Mastering the Skilled Nursing Sales Cycle: 4 Key Elements

COVID-19 has shaken consumer and public trust in skilled nursing, forcing operators to rethink their growth strategies as they look toward a post-pandemic future.

But knowing what to expect from the skilled nursing sales cycle can create a distinct advantage, says Shelley Horst, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Reliant Rehabilitation in a recent podcast interview with Skilled Nursing News. Horst, an expert in business development and community relations, outlines four key components of the skilled nursing sales cycle: developing partner relationships, building a marketing strategy for the new landscape of skilled nursing, connecting with case managers and instilling trust in stakeholders.

Developing Partner Relationships


The success of a SNF is driven by the success of its customers. By providing them with data analytics and guiding them to expand their marketing toolkit, Reliant’s clients are able to craft strategic marketing plans that better align with their partners’ needs, Horst says.

“We really want to be a resource to our partners for out-of-the-box thinking that attracts more patients to their facilities,” she says.

The articulation of patient outcomes and successes is a key differentiator in this process, and business development teams have been more creative than ever in telling those stories. At the same time, however, the results haven’t reflected that, unearthing another unique set of challenges.


Building a Marketing Strategy for the New Landscape of Skilled Nursing

Many sales and marketing professionals have been discouraged by their results in this new skilled nursing landscape, and fixing that problem falls on the organization as a whole. It doesn’t matter what is happening in the market — if a business development or marketing strategy is not working, everyone needs to take a step back and re-evaluate the approach. This is a team effort, and each member needs to be on the same page regarding the mission, objectives, messaging and execution.

Data is a great place to start identifying pain points of referral sources, analyzing industry trends, and determining where hospitals are sending their patients and why. This information shapes our communication style and how it is received in the new market, which is extremely important in a time where SNF referrals from hospitals are on the decline. It needs to be reflected from the first touch point online, all the way through the admission process.

“We need to look at our websites with fresh eyes and ask ourselves if it reflects what sets us apart and makes us unique,” Horst says of the initial research process.

Connecting with Case Managers

In addition to developing strategic partnerships and adapting to the new market, operators need to zoom in and build relationships with individual case managers to drive referrals.

Horst shares the recent experience of interviewing a number of different case managers about what they are looking for from SNFs, and they all came back with the same answer: better communication and more collaboration.

There is a disconnect, however, because skilled marketing teams are convinced they are already delivering that clarity.

“We need to ask ourselves if our communication style is focused on collaboration and care coordination, even in the world of COVID,” says Horst.

The reality is that each hospital and case manager is different, and it is the marketing team’s job to determine what their preferred means of communication is. Sometimes that means transforming the communication style to meet that need.

Instilling Trust in Stakeholders

While SNF referrals are still a far cry from pre-pandemic levels, the right communication approach can help build trust among the patient and referral partner populations. Again, SNFs must highlight the favorable data to mold a communication strategy that develops trust.

“Show those positive health outcomes to prove we are committed to the partnerships with our hospitals as well,” Horst says.

For example, research shows that patients who return home too soon have a higher likelihood to return to acute care environments because home health is not always the best setting. Whether it’s 24-hour clinical care, access to physicians or intensive rehab, skilled care can improve the recovery process and lead to a better quality of life overall. Sales and marketing teams have to remind all of the stakeholders about the value skilled care brings to the table, and that is a significant opportunity to inspire confidence in the market.

This article is sponsored by Reliant Rehabilitation. To learn more about how Reliant can help your therapy program, visit

Companies featured in this article: