple, right? It’s just not easy. Or I don’t know, maybe it is as easy as picking up the phone or sending a personalized video or a text message, maybe even stopping by with a small token. So why don’t we do it? I’m thinking maybe we’re more focused on the loss than the win. What if we had the same mindset going to Uncle Georgie’s? There might not be change in the couch, so let’s not dig. Or Vegas “Well, you know, we’re probably gonna lose, so let’s not play well.” Can you imagine? Or, well, let’s try one time and you know, if we don’t win, we walk. Well, where would Las Vegas be? Where would Celine Dion or the Backstreet Boys or Adele do their residency? What if we change our mindset and focus on the win, the probability that if we keep on going, we will connect. We will have a conversation, we will help someone make a step forward today, whatever that step is. Heck, we might even win big, schedule a tour, close to a deposit, even that same day. Not only is it possible, it’s probable. Your database is made up of people who have reached out to you at some critical point in their lives. Something happened, something prompted their start. They got stuck. They changed their mind, their crisis simmered down. They talked to somebody who told them they are crazy to consider moving to a “home.” If we wait until they’re ready to reach back out, we will wait forever. 


For best practices in call out or database calling success, I went right to the expert, our Lead Sales Specialist for advice. Here are her four tips. Number one, change your mindset about calls. If you hate doing ’em, you won’t do ’em. Number two, always set a follow up cadence for new and existing leads. Follow up daily to new leads for one week. Always sprinkle in texts, emails, and even a personalized video to all prospects. Number three, don’t snooze your follow ups, read or past due tasks. Create urgency. These are promises you’ve made to people. Ooh, let me say that again. These are promises you’ve made to people. Number four, create a power hour or two. Guard your time to get follow up completed. If you don’t make it a priority, someone else will, and I’ll add one of my own. Open the call with a statement of fact and pause. I understand that you’ve reached out to learn more. I understand you found us on the internet. I understand your researching options for your mom. Pause. Allow the person to process your comment. Believe me, no one else is as good of a listener as you. No one has opened a call like this, allowed them a moment and engaged them so soon in the conversation. Most of us talk, talk, talk, talk, ask a bunch of questions, try to get our thoughts together, keep talking, and we’re afraid of moments of silence. You allowing this space is a differentiator right from the start. Choose one of these tips. Implement and be consistent. If it’s your mindset, it’s your choice. Are you choosing to think of it as a potential win or, well, I’m just gonna lose anyway? Measure what impact this change or shift has on your outcomes before trying another.


So one thing, be consistent. Which piece is missing in your puzzle? Maybe it’s a combination. Give yourself grace. Think incremental change, micro change can make macro impact. And during this holiday season, give yourself the gift of connecting with someone who needs to speak with you today. Someone who will not pick up the phone to call you, but is more than welcoming your call. Someone who says, you made my day, or I was just thinking about reaching out. My mom is having a very hard time right now. 


Happy holidays to everyone. I’m very thankful for all of you and for the Bridge The Gap podcast team for inviting me to participate in this Contributor Wednesday series during 2022 and for extending the invitation for six more episodes in 2023. So keep listening to BTG Contributor Wednesday. I’m Julie Podewitz. Please connect with me at,, and  on LinkedIn or YouTube.


Thanks for listening to the Contributor Wednesday series on the Bridge The Gap Network, sponsored by Peak Senior Living by Functional Pathways. For a full library of episodes, visit

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CW 134: Julie Podewitz