Relationship First: A Conversation with Brookdale’s Senior Vice President of Sales

Posted by: Nikki Buckelew

Earlier this year, in response to the announced merger of Brookdale Senior Living, Inc., and Emeritus Corporation, which is scheduled to close in the third quarter of 2014, we set forth some proactive suggestions for solidifying relationships with local senior living communities. (What Certified Senior Housing Professionals Should Know about the Brookdale and Emeritus Merger.”)

As always, we urged real estate agents who serve seniors to stay informed, stay connected, and most importantly, to add value. During a recent conversation with Jim Pusateri, Senior Vice President of Sales Brookdale Senior Living,

We had the chance to sharpen our perspective with some key insights into what a productive relationship looks like from the other side of the desk.  

Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:

NB: Let’s start with some basic Dos and Don’ts

JP: Focus on the relationship. The kinds of statements that will get the relationship with a senior living community’s marketing director or executive director off to a good start are:

•    “I want to partner with you.”
•    “How can I earn your trust in making sure that we have the best relationship possible?”
•    “I want to help bring solutions to your clients and prospects.”

Conversation starters such as these will resonate, because they indicate that we speak the same language of caring for clients and prospects.

From what I’ve learned about your organization, Certified Senior Housing Professionals really are keyed into helping their senior clients to transition successfully – and not just selling their house – and that’s what our executive directors want to be assured of.  

As far as what not to say, avoid asking about a referral fee at the outset. Our focus is on solutions, not sales.

NB: What’s the next step?

JP: It makes a huge difference when real estate agents are knowledgeable about the unique features of our communities and when there is a deep level of understanding about each other’s challenges and goals. A big step toward achieving this goal would be to spend a day in the life of one of our executive directors or marketing directors.  I believe they would view this as a valuable opportunity, and we would be more than happy to coordinate those visits.  

NB: Are you seeing more and more of these kinds of relationships?

JP: Absolutely. Working together with real estate agents who are involved with mature adults and their families, we have the potential to become a Powerhouse of Trust. Trust is what powers the relationship, sparks the referral, and causes the sale.

NB: How are senior adults viewing retirement living options compared to what was available 10 or 20 years ago?

JP: Generally speaking, it’s viewed as a lifestyle option – something people want to do, not something that they have to do. For many of our prospective clients, the home has become a burden that calls for too much maintenance. It’s not the American Dream anymore, and they are in the process of looking for a community that best suits them. Mature adults are looking for a lot more than what was available a decade or so ago. Back then, BINGO was fine. Today, our residents are tapping into our Connected Living programs so that they can Skype with family members or stay in touch with grandchildren over Facebook. One of our residents recently attended a family wedding via Skype.  

NB: Even so, are you still finding that perceptions about senior living options are lagging behind the reality of what’s available?

JP: Yes. One very telling indicator is the fact that “Skilled Nursing” is the top internet search term for people looking for information on senior housing.  

NB: Thoughts on how to bridge that gap?

JP: We urge prospective residents to just come in and take a look. It’s not what you think. Of course, inertia is another huge factor. Many seniors are overwhelmed by the thought of moving.

As we continue to grow as an organization, the No. 1 “competitor” for what we have to offer is people who are determined to stay at home despite physical limitations or other challenges which put them at risk or prove to be the source of isolation. In nearly all of our 650 communities, we now also provide services to seniors in their homes, where we are in a position to help them to recognize when the time is right to move. We truly are committed to serving as a solutions provider.

Connecting with seniors at this point in their transition process is a great opportunity for real estate agents.

NB: Do you have any final words of wisdom for real estate agents who serve the seniors’ market?

JP: Again: focus on the relationship. When we refer a prospective resident to a real estate agent, we need to have the confidence that the real estate agent really understands what senior clients and their families are going through, and is committed to a synergistic, solutions-oriented approach.


Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment. 

Tricia Avila commented on 19-Jul-2014 06:38 PM
My favorite line is, I want to help bring solutions to your Clients.

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