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The retirement-living industry is unlike any other, and your sales strategy needs to reflect that. As sales director Karen Mattingley shares, consistency is the most important factor in getting more customers to deposit on apartments.

When an athlete wins an Olympic gold medal, it’s their performance in the final that everyone celebrates. We tend to overlook the years of training, competitions and challenges the athlete went through to get over the finish line, and focus only on the result. Sales is a little like that – although with a little less sweat and usually no crowd of ecstatic spectators. Many people put emphasis on getting the sale, but the journey to get there – which always begins a long time prior – is what needs the most focus.

This is especially true in the retirement living sector, given we know from extensive experience it takes between six and nine months from an initial enquiry to a customer depositing on an apartment. In this industry, getting a sale is a long journey, and if you haven’t consistently nurtured and guided the customer over many months, you won’t get to the finish line.

Over 15 years, Marketability has developed a highly structured sales process that caters specifically for the retirement living customer journey, and doesn’t treat it the same as residential sales (a very different market). Instead of taking a stop/start sales approach like other industry players, consistency is the hallmark of our strategy, regardless of what’s happening in the marketplace.

So why does consistency matter?

The benefits of consistency

If you’ve ever considered making a lifestyle change and become completely overwhelmed by information, then thrown in the towel because it all seemed too hard, you’ll have a sense of how customers often feel when they consider moving to a retirement village. We know that this cohort is likely to become overwhelmed quickly and put the idea of a retirement-village move into the ‘too-hard basket’ – so it’s vital that a sales team can guide and educate them through the process so they don’t get totally confused.

We also know that customers are more likely to deposit with an operator they feel they can trust – but trust is a value that can only be fostered slowly. That’s where a consistent sales process really shines, helping cultivate a relationship of trust over time.

Consistency in the sales journey can also insulate you against unexpected changes in the market. During the COVID-19 lockdown, for example, Marketability was unable to meet customers face-to-face nor show them through Bupa Sutherland Retirement Village. Despite these challenges we made seven sales in that village during lockdown. That could only happen because we’d been educating and engaging with customers consistently for at least six months prior, meaning they had developed strong trust in Bupa Sutherland.

What are the biggest sales mistakes in the retirement-living market?

  1. Not following up

    Marketability’s research shows it takes an average of 26 touch points before a customer deposits on an apartment, so following up with them regularly is absolutely vital. That’s how a relationship of trust is formed. Following up regularly, through an integrated sales and marketing strategy, also allows you the opportunity to work through the customer’s objections as they arise.

  2. CRM system

    At Marketability, we use a Salesforce CRM system customised for our sales journey, which allows us to write detailed call notes and track people through the sales funnel. Not only can we prioritise those customers who need more follow-ups, we have a detailed history on hand to indicate any barriers that need addressing with that customer. It’s a highly effective way of making sure customers don’t fall through the cracks.

  3. Leaving village managers to handle sales

    While village managers are incredibly knowledgeable about their villages, they don’t have the time to devote to educating customers, let alone follow up consistently.

  4. Too much emphasis on sales

    This market can be confusing for customers to navigate, so Marketability focuses primarily on educating people about moving to a retirement village rather than selling to them.

  5. Overwhelming customers with numbers

    One aspect this industry doesn’t do particularly well is explaining the financial aspects of a retirement village move. Marketability has learned that breaking down this information into really simple blocks, and consistently reiterating those key messages across the sales journey, can be a powerful way to connect with customers. Those key financial messages are:
    • The cost to move in
    • The costs while living in the village
    • The costs when leaving.

The takeaway

Consistency helps build a relationship of trust with customers, so that your village is top of mind when they’re ready to make the move. Having a consistent sales process that includes regular follow-ups can insulate you against unexpected changes in the market and help you get you to that finish line again and again.

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