Salespeople and advertisers often get a bad rap. Right or wrong, there is a definite stereotype around people who make a living off of selling everything from office supplies to pharmaceuticals to, yes, used cars.

At the heart of this stereotype, I believe, is people’s concerns about being pushed into a decision they are not yet ready to make, as well as feeling like they are somehow being taken advantage of, swindled, deceived—being sold a bill of goods that simply isn’t going to live up to the hype conveyed by salespeople and their marketing counterparts. And there is data that reiterates this common sentiment among consumers.

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A poor perception

Gallup conducts an annual survey called “Americans’ Ratings of Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions.” In it, Gallup researchers ask survey participants in the U.S. to rate the “honesty and ethical standards” of people who work in 22 different occupations on a scale from “very high” to “very low.”

For an impressive 16 years in a row, Americans have ranked nurses at the top of the Gallup list, with 82 percent of the 1,049 respondents in 2017 describing nurses’ ethics as “very high” or “high.” Following nurses at the top of the list are military officers, with 71 percent of Americans saying they have high or very high integrity, and grade school teachers, with 66 percent believing they have top-ranked ethics.

Then there’s the bottom of the list. When it comes to honesty and ethical standards, only 10 percent of respondents said that car salespeople had high or very high morals, and more than one-third (39 percent) said that car salespeople had low or very low integrity. Similarly, respondents felt that only 12 percent of people in marketing and advertising had high or very high ethics, and 34 percent believed that people in the ad industry had low or very low principles. Interestingly, joining these salespeople and marketers at the very bottom of the list were members of Congress and lobbyists. You can view the full 2017 survey results here. Based on this survey, it’s pretty clear that Americans don’t have a favorable view of the sales and marketing professions (or of Washington, for that matter, but that’s another topic!).

While the Gallup survey doesn’t have a category for more general sales roles (or specifically for continuing care/life plan community sales and marketing), the respondents’ combined sentiments on car salespeople and advertisers do give us an idea of American’s overarching feelings about these professions. And this is the reason I propose that the title  “CCRC sales counselor” should be renamed.

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Guidance and advice—not just a sales transaction

Choosing to move to a CCRC, and then selecting the right one, is a major life decision. Unlike purchasing a car or a new computer, it’s much more than a transaction. It’s a choice about how and where you want to live for the remainder of your years. It’s a housing, lifestyle, healthcare, and financial decision all wrapped up into one. Of course, it is also about choosing a community where you will be happy and feel you have a voice. That’s why prospective CCRC residents want information and guidance to help them make the very best decision for their personal situation and their lifestyle requirements.

>> Related: How Do I Know If I’ll Be Happy Living in This CCRC?

Like all consumers, future CCRC residents want to feel confident in this decision; confident in the community’s ability to meet the commitment being made. But confidence only comes when they have the necessary information and guidance. Herein lies the reason I believe the title “sales counselor” should be amended.

Who wants to feel like they’ve been “sold”? Seniors, like anyone in a situation they have never before been in, want to be educated and counseled about what choices will be in their long-term best interest. Making a big purchase decision can feel intimidating and overwhelming, but in the case of choosing a continuing care / life plan community, this is particularly true since it is a decision that is likely quite unique from any previous life decisions.

So, it’s completely understandable that prospective residents want to feel like their questions about a community are being answered openly and honestly. They want to be sure that they understand the contract details, the pricing structure, and how various refund options will work. In short, they want to have complete confidence that, with the substantial investment they are making, there will be no surprises down the road. They want to be absolutely certain that their money is safe and that the CCRC will uphold its commitments about services, facilities, and care.

>> Related: Choosing a CCRC That Will Keep Its Promises (and What to Do If It Doesn’t!)

What’s in a name?

Even when a CCRC offers prospects top-tier amenities and spacious floor plans, if there is a misunderstanding about contract terms or pricing, confusion about the services provided, or simply a lack of confidence on the part of the would-be consumer, the decision process will stall…sometimes permanently.

Because of this, I contend that the common title of “CCRC sales counselor” may no longer be the best nomenclature for people in this extraordinarily important role. I believe that prospective residents would feel much more at ease and supported in the decision-making process if they were talking with a “resource counselor” or a “community advisor,” as examples. Or, instead of a “sales and marketing” office, what if prospects worked with someone in the “residential guidance” office, for example? That name sounds much more welcoming and helpful to me.

More than just a title

Yes, I realize it’s just a title. And if someone refers to themselves as a Resource Counselor, for instance, but maintains an old school sales approach then this could actually be counterproductive and viewed as a front. Yet, for those who agree that information, transparency and guidance are critical to sales, then it is important to recognize that perceptions make a difference. Ultimately it is a reflection of a mentality shift, and one in which I believe the timing is right for the senior living industry and the next generation of prospective residents.

I’d love to hear your suggestions on better terminology for the people who help prospective CCRC residents make these important senior living decisions.

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