April 23, 2024


The Gods Made Home

Selling is About Asking – Not – Telling

How many times have you encountered a salesperson that wanted to know about YOU before presenting the benefits and features of their product or service? How many times?

As an upper level manager in the senior housing industry I was constantly challenged by helping the sales and marketing staff understand the difference between asking and telling. Just this one challenge was costing the company millions of dollars in lost business on an annual basis. Here’s an example:

Let’s assume you’re responsible for helping your parents move from their existing residence to a senior housing environment, know as a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) or ALF (Assisted Living Facility). Depending on the health and finances of your parents, coupled with the emotion and lack of experience or knowledge in the area of senior housing, this could be a daunting and confusing task. Because your parents would want to remain in the immediate area you find a local CCRC and place the call. Below are 2 scenarios, one with an unskilled salesperson the other a skilled salesperson.

Unskilled Salesperson

(This scenario is based on the assumption you have limited knowledge in the senior housing industry and you are not prepared to ask the appropriate questions.)

You phone a local CCRC to get information. Upon calling you’re transferred to a sales or marketing counselor. You ask to receive information about senior housing. The sales or marketing person may ask a few questions about your situation but most likely will not; instead, you will be barraged with all of the benefits and features this community has to offer. The call would go something like this:

CCRC: “Hello, Mary speaking how may I help you?”

PROSPECT: “I’m calling to get some information on your residence.”

CCRC: “Ok, can I get your name?”


CCRC: “Hi Teri, is this for you or someone else?”

PROSPECT: “My parents.”

CCRC: “Ok, what are their names?”

PROSPECT: “Their names are Bertha and Ben.”

CCRC: “How old are Bertha and Ben?”

PROSPECT: “78 and 81.”

CCRC: “Ok Teri, let me tell you about our residence. We have a beautiful community located on a lot of land overlooking a beautiful lake with swans and fish. We also have a lot of people just like your parents so there are a lot of things to do. We serve 3 meals per day and snacks and we have an activity director that will get your parents involved in all kinds of fun stuff. We also have a nurse on staff and laundry facilities as well.”

PROSPECT: “That’s great Mary. Can you tell me how much it costs?”

*It’s no wonder the primary question moved so quickly to cost. There wasn’t much warmth, empathy, compassion, or understanding of my parents or their needs. What would it matter how many things you have, such as lakes, swans, etc., if those things aren’t important to me or my parents. Why would I need to visit if you haven’t given me a reason? The purpose of the initial phone contact is to get, not give, information and schedule an appointment.

If you and/or your sales staff are telling vs. asking, you’re losing revenue! Please take the time to acquire the skills necessary to obtain information by asking great questions.*

Skilled Salesperson

You place the call and ask for information about senior housing. This time you’re connected to a skilled version of Mary:

CCRC: “Senior housing, Mary speaking how may I help you?”

PROSPECT: “I’m looking for information on your community.”

CCRC: “I can help you with that. “Your name please.”


CCRC: “Hi Teri, thanks for calling senior housing. Have you visited our residence before?”


CCRC: “Can you tell me what type of information you’re looking for?”

PROSPECT: “Yes, just general.”

CCRC: “Ok, so that I’m better prepared to understand your specific needs I have a few questions I’d like to ask.”


CCRC: “Are you gathering information for yourself or someone else?”

PROSPECT: “My parents.”

CCRC: Ok, do your parents live close by?”


CCRC: “That’s great, have they been in the community a long time?”

PROSPECT: “Yes, 32 years.”

CCRC: “Ok, can I get their names Teri?”

PROSPECT: “Yes, Bertha and Ben.”

CCRC: “How old are Bertha and Ben?”

PROSPECT: “Bertha is 78 and Ben is 81.”

CCRC: “Could you tell me a little about their current housing arrangements?”

PROSPECT: “They live in their own home.”

CCRC: “How about their health?”

PROSPECT: “Bertha is doing fine but Ben is having some issues.”

CCRC: “What type of issues?”

PROSPECT: “He’s in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s.”

CCRC: “Has that been diagnosed by a physician?”

PROSPECT: “Yes, it has.”

CCRC: “Ok, has the doctor made any recommendations?”

PROSPECT: “Yes, he indicated that it would be best if we started looking at senior housing options.”

CCRC: “Have you discussed this with your parents?”

PROSPECT: “My mom only.”

CCRC: “How receptive is she.”


CCRC: “Is there a reason why you have not included your dad in this conversation?”

PROSPECT: “Yes, he would be upset.”

CCRC: “When you say upset what do you mean by that?”

PROSPECT: “Well, he’s determined to stay in their house until he dies.”

CCRC: “I understand – that’s not uncommon. This must be difficult for both you and your mom.”

PROSPECT: “Yes it is.”

CCRC: “Let’s talk about time frames. There are a number of decisions involved in this process, have you or your mom thought about when a move would occur?”

PROSPECT: “No, not really.”

CCRC: “Just a few more questions Teri, then I’ll make some suggestions. Aside from your parents and yourself will anyone else be assisting in the decision-making process?”


CCRC: “Ok, do you live close by?”

PROSPECT: “Yes, within 10 miles.”

CCRC: “Ok, my suggestion would be to schedule a time for you and possibly mom to visit with us as the first step in the process to help both of you determine if this might be the right choice. Do you work during the week?”


CCRC: “Are you off on weekends?”


CCRC: “Would this Saturday work for you?”


CCRC: “Morning or afternoons?”

PROSPECT: “Afternoons.”

CCRC: “Would 3:00 work?”


CCRC: “Ok, would your mother be coming with?”


CCRC: “What is the best number to reach you at?”

PROSPECT: “555-555-5555.”

CCRC: “Ok, Teri I look forward to meeting with you on Saturday at 3:00.”

This one Skill “Asking – not – Telling” will change your bottom line results SIGNIFICANTLY!

What do you have to lose? MORE SALES?