At A Place for Mom (APFM) we’re honored to work with thousands of the best senior living providers in the US and Canada. The Fountains at Franklin in Southfield, Michigan is consistently one of APFM’s top-performing partner communities. Rhandi Smith and Porshea Coleman, two superstars of Watermark Retirement Communities, work closely with our Senior Living Advisors (SLAs) to help families referred by APFM find their new home at The Fountains at Franklin. Rhandi and Porshea were gracious enough to share some best practices and “don’ts” that have helped them master working with families looking to move into a senior living community.
1. Don’t think of your position as a “sales” job.
“It’s about being able to connect and people understanding that we’re not just there to make a sale.”
It’s difficult to connect with people if you’re always thinking about the next step in the sales process and how you can get them there. It takes you out of the moment and what you’re there to do: build a relationship with this family. Each person is different, and when you’re truly connecting with them and learning about their family, you will know what their next step needs to be (tour, open house, respite, etc).
2. Don’t rely on your database.
“Without the database, Rhandi and I remember each family and pretty much everything about them.”
While your CRM may help you organize your leads and stay on top of your daily tasks, it shouldn’t be a crutch. If you notice that you are using your database to remind yourself of the personal details of each family, it might be a sign that you’re not fully connecting at a personal level. Take some time with the family to discuss shared experiences; it will help you to retain more information about them.
3. Don’t hide who you are.
“We make each family feel comfortable so we don’t seem like this scary professional. We actually discuss our own lives.”
Watermark Retirement Communities encourages its team members to be themselves. Rhandi and Porshea believe that they’re selling a friendship between the community staff and the family. They talk about their own lives, relate to families through shared experiences, and make sure that families know they can come to them with questions about the (sometimes confusing) senior living industry.
4. Don’t forget the A Place for Mom Senior Living Advisor.
“We have gotten it down to a science where I feel like we’re coworkers. It’s a great relationship.”
Rhandi mentioned that she speaks to Paul Flancbaum, Senior Living Advisor (SLA) in Detroit, Michigan, almost every day. She and Porshea make sure to confirm with the SLA that they’ve received the lead and update the SLA when the family has toured or moved in. In return, the SLA makes sure to inform Rhandi and Porshea when APFM has an update. It’s a relationship built over time, but keeping those lines of communication open will put you on your way to a productive partnership.
5. Don’t forget the big picture.
“People forget that if you’ve done your job, and the family has a great experience, they’ll share with their friends and family.”
Each person you work with will remember how you made them feel throughout the whole process. Whether it’s being patient with them through several tours or explaining why a different community might be a better option for them, the family will remember you in a positive light and possibly become a referral source for you in the future. Being patient and compassionate is never a waste of your time.
6. Don’t treat every lead the same.
“Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand where they’re coming from. Once you figure that out, you’ll develop a way of knowing how to communicate with them.”
Porshea gave an example of the “disinterested” family. They might be quiet in the beginning because they’re overwhelmed and not yet emotionally ready to talk to you. Give them a bit of space, without forgetting them altogether, and once they are ready to continue their search your follow-up will ensure that you catch them at the right time. If you “go with the flow” and use your experience to infer what is going on with the family, you will find that you understand them and can guide them in a way that is comfortable for their situation.
7. Don’t neglect your follow up.
“Stay on top of your leads!”
Within the last year, 70% of The Fountains’ APFM family referrals moved in more than 30 days after they received the lead. Thirty percent of their move-ins occurred more than 180 days after they received the lead. Rhandi and Porshea understand that people move at different speeds when it comes to making this decision. They plan their follow up with each family accordingly and make sure to check in regularly. This increases the odds that they will catch the family at the moment they are ready to move to the next step in their search.
Working in a senior living community is not easy. It’s important to balance the new relationships that you are nurturing with the relationships that continue after prospect became a resident. There are many demands on your time, but the type of person who is drawn to a career in senior living is someone who genuinely wants to help people during a difficult time. Remember your noble mission every day, as well as Rhandi and Porshea’s “don’ts,” and you will be well on your way to greater success with families.
What is your best piece of advice for someone who is beginning a career in senior living? Discuss in the comments below!