Integrated retirement communities (IRCs), or as we refer to them, retirement villages, bring together aspirational housing with the lifestyle needs of our customers. It’s easy to think as a sales team, the job is to sell a property; after all, the very concept of an IRC is in its infancy. But it simply doesn’t work. Selling a retirement village by focusing on the property completely negates the customers’ primary factor in their decision to move.

People move because they are looking for a new lifestyle. That might be a desire to travel more knowing their home is safe and secure, perhaps a customer wants fitness and swimming facilities, a desire for social interactions and friendship, or they are looking for more help and support with daily tasks. And for us, we can only help customers make the right choice by truly understanding what they are looking for and core motivations to enhance their lifestyle.

How do we reach that point of understanding?

There are two clear strands that need to work together.

Meaningful data is vital and at Audley we have the scale, through over 20 years in operation, to inform and adapt our strategy based on sales data and real customer insights. Understanding the customers core factors of decision making and key considerations are critical to sales. We of course know which lead sources convert the best for us but importantly, we know by source – the KPIs which suggest how quickly the lead will convert to sale. Increasing marketing spend does not automatically mean increasing leads which is why database management makes the difference between being reliant on the quality of new leads which isn’t so much in your gift to control vs. advancing the leads you have already qualified to gain a true understanding of what’s stopping the customers decision to move forward.

We can identify the probability of conversion through predictions of key advances within the sales process.

All of which brings me onto the second strand and it’s an important one.

This may sound obvious, but the knowledge that you are selling a lifestyle means that in many ways you should not be selling at all. We should be helping to solve our customers concerns whether they are concerns in the here and now or concerns for the long term. Our teams go through rigorous sales training and continuous coaching to ensure our sales processes and sales methodology is in place for every customer interaction. We offer our customers reassurance that we understand this is a material decision both emotionally and financially. It’s important we don’t offer solutions too early. There is no such thing as a quick sale. Sales teams need to be comfortable asking more sensitive questions which elicit genuine responses and understanding. Only then can they truly know the customer needs. The continuous touch points are designed and in place to build trust throughout our relationship with the customer. We are available through every step, providing reassurance and building confidence.

Bringing together human understanding with empathy and knowledge, rich data insights leads to strong sales. Our growth and scale are testaments to that fact. And while we often focus on the performance of new villages, it’s important to also recognise the strength of our re-sales. A criticism often levied at our sector is that re-sales don’t perform. That’s just not a criticism I recognise. This year our resales performance is up 12% on 2022 with 94 sales to date.ple younger than me don’t regret it.

We develop and operate our villages. So, it’s a given that the standard of property is high, and everyone moving in should expect that. But that’s not why they come. They come because they want to make a change and Audley and Mayfield villages provide the answer to a question, they sometimes didn’t even know they had. We want to help people make the right choice. Helping people live better for longer is the reason we exist and the way that everyone in the sector should be approaching sales.

I leave the final word to Mrs Sonksen, who together with her husband was one of the first to move into Audley Stanbridge Earls. She says,

“A lot of people say you shouldn’t move so early but I think people leave it too late. There’s so much going on here, I’m never bored. There’s always plenty to do and we socialise and see people. One of the benefits of living in a retirement village is you don’t have to be lonely. I’d definitely recommend moving, people younger than me don’t regret it.”

Visit the Audley Villages website for experiences by Audley owners and retirement living advice from the Audley team and guest experts.