Alan Creedy Contributors Funeral Industry News

Are Funeral Directors "wired" to Lose in The "New Normal" Part 3

January 18, 2012

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Are Funeral Directors "wired" to Lose in The "New Normal" Part 3

Guest Article By: Alan Creedy,

Last week in part 2 of this series we learned that “Challengers” donít educate, they teach. They are not afraid of pushing their customers to think in new ways. We also learned that while people may like those who are nice to them, they like those who help them gain new insights even more.

But none of this helps unless we know how they do it.

Challengers, by definition, know more about the product and process than their clients, and so do you. They realize that most people approach a new or unfamiliar purchase with a distorted paradigm. So, their objective is to help the customer gain a new perspective on the product or service. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the goal is not to have the client say: “I completely agree.” Rather, success is achieved when the client says: “I never thought of it that way.” Reflection, not agreement, is the goal.

Here is how I would approach developing this skill:

  1. I would not start with my most challenging cases. I would practice with customers I already felt I had rapport with.

  2. My goal would never be to convince but to open a new thought pattern by sharing new insights from my experience. As an example, last week I mentioned my response to scattering ashes.

  3. I would create a “safety zone” to retreat to if things got out of hand

  4. I would not probe for customer needs. There isnít enough time to provide that much insight. Rather, I would tell the client what I normally see with similar families and how the right choice made a difference. This should not be aggressive but assertive enough that it pushes them a little out of their comfort zone.

  5. I would provide several options that are appropriate; but I would also share pitfalls.

  6. I would use the dreaded “R” word and work with my colleagues to practice scenarios. “R” stands for ROLEPLAY!. Sorry if I shocked you. Roleplay is out of the comfort zone of most practitioners. But if you are going to be a true professional it is the price that you have to pay.

Here is how to create a “Safety Zone”:

  1. Acknowledge the importance

  2. Ask permission

  3. Make a reasonable suggestion

AND MOST IMPORTANT: BE VULNERABLE YOURSELF. IN OTHER WORDS BE AUTHENTIC. If you canít be authentic you probably ought not to change what you are doing.

Here is how I might approach the conversation. After the warmup and before making arrangements I would acknowledge the importance by saying something like:

“Most people I work with only make arrangements once or twice in their lifetime. Taking care of [relationship of deceased “your dad”] is one of the most important decisions you can make in your lifetime. There is lots of room for regrets by doing too much or too little. I will do my best to help you honor [your dad] in a way that meets your needs and your budget. But sometimes the conversation can get a little awkward. In fact, sometimes I feel a little awkward but my goal is that you have no regrets. Is that ok?”

By doing this up front, when things get awkward you can say, “I realize this is uncomfortable but letís at least explore this so you make an informed decision. Remember my goal is no regrets”

For instance, you are serving the family of a 55 year old man with teenage children, He was an active member of the community and popular among his fellow employees at work. You know from experience that there will be a large turnout. The family has selected a private viewing with an hourís visitation prior to the service. The choice is partly economic. They could accomplish something more at close to the same price by reducing the quality of vault and casket (Now I am feeling awkward). You could say:

“(name of deceased) was well known and liked. My experience is telling me that an hours visitation wonít work and here is why (fill in the blank with your experience). We have a couple of options: We could do a visitation the night before which would give both you and your friends ample time to share or we could provide a reception for a couple of hours after the funeral.”


If the family expresses concern over the cost and you feel you need to make compromises then lead them to a larger service and lesser quality merchandise. (Wow, I said it. I really am a heretic).

Going back to the “R” word. Follow this pattern: Identify several types of customers, list scenarios where your experience could help families do better. START WITH THE EASY CASES. As you progress over time and you gain experience with Roleplay start working on your hard cases. Roleplay is never a one time thing.

You can read more articles by Alan Creedy at his website: Warning: You will be asked to login to read the article on Alan’s site. It is free to register, once you complete the simple registration you will be granted access to the article.