Assisted Living Provider Sees Improved Census After Sales Management Training
Before sales management training, Americare’s 80 assisted living communities had 1,548 assisted living residents. Six months later, after a roll out of effective sales management training, Americare’s assisted living census rose to 1,603, a net gain of 55 residents, or approximately $1.32 million in net operating income. And in the current year, census has climbed by 120 in the same mature property metric, despite industry seeing occupancy decreases nationwide, says Patricia Cokingtin, Americare’s senior sales trainer, during her presentation at NCAL Day in October. Americare is a long term care provider based in Sikeston, Mo., operating 80 assisted living communities, ranging in size from 21 to 25 units, and serving rural towns with populations between 5,000 and 21,000 people in Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.
In recent years, Americare also introduced the same model in several metropolitan markets as well. Americare’s administrators also acted as the sales representatives. In 2006, Cokingtin, who works out of Leawood, Kan., noticed that occupancy was slipping and competition was increasing from new assisted living operators and states offering home- and community-based services. Americare’s “visibility” marketing efforts, such as attending local Chamber of Commerce meetings or dropping by local hospitals, did not produce the admissions they once had. Americare began to address the declining census during a two-year period with strategies including re-branding, sales training focused on learning personal information about prospects, hiring seven regional sales representatives managed by regional operations managers and administrators, and purchasing lead database software.
At the end of 2007, Cokingtin saw no sustained return on investment. Determined to find a solution, she went to the local bookstore to research what other industries did to improve sales and discovered a book by Stephan Schiffman called, “No. 1 Sales Team: Superior Techniques for Maximum Performance.” Eureka! Cokingtin contacted Schiffman to see if he would come to Leawood and consult with Americare. Though Schiffman wasn’t available, he referred Cokingtin to Jeanine Aspen, owner of Just Fill It, a company based in Omaha that utilizes Schiffman’s sales management strategies and applies them to senior living. At the crux of Americare’s problem was that the managers of the sales representatives didn’t have a back- ground in selling. Without an education in sales, they couldn’t effectively manage the sales representatives to produce more admissions. “Most of the operations managers are registered nurses, and they man- aged to achieve clinical outcomes and did so beautifully, but they weren’t trained in sales,” Cokingtin said. Training began with teaching administrators and regional operation managers about sales. Americare also made them responsible for census in their buildings. Another part of the problem was that the company’s sales activity reports didn’t reveal critical information.
Americare revised its sales representatives’ activity statements by creating a weekly visibility report. The report allows management to see clearly each week what has started and moved in that community’s sales effort. The visibility report contains each community’s goal for the number of admissions; appointments with referral sources or prospects, accompanied by next steps and dates; and the number of leads produced by these efforts. Equipped with an improved report, administrators and operations managers learned how to analyze it and use it as the basis of weekly “coaching meetings” with sales representatives.
Previously, managers looked at reports that showed the number of calls made by representatives. “But activities alone don’t produce admissions; effectiveness has to be part of the equation,” said Cokingtin. With the new reports, managers knew that if the number of sales representatives’ appointments or phone calls didn’t generate a certain number of leads, the managers had to intervene. The administrators or managers had been given an arsenal of questions to pose to the sales representatives to find out more information about the lead. Managers could qualify prospects by asking questions such as, “Does the prospect have the financial means for assisted living, and are they willing to spend it?” or “Does Americare make sense to the prospect, and tell me what this prospect said that indicates they are ready for the next step? What do we know about the decision makers, and is there a date and time for the next step?” With these efforts, Americare improved its sales management effectiveness, which produced more admissions to the assisted living communities.
In addition, Cokingtin said the increase in census has been sustained and can be replicated at each community. “Only when we teach management how to manage the sales function of our business—and hold them accountable for doing so—can we really leverage the investments we’ve made in manpower, skills training, and marketing for better occupancy results.”
To obtain Cokingtin’s NCAL Day presentation and a Sales Process Audit, send an e-mail to Lisa gelhaus at email@example.com. Or contact Patricia Cokingtin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dei-central.com.
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