As mentioned in previous blogs, senior living sales professionals often believe they are differentiating their community from others when they say to prospects: “this is the friendliest community,” “we have the nicest residents,” or “our staff is very committed and acts like your extended family.” Many don’t take a moment to consider that customers hear the very same assertions from every competitor they visit. While we may believe that we are communicating distinctions, employing these generic statements may be doing just the opposite:creating a perception of sameness and regimentation among communities rather than forming a differentiated position. The secret to selling more successfully is to discover and discuss your community’s Unique Selling Point(s).
We have already identified Step One as getting to know your own community, its services, amenities, atmosphere, culture and distinguishing accomplishments.In order to determine if any of your discoveries are unique, you must thoroughly research your competitors.
- Make a list of your competitors.Remember to include all choices presented to your senior consumer ranging from staying at home or with a family
member with access to home services, to moving to another community within your area.
- Build a list of the advantages of moving into a community rather than staying at home or with a family member.Here are some potential points to consider:
- Increased socialization
- Stimulation from peers with similar interest and life experiences
- A daily time schedule that matches your desires
- A myriad of services on your time frame rather than planning around a employee’s or family member’s schedule
- Easily scheduled transportation services
- Access to health care services during unforeseen circumstances.
- Enumerate what your community offers that is distinctive and impressive in meeting the needs and desires of your residents – something that is over and above traditional home living and communities offering services similar to yours.
It can be a time-consuming task to gather information on your competitors to discover what the marketplace truly offers.Hopefully, you are already in the habit of producing an annual comparative rate analysis for your Executive Director or CEO (a helpful, if not necessary, report in assessing fee increases each year). In addition to the monthly costs and community or entry fees, you should include the following information:
- Percentage increase for the year
- Type of contract(s)
- Type of refund(s)
- Services included and additional services available at a charge
- Any special features or programming.
This allows you a more detailed and accurate comparison.
After gathering this data, visit the other communities. Get to know the layout of your competitors, as well as their amenities and services. As you tour, be observant and thoughtful. Be mindful of your community in comparison and how it is different.In what areas does it excel? It is wonderful to mystery shop, but the senior sales profession is a close-knit group and we often know one another, so a mystery shop isn’t always an option. Consider a friendly trade of information, or contracting for a professional mystery shop.
Some potential distinctions are:
- A learning system utilized in Memory Care that enhances remaining cognitive function
- A Happy Hour or cocktails in addition to regular meals
- A spectacular view – waterfront on sounds, bays, lakes, gardens
- The largest type of residences
- An exceptional life enrichment program such as resident-run beer brewing, a Go Green Club or a bicycling group
- An exclusive spa with mani-pedis and massages to complement regular hair styling
- A campus sports program with opportunities for competition against other communities
- An emphasis on volunteerism
The distinction can be chosen from a multitude of areas, such as physical plant, services, programming, resident-culture, location or health care services.The list can be as limitless as the distinctions of each of our communities.The key is identifying the niche that your community claims.
If you are at a loss to find the distinctions, recall some of the comments shared with you during sales appointments:how did your prospects describe your community; why did your recent move-ins choose your community?
Now, make a list. Organize the list into respective categories.Example: a campus sports program, an extensive wellness program with measurable before and after metrics and a yearly wellness assessment all might be grouped under the category of Health and Wellness. With input from key staff members, identify four categories in which your community excels or is distinctive from your competitors. These are the Unique Selling Points that you should reflect in conversation during tours, publish in print media and direct mail pieces, present at events and disseminate as thoroughly as possible.
Be distinctive and then Spread-the-WoRD about your distinction!
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About the Author
Patty Scotten is a consultant with Retirement DYNAMICS® and serves as their marketing manager. Patty has over twenty five years’ experience in the senior living industry and has led several communities in preselling expansions or increasing occupancy levels. She graduated from Elon University and holds a Masters Degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Patty is licensed as both an assisted living and nursing home administrator.