Balancing Discovery vs. Interrogation in Senior Living Sales?

Balancing Discovery vs. Interrogation in Senior Living Sales?

Interrogation in Senior Living SalesWhen you initially sit down with a senior prospective resident – what is their first impression of you?  Are you like a detective on TV, asking care needs – one after another?  Or are you the compassionate sales person who cares and wants to help the senior solve their problem?

When I do mystery shopping, I find that 80% of senior living sales people are interrogators.  This is an extremely high statistic; this means that only 20% of sales people come across as kind and compassionate.

How can you know if you are an interrogator and don’t mean to be one?

1)   Don’t get to the nitty gritty details too fast…

2)   Do offer a beverage – especially when it’s hot outside– I have been touring on 90-degree days and was not offered a beverage – this really happens…

3)   Invite guests to sit down – don’t tell them to sit here or just point to a chair…

4)   Don’t shut a prospective resident in your office – this happened to me 80% of the time and causes people to keep their wall up and not relax with you.

5)   Don’t sit across a desk from someone, give up your control and meet around a round table, in the lobby on comfy chairs or in the model apartment.

6)   Find out about what is most important to the senior or the adult children…why did they come to your retirement community today?

7)   Do ask how they are doing (what they are feeling) and take the time to listen!

Do you want to increase sales, move-ins and up the occupancy?  Then stop interrogating people…it is a horrible experience for the senior and their family members!

Please comment to join the conversation and interact with other senior living professionals on what is currently being effective to increase occupancy on a nationwide basis.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available for sale at  Masson’s book will be required reading at George Mason University in the Fall as part of the marketing curriculum.  She is currently consulting with Seniors For Living and two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern California – Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California. Connection and partnership opportunities: Email:


  1. LinkedIn Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    Good tips. Making a placement decision is fraught with emotion and the sales person needs to ease into things. You just can’t hurry the process.
    By Lorie Eber

  2. Dianne,
    So true. Is it a heart for the prospective resident and family or “technique?” Very easy to fall into the interrogation metality for many salespersons.

  3. LinkedIn Marketing to Seniors

    Enjoyed the article. You’re right, I plan to find a comfortable place to chat; my office is too business-like!
    By Carol Harvey

  4. Linked In CCRC’s – Continuing Care Retirement Communities

    Yes getting to know in an unobstrusive,’non-invasive’ way should be a taught skill. I remember listening to a talk by an ex intelligience operative on the topic of how to elicit information from business-social conversations -small talk even. Much can be gleaned without upsetting anyone or even without any one being aware.This is not meant to be in any way insidious or inviduous and certainly not in the aged care- care focussed context.
    By Siah-Chuan Lim

  5. Linked In Assisted Living Professionals

    Thank you Diane. These are such important points to remember!
    By Patty Hopker

  6. Diane,

    I find you to ge right on spot with your insights and suggestions.

    Thanks for sharing them with the group.

    Warm regards,

  7. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    People don’t “buy” because they understand your product, your programs, your apartments or your point system. They “buy” because they have the feeling of being understood. Your questions, your style and your environment can help them feel that way.
    By Nancy Werner

  8. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    Great article Diane. I just had an interesting conversation about this topic yesterday. Being both an interrogator and too pushy are a bad combo. People need to feel like they’re concerns are being met with compassion.
    By Kevin Williams

  9. Great article and posts from everyone! We sell a lifetime concept that can’t be rushed.

  10. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    Great points! I understand corporations like to hire sales people with ‘closing skills’, but we are not selling used cars, we are discussing what should be an important decision that will greatly affect someone’s quality of life and safety. Taking time to listen and patiently empathize with family members is important. Ideally, a good senior living salesperson is more a consultant than a salesman, always keeping in mind the needs and priorities of the individual and family. The best ones will also be knowledgeable about the competitors in the area, and will know when to recommend another community if theirs is not the right fit for an individual client. When I see this, I am much more likely to recommend their community, because I know the sales staff is truly concerned about what’s best for the prospective resident, not only about increasing their census.
    By Linda Armas, CSA

  11. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    Excellent article @Diane Masson! When I was in marketing at senior communities my approach was to treat prospects that walked through the door for a tour as if they had come into my own home. So, a beverage was always offered, I made sure they were comfortable, and made them feel as though I was there to help them resolve whatever situation they were in compassionately and empathetically. I was highly successful in keeping my community occupied. If a senior living marketer is an interrogator, then, well, maybe they should find another field to work in — interrogations, as you said, just do not work. Cheers!
    By Diane Castro

    • Diane, I wish everyone used your concept of treating guests at a retirement community like guests in your own home.

  12. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    A prospect s someone who needs help. You are the solution to their problem and a thoughtful, caring approach yields the best result. Touch. Body language voice tone and honesty are vital to a positive conversation and close.
    By Charlene Neu

  13. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    You’re correct. We’re dealing with loved ones, not commodities. A different approach is necessary.
    By Lorie Eber

  14. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    Thanks for all of the excellent comments. I was in the postion of finding a home several years ago for my parent. I also have been the co-founder of a non-medical in home care service. When I went to find a place for my parent, I looked at the upkeep and curb appeal and also went in at an off time, when the marketing person wasn’t there, which is often at supper time or on the weekend. I didn’t want a sales pitch at a time where I was frazzled and stressed. I went by their reputation in the healthcare community and also word of mouth. When I went out to look for my clients; I wanted to talk to the staff, I always looked first at the care, were the residents shaved, well groomed, fingernails clean, clothing clean, and especially looked at their wheelchair and/or walker. If the plants and the entry weren’t clean and neat, and if the place didn’t smell great, and if the place looked stark and a general lack of homey and cozy environment; I was out of there fast. The website, the motto, the brochures and the mission may be great; but look around. Staff…are they happy too? Talk to the staff and residents if you are able to. Once I went to a home to leave my portfolio and the staff wouldn’t let me walk through without the day marketing person. Train all of your team to market….because in fact…they are! By their actions, by their faces, by the residents they care for…by their comments when they are outside of work. Listen, Smell, Look. I am an excelent marketer when I fully trust and believe in the leadership and the team as a whole. I have worked for a couple of the best companies, with excellent reputations and I was mentored and trained by people with integrity. It isn’t the sales p;itch that wins, it is when you can share with then from your heart what they need to hear. They need to hear, “We will love and care for your loved one for 24/7 and we will listen to you, respect you and help you to feel a part of our team of caregivers and leaders.” It is so hard to find a place like this…be that place! It will not be the fanciest, or the one with the best activity program, although it needs to be clean and caring. Thanks to all of you who are striving to be the best place to live!
    By Janice Dressander

    • I still remember a dining room employee saying to me – “We would love to spoil your mom.” Great comment Janice on noticing if the staff are happy.

  15. Linked In Senior Assisted Living Sales, Marketing & Operations

    Now that is the kind of dining room employee I would like to have working for me! Sometimes they will say things like, “You can’t have that.” and nothing makes the residents more furious than to pay a lot for the retirement or assisted living home and have people behave in a manner that is more controlling than informative and service oriented. Keep up the great work!
    By Janice Dressander