When we are doing competitive reviews of senior living communities such as assisted living, memory care and senior apartment communities, we tour many communities. Many look very similar and certainly offer the same in amenities and services. While some are newer and glitzier, more sophisticated and contemporary, others are showing their age and lack appeal.
A sales person must be able differentiate their community from a growing number of competitive communities that are out there in the marketplace and to sell the differences and strengths.
Differentiating a community may require a marketing assessment including a SWOT analysis (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) as well as brand and communications assessment which are among the services The Ehlers Group provides. Involving the human resource department in the SWOT is important since they are knowledgeable about employee issues that are not necessarily viewed as sales information.
Communities may be sitting on a wealth of things that can be used to differentiate their community but a sales person may not be aware of them or know how to repackage this information in a sales presentation.
- Knowledge about employees: Management needs to encourage employees to get to know each other. It’s important that sales people know the backgrounds and interests of the people who work for the community. Being knowledgeable of someone’s connections may be of value in a presentation. If they are talking with a customer who was a piano teacher, perhaps there is an employee working for the company that either plays the piano or was their student. You never know! But that would certainly be a game changer in a presentation or follow-up call. Communication resources within the company need to make tools available to improve communication. Our client, The Palace Group uses their TV to keep employees in the loop.
- Success stories: Does the company promote from within? Sales should know success stories about employees who started as intern and moved up the corporate ladder. Companies that grow from within show more stability than those that seek hires from outside the organization and employees have greater satisfaction.
- Local connections and knowledge: Staff may have local connections and knowledge that can be tapped. Perhaps a family is active in a local church or someone’s father was the town Mayor. This may offer terrific connections and point of reference.
- Employee training: What type of employee training is conducted for all employees before they interact with residents. Do employees have refresher classes and in-service training? Employees should know what type of training is provided so they can share this information.
- Staff longevity: Perhaps the turnover of staff is much lower than other communities which certainly is a plus. A sales person should know the longevity of various employees so this can be woven into presentation, if appropriate.
- Mentor program: Does the company have a mentoring program helping future leaders move up the ranks?
- Awards: If the community wins awards, making all employees knowledgeable that the community is an award recipient is important. They are able to reference this to any number of people and can share in sense of pride that their community is an award winner.
- Bonus programs: In addition a bonus program for sales people, a bonus program should include the people who really make a difference. If your community has a respite or trial stay, giving a bonus to the housekeepers for example will really help in greater employee satisfaction.
We are always seeking creative ideas that communities use to separate one community for another. We learned that at Chelsea Senior Living they have a ribbon cutting for every move in. The resident’s front door is adorned with a large ribbon and the staff attends to celebrate. This is a pretty spectacular idea and would be quite amazing picture to give to every family. What are some things that your community does to differentiate itself? We would love to hear your approach.