How to Use Data to Streamline Sales and Drive Revenue

Brandon Christiansen, Regional Sales & Marketing Manager at Primrose Retirement Communities
May 24, 2018

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Data is so important to sales and marketing. Data helps us develop baselines, gauge performance, celebrate wins, identify areas of opportunity, and so much more. And, with modern CRMs, marketing automation tools, advertising platforms and web analytics tools, marketing and sales professionals have more access to data than ever before.

But, what data should we really be looking at? And, how can we create  systems to monitor those KPIs?

On this episode of the Senior Care Growth Show, Brandon Christiansen, Regional Sales and Marketing Manager for Primrose Retirement Communities, shares his expertise around data, its importance, and how you can use data to understand and optimize your sales process. Listen now or read the full transcript below.

How do your marketing and sales activities stack up to other communities? Download the Senior Care Sales and Marketing Report to find out now!

How to Use Data to Streamline Sales and Drive Revenue

Brandon Christiansen, Regional Sales & Marketing Manager at Primrose Retirement Communities



Winston: Welcome to this episode of the Senior Care Growth show where senior care sales and marketing professionals come to grow. My name is Winston and I am super excited today to be joined by Brandon Christiansen. Brandon is the regional sales and marketing manager for Primrose Retirement Communities. Brandon, welcome to the Senior Care Growth Show.

Brandon: Thanks for having me, Winston. My name’s Brian Christiansen and a regional sales and marketing manager. So I worked with Primrose Retirement for the past for about four years. Most of my communities I work with are in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I’ve worked with communities in Illinois and in the great state of Alaska, as well. So been kind of all over the place and been looking at this fun sales process of senior living and just excited to have a conversation about how some data can go into these processes and how we can really embrace and love numbers.

Winston: Yeah, that’s awesome. And I was so excited when I connected with you because it sounds like data is a real passion of yours. Tell me why you think data in the sales and marketing roles is so important.

Brandon: Absolutely. I think data is so important because at times it seems like sales is this immeasurable process. There’s the art of sales and it’s hard to duplicate that and that’s where data really comes in to help measure what that is. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Peter Drucker who was an American management consultant, said, “what gets measured gets managed”. And so using that, I’ve always thought we should be able to identify how we can better understand our process, or better understand what we do every single day and being able to; there is indeed a certain art to sales, but the science of sales and that data can help us find those repeatable, key success points along the path for whether it’s our own path or whether it’s our prospects paths. So we use data a lot and measuring how our sales process works and how our different sales directors work through their process.

Brandon: On the marketing side, we all know, I mean, Hey, marketing budgets aren’t getting any bigger and there seems to be more and more opportunity to get our name out there, whether it’s through different online avenues using the traditional print, and radio, and TV, newsletter. I mean there just seems to be more and more opportunity, but using data takes away some of that guesswork of how are we going to get in front of our key demographic? How are we going to spend the money in the right spot? But also that using data in a little bit different format to better understand what that message needs to look like in each of these different platforms. So I think data strips away a lot of the guess work that we do on a day to day basis and really allows us to make the best decisions to evaluate our time and our resources that we have available to us.

Winston: Yeah, I love that. That’s great. So obviously building a system that’s data driven; a lot of benefits. Refining messaging and the targeting of your demographics on the marketing side and making sure that you’re spending money in the right places and also effectiveness of the sales side. So data can be anything and we’ve got infinite metrics available. What do you focus on as KPI’s or Key Performance Indicators and what metrics do you really pay attention to?

Brandon: That’s a great question, Winston. The first thing we did when we started really looking and saying we want to evaluate what data can do for us and how to better understand what data is going to do is the first thing we had to do was really take a lot of time to get to know and love what our actual sales process was. Write it out, put it on a big whiteboard, whatever it takes to figure out these are all the different aspects of our sales process. And once we did that and we, you know, you move from, whether it’s pre inquiry or inquiry all the way to whatever your final success point is, whether it’s a deposit, whether it’s a move in, whether it’s 30 days after a move in, and a certain satisfactory score. Whatever that looks like, you start seeing these little areas in the change of that sales funnel.

Brandon: You start seeing when do they go from an inquiry to a prospect and from a prospect to a tour and some of those. And you start seeing those fundamental changes. And when you see those, then you can start identifying. What we found was, we could start identifying what changes, how do we determine when somebody goes into that. And then from there, that’s where you develop your KPI’s. I mean there are certain ones in this industry that we always kind of go back to because there’s pretty general pieces like inquiry to tour, tour to deposit, or tour to move in. Or even inquiry to move in that we see constantly and taking those, those are great starter points. But what those KPI’s, it’s also taking that and diving deeper into that. What does your inquiry to tour really reflect when you break the numbers down? How can you splice and dice that so to speak and get a better understanding to say, you know, because nobody wants to hear my inquiry to tour is four percent low. That’s not really meaningful. So to be able to really take those KPI’s and say this is my starting point is the KPI, but I’ve got to get a deeper understanding with each and every layer I can peel off of that thing.

Winston: Yeah. Gotcha. So I guess it sounds like moving beyond just kind of inquiry to move in or inquiry to tour some of those basic KPI’s, really looking at your sales process and defining out maybe the different stages of that sales process and then to your point, you’ve got measurement from each stage to the next and then it sounds like figuring out a baseline of what those measures look like.

Brandon: Absolutely. And finding the baselines is extremely important. The numbers only. I mean, if I told you the number 12, it’s only the number 12, it’s until you get context behind that number that it’s good, bad or indifferent. And so once you’ve identified through your sales process what your KPI’s are, you’ve got to do some research. You got to do some digging to figure out, Are there an industry related staff to this? What does that look like? How can I measure up against that? And if you get into some really crazy ones where you’re really diving in deep, maybe you have to look at your own company’s history, your own company’s performance to say, How do I stack up against everybody else in my company? Or how do I stack up with how I was doing this six months ago or a year ago or even yesterday? To really hold yourself to a measuring stick. Because again, you know that number could, it can be reflective of part of your process, but unless you know, if that’s a good or a bad number, it doesn’t really do much for you. And then to kind of dove tail away from that. One of the things that we really look at with that is we don’t want data and KPI’s to pigeonhole our sales directors. The intent is not to make a bunch of robots that do everything the same exact way. It’s to understand that we’re all people and we’re all gonna do this a little bit different and that’s okay. There’s a lot of ways to succeed in sales and so it’s not necessarily holding yourself nestled against the industry average, but understanding that that is a benchmark. But if I do this in accordance to that KPI and I hold that steady, I can still find improvement without having to change that KPI.

Winston: Yeah, I love that. So I think the value of having those benchmarks in the context of the numbers is so, so important. One question for you, and as you were talking about kind of the different stages of the sales process, how many is too many stages? What’s a good number of different phases in that sales cycle. I’d imagine if you got too detailed, you could get lost in the data.

Brandon: Absolutely. Yeah. You don’t want to become overwhelmed and having to deal with just numbers all the time. And so like for ours, I think we only have maybe five total spots in the sales process or in the sales funnel that we’re really evaluating a key change on because we can go into those, each of those five. I’ll give you an anecdote of a community I was working with. We saw that our inquiry to tour wasn’t where we wanted it to be. And so we decided, okay, we’ve got to figure out what’s behind this. And we started peeling away some of those layers when we said, okay, so first thing, who are the people who are actually touring? Let’s identify our success points. And we found out a certain demographic of ours was touring very, very well at our building. They’re always coming in for tours and is an easy close.

Brandon: We found out this other key demographic just wasn’t. And so we started asking questions, well, why wouldn’t that be? It’s that inquisitive mindset that you have to have in order to make this work? To say, what was causing this? What we found out after we went back and back and back, we found out we were using maybe a template to an email response that maybe we just shouldn’t be using anymore. We changed it up and Lo and behold, in a matter of a couple of weeks, we started seeing that number start to grow again. And so that KPI ignited the idea to say, we’ve got to look at something, but it’s not even back into to what to say, you know, there’s all these other little impacts to it. I mean, we could have gotten so deep in the data that said, you know, what was our online conversion rate is not important for a KPI point of view. But to know, to go back into it is.

Winston: Well, I love that you had a system in place and you had the metrics and you notice that one was not performing as well as the other. I think the other thing that’s cool, it’s interesting, that you guys did was just took an objective look at, well, what does the process look like for that demographic that’s maybe not performing as well and where are we falling short and that’s when you’ve got other metrics like open rates to emails or you know, things like that that you can rely on. But the indicators were there. I think you have the system and the key indicators that were there; those key performance indicators.

Brandon: Absolutely, yeah. Without that system in play to say, this is what we’re measuring, this is what we’re going to look at every single week or every month we’re going to measure how this thing interacts with the rest of our sales process. Without that piece in play, you don’t always see that very minute detail that maybe would have gone overlooked for a long period of time and could’ve eventually caused us some heartache over. It’s great to see that warning sign early before it becomes a major problem for you.

Winston: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great example and I love your point too about looking at some industry related data and that brings to mind: We did a study towards the end of last year around the state of senior care sales and market, You can download it on the website, I actually had a question from somebody just last week asking about conversion rate and you know what does conversion rate mean? Which one did we measure? And the measure in that study was pretty simplistic. It was just a tours to a move in. But I think that to your point, you know, you really need lots of different conversion rates from each stage of the funnel. And I think that’s an important point is people get hung up on like the conversion rate, but really there are several of them between those different stages. You’d say that’s true?

Brandon: Absolutely. I would. And I’d also expand and say, you know, depending on if we look at a conversion rate, like tour to deposit, it also depends on what kind of a time frame you’re going to put behind that piece. You know, if you’re going to give yourself a 30 day window, you’re going to measure that for a very specific reason and that’s, maybe you’re trying to identify of the kind of what we would call more of the low hanging fruit. How are we doing with that market share versus if we look at a 90 day window or 120 day window and so that same KPI of tour to deposit, which can seem kind of mundane, can give you a lot of great information if you just start adjusting the timeframes because you know your sales process and what it is that you may be looking for to find the answer to and say, Aha, this is what I need to about is my followup after my 30 day window maybe is lagging off. I need to correct for that and a KPI like a tour to deposit.

Winston: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great example. So what other kind of metrics do you focus on when you’re looking at the data and looking for opportunities? What are some of the red flags that you would look for in your data and in the systems that would show that there’s maybe something that needs to be fixed?

Brandon: Sure. What we typically look at, you have the big three: the inquiry to tour, the tour to deposit, and the inquiry to move in. We have those we look yet, but then we also look at success rates on followup phone calls. How many calls are needed in order to schedule a tour? How many calls are needed in order to reach a prospect? We want to track that because that can help us get an idea of maybe some best times to call, maybe making things a little bit more efficient. We’re also gonna make sure we have a good look at our database of what’s our percentage of referred versus non referred leads to measure what that outreach kind of looks like for us. We look at online inquiry versus, into response kinda that MQL to SQL type of a conversion rate.

Brandon: We keep finding new and more ways that we can go onto that marketing side and find better numbers that we can run into as well. And so that’s our next horizon for us is to really dive into a lot of those. Other things that we look at on the sales side is we do a lot of different time parameter pieces depending on what we want to measure for. Whether we’re getting those tours right away, whether we’re not, we’ll also measure in some cases the distance between different followup touchpoints, days to tour time, days to follow up, things like that, which lends itself eventually into the speed to lead piece. That is always the tricky one to kind of master, I think across the industry is that’s the golden bullet or a silver bullet approach as it were. Get that thing hammer down, but the numbers can help you get to that point and understand what other things we should be looking at or could be looking at. Of course we also look at some of the other traditional like return on investment for our marketing cost per lead, some of those types of things that are vital information to have on the marketing side as well.

Winston: Gotcha. Yeah, that’s awesome. I love the time parameters. I think that that’s some stuff that maybe some people miss is number of days from one touch point to the next and one follow up to the next. Once you have that in place, I’d imagine you just run experiments and try and figure out what tactics you can deploy that might improve those results or how do you that? Is it like a scientific method type thing? Is we’re going to do something, we think this will happen and then you see what does?

Brandon: Absolutely. Yeah. The whole ab testing is big for us around here. We love to look at it and say, okay, if everything else remained the same, but I just tweak this one little thing, what would happen? Here’s what I expect to happen and we’re going to deploy that. We’re going to work with that for a little bit, got to give it some time, it’s not an instant fix, so you’ve got to always give that change a little bit of time to kind of work its way through to see what that exactly is going to do for you in the long term. And if it doesn’t work, I mean you just go back to the old drawing board and look at your sales process and say what other thing might I have missed in this thing? You know, whether it would be, I gotta change my voicemail that I’m leaving, you know, I to do a little bit different of a voicemail, maybe going to change my call to action on that voicemail a little bit to get a better response on my call inside of that. There’s a lot of fun little rabbit holes you can always chase down with that but if you always circle back again to that sales process, it seems to always work out at least more often than not. Works out for the better.

Winston: Yeah, definitely. You just mentioned you can have lots of different data points that you’re measuring and documenting that sales process. What kind of tools do you recommend for capturing the data, keeping an eye on it? What systems do you use to do that? Is it the stuff that you’ve set up in house? Are you using other tools or how are you managing kind of analysis?

Brandon: Sure. You know, we look at our CRM first and foremost. If you have a CRM, find out how you can use those parameters of the CRM. What are the data points that can give you that you could manipulate? I’m a huge fan of Excel. I Love Excel. I do a lot of building of stuff, Excel in house to measure it into a kind of splice and dice a little bit on our end. Some of those key pieces that, that we know we need to look at consistently. One of the big things that I’m always a proponent in is the best tool that you can bring to measure that is your own curiosity. Don’t be afraid of saying, okay, I’m going to spend three hours on this project and I’m going to dive in and I’m going to get to the end of it. And for a lot of people that might seem like a big kind of waste of your time and energy to do that, but I can tell you from past experiences of mine guessing wrong at the answer, to try to improve something that’s going to take you more time and energy than that three hour time you could spend looking at an Excel spreadsheet or even a hard copy of numbers to try to find that pattern. Trying to find that success point in that continuation piece.

Winston: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s so true. I think that it is such, you have to have that inquisitive and curious mindset when it comes to this stuff. If you’re somebody that gets bored with numbers and you don’t care and you don’t want to deal with the analytics and you think you have a finger in the wind feel of how stuff is going. Yeah, you’re going to be up a creek pretty quick because there’s infinite data available and if you can make the right decisions based on the data, then you can feel that much more confident in them.

Brandon: Yup. Absolutely. I know not everybody always loves numbers or loves to have a conversation about numbers, which circles us back a little bit on the regional side. My job is to coach sales directors about this. If you’re kind of in that type of a world, it’s about then taking these numbers and saying, okay, what’s the real world application? Because if I say I got to go from 12 to 14, that’s kind of meaningless to a lot of people. So looking at those KPI’s and then saying, how can I disect this and then say it in real people words, not just Excel words. What I need to have happen out of this, is a crucial last step in any of the data or the KPI management is, How can you take that and say in a very short one sentence type of answer, if we target this type of person, this is what it’s going to mean for us. To be able to circle it all the way back to that. So it’s vitally important.

Winston: Yeah, that’s such a good point too. It’s not just the data, but it’s the explanation of the data to people that may influence it in some way. That’s something that I’ve kind of learned from the agency side. You know, we talk about website metrics all the time and if you say, Hey, this page has gotten a ton of organic traffic and the bounce rate is 85 though. And people were like, I don’t know what, who cares? But if you could say, yeah, the page is being found in search results, but people aren’t staying on the website. They’re actually bouncing off, which is the bounce rate. And here’s why we need to correct that. I think that that’s the important part too, is not just here’s the data, it’s down or here’s the data, it’s up, but what does that mean in terms of business results?

Brandon: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we do it a lot with our time with our sales directors from our point of view. Get a number that says our call conversion rates down six percent. What does that mean? If I tell that to a sales record, it’s kind of meaningless. But if I can say, based off of our call times, that we’re running into, I can see that we’re leaving a lot more voicemails. What’s been changing? Why are we now established this as a call timeframe? We move it an hour or two, one way or the other. Maybe we have to do a little A-B testing to find that right timeframe. It might take us some time, but hey, we’re going to give an actionable next step and we’re going to be able to find some way to improve this.

Winston: Yeah, I think that’s a great way to handle that feedback too for one of your sales directors. It’s not just that you’re not doing things right. It’s not like the data’s not good. We’re not performing well. You need to do better, but it’s just, hey, here’s something that we noticed. We, think we can improve it if we sort of move things a little bit. Let’s all get behind that and see what we can do. It’s a great way to handle that. That’s a really good way to get the feedback.

Brandon: Yeah, and it keeps the focus on the results to when you get feedback that way rather than the ever fun conversation. I know we’ve all been told in a sales environment, at some point you need to make more followup phone calls. I think we’ve all been told that at some point in our lives. It’s kind of irrelevant. It’s kind of meaningless. Like, okay, I’ll sit here, I’ll make 25 phone calls, aren’t gonna go anywhere just to show you. I made more followup phone calls. Right? But if we can say, hey, you know, your followup phone calls or leading to a great amount of tours and this is how you can kind of show them how all of those data points connect that makes it so much easier to understand what you’re actually trying to accomplish with each and every dial of that phone call.

Winston: Yeah. Well Great. And that’s a great point. I didn’t think we’d get to kind of like the management side of this, but I think that that’s such a perfect example of how to give someone feedback that kind of encourages them to do something the right way versus, you know, my boss is bearing down on us a call even more people. But the way that you delivered that I thought was great is, you know, we’ve seen that the people that you call end up showing up for tours at a pretty high rate, you’re doing a great job. We want you to do more of that. You know, that’s just such a different message. And I think that, again, keeping it focused on the data and the results is such a good, kind of a leverage point for any manager or anyone in the organization really to keep people focused on the goal, which is to increase revenue for your organization.

Brandon: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Winston: Yeah. that’s great. So we’ve talked a lot about some big ideas and a lot of different things people can measure. What’s your advice for folks who were maybe a little bit behind in kind of the data game and they don’t really have something set up. Maybe they have a CRM and they’re not sure how to leverage it to get the data that they need or how to measure the sales process or maybe they’re just feeling a little overwhelmed by the data and they need help. Where could they find some resources? What should they do? Do you have any experience with that? Any kind of training you can point them to or where should they get started?

Brandon: Well, for us, when we first started this, the first thing is to find a champion of the process, a person who is going to want to really dive into the numbers, dive into what it is accessible for your community, for your company, or for yourself. If I’m using a CRM, can I explore that information and turn it into an Excel spreadsheet? Do I have to use the parameters of the CRM and then take that step back and say, okay, this is how we can get the information. Now I’m going to go chart my sales process, start something small, even if it’s just a two point sales process where I’ve got an inquiry and I got to get them to deposit; start at that point and start working your way back a little bit It’s a very daunting process. Absolutely. I don’t want to take anything away from that.

Brandon: Numbers can be a lot of information. But if you start very broad and very small in that scope, you can start taking it little chunk by chunk. Find the measurements that work for you one by one. It took us for, when we started looking at the data, honestly, it took us a good year and a half to two years to get to a place where we felt really comfortable with the numbers that we were looking at and why we were looking at those very particular numbers. And of course, over those two years, those numbers have changed for us depending on, you know, hey, we thought this was a really key part of our sales process. Turns out not so much. We can adapt to that because we were so much into believing that we’ve got the sales process figured out now. So that would be my advice is start just start somewhere, start with one piece of it. Start with your CRM. If you don’t have a CRM, maybe time to start looking for a CRM. Unless you’re really, really good with Excel, start playing with some of those. You’ll find some of those success trends that are in those data points.

Winston: Yep, that’s great advice. I think finding somebody like you talked about is curious and inquisitive and numbers driven and maybe somebody who already has a decent understanding of the sales process I would think would be helpful. The other thing too, I think it’s important that you mentioned is just the time that it took you total to kind of get to a good place with the system setup. But also I think it’s allocating the time to that individual so that they have the bandwidth and the freedom to dig into the data and develop some of these tools because I know that that can be a very time consuming thing to parse through all that data and figure out a system and everything else.

Brandon: Absolutely. If you have the resources to be able to have somebody to exclusively do that, it’s gonna make it go quicker. If you have to kind of part and parcel live together a little bit and we’ll take a little bit longer. And that’s okay. As long as you’re starting somewhere and beginning that process and beginning to understand that data and what it can mean for you, you’ll see those returns quicker than you would think.

Winston: Yeah. That’s awesome. Cool. Any parting thoughts for the audience, Brandon? Any other tips of wisdom or anything that we didn’t cover on today’s conversation you were hoping to get in?

Brandon: The only other thing I could think on this is, never fear to fail on numbers either. You may think you’ve got a great idea on the numbers, a great KPI you want to start tracking; start tracking it. If it turns out that it didn’t do anything, it turns out it didn’t do anything, but you’ve got a better understanding of what those success pieces are. My last parting thought is, i’m gonna Circle back to it. The numbers aren’t there to either shame or hooray us either. It’s out wide. What is going right? What can we work on? What can we tweak? Because there’s a thousand ways we can do this and be successful. So don’t hang your head down because your inquiry to tour rate dropped two percent in the third quarter. All right? It’s not the end of the universe. You’ve probably made up for it with some other KPI too. So keep that in mind. You’ll be fine and dandy.

Winston: Yeah. I think having those honest conversations are really important. They are what they are. It’s not to shame anybody or anything like that. And one other question I have for you, Brandon. This just came to mind, How often are you reviewing your sales dashboards? Is this a daily activity? How often do you meet with the team and kind of go through these numbers as well?

Brandon: We bring it to our sales directors, three times a month. We review it with them. We do a complete look at the sales process and look at all the KPI’s every single month, for us. Right at the beginning of the month. What we do then is we take all of those KPI’s and we put them through some pretty interesting mathmatical equations to come up with meaningful and smart expectations, as well, for each other. We’re not throwing the dart at the dartboard and hoping what we do works. We’ve got a good understanding from the mathmatical point of view and from the KPI point of view, what we need to do month in and month out to be extremely successful.

Winston: Cool. I think it’s a good frequency to have folks paying attention. You’re not overwhelming them, but it is on a regular basis. And so that’s helpful. Sorry, I didn’t mean you probably thought you were off the hook there. I threw a curve ball at you, but that, that’s just something came to mind. Well listen, Brandon, I really appreciate you being on the show today. This was super, super helpful information and I’ll be curious to hear what listeners think. What questions do we get back? Because I think that you’ve given a lot of good ideas and definitely forward any of those questions your way, but really appreciate you being on the show. This is great.

Brandon: Well thanks. Thanks for having me. It’s been great. Love getting together and talking numbers with anybody that will listen to me.

Winston: Yeah. Well thanks again, Brandon. That was Brandon Christianson. He is the regional sales and marketing manager for Primrose Retirement communities. My name is Winston. You’ve been listening to the Senior Care Growth Show where senior care sales and marketing professionals come to grow. For more sales and marketing collateral and other resources, visit our website at Thanks a lot. We’ll talk to you next time. Bye. Bye.

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