In the senior living space, referral sources are traditionally the second most frequent source of referrals after friends and family. Research data indicates that referred individuals are more likely to become residents and are typically more cost-efficient to cultivate than unreferred prospects.
Therefore, the identification and cultivation of referral sources should be a high priority for an any growth-focused senior living or senior care provider today.
Referral Relationship Development: Worth Doing and Worth Doing Well
“Too often, sales people take an undisciplined, scattershot approach to referral source development,” says Jennifer Lottis, Senior Living Marketing and Sales Consultant at Sage Age Strategies.
“Reaching out to potential referral sources in your area is too important to be done in a disorganized, haphazard manner. Attracting referrals from outside sources should be a key component of your comprehensive lead generation strategy and should be done with the same level of rigor and precision as your direct-to-consumer marketing initiatives. With proper planning, implementation and cultivation, referral sources can provide a continuing, self-sustaining stream of residents and revenue for your community.
“If you do not have an active referral development program in place, or if you don’t know who your best referral sources are or have cultivation plans in place for each, it’s time to start today!”
5 Tips for Building an Effective Referral Development Program
Key building blocks of a successful referral development program include taking inventory of your current sources, assessing their contributions, identifying other potential referral sources, creating relationship-building strategies, providing essential support to your sales team and regular follow up.
Assess your current referral sources
Start the process by taking inventory of your current sources of referral and analyzing how productive they are. Assess how many leads you’re getting from each. Then evaluate how many move-ins you’re getting from the leads generated.
Don’t waste valuable time and resources on referral sources that are nonproductive – for example, a gerontologist who is now serving as the medical director for a competitor. Based on this exercise, you can develop a prioritized list of top referral sources and use your referral development time more efficiently.
Identify other potential referral opportunities
According to Jennifer, “Hospital case managers, discharge planners and social service staff are typically difficult to see, but there are other high-value sources of potential referral that you should be considering depending on the services you offer.”
- Complementary senior housing such as independent living and post-acute care facilities if you provide assisted living
- Area Agency on Aging and senior community centers
- Alzheimer’s chapters if you provide memory care
- Adult day care centers
- Rehabilitation centers
- Physicians, including neurologists, psychiatrists and geriatricians
- Physical, occupational and speech therapists
- Elder law and estate planning attorneys
- Nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants
- Home care and hospice managers
- Your own board members and donors
- Local elected officials and other community “opinion leaders”
Create a customized strategy for each source
Jennifer advises, “After you’ve identified your list of top referral sources, create a strategy for each. These should be well-articulated strategies that have goals, action plans, timeframes and accountability that are based on each source’s information needs and a clear understanding of your own residence’s points of differentiation and market advantage.
“I suggest using a multi-channel approach that includes personal visits, e-mail, social media, collateral materials, hand-written “Thank Yous,” personal phone calls and invitations to your events such as open houses, picnics, and public education seminars on senior topics. You can also promote your expertise and thought leadership by writing blogs, hosting educational events and including referral sources on your e-blast list. And if you produce a monthly update newsletter, make sure they’re on your mailing list.
“And don’t forget your own residents and their families. Do you have a formal in-house referral program for satisfied residents and their family members? Their compelling stories and testimonials can have great influence on other seniors in your area and their adult children. Oftentimes, word of mouth is your most powerful – and cost-efficient – advertising tool.”
Provide your sales team with the right tools and support
“Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced, competitive senior living world, sales staff often lack sufficient training in best-practice sales and referral development strategies. Because of this reality, we do a large amount of on-site training at the request of busy Executive Directors who either do not have the time or the in-house resources to lead the effort." Jennifer adds.
“In this scenario, we’ve found the best approach is to make joint calls with sales persons to show them first-hand how to plan, organize and conduct effective relationship building with referral sources. This is an important aspect of the sales training we do for many of our client-partners across the country.”
Follow up with your referral sources on a regular basis
Following up regularly to stay “top-of-mind,” remain relevant and maintain a personal relationship is also very important. In fact, it should be a built-in part of your plan. Personal follow up can be accomplished easily with a card and a note, a phone call or sharing a relevant article of interest.
And when you receive a referral from a source, it’s especially important to follow up with them on a timely basis. Thank them and let them know how the referred person is doing in your residence. This reaffirms the success for everyone involved in the process and encourages additional referrals in the future. After all, referral sources like to feel appreciated and valued, too.”
“Remember, senior living and healthcare are very much about trust and relationships,” says Jennifer. “Neither one comes easily and has to be earned by your sales team. Part of earning the trust of your referral sources is understand their world – just as you would with a prospective resident and their family. And while metrics are important, relationship building is key. This takes time and effort, but the long-term revenue stream and ROI from referred customers makes it worthwhile.”
Sage Age Strategies: Leaders in Growth-Focused Sales and Marketing Solutions
At Sage Age Strategies, our leading-edge sales and marketing professionals excel in best-practice integrated strategies that generate quality leads and increase your cost-effectiveness. These services include sales, referral development and leadership training, creation of integrated sales and marketing plans, the latest in digital marketing tactics, optimized multi-channel media strategies and research services to identity your best avenues for profitable growth.
Working hand-in-hand with our client-partners as an extension of their leadership teams, our sales and marketing experts have helped many senior living providers to create more effective lead generation strategies, improve their sales funnel results and increase their ROI.
If you would like assistance in any areas of sales training and sales consulting, empowering your sales team and providing them with the best-practice tools, we invite you to contact us today for more detailed information.
Sage Age Strategies is a multiple award-winning, strategic growth, marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living industry. To learn more, please call or email Adrienne Mansfield Straub at 570-601-1720 ext. 100 / email@example.com.