You work with seniors and their families. What's the most important key to success?
It's not intelligence. Nor experience. Nor charm. It's trust. Seniors, and all of us, for that matter, need to trust a professional before we will part with our dollars or our good will.
Earning trust isn't instant and it isn't magical. But it happens little by little. In my case, I've worked with seniors and their children for 20-plus years. I've learned from them what works and what doesn't. Some of the following tools came to me from mentors, others from reading, and still others from making my own mistakes.
1. Be on time, or a little early. If you say you will email or call by a certain date, do it. And if you can't, explain why. Tardiness has always been a fault with which I've struggled. With seniors, especially, I've learned promptness the hard way. One day on my way to an appointment I lost cell coverage, and my battery's juice dipped as it tried to find a signal. When I finally arrived, I was very late. At the end of the presentation, the husband said, "My time is very precious. And you wasted it." Ouch! Seniors are used to waiting for doctors, and grousing about the wait. But we are not doctors, not even close. We need to value our clients' time.
2. Value the relationship over the products or services you're providing. When I first started in the business of serving seniors, I heard a short sentence that sets the mark for my work. "People over paper." That means we value people even over the paper (money) we receive from our work. And if we can help provide a good experience for our clients in a difficult situation, all of us benefit. Sometimes putting people first means we will help them find a solution that doesn't involve our company. And that's okay.
3. Ask questions and don't be pushy. Seniors and everyone, for that matter, want to be heard. That means when we ask questions, we listen to their body language, and their questions behind the questions. As far as pushiness goes, don't even try. Seniors have experienced professionals of all kinds over their lifetime, and they know how to practice selective hearing, if needed. And they talk to their friends about "that pushy sales person." It's a reputation I don't want to have.
4. Don't ignore the senior. Have you ever had a conversation in which the adult child dominates and his or her parent is lost in the dark? I have. I've also seen marketing professionals lead a community tour, speaking only to the adult child, and walking ahead of the elder. In any situation, I need to remember who we're serving, whether they're quiet or not, in good health or not.
Can you think of other ways we can build trust with our senior clients and their children?