Director of Sales Brett Long writes to us from Senior Star in Tulsa, OK. Read on for his valuable inquiry regarding “cold” prospects as well as One On One’s responses. Thanks for engaging us with your question, Brett.

Brett Long: I have attended conferences where you spoke previously and we just had 2 team members from our office in Naples.  I was interested in your great results in following up with Cold prospects.

Do you recommend an emphasis on these via contract callers or through blitzes from time to time, or other means?  I know this is an opportunity and would like to improve our results.

Thanks for the work you do.

One On One: Your questions cut to the core of what we mean by “selling” to seniors.

Before addressing your question directly, here’s some context. A primary consideration is who determines which leads are “cold” and what criteria they use. Many organizations rely on sales counselors to prioritize each inquiry based on a subjective assessment tied to how “close” they are to moving in. This approach is tied to a sales pipeline model that classifies prospects based on what sales phase they are in (pre-tour, post-tour or move-in process). Prospects are assumed to proceed in a linear progression from initial inquiry to move-in. Sales efforts are focused on performing specific tasks (call-outs, mail-outs and tours), usually with a focus on closing the newest leads and other “hot” prospects. Most remaining prospects wind up being classified as cold.

In contrast, One On One uses a stages-of-change model that focuses on the individual prospect’s decision-making process. It requires the sales counselor to build trusting relationships and engage in purposeful questioning, active listening as well as extensive journaling, planning and follow up. Each prospect’s behavior and statements are associated with one of four stages of “readiness.” Depending on what triggers the initial inquiry, prospects can start out at any one of the four stages. In general, the more crisis-driven and higher-acuity the prospect is in, the more ready they are likely to be. Prospects frequently move back and forth from one stage to another.

So how best to handle the cold leads? From our perspective, superficial screening for large numbers of cold leads is actually more of a marketing than sales function. Occasionally this process also identifies a few prospects that are further along in the decision-making process than we had previously thought. More often, however, screening the prospect lead base will weed out those that have died, moved elsewhere or who are clearly qualified due to health or financial considerations. Trimming down the lead base will create better direct mailing lists and give a more realistic picture of what additional marketing resources are needed.

Once you are confident that the lead base has been reduced to qualified leads, then regardless of whether they have previously been classified as hot, warm or cold, our recommendation is to start over building trust and getting relevant discovery especially about their life story. Try to determine what stage of change they are in and what may have motivated them to inquire in the first place. In other words, treat each of these prospects as if they were one of your new hot inquiries.

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