Traci Bild, CEO of Bild & Co., shares how in our senior living sales & marketing communication, we’ve got it all wrong. Traci provides 5 steps to transform your communication in a sales and marketing role.
Welcome to Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m Traci Bild. Today, we are talking about one of my favorite topics: communication. And being that this is a sales and marketing podcast, we’re going to dive in how to utilize communication in your sales and marketing efforts. But of course, I’m also going to tie in how to use it when engaging with employees, family members, friends, or any situation where communication can dramatically improve your life. So since I was a kid, I loved to talk and I’m a big believer that we need to help people to find their gifts, especially our children. And I talked to my children about this all the time, but when I was young and in school, I always was sent home with report cards that said, Tracy talks too much. You’re not surprised are you? And I remember always being ashamed about this, but today it’s how I make my living.
It’s how I influence people’s lives. And most importantly, how I change lives. What I’m most proud of though, as an adult about this, is that what I’ve done is not learn to talk so much, I’ve learned to listen, to really pay attention to the details of what people are saying in the conversation. And it’s those details, I feel that have dramatically impacted my ability to change lives. So in this podcast today, this is going to help you, not only in your sales and marketing efforts and your real estate quests in your senior living quest, your sales quest, whatever it is, your focus is on, but it’s also going to help you with your relationships with your spouse, your significant others, your children, your friends, your employees. So get ready. This is going to be a fun podcast that you can really wrap your arms around and bring dramatic change with.
So, first of all, I want to say, it’s not about you. So I’m going to repeat this. It’s not about you. And one of the things that I’ve seen that many companies get wrong is that it’s always about them. So if you go to the website, if you listen in on a sales discovery phone call, an interview, a conversation with an employee that’s maybe being disciplined, it’s always about the company, right? And what I want you to understand is that when you make it about them, so that person you’re speaking with that prospective buyer, that employee, everything changes. And I was yesterday on a walk with my daughter, Paris, who is 16, so she’s going to be a senior. And she was talking to me about anime. So you probably know what that is. It’s just really popular with teenagers, middle schoolers. And we were about 45 minutes into the walk.
I remember thinking, wow, she’s really into this anime. And I kind of wanted to change the topic, but I realized it’s not about me. It’s about her. And if I keep letting her talk, I’m going to learn a lot about her and her friends. And so I just let go of my discomfort. And by the end of the walk, about 90 minutes later, it was very interesting because she wasn’t really talking about anime. She was talking about the specific characters that really appealed to her in the anime series or comics. She was telling me about the anime character her brother, Noah loves, the one her best friend Jacob loved and what it was that was interesting about those characters and their personalities and their gifts and the meaning behind anime. And I really learned a lot about my daughter that I didn’t know in this conversation and what it allowed me to do was better relate to her for her to trust me more with sharing her heart. Right?
It was just a simple conversation, but when I was tempted to transform the conversation and something that was maybe a little more interesting to me, I didn’t do it. I stayed the course and let her talk. And instead, I got very curious and I started asking her lots of great questions. So what is it you like about anime? What is it that you find interesting about that character? Why does Jacob like that character and my son, Noah, why does he like that character? Why do they have these gifts and how did these gifts work? And what does that mean? The conversation was really enlightening and interesting. And most importantly, I felt bonded with my daughter in a different way. So I want to start with reminding you that sales is really about communication. Marketing is all about communication. And the one thing that you want to do is, after this podcast, stop and look at everything you’re doing in your organization and your sales and marketing in your executive leadership in your employee leadership and ask yourself, is the message really about you or is it about them and what they want in a career or in a senior living community or in a multifamily community or in a real estate asset?
What is it that the individuals that are your stakeholders, we need to stop and think about, what is it that they want. And we need to really listen. And today I’m going to give you five steps to transform your communication and simplify everything you do so you can work smart, not hard. And my favorite aspect of business, work less and produce more. So you have a better quality of life and something that is irreplaceable, more time. Now, some of you want to work really long and really hard. You go right ahead. The people that resonate with my message, our systems, our process, the infrastructure we built out with our clients, our students, our investors, it’s all about the shortcut because I truly believe in my heart and my soul that we can do what we do very efficiently, very quickly and very well. If we model success and we have really great systems.
So when we fail to listen, we fail to connect. And that in itself has incredible consequences. So whether you’re a CEO, a CFO, an executive director, a sales and marketing director, or general manager, a VP, an owner, an asset manager, and investor, a developer, an intern, this podcast has the ability to transform your life. So let’s get started. So I’m going to start and share five steps that will transform your sales and marketing as well as your life communication. So whether you’re a manager, whether you’re vetting your next real estate asset, whether you are a CEO, engaging with your executive leadership team and a retreat, the first thing I’m going to advise you, number one, be curious. And what that means is ask lots of questions. And when that temptation comes for you to make it about you or your company and how great it is and your mission and your communities or your ideas, just bite your tongue, make it about them.
So when that urge strikes, ask another question. And what you’ll find is when you really understand the power of curiosity in all aspects of your life, whether you’re on a date with your significant other or wife or husband, whether you’re in an interview with a prospective employee, what’s your zone of genius? What are you really good at that would benefit our organization? Why are you good at that? How do you think that would impact our company? How did you discover you are good at that? Why are you passionate about that gift? That’s what I mean, by being curious, and that example, it was just interviewing an employee. And when you’re curious and you’re asking lots of open ended questions, it shows people that you’re interested in them and what people want more than anything else is to know they matter. From your spouse to your employee, to your prospect, to your dog, right?
They all want you to make eye contact and to make it about them. They want your attention. They want to know that they matter, whether they are two years old, 20 years old or 90 years old, the one thing every person has in common, including you is they want to know they matter. So when building out the infrastructure for your company, whether you’re developing a new multifamily platform or active adult platform, whether you have one that’s already flourishing with 20 or 50 assets. Your company’s mission needs to be all about the customer, the employee, and being curious and understanding and doing deep dives and focus groups into what it is they want. But then the second step that so many people miss that they just don’t connect the dots on is; when you are curious, and you’re asking lots and lots of open ended questions, and I’ll be honest.
The more curious you are upfront and any type of discovery process, the shorter the cycle is of learning if this individual is a fit, if this prospective buyer is a fit. It just cuts everything in half because it puts all the cards on the table. So the second step is to actively listen. So what I mean by that is not being afraid to have a notepad out in front of you and say, Hey, do you mind if I just take notes while we talk? It’s okay, it makes people feel important. So whether you’re in a sales environment, an interview environment, you’re in at an executive retreat, I always whip out my notepad and I say, Hey, do you mind if I just take notes because I don’t want to miss anything. Think about that. How does that make people feel? So what you want to do is actively listen, and then ask more questions to expand on what you’re hearing.
So if I’m in a sales environment and I’m saying, so what really is a deciding factor as it relates to your move? And they say, well, location is really important. Don’t just move on to the next question. Be curious, be interested. So when you say location, what is it specifically about the location that’s important to you? Why is that so important? Well, I actually work full time still, I actually still have a teenager in the home. My husband is disabled and really depends on me. So not only do I need to be able to get to the community very quickly, but I need to be able to get back home or to my office. And all of that is here within a five mile radius. So it’s important that I be able to visit my mom as frequently as possible. And if she’s far away, I just know I’m not going to be able to do that.
So location really, really is important to me because I want to be present for all these people I love. Okay, I understand. Hey, what kind of business do you have? So keep being curious. And I always say drill down until there’s nothing else to learn about that specific topic area, because it paints a picture and helps you understand who this person is. Because what we really are as people is we are made up of stories. We ourselves could have a book all about our individual lives. And when we understand someone’s story, it really differentiates us from any other individual that that employee might go work for, or that that perspective might buy or might buy from, or that investor might invest in, or that individual might marry. We need to actively listen. And when I do just a little trick is when I’m taking notes, I circle hot buttons, interesting facts or ideas that I learned about that individual, that company, that investor, that prospective employee, because those are buttons.
I want to come back and push later and expand upon. So I’m curious, I’m actually listening. I’m drilling into the details and I’m not rushing. It’s really important that when you are engaging in a conversation with someone that you give yourself twice as much time, as you think you will need, otherwise you will be guilty of rushing them. We have a whole research division here at Bild. And one of the things we find when we are doing a competitive mystery shops to better understand the buyer experience and how it makes them feel, or to understand how we might turn a company’s training program around and rebuild it from A to Z, with their culture, with, you know, their mission in mind. We always do a series of shops because we want to understand how their current process is making people feel so we can bridge the gap to how it’s currently making them feel and how we want to make them feel because there’s typically a huge disconnect.
And the one thing we find is that most people are rushed. Whether it’s in the inquiry process, whether it’s an employee with an interview, it’s always rushed. And that makes them feel unimportant. Whenever I schedule an actual call with someone that is looking to utilize, build and code services. Now, if they’re opting in on the website and they are scheduling time with me, it’s going to be a 15 minute block because people are busy. But in my calendar, I always block out an hour because I know that I need to really dig in because the surface never tells us much. So I’ve been with Dave since I was 21. And well, it’s been a long time, but if I was going on a date, if you’re going on a date, we never really get to know someone just by scratching the surface. We need to tear in and go way beyond the surface.
And it’s really important that we have the time to do that because when we make that time up front, we can save ourselves a lot of time on the backend. So it’s so important, and I want to really say when you’re being curious and you’re asking questions, another sidebar is make sure those questions aren’t yes or no. This is our natural tendency. So do you like to travel? Does your mom live at home? Do you still work? Does she drive? Is she ambulatory? Okay, stop. We can’t learn anything from yes or no questions. And if you stop and you listen to the conversations taking place in your organization across all platforms, they are majority yes or no. And then at most there’s typically three questions before people go into their spiel. So what you want to transition your culture to, and it takes a lot of time, energy, and effort.
And if it was easy, everyone would do it. You want to transition into a culture of curiosity, where people are trained to ask at minimum 10 open ended questions. This is so much harder than you think. And to actually change adult behavior and get them to shift a lifelong habit of asking two to three questions and going for boom, a close. Compared to being really curious and in the moment and actively listening and asking 10, 12, 13 questions that are open ended. It takes some time to shift those habits, to break old habits and instill new ones. But you know what happens when you can do that? People fall in love with their jobs. Again, they remember why they got into the business. They’re in, they remember why they love sales or why they love being a leader. Because when you listen, you find people are really interesting and you have amazing stories and they’re individual.
It’s like a zebra. No zebra has the same two stripes. Well, people are the same. So if I’m in a sales environment, I want to be asking, so what was it that made you decide to start this search today? And when did you know it was really time because I imagine you’ve thought about this for a while. And what made you decide specifically to call us? And what’s really going to be most important to you about this? And how does your loved one that you’re looking for feel about this? And can I ask what makes you nervous about this decision?
And I know this is kind of a bold question, but I want you to be honest, what’s your greatest fear? How are you going to address this with the family? Because we find this to be a kind of sensitive topic with family members. How are you going to fund this? What ultimately do you want to see changed in your mom’s life? Once this move is made and it’s a year down the road and she’s what 87 now. So she’s 88. It’s been a year. She’s been living in a community. What do you want to see for her in her life? What transformation are you looking for? And what do you want to see changed your life? What do you want to see change within the complexities of the family dynamic around your mom and the caregiving that’s been taking place and the stressors and the fighting that you’ve told me about. What do you want to see different? How do you visualize your family’s life a year from now? Now I could go on and on, because even as I was roleplaying, I was visualizing someone like, well I was actually visualizing my own mother. Okay. So be curious. You can never ask enough questions actively. Listen, when you hear something and you think what’s that mean? Or wonder why. Ask.
Okay. And then when you were doing all this, what happens is empathy naturally arises. And what we find here at Bild and Co, it was in our last blog this week. So if you go to the Bild and Co website and you go to the week of June 11th in our blogs, we have some statistics, but we found it was over 60% of the recent mystery shops we did last week, there was no empathy whatsoever from the sales person. It’s hard to be empathetic when you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, because you didn’t care to ask or drill into the details and you don’t understand the story. And all you know is they’re 89, they’re being released from a hospital and they need to find an assisted living community. Yeah okay. Well, facts and figures, man, let me tell you our pricing. Everything changes when the person becomes real and then that empathy naturally comes forth and is demonstrated in the conversation.
It’s natural and empathy by nature in the sales process will drive urgency as it relates to the next step. Now, before you go to that next step, the third aspect I want to share with you behind being curious, actively listening is always summarizing what you’ve heard. And this is also why it’s really important to have a notepad in front of you. I also believe that when you take notes, it imprints what you’re hearing on your mind. And then when you circle those hot buttons, it reinforces it in your mind because the third step of summarizing what you heard, allows you to gain clarity with the individual you’re speaking to. It allows them most importantly, to hear back what they shared with you. And in my 25 years of developing training programs for companies, what we have really helped people to understand is that most people, whether prospective buyers, that adult child, that actual senior, that tenants, that employee, that investor, they don’t even know what it is they want.
They know they want something, they know what they need, and they know the general rec direction, but they don’t really know what it is they want. And when you drill in, it’s almost like a therapy session, you force them to stop for a moment and think very deeply about the specific topic, the company they want to work for, the community they want to work for, the type of community they want to develop, the community they want to invest in whatever that stay quarter is. And when you recap what you heard, it brings clarity to them. And it’s like, I call it the Jerry McGuire moment. You’re going to see this in the minute. A moment when we recap it’s that you had me at hello moment. Oh my gosh. And people say to you, how did you know that? Well, you just told me, but what you’re implying is I listened and it floors people and it creates incredible loyalty and a deep bond that no amount of money can buy.
So what I mean by recapping is after I’m in this conversation, I’m being curious and asking questions. I’m actively listening, I’m interested, truly interested. And it’s what makes me love my job. Here’s the CEO of Bild & Co., and I get paid to listen to executives problems, and then I have to figure out how to solve them. But it’s my gift. It’s what I love. And it is for me, my passion. So when you’re summarizing, you might say, and I’ll just do it from my own perspective and my company. So what I’m hearing you say is that you have a portfolio of 25 communities. They are spread across about eight different geographies. And with the complexities that we’re facing today with high turnover, not only in staff, but residents and the complexities that COVID have brought to the operation, to the high attrition, the lackluster lead volume and the inability of your sales staff to get people to do really strong virtual tours or onsite tours in the volume need to really build a pipeline for high volume of move-ins.
You’ve experienced a lot of stress. So you’re worried, number one, that you’re going to literally not have a company that’s viable in a year because the attrition is so high, it’s offsetting the ends, you’re negative, and your occupancy has dramatically dropped in for you right now. It’s really at a record, low, lower than you’ve ever seen, including during the great recession. And that is really creating a lot of havoc in your mind, within the executive team and a lot of stress with your investors. Is that correct? Yeah. So you’ll notice when I said, is that correct? I’m stopping to let that individual CEO or executive understand and absorb what I’ve just said, because for many of them they’re so in the weeds and they’re working in the business that they’re never working on it, they don’t have time to think because they’re surviving.
And when you’re able to help someone process, that’s the Jerry Maguire moment, like, yes, yes, you had me at hello, let’s keep talking. Right. But it’s the same, whether it’s that prospective employee, you’re trying to recruit that resident. You’re trying to move in, that investor you’re trying to get to buy into your vision. It doesn’t matter. We’re all people, and this is about communication and what people want is to be heard. So they’re not going to really know you heard them or that you understand them. And you’re not able to convey that empathy if you don’t recap. So, number three is you want to respond in your own words, to what you heard and feel free to look at that, you know, what you wrote down and circled on the paper. And if you’re on the phone, this is really critical because most people are unable to convey empathy over the phone or emotion.
There’s all business over the phone, but this system I’m teaching you will allow you to do it in person or over the phone. And quite honestly, over email or text. And today in our environment, you may be great in person because you can show body language, and you know, you’re a very professional in-person. But what’s missing and the huge disconnect in most sales processes right now is people are horrible over the phone. They just can’t demonstrate the empathy over the phone like they do in person. And this system will help you to change it. So number four is after you do this. So after you recap and you confirm, is that correct? And even after you say, is that correct? I highly advise you to keep recapping. And what you also said is important to you is that whatever you do, it needs to be reinforced by your mission and your culture, because it’s so important to you.
And it needs to be something that reaches every level of the organization from the line staff in the kitchen and the servers to the maintenance guy, to the sales person, to the executive director, to the concierge, because people need to know they matter, and we need to be able to get them to come see whether it’s virtually or in person, how amazing our community and our mission is. And that’s what’s going to drive your occupancy, your revenue and your operating income. But it all has to work together strategically for your company from top to bottom to impact the culture so that you can ultimately impact the perspective resident and the business as a whole. Is that correct? Yes. So that’s how I might recap, but I would also go a lot deeper, but I’m limited on time here, but the next step, step four is you always have to move people to the next step in whatever it is you are doing.
So whether it’s in the sales process and you’re on the phone, you want to move them to the next step, which is right now, walking them through the community and doing a personalized virtual tour with them, walking with you, stop doing the can tour, make it personal. Don’t just send those videos out. You’re missing out on the opportunity to connect. If it’s with a perspective employee that you really, really need and want. What’s the next step in the process? Let’s walk them through the community. Let’s introduce them to staff. What’s the next step with the prospective investor? What is the next step on your website? They’re there? What do you want them to do? What’s the next step? What is the call to action that I can do right now? Is there a number I can text to get a virtual tour right now? Because I like what I’m seeing.
If not, I don’t know what to do. So I’m just going to leave your site. We’re going to hang up. You must always be the expert and guide people to the next step in the process. And I want you to get used to whether an executive director, a CEO, a sales person, you always want to say, so the next step is if you’ve ever been on the phone with me, you know, I always say, so the next step is, and when we do that, we’re able to lock it down right now in our calendars. So I don’t have to chase you down via email tats. Remember I want to work smart, not hard. In every conversation, there needs to be a clearly defined next step. I don’t care if it’s a text, an email, a phone call or on the website. What is the next step?
So when doing that, you’re not asking, you’re advising. So the next step is we really need to walk you through the community. Now, as you know, our state’s still on lockdown. So I can do that virtually. And we can schedule that for another time for you and your mother to do together. Or I can walk you through right now on a virtual tour and just show you some of the highlights of the community based on what you said is important. And then I think actually might really appeal to you, which would work better. No, let’s do that right now. So it’s not, do you want to take a virtual tour? Do you, what about it? What is the next step? I can go ahead Marjorie and answer more questions. Or if you’d like, since we’ve been talking and you’ve seen the community I can go ahead and answer the questions or I can take your deposit and we can start talking about how we’re going to decorate your mom’s apartment, to get her really excited about this next stage of her life.
Which would you prefer? Now you’ll notice I’ve embedded here, step five, an option of two. You don’t want to complicate matters. People are busy. They can’t think there’s a lot going on. Never say so. Do you think this is something you might want to do? Or does this seem like a company you might want to work for? Or can you see yourself living here? That’s a yes or no, and it doesn’t really move us forward. So an option of two, what might work best today or tomorrow? Would you like to see this community or that community? Both are about within seven miles of you and both would be ideal and we’re hiring at both locations we could see which would be a better cultural fit for you as a next step in your career. What might work better? I have Tuesday or Thursday, but let’s go ahead and lock in our next call right now so we don’t have to chase each other down. I know you probably get a lot of emails. I can do morning or afternoon either day. What works for you? So close it, put a bow around it. Now, not later. These five steps are transforming to your sales process, your hiring process, your employee engagement process. I’ve used these strategies for 25 years and changed companies all around the globe and across all industries. Now I’ve been specifically in the senior living and healthcare space for 20 years. It is my passion, but whether you are in multifamily, active adult, senior living, whether you’re still in college and you’re planning your next step. If you learn this now, whether you’re 25, 55 or 75, this will take your career, your business, your life, your marriage, to a whole nother level, it’s communication. And it’s a heart of what we teach and do, and build programs around here at Bild and Co. What are the outcomes you can expect when you learn this process?
It’s really a system of being curious, actively listening, responding to summarize, to confirm you heard correctly and reinforcing for people. What they didn’t even realize. They knew that was in their heart and their mind, but nobody would ever ask them. You locked in next steps. And you offered a clue to option two, to get them to the next step. It just creates loyalty because no one else is doing this. Become observant of the conversations you’re in. You’ll notice nobody listens. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a party or a staff meeting or a zoom meeting, people don’t listen. They’re interested in themselves. They talk about themselves. They talk about their companies, their staff, who they are, what they do, people are not listening. And that’s why when you do it, it’s not about who has the cheapest or best or most innovative product, they’re buying you.
You want loyalty. You want to cut your sales cycle in half. You want to get your pipeline full for 2021. You want to lease up your property, stop making it about you and make it about them. You can have the most loyal, efficient staff, the most producing salesforce, if you stop making it about you. It will demonstrate loyalty because you care about them. You’re empathetic, you’re listening and it sets you apart and it creates raving fans. And the best part is your life will be enriched and you realize just like I have in my journey over the last 20 years of always working to get better at listening, is that what people have to say is pretty interesting, it’s pretty important. And you will be inspired more passionate about life. You’ll be more in love with your job than you’ve ever been. And I know people always say to me, gosh, you’re so passionate.
You have so much energy because what I find every day, my job is all about meeting new people, helping new people, solving problems. And the only way I can do that is learning about their problem, learning about them, their companies, their staff, their mission. And it keeps me excited because life is so interesting when we care to listen. I hope you found this podcast helpful today. I want to say thank you as always to the team at Bridge the Gap for allowing me to get my message out to you. And if you stay the course, this whole podcast, thank you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being here for this week’s Bridge the Gap contributor Wednesday. You can find me at bildandco.com. And you can also find more information at Bridge the Gap. All right, this is Traci Bild signing out. Thank you!