If you’re scratching your head wondering what “Cue the Deer” could possibly mean – we promise it will all make sense if you keep on reading. Debbie Howard of Senior Living Smart has offered up her 15 years of marketing and sales experience in the senior living space to help you create the perfect tour experience.
The movie “Funny Farm” with Chevy Chase should be required viewing as part of senior living sales training. When Chase’s character, Andy Farmer, and his wife struggle to sell their country home after a not so idyllic experience of rural living, they decide to enlist the help of an eclectic cast of characters from the community to create the perfect experience for a hot lead with a “scheduled tour.”
What We Can Learn From Funny Farm
Everything is planned down to the most minute detail – from ducks waddling along as they arrive, to a deer prancing across the yard, to the perfectly staged home setting and refreshments – even the yellow dog. It all unfolds perfectly with the help of the entire town! Nothing is left to chance – the deer had been caged and as the “prospects” arrived, Andy Farmer gave the command into his radio to waiting helpers “cue the deer” at just the right moment.
The couple that were “touring” were so taken by the experience, that they offered more than the asking price, closed on the spot and because everything was so perfect, they even wanted all of the furniture, dishes and yes, even the yellow dog. A well planned tour of a senior living community can have the same effect with families choosing the community that is the best fit and where their loved one will be comfortable. When this happens, there is less price sensitivity because the family sees and appreciates the value. I have had many situations where the family wants to purchase the entire model apartment because it is so warm and inviting!
Create the Perfect Tour Experience
Here are some quick tips for how your community team can create a “Cue the Deer” experience.
1. Do thorough discovery to learn about the prospect’s life story.
The more you know, the more personal of an experience you can create. Ask about interests, hobbies, careers, military service, favorite foods/books/movies/music, family, routines, “must haves” and “non-negotiables.” For example, with my mother, the community must serve tea in a teapot – heaven help the server who shows up with a tea bag in a cup and tries to pour water over it and call it “tea!”
2. Use the discovery information to plan the tour and use your team.
There are some easy personal touches that the team can execute such as having a welcome sign at the reception desk with their name, having the favorite refreshments served in the hospitality room or dining room if they are staying for a meal, schedule a favorite activity for the time of the visit, plan introductions to key staff and similar residents, have the favorite music playing in the model apartment or a book by the favourite author on the bed stand – if they are a cat lover, buy a stuffed cat for the bed and hang a “welcome home” sign around their neck.
3. Have a personalized gift at the end of the tour – something especially for them.
Some common themes can be kept on hand (tea/coffee lovers basket; dog/cat lovers selections; photo books of local towns; spiritual books/ journals etc.) and others can be purchased prior to the visit if it is something specific (the latest book by a favourite author).
4. Do things that your competitors are not doing.
For instance, put out a valet parking sign in advance of the tour (if they can’t find a parking spot or have to park far away, you will have your first strike against you); meet the tour personally at the car – what a great first impression; have umbrellas and wheelchairs handy; have cold water at the ready on hot days; serve refreshments in glassware & china not Styrofoam and paper; offer homemade not bought goodies and finally, walk every visitor out to their car for the final personal touch.
About the Author
Deborah Howard has more than 20 years of experience in sales and marketing with the last 15 years dedicated to the senior living industry. Working through the ranks from community level sales, to a regional director, a divisional vice president and most recently a national vice president with the fifth largest senior living company in the United States has given her a unique perspective and skill set. Having worked in both the privately held and publicly owned arenas, Deborah has come to believe that the best interests of the residents are served by the responsive, high-touch accessibility best provided by independent operators of all sizes.