Still a relatively new idea here in the UK, home visits have huge potential to boost a retirement living operator’s sales strategy. Home visits and other person-centred activities can help you address resistance and turn what feels like a rejection into an opportunity for change. The relationship isn’t over when you hear the commonly uttered phrase, ‘I’m not ready yet.’ There’s more to be learned, especially in terms of the very real emotions and objections surrounding the sale.
The value of home visits
We know that home visits can be time-consuming and expensive – there’s travel and you probably won’t want to show up empty-handed. They can also be highly intensive and a lot of responsibility for a salesperson, especially with COVID safety considerations. And at the end of the day, it can be awkward to ask to visit someone in their home. What if they say no?
It’s encouraging to remember what we are trying to achieve, both for ourselves and the prospective resident who needs help. Rather than persuade, we are trying to facilitate understanding and help a prospect make a decision themselves. Our role as a sales advisor is to guide them through all aspects of the decision and help them get out of the ambivalence they are stuck in.
Home visits are an effective technique. From the Sherpa CRM database, we’ve seen that home visits almost double sales conversions, from 27% to 52% on average, across care types.
Why is this? For one, advisors need to get a better idea of the true competition. It isn’t the care home or retirement village down the road – it’s the prospective resident’s own home. Their daily routine may not work as well as it used to, but it’s familiar. Only after we truly understand a prospective resident’s situation can we begin to offer solutions, solutions that will sound credible when they are ready to move.
Helping your sales team get the most from a visit
While they may not yet be common in later living sales, home visits are nothing new. Many
of our prospects grew up welcoming the doctor or midwife into their home. It was common for milk to be delivered to the door, and in some cases, it still is. Sales advisors or consultants really shouldn’t see themselves as imposing on their prospective residents or families. Home visits are more about being courteous and respectful, meeting someone on their own terms, appreciating their hospitality, and connecting on a higher level.
“Our prospects are used to and enjoy being visited at home,” says Honor Barratt, Managing Director at Birchgrove, in a Sherpa webinar on home visits. “The fact that your GP did use to come out and visit you at home was respectful and a little bit like the way it should be done.”
A person-centred sales strategy encourages consultants to ask questions such as, ‘Why would you leave your home? Why can’t you stay?’ It sounds counter-intuitive for a salesperson to ask for reasons a prospect isn’t ready to move. But by listening as they explain their situation, a consultant will start to understand what’s important to that person and how they can help them. It can also bring out discrepancies in what the prospect considers to be ‘working’, even though they are very much needing a change in routine or are facing difficulties at home.
There will be plenty of environmental clues in a prospect’s home that are important to note. Keep asking questions related to their surroundings. An understanding of the prospect’s world will open up along with the true meanings behind their resistance or uncertainty.
When someone is considering retirement living, they are really crossing a vast emotional bridge – a tour of your property is more of a leap than a step. To a prospect, booking a visit to your community symbolises the fact they have decided and they are ready to move. But for many, this is too much. They are not ready to accept this situation. They don’t visit, and a potential prospect is lost, the lead has ‘gone cold’. But by meeting prospects in their own space, we can unlock so much valuable information and build trust to help facilitate a decision.
Addressing ‘I’m not ready yet’
During tours, phone calls and home visits, a sales advisor learns about their prospect’s life story, how they see themselves currently and who they want to be in the future. By understanding people better, connecting with them and being an empathetic listener, advisors can help them move toward making a decision.
If you want to boost sales results in 2022, it’s a good time to revisit and reassess how to achieve and measure success. Sales tactics often only focus on the early stages of sales relationships and not what happens after the tour or initial phone call. The middle of the sales funnel is where we see most progress being made.
The pandemic has encouraged us to better understand and be more connected with our prospects, something we at Sherpa are truly passionate about and that drives our methodology. It’s also proven that while the top 5-10% prospects will likely convert themselves (ready to move), it’s the other 90% we really need to focus on (not ready yet).
If you continue to adopt and develop this new strategy to sales we strongly believe you’ll start to see how game changing it can be for your sales pipeline and ultimately, your occupancy levels. Turn the learnings from the pandemic and the increasing demand for retirement living and revisit your organisation’s sales thinking.