Kristin Hambleton


Today’s sales counselors are working with baby boomers, whether they’re the potential resident or the adult child searching for their parent. Either way, it’s a different world in senior living sales.  

Boomer buyers are far more educated about senior living communities than previous generations. They’re spending countless hours on the internet exploring their options before they fill out your contact form on your website. They know what your community is about before walking through your door.  

The last thing they need is a regurgitation of the information on your website in the form of a long boring sales pitch. Your buyer wants details. They want to know if your community fits their lifestyle.  

Here are seven valuable tips for selling to seniors

Tip #1: Build trust

Your prospect is going to spend a large portion of their net worth both on the Entrance Fee and ongoing Monthly Fee. Make sure they know they matter to you and your organization. They need to know you care about them, their family, and their interests. Because if they get the sense you don’t care now, they won’t believe you’ll care when they’re no longer independent.  

Selling in senior living is one of the most relational, consultative selling situations you’ll ever encounter. To be successful it is imperative that you are your most authentic self and you build a relationship as a trusted advisor to your prospective resident and their family members. Your job is far less about selling and much more about listening to the needs and desires of your customer and then helping them discover whether your community matches those needs and desires. To earn trust you need to use active listening to hear why they’re searching, what they’re looking for, and how they plan to get there.  

Tip# 2:  No fear tactics

Don’t use fear tactics to scare them into coming to your community. In senior living, it’s so easy to look at a prospect and sell based on the possibility of an uncertain future. I’ve heard plenty of people ask questions like “What will you do if your health fails?”; “What happens if you fall again?”; “Who’s going to take care of you when you can’t take care of yourself?”

Don’t use fear of failing health, loss of loved one, or any other type of ploy to make a sale. You won’t win sales that way, and you certainly won’t earn trust.

When your prospect starts talking about their mother who was in a nursing home and how horrible an experience it was, do not ask “What are you going to do if your health fails and you need a nursing home?”  Instead, lead with something like “That must have been awful.  How has that affected you?” 

The latter questioning builds trust, shows genuine concern, and is an affirmation of their beliefs. You want to draw the prospect in, not push them away.  

Tip #3:  Shut up  

That’s right, simply be quiet. It’s hard for sales people (I’m one of them) to just shut up.  We are so interested in selling, that we often vomit features and benefits all over our prospect without having heard what is important to them. I’m not talking about the day spa, although that’s a nice feature.  

Instead of talking, we need to do what is most difficult and just listen. You would be amazed what happens when you don’t fill the air with the sound of your voice every time your prospect pauses to take a breath

When it is your turn to talk, you don’t want to spend your time listing off all the wonderful features and benefits of your community. Instead, you want to redirect back to them.  

Get them talking with statements such as; “Tell me why that’s important to you”; or “Tell me more” and then, you guessed it…. Shut up.  The silence seems deafening, and you think you’re about to blow it, but then, after what seems to be an eternity (in reality, probably only 10-15 seconds), the prospect starts to divulge.   

I remember working once with a couple who was visiting from Arizona. The first thing they said in our meeting was “We want a villa.”  This was an immediate red flag because our community had a 7-10 year wait for a villa. I could have told them and that would have ended the appointment right there. Instead, I asked them about their home in Arizona.  

They spoke in=depth about the natural light, the open floorplan, and their southwestern artwork they wanted to be able to display in their new home.

After they spoke about everything from their four highly successful kids, to how much they loved their home in Arizona, I let them know we didn’t have any villas. They didn’t think an apartment would give them what they were looking for. I requested they suspend their belief in what they wanted and asked them to look at two apartments.  If they didn’t like them, we agreed they would move on to the next community and we would part ways knowing they at least looked. They obliged.  

The next day they put a deposit on one of the apartments. Today, their beautiful southwestern art is proudly displayed in their home, and the natural light from their corner apartment is everything they wanted.  And yet, it wasn’t what they asked for, or thought they wanted, when they walked in the door.  

Had I not stayed quiet and tried to overcome the lack of a villa with other community features and benefits, I would never have seen them again. They already knew what amenities we had to offer. What they didn’t know, was that the apartment was going to be home they’d fall in love with and couldn’t live without.  Staying silent made all the difference.   

Tip #4: Do not leave nuggets on the table

So, you’ve done all the above and your prospect is really opening up. They’re doing the vast majority of the talking and you’re truly listening. All of a sudden they drop a big golden nugget of information on the table.  One that could really position you as a trusted advisor and help you steer them to depositing at your community if you play it right. And then… you ignore it. You got scared and didn’t want to probe, push, or get personal.  

The most successful sales counselors are successful because they have become trusted advisors. They ask tough questions when appropriate. This is the time to begin asking difficult questions, assisting your prospect in the often-difficult journey of moving from their treasured home to a community.  When they begin to reveal, you need to explore with them what they’re telling.

Tip #5:  Share resident stories

Your prospective resident wants to know they aren’t in this alone. Sharing a story about another resident’s journey helps to make your prospect feel more secure. It lets them know you can relate to them and what they’re thinking. Your prospects also want to feel a connection to your community and its current residents.  

There’s no better way to do that than to share stories about the people living there. Feel free to brag about the people that make up the community. Boast about their accomplishments, volunteering, camaraderie, and how much they treat each other like a family. The impact is far more reaching than selling features like well-manicured grounds and fitness centers.

Tip #6: Be open to negotiations

Prospects today on the surface seem to be ultra-demanding.  They want what they want, when they want, and they’re mostly okay with paying to get their way.  This is (mostly) on the surface.  People want to make their residences their home. They want the option to upgrade, customize, and have the same luxuries and amenities in their apartments that they had in their homes.  It’s okay to negotiate with the prospect and be open to allowing some latitude with renovations and fixtures.  

Communities used to be wary of offering too many choices. Today’s consumer wants choice. Most people are willing to pay the expense for the extras they’re looking for. If your community doesn’t have to foot the bill for it, you’ve gone a long way to make something happen for someone, and allow them to make your apartment/cottage truly feel like home. Letting prospects know you’re willing to work with them is a strong selling point for communities.  

Tip #7:  Maintain the relationship after the move in

Remember, you’re not just at work, you’re in someone’s home. You will run into your prospects (who are now residents) at the dining room, in the hall, or in the lobby. This whole trust and relationship thing better be solid.  

Resident referrals are the best leads you can get. They close faster and are better qualified than most of the other leads you receive through marketing campaigns. They typically have already been sold on the community by the resident and often have already visited their friend’s new home.  

As a sales counselor, your job is to maintain and further cultivate the relationship after the move-in.  

Kristin Hambleton is the vice president of business development at Continuum CRM.