What would it be like to work in a perfect environment, one free of miscommunication between sales and operations teams?

Most of us will never know the answer to this question. In any environment that involves operations and sales, the sales team often pushes for fast answers while the operations team takes the time needed to provide ample detail. This is commonly referred to as a “healthy rub.” So how do we ensure that this “healthy rub” doesn’t create an uncontrollable fire?

Senior living communities are designed to operate at 100 percent occupancy. Budgets are built on the revenue from increasing census and maintaining stabilization. When census drops below budget, it impacts revenue and the bottom line. For example: If one assisted living apartment with a $6,000 monthly service fee remains vacant, the community loses $72,000 per year. If two apartments remain vacant, the community loses $144,000 and so on.

To close the revenue gap, sales teams create marketing plans to generate leads and close sales. Operations teams create care plans for the residents the sales team brings in. Both teams — sales and operations — must work together to create the perfect formula for success. In a perfect world, this teamwork is seamless and revenue continues to climb.

So, if each team’s responsibility is clear, why doesn’t the teamwork come easy and where does the rub fit in? This rub emerges when the teams from each area don’t fully understand the other’s agenda. This gap in understanding must be bridged in order for a community to be successful.

Communication is the first step in bridging the gap. The sales team must have a good understanding of the assessment process, why it takes so long and what if anything can be done to speed it up. If operations denies a resident admission, team members must explain the “why” as well as the “no” so that the sales team can use this information with future prospects. The sales team must understand current staffing patterns and the acuity of existing residents. How many more can the staff safely handle? The operations team must understand the sales team’s typical day. It’s not all entertaining, lunches and networking events. Marketing teams are conducting any outreach activity that helps build trust and grow professional referrals. Operations must understand the time it takes to generate a qualified lead, the timeframe for potential move-in, the follow up, next steps and more.

Second, operations and sales must communicate face to face or voice to voice whenever possible — so much is wrongly interpreted when communicating via text or email. When in doubt, pick up the phone or set aside time for a conversation. This will ensure mutual understanding and mitigate misinterpretations.

And always remember: The sales team’s selling point is the care provided by operations.

Key points for sales to understand about operations:

  • The longevity of the team
  • Staffing ratios
  • Survey results
  • Certifications of the team and of the staff
  • Acuity
  • Discharge criteria
  • Success stories

From an operations perspective, great care must be delivered to the residents. The higher a resident’s acuity, the more complex the care plan — but all efforts should be made to say “yes” to an assessment who can be cared for safely.

Key points for operations to understand about sales:

  • Who is the competition, what are they selling and how do we measure up? (Base rates and level-of-care fees, discharge criteria, acuity, apartment size)
  • Who is the top referral source?
  • What are referral sources saying?
  • What is the biggest challenge with closing the sale?
  • Why are we losing leads to the competition?
  • What is the biggest selling point?
  • What matters most to residents who close?

Both the sales and operations teams are working long hours and developing plans to deliver the same outcome — a full community! Efforts should be made on both teams to gain a full understanding of each other’s role in the success of the community. Have a mutual respect for each other and for the job that each person is responsible for. It takes a team — let’s do our part!

Mindy Cheek, Vice President, Marketing Services