How to Help a Struggling Senior Living Sales Person?

How to Help a Struggling Senior Living Sales Person?

Occupancy is down, the pressure is up and your retirement counselor or marketing director is not performing like they used to…  The economy and the presidential election are just excuses for low occupancy.

The first thing is to check the sales person attitude.  Do they smile as they exit their office on the way to meet a walk-in tour?  Can you observe their enthusiasm as they show a prospective resident the retirement community?   When you walk by their office, can you hear animation and passion in their voice as they explain the community and invite someone to come visit?

If the answer is no to any of the above, I suggest that you actually accompany them on a real tour.  Find out exactly what is going on… During the tour be a silent rock and don’t interject at all.  Even if you see or hear mistakes, just take notes…  If you interrupt, the sales person will lose their flow, become more nervous and you won’t get a true picture of a tour from start to finish.  The opening of a conversation is just as important as the close at the completion.

Did they steer the customer toward making a decision?  Were they listening more than they talked?   Did they find out what prompted the visit to your community?   How was the warm up and discovery?  Could you say it was conversational?  At what point did they ask the prospective resident or family member how they felt about their current situation or being at the community?  Ultimately, did the prospect open up?

Was the tour tailored to the customer’s desire or needs?  When pricing and costs came up, did they build value for the senior living community first?  Did the sales person introduce the guests to department heads, other staff and residents?

At the end, did the sales person steer them into sitting down one more time to answer any remaining questions?  Did they solve the customer’s problem?  Is your community a better choice than living in his or her own home? The most important question to ask is – what their time frame is for wanting to make a move!  If the time frame was less than three months, did they ask for the deposit for that “one of a kind” apartment they really liked?  If you are a Continuing Care Retirement Community, did they build urgency for the wait list?  Was a plan made for them to come back again to have another meal, bring another family member or attend an event?

After the customer goes home, walk through your observations with the sales person.  Remember to share something positive first, then any negatives and always end on a positive note.  If it was a great tour, maybe you just don’t have enough walk-ins and leads in your database.  If the tour was terrible, maybe you need to let them go.  If the tour was mediocre, maybe you want to invest in some sales training or mandate that they start reading a senior living book that can help them improve in all areas of the sales process.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available for sale at  If your curiosity is piqued to inquire on Diane’s availability to speak at a senior housing conference (CCRC, independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care) – please call: 206-853-6655 or email  Diane is currently consulting in Southern California for Freedom Management Company, the proud debt-free owners of Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California.  For more information:   Twitter: @market2seniors Web: Blog:


  1. We have the distinct pleasure of working with several senior living communities on their internet marketing. One of the questions I always ask is about the sales people. I know it’s possible to generate all the leads a community needs right from the website ( see this ebook: ), but if the sales people can’t close them, it’s all for naught.

    The other side of the coin, though, is that so many times the “sales people” at a community aren’t acknowledged and celebrated. The management team approaches Sales with a “Where is the next move-in?” attitude, instead of “Great job in selling the Grants! What can we do to help you?” I talked to one community leader last week who confided in me that they have a 70% turnover rate — and their exit surveys show that this is is because their staff doesn’t feel acknowledged for the work they do, and they don’t feel like they are a part of something important.

    Training your sales people and acknowledging them for the work they do is such a critical part of success for senior living communities. I hope more and more communities start paying attention to this! Thanks for calling attention to this in your article, Diane.

  2. Group: ALFA – Assisted Living Federation of America
    Discussion: How to Help a Struggling Senior Living Sales Person?

    You cannot be an effective salesperson and achieve high occupancy without enthusiasm for the community. The on-site sales team is the face and personality of the community. It is key to staff the position correctly. You must have that enthusiasm for the lifestyle but also must adjust to the situation of the family walking in the door. I have seen salespeople that would never choose AL for themselves or their family try to sell it. You really have to understand the positives of the lifestyle ot it will come through especially at the time you ask for commitment. The all day visit and weekend pass is very effective as everyone has suggested! It is important to introduce staff as well during tour if they uphold the same energy and enthusiasm as the sales team. Being on the sales side, you see directors etc. that may contribute to loss of sale, however. If sales are sluggish, many areas should be addressed from the eyes of those walking through the door, though, not just the Director. There is a feel to every community when you take prospects on a tour. If you are talking about amazing activities and there are none going on or fabulous food and the menu does not reflect that there will be problems closing. Agree with other comments….no excuses. If occupancy low, keep making changes to process.
    Posted by Maria Fortune Kohring

  3. Group: Turnaround Solutions for Senior Housing Sales and Marketing
    Discussion: How to Help a Struggling Senior Living Sales Person?

    Assessment. It could be a variety of factors. A few examples might be: Sales Person is new and does not fully know the community or they deviate from presentation outline. In this case both would be training issues. Another possibility is it is environmental. Example: A new state of the art community opened nearby and prospects are going there instead of to the Sales Person’s community. Another factor could be workload. Example management company overloads Sales Person with work such as writing work orders accounts payable/accounts receivable, picking-up phone calls, processing paper etc. There are many factors that can contribute to the struggling. Good assessment can help discern those factors and subsequent solution.
    Posted by Michael Dvorscak