- Meet Jennifer Dixon, Founder and CEO, JD Solutions Group
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Meet Jennifer Dixon, Founder and CEO, JD Solutions Group
Q: Hello Jennifer, so what’s on your Fall reading and podcast list?
A: Well hello there! So, my absolute favorite podcast right now is Diary of A CEO with Steven Bartlett. I think he goes much deeper and beyond the typical surface-level questions you hear on podcast interviews and his guests know that, so the discussions are raw and honest.
If I had to pick a second favorite, it would be ‘Her Stories’, hosted by our industry’s very own Severine Petras. Sevy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Priority Life Care, and she set out to share the “origin stories” of successful women in senior living. Those kinds of conversations are way overdue in senior living, and it’s a great listen for anyone who is looking to grow as a leader.
Q: This is a two-part question: what’s the most critical difference between a senior living sales coach and coaches who work in other verticals? Secondly, what motivated you to build the JD Solutions Group from the ground up?
A: These are big questions, so here we go…
I have always been drawn to the concept of coaching, even outside of a sales environment, because I look at coaching as the key to personal and professional growth. I know many of us have hit points in our lives where we say “I want to be better at xyz” or “I’m stuck but I want to move forward”. Having a great coach in your corner helps you grow and teaches you how to keep that momentum going.
There is a great quote from Sir John Whitmore, who was essentially the founding father of coaching: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” I think that quote is powerful because there is a lot of complexity in those words. Sometimes when I work with leaders, they think they are coaching, but what they are really doing is something else like motivating, managing or training.
This is part of what inspired me to build my own company! Selling senior living is incredibly tough, and I fell in love with it from day one, almost 16 years ago. I’ve studied and practiced many different sales methodologies and processes over the past 20 years, but what I found interesting is that people were successful with all different kinds of sales systems. The challenges were almost always in the execution, which simply means how someone brings a sales process to life.
I also saw a tremendous gap in the support and resources senior living sales professionals have at their disposal. There were far too many training companies and there was no one in the industry offering true performance coaching integrated with business consulting. I had ample experience in senior living sales operations, combined with years of senior living consulting and technology knowledge, so it was a no-brainer to build a company that would be centered around coaching and consulting.
Q: You state that …“leaders in the senior living space face unique challenges every day as they seek to align their business goals with real people dealing with the reality of aging families.” There’s a lot to unpack here! Can you elaborate on how decision makers can help their sales teams develop innovative approaches that foster trust, engagement and ultimately, increased occupancy?
A: That’s a great question. To understand how to help sales teams, I believe we first need to understand the viewpoint of the prospective residents and adult children who are making these decisions.
The core of my sales training and coaching focuses on building the sales and marketing experience around what’s best for consumers, rather than trying to force prospective families into a process that doesn’t take into account their emotions, preferences and pain points. This starts with the very first digital experience and should thread right through to when someone moves into a community.
Innovation happens when leaders value a culture of collaboration between sales, operations and marketing that is focused on the experience for future senior living consumers.
Q: COVID-19 continues to pose a significant health risk to our most vulnerable population as well as an ongoing challenge for operators. From your perspective, how are strategic consulting services managing the “new normal”?
A: This is a very relevant topic because my clients are across the United States in most major and secondary markets. While there are some common themes, they all face different post-pandemic challenges. As a consulting organization, we need to have a deep understanding of the C-19 ongoing impact on the labor market, how any potential outbreak impacts the sales team and the unique market pressures affecting a community’s occupancy recovery.
Another aspect that impacts sales effectiveness is the ability to blend the in-person community experiences a prospect can have with all the wonderful virtual and digital tools that were popularized during the pandemic. Many things were trained on and rolled out during the pandemic – take personalized videos, for example – but they aren’t really being used properly. That’s where coaching comes in…how you use the sales tools you have in real life to drive connection and build trust with prospective families.
Q: JD Solutions Group is a SMASH Solutions Partner this year. For those unfamiliar with it, SMASH is a preeminent senior care marketing summit and attracts marketing and sales leadership from throughout the U.S. What are you hoping to learn from this year’s SMASH and what tracks sound most exciting to you?
A: I’ve enjoyed SMASH in many capacities over the last few years – both as a speaker and an attendee. Each time it does not disappoint! I’m delighted to be a Solutions Partner this year and officially sponsor the conference. Peggy and Bailey have worked hard to bring fresh content and great speakers, and I’m always on the lookout for great ideas.
I’m most excited that SMASH has added a track in the category of sales training. To me, this is a wonderful sign that our industry is continuing to evolve and recognize sales as a critical education component for occupancy success. But admittedly, I might be a bit biased there!
Q: It’s an incredibly exciting time to be an entrepreneur in the senior living space given the transformation taking place throughout the industry along with the scale of digital marketing platforms. Do you have any advice for people thinking of ways to break into age tech?
A: It really is an exciting time, isn’t it? My best advice would be to know your WHY and be prepared to cultivate deeper relationships. If you are an entrepreneur in age tech and your why is because you think it’s a growing space, you are already behind.
The best age tech companies have really defined the problem they are solving and took the time to understand the industry operators and consumers before developing the solutions. They also understand the crossroads we are at in senior living: a time of great opportunity and innovation and a time of incredible challenges coming at a rapid pace.
Q: Your dedication to human-centric and empathy-centric thinking resonated with me. How can we as senior living advocates and marketers put that mindset into concrete actions?
A: The way I look at this is to always be willing to give up the outcome. I consider myself a sales leader and I work with sales leaders every day. We are competitive people! We compete with one other, and most times, we are competing with ourselves. We are always pushing the limit of what we can achieve.
I have to strike a balance. I want to be competitive and successful, but I know this business is all about people, emotion and relationships. In order to be empathetic and be a guide to the families I work with, I have to let go of the outcome I want to achieve. My focus is on supporting and helping them, and sometimes, that means taking smaller steps to get to the outcome of moving in.
An effective sales professional knows their goals, always has their eyes set on success but in that moment with a prospective resident or adult child, there is nothing more important than building trust through understanding who they are as a person.
Q: The year is going fast, but there’s still time to make a constructive impact on our organizations and to motivate our teams. Can you share any closing thoughts on how to tackle these challenges?
A: Another big question!
Companies that are looking to finish 2022 strong and prepare for 2023 recognize and prioritize strong collaboration between operations, sales and marketing. This is driven as an organizational approach at all levels: executive leadership, corporate field support, regional directors and community leaders.
Often, when I work with a company to help recover their census and grow NOI (net operating income), I wear many hats: facilitator, strategist, and coach. The solutions are there and once we bring a talented team to the table and start executing – there’s nothing we can’t tackle together.