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CW Ep. 2: Sales & Marketing

Traci Bild, CEO of Bild & Co., begins the Contributor Wednesday series on Bridge the Gap network. In this deep dive, Traci will equip us with a different way of thinking about sales and marketing in the midst of COVID and how executives need to respond to exceed their goals in seniors housing and care in a post-COVID world.

Revenue Growth Calulator

Zero Lost Revenue Days

Welcome to Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday. I’m Traci Bild, CEO of Bild & Co. and I will be conducting your podcast on sales and marketing. And today our focus is how executives need to respond to exceed their goals in seniors housing and care in a post-COVID world. At the time of this recording, we’re still in the midst of COVID. It will eventually pass and you need to prepare today for thriving in this current very taxing environment. And tomorrow, once we’re through this and we see ourselves and our industry redefined and the focus of my podcast is really going to be to speak high level and equip you with the different way of thinking about sales and marketing.

And I want to start with a text that I received on Friday morning. One of my mentors had said that she was moving someone she cared deeply about to an assisted living and she had to cancel our call because she was overwhelmed and needed that time to identify a location. So of course I said, can I help? And I will tell you within five minutes, my team responded back to me with a number of operators in the markets. There was two markets she was looking in. I was able to contact a few people and literally within two hours we had her on the phone with an operator who could help her. But I want to read you her text. It’s very powerful and this is what’s at stake and this is why I am confident we can do better. And when I say better, I mean better in our ability to work with prospective buyers.

This is where our greatest failing lies, we do such a fantastic job in operations. It’s the sales and marketing experience. It’s getting people to come to buy and to really make that process easier than what my friend had to go through. But her subject line was gratitude beyond words. And I’m going to give a shout out here to Belmont because that’s who helped my friend and she said, Peggy at Belmont said she has a very good chance of being receptive as a resident and it’s he not she. Forgive me, I’m crying as I type this as she was so gracious, kind and an amazing listener. I’ve spent more than 80 hours on the phone the last few weeks trying all places in central Texas and this is the only one without hesitation that truly cares and it wasn’t a sales pitch. They will do an assessment next week and if all goes well, he can move in between mid-May and June 1. Traci, there’s no way to ever think you as the burden has taken me to my knees.

This is what we’re doing every day in our industry and this is just one person who was completely overwhelmed with the process of vetting out and finding a community that was willing to accept her loved one who’s being discharged from the hospital. This was no easy sale. This is a little bit of a complex case. She just could not get anybody to even stop and listen to her compassionately and understand what’s going on. Now this individual owns two global companies. She’s very sharp. She knows what she’s doing. She was completely paralyzed by this experience of identifying an assisted living for her stepfather. So shout out to the Bild team for helping me to connect with a client. Shout out to Belmont for the fantastic work and assisting my friend. I honestly know that they’re going to make an incredible impact on her stepfather. It took knowing someone to really help her condense what was 80 hours into about one hour. How do we do this for the rest of our consumers?

The person that’s looking to make a move to independent living, assisted, memory care, skilled nursing, there are so many services and so much industry lingo. People simply don’t understand where to start and when they do start, it’s quite taxing. I actually just asked one of my coaches, Stephanie, to just at random record herself calling three different communities in her market service area on video because I told her people simply don’t believe how bad the buyer experience is, so look for that to be coming out here very shortly. I have those videos in hand and I will be writing and showing these blogs here very soon. 

Today I want to step back and break down what seems complicated for many of you into simple and digestible steps. What I first want to say is that while sales and marketing may not be your forte, sales is an art and it’s also a science.

So I have my notes and I want to hit on the most important things for you as an owner, operator, investor, as a CEO, as an executive director, a regional, a salesperson, you will all be able to learn from what I’m going to share with you today. And one of the things I take a lot of pride in as a trainer, a coach, and really a teacher is that you don’t tell people what to do to be successful. And how you did it. You tell them how to do it so that they can be successful. Step by step.

Today I’m going to outline for you what you need to do as the leader of your organization to get in the driver’s seat and ensure for your stakeholders that you hit the goals. One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received, and this came from one of my members of my mastermind group, it actually was given to her by the CEO of five hour energy, and what he said is that you as a CEO, your job is to spend 75% of your time on sales and marketing.

Now, I know a lot of you don’t want to hear that, and I’ve kind of always known that. I mean, I’m a sales guru, right? But we can get sidetracked with bright, shiny objects, real problems and barriers. Look at COVID. It’s completely taken everybody’s eyes off sales and marketing and completely put them into operations. We need to do that, but the reality is if we don’t put our eyes back on sales and marketing, we’re not going to have anything to operate. So when I say that your job as a CEO is to even 50% be committed to the sales and marketing of your organization, what that means is you need to surround yourself, great leaders that you can create the vision of sales and marketing and delegate it to, but you need to own it and the buck stops with you. You set the tone, you set the culture. If it’s important to you, it will be important to your people. I cannot stress that enough. 

What I first want to start with is how to set strategic sales and marketing goals that you hit month after month, quarter after quarter, year after year. Number one, you need to raise the bar. Our industry is sitting at 87.7% occupancy overall at the time of this recording for Bridge the Gap, we have a lot of lost revenue on the table that is really not necessary and I know we have all these excuses and we’ve got a real one, COVID, right? We have a lot of new development. We have saturated markets. Now we have record unemployment. Do you know what the reality as I started this podcast, there is nothing we can do to stop the cycle of aging. People still need what we have and as you heard in my texts from Victoria, when they go to buy it, it’s almost impossible.

No one should have to spend 80 hours on a phone trying to find a community that’s a fit for their loved one and still not have success or resolution. And if you as an executive stopped or an ED, a regional, a sales person, and truly went on this journey yourself to call and try to find a community objectively, even if you’re pretending it’s mystery shopping, you’re doing it for a loved one. You would see how traumatic this experience is for people in their time of need. We’ve got to stop kidding ourselves and get honest and during this time, we have the opportunity to reinvent how we sell, market, speak about advocate and how we present senior living to the world. Not everyone’s going to do it, so you have to decide are you growth minded, are you closed minded, are you going to continue around the same track that you’ve been on and maybe you’re already growth minded because you’re following this amazing Bridge the Gap format and all of their great content they’re bringing and if that’s the case, you don’t need to worry.

Just keep learning, implementing and you are going to thrive post COVID. So let’s dive in.

Number one, the most important thing that you can do is create a sales culture. Now, clearly there’s a lot of different elements to culture but since my track is sales and marketing, I’m going to focus on all things sales and marketing.

  1. What is it that you stand for?
  2. What is unique and different about you?

We just did a market study and it was really interesting because typically when we do competitive analysis, all of the communities blend together. There might be one that really stands out, but pricing is similar. People are talking about their dining, their housekeeping or activities. This market study had a lot of differentiation points that really wowed us. They all had very distinct aspects to their sales process that was driven by their corporate culture.

So what I want you to first understand is because there is so much competition, you have to differentiate through culture. You need to live, breathe, eat, and speak that in everything you do that culture should be evident on your website and the sales experience and the customer experience and the employee experience. That culture needs to be loud and clear. So here at Bild & Co. we have a culture of empowerment. Every Bild trainer, consultant executive has the ability to make decisions. If you make a mistake, you do not get in trouble. We will teach you and educate you and help you to make a better decision next time. It’s a growth mindset. It’s go all out, fight for your clients. Our team knows that they live and breathe, that our clients experience that. What is the culture that you have that’s very evident and clear and everyone knows about you? As it comes to sales and marketing, do you have a sales culture?

What is it? And the second thing I want to say is in your role as CEO, you need to have time carved out every week to focus on sales and marketing. That means looking at the reports and the data, holding people accountable in the field. So whether it’s your regional directors of ops, your executive directors, your VPs, I’m not saying you have to micromanage it. You need to own it and hold those people responsible for executing accountable. And if they’re not hitting their goals, you’d have those tough conversations about what are the barriers and removing them and helping them to understand their own capabilities and then what capabilities you still need to achieve these goals, particularly in today’s environment. If you’re not hitting your goals right now, if you’re sitting at that 87.7% and you’re saying to yourself, well, at least I’m where everyone else is.

You’ve got to change that thinking. You should be sitting at 92, 93% because you know what? Your competitors have their guard down. They are being complacent. They are allowing excuses and paralysis to step in and take their power away. What do you need to do? You need to raise the bar. What is the occupancy, the revenue, the NOI you want to see? State it, claim it, give your people the tools, the ability to achieve those goals and you know what? So much of it starts with mindset. People are paralyzed right now. They’re focusing on what they can’t control versus what they can’t. I can’t do tours. I can’t do outreach. I can’t admit residents. What can they do? You could have a call to action on your website that says text here to schedule a virtual tour within the next two hours. Click here to reach me on my cell.

All of your referral sources should have that phone number as well to both the executive director, the sales person and the regional. Every referral should be able to reach you or someone on your team within literally an hour. There’s no excuses. Get rid of those reply emails that say I’m unavailable. We’re seeing them everywhere. It may take me 48 hours to get back with you. Basically, I’m busy. Really? Is this what you want to convey? Think about the message you’re sending.

Setting financial goals for your senior housing operation. No matter what level you’re in, whether you’re even a multifamily, maybe hospice, assisted living organization, independent. You could be in hotels and watching this, right? Student housing. We have one thing in common and that’s occupancy. Now, when I’m speaking about growing occupancy, I mean selling at market rate, rent that was established in order for you to meet your financial goals.

I’m not talking about meeting these goals through discounting, incentives. I mean building the value to sell at a rate where people would not even insult you enough to ask for a discount. I will tell you with very much confidence and pride, and if you’re a client of Bild, you know this, people don’t ask us for discounts. We build the value regarding our fee so that when we’re closing a sale, right? We’re helping somebody achieve their goals. They know what’s at stake and they would not dare to ask for a discount because it would be insulting and honestly we wouldn’t honor the discount because we know our value. Can your people say that? Raise the bar. The other thing is understand this, that if you have 20 communities with a hundred apartments and you’re serving 2,000 residents and you’re sitting at 87% occupancy, that means you have 260 vacant apartments and let’s just say your assisted living or average rent is $5,000 all in with rent, care, those services you’re billing for, that means that you’re losing $1.3 million a month and rental and care revenue, which is right about $15.6 million a year, so stop and think about that. This is lost revenue. Typically at this point, all of your margin is gone. If you’re at 90% anything above typically what go straight to the bottom line because you’re staffed up, you are fixed, costs are already absorbed and while no one likes to talk about this, especially if you’re the site level, just be prepared. You have investors who believe in you and have committed to fund the capital needed for you to do what you do. And when we’re sitting at 87.7% we are not meeting our financial obligations. And so now those businesses are being negatively affected and if you want to grow, they’re not going to have the confidence in your ability to deliver on your promise.

And here’s the thing, we have the ability, we have the product. We showed this in the great recession to thrive during this time. Even if you’re at 92% which is great, far above industry average, do not be complacent. You need to be at 96, 97.

Many of you know I wrote this book, Zero Lost Revenue Days. This is the second edition print. You can get this for free off my website at Bildandco.com. It’s under resources. There’s no reason for you to settle for less. I’m gonna repeat that. There’s no reason for you to settle for less. You are what you think you are. If you create the culture that inspires people to achieve the goals that you set before them to bind to their vision that you set, they’ll hit them.

Number one. Stop looking at what your competitors are doing. Look what then find your power. Then map out how you’re going to do it. So sales and marketing are not the same thing. Marketing is designed to generate leads, so marketing is all things website, which means SEO, positioning, key words, social media. It could be then your traditional, your direct mail, your print, collaterals, marketing are all of those fun, fancy, beautiful things that you spend $2,000 to $4,000 a month on to generate leads. Sales is what you do with those leads. The thing you want to look for here is conversions. At what rate are you converting your leads to move in? Less than 1% of those executives that we asked this question, what is your total tour to move in conversion can tell us and when they can tell us they have to dig deep down into some report. They have to ask somebody to send it to us. It usually takes about 48 hours, sometimes longer because number one either reporting is bad or their reporting is so complex that these numbers that are the key to their success is buried deep and they don’t know what they are. They have to find them.

So if you want to work smart, not hard, literally work less and produce more. You need to know your conversion ratios. So of the spend you’re making in marketing, what is your total contact to appointed or next step conversion. And the reason I’m saying this, it used to be what your total phone inquiry to tour conversion, but you should really break it down. What is your phone inquiry to tour conversion? What is your web inquiry to tour conversion? Then what is your total tour to move-in conversion? And yes, we can go deeper. The deposit total toward a deposit but to be honest. What I look at is what is your weekly traffic of that traffic, what are you converting into an appointment and today that would be a live FaceTime appointment. It could be an in person. If you’re doing this, it could be a home visit, so it’s appointment.

What is your then total appointment to move in conversion? How many outs do you have on a weekly basis? And then you can take this information and determine your conversions, your ins or outs. Plug it into what we call a revenue growth calculator. And you can download this calculator for free off my website, which I gave you earlier. Under resources, it’s a revenue growth calculator, it’s an Excel doc. You can plug these conversions in based on your individual community goals and it will tell you exactly how many leads, tours and move ins or sales you need a week to hit your targeted goals. So whether your goals set for 24 weeks, 52 weeks, you’ll plug these numbers in. It is the most simple tool you could ever implement to provide you with a concrete roadmap to hitting your occupancy revenue and NOI goals and all of that is in there.

There’s typically two tabs you can see based on these goals and how you’re performing, what is the valuation of your community compared to where you are now to where you want to be. Download that for free and what that will tell you is the answers that you as an executive or your site level executive director or site level sales person need to know to be successful. So what this also means is on the marketing side, if the calculator shows you, you need 12 leads a week, then think about your spend. So looking at your marketing spend and your ROI, where do you want to get those 12 leads a week from? That’s really important because if you’re driving those leads specifically to your website as compared to those leads from a referral source, a web lead is going to convert, but it’s going to take a lot longer. Whereas a referred lead is going to close about four times faster. They’re going to pay market rate rent because the trust was established before they came to you. The whole process is easier.

So looking at where is the traffic coming from that’s actually moving? Go back and have someone on your team do that leg work of the last 100 move ins, where have the actual market rate move in come from, what leads source? Start to put more time, energy and effort into that lead source, that investment. And at the same time, start to work with your sales people on their skillset, ensuring that your benchmarks are being hit. So for Bild & Co., our benchmarks are much higher than the industry because we have a high bar. So what does that mean? That means that your average inquiry to tour conversion should be at 60% minimum with a stretch goal. What we like to actually see is 75%. That means 75% of those people who are inquiring are actually moving to the next step in your sales process. So to a virtual tour, an onsite tour, and then we like to see a 50% total tour to move in. Now we realize many are going to land at 35% but with strong skillset building around finding needs, building value and really nurturing and working quality over quantity. You can get to 50% and you know what that means? One out of two is moving to your community because you built the value. That also means you can spend less on marketing. You don’t have to use third party paid referral sources that kill your bottom line. And by getting market rate rent and not using third party paid referral sources, you have margin. This is really important, especially during COVID, we have dramatically devalued the senior living space by discounting. It’s time we get back to speaking with confidence about what it is we do and why our rates are where they are and building the value so that people will pay and move to you.

And if they’re just wanting a deal, guess what? It’s your own fault. You’re not building the value and they’re just going to go where they can get the best price. And that’s just a fact. We want to raise the bar. We don’t want to look at our peers. So what if the industry is at 87.7? Put your bar 92, 93% and keep raising it. Don’t keep looking at what you have. I want you to look at the lost revenue because that’s going to create the pain that drives the motivation to find the solutions to hit the goals. If you see, oh my gosh, we are losing $1.3 million a month in lost revenue, you better post that where you can see that every day because that’s painful. What could you be doing if you recapture that, how much more staff could you hire? How much more capex could you put into your community? How much more growth could you be experiencing in your portfolio?

If you have a new development, you better be really paying attention to what I’m saying because if you open that community at 10% capacity, you are going to be bleeding cash and it does not have to be that way. Your roadmap to hitting your goals, you need to look every single day at your sales and marketing efforts. So if you’re an ED, a regional, a sales person, a CEO, an investor, the first thing I would do every morning is look at what’s happening within our business as it relates to sales and marketing. What are our goals? Where are we? How many vacant units do we have? I’d be sending a message out on video to my team, firing them up, letting our sales team, our department heads, our executive directors know the task at hand.

Hey, guess what? We have 260 vacant units. This means there’s 260 seniors sitting at home right now, isolated, unable to get to the grocery store, unable to get their hair done, unable to feel cared for, connected, and we could be helping them. Our mission is to cut this gap in half and recapture not just the revenue, but to fill those apartments with life, with souls, with people who we can change and make sure they know they are cared for. They are loved and they are safe.

Listen, this is a win win for everyone. We are in such an amazing business. We get to benefit and help our employees, our residents, our stakeholders, from our investors to the adult children. I’m an adult child. My mother needs assisted living and I’m working on it. What I’m saying is we have the ability to change people’s lives and when we do that, everybody wins.

I want you to number one, task your executive directors with being the sales leader at the site level and through these Bridge the Gap, sales and marketing podcasts. I’m going to be breaking down each month what they should be doing, but number one, they should be your onsite sales leader. The regional should support them, but the ED needs to own it and they need to be incentivized to own it as well as the sales person. And remember, you get what you pay for. If you’re hiring the cheapest sales person you can get because it’s in your budget, you’re going to be sitting at 87, 85, 75% occupied. You need to pay for quality. Do not be afraid to hire people from outside the industry, sales is sales. They can learn senior living and fall in love with it. Just like I did. Your ED needs to understand through their revenue growth calculator because they get that.

It’s simple. It’s easy, it’s not complex. Download that as soon as you’re done off my website, under resources. Plug in your goals. It’s very easy to fill out. Share it with your executive director. And if you don’t have time, have your executive director download it, fill it out, send it back to you and share with you what they’re going to do to move towards hitting their goals.

Then don’t tell people what to do to be successful. Show them how to do it. So if their calculator tells them they need 60 leads a week and 30 tours a week, guess what? To hit their goals in 24 weeks, it’s not going to happen. So be honest. This isn’t going to happen. But what the calculator will show you is that if they improve their skillset and grow their conversions, they’ll need half that. So do you want to work hard or do you want to work smart?

Do you want to continue to play games or do you want to be successful? The calculator is your truth. You’re going to show them the roadmap to achieve their goals to their revenue growth calculator. Then what you need to do is implement a sales system immediately for the inquiry process. So the first step is you need to be converting those inquiries at 60 to 75% to a confirmed next step and you need to have accountability around it. The ED needs to be at random pulling five to seven leads every morning to see if next steps were established. They need to be challenging your sales person. Tell me three things about this prospect that you learned that have nothing to do with statistics. What’s their story? What did they do in the past? What is their passion? What are their fears? What are their concerns? I don’t want to know their age, what levels of care they are. I want to know who they are.

When you start having those kinds of conversations, your conversions are going to grow and what is the next step in the process? The ED should be saying this every day. What’s the next step? How are you going to build value? They’re going to get tired of hearing. Well, I mean, the next step, I don’t know. You know, it’s COVID. Nobody wants to move and we can’t do tours. What can you control? What can you do? What are we going to do? Bring those leads to your daily stand up. Get the feedback of your nurses, of your dining staff, of your chefs, of maintenance. Your team is brilliant and when you tell the story. They become people with feeding hearts. This person has a soul and you know what? This individual be better here. So engage your team, engage your residents.

What can we do to build value to get this person to consider making a move to our community? When you start to care for people at that level and demonstrate it, stop looking at these leads as, Oh, I don’t know. Is this a hot lead, a cold lead? I don’t want to waste my time. I don’t know if they’re financially qualified. I mean, look at their zip code. Come on. This is not what we’re in business to do. So what if you waste your time? We don’t even want you to close every lead. We just want you to close 50% so half are going to be lost. Half you might refer to somebody else, but let’s still help them. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s get back to the heart of selling. Let’s remember why we’re in this business, but let’s be savvy. Let’s be smart.

Let’s drive it with data. Let’s use our revenue growth calculators. Let’s know our inquiry to tour or tour to moving conversions. Let’s know what our weekly averages of outs are. If I have 1.3 outs a week, well let me tell you four move ins, five move ins a month, that’s not enough. We’re just going to net zero. We’re not going to grow and right now for those of you watching, this should be your greatest concern is your attrition. If you are not building a pipeline of strong leads that you can move in now and in next quarter you are going to see your occupancy decline. 

And as we’re seeing in the industry and all the publications I’m reading, some are predicting, I’m scared to even say it cause I don’t believe it and I don’t buy it and I’m not falling for it. But I saw one publication where it said by as much as 50% that’s for people who are not fighting back.

You’re a Bridge The Gap follower, you are growth minded person. You’re going to learn, you’re going to step out of your comfort zone. This is your time to thrive. And my big belief is it’s not what happens. It’s how you respond to what happens. So what if you had to learn to do everything differently?

Call on your leaders, raise them up and ask for their help. Give them the tools they need to do their job and empower them to grow in their own mindset. You’ve got this, we can do this. Don’t tell people what to do. Show them how to do it. Know your numbers. Trust the numbers. Hold people accountable to hitting expectation, incentivize them to hit expectations. Get back to the heart and the soul of what it is we do. And stop pre-qualifying. Challenge people to work smart, not hard to grow those conversions.

Remember that it’s not what happens. It’s how you respond.

What I’m doing today is I’m setting the tone for my monthly sales and marketing podcast. Today is really just a high level overview so you can get to know me, what is my style, what type of content am I going to deliver you. In every session going forward, we’re going to have one focus and we’re going to really deep dive into it, so it might be your website, it might be how to actually grow those conversions. We’re going to talk about referral outreach and how to move away from third-party paid referral agencies, which are taking your first month’s rent. We’re going to be looking at how to create sales gurus within your executive directors. We’re going to look at data and how to simplify it. I’m a big believer and my life’s mission the last 20 years literally has been to work smart, not hard, work less, produce more because guess what?

I love my life and I love my work, but I also want time for my family and my hobbies and my passions. And so do you. And so do your people.

So working people, their fingers to the bone is not the answer. It’s helping them strike a balance to merge their passion with their skillset to serve the people they care most about, to make their jobs fulfilling and helping them fall in love with their jobs again. And that is the favorite quote I hear from people who follow Bild & Co. at the site level. They say, fallen in love with my job again, and I want to help you make that happen. I will be coming back to you with Bridge the Gap once a month, contributing as much as I can from my mind and 20 years of really doing nothing but sales and marketing in the seniors housing and care space.

And if you’re ready to grow and learn, I am going to fill your mind with possibility. And I want you to know that whatever you set your mind to, whatever position you’re in, sales, executive director, regional ops, regional sales, VPs, CEO, owner, operator, investor, you’ve got this. Do not lower the bar. Be true to yourself. Write those goals down, own them, and get ready to go on the journey of a lifetime. This is Tracy Bild with Bridge the Gap. I will see you next month.

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CW Ep. 2: Sales & Marketing