It is true that the majority of people who walk into your funeral home are unfamiliar with the funeral home business per se. They only know what they have heard from relatives, friends or co-workers. They may have gotten your business name out of the phone book because they liked your ad. They rarely have any personal connection to your funeral home or to you before they call or come in your door after a death in the family.
This is not the way to start up a counseling or business relationship with a grieving family. Since funeral directors are often, through no fault of their own, put on the same level as shyster used-car salesmen, you have a lot of suspicion and cynicism to overcome if you ever expect to turn this family into a client.
When families plan to lay their loved one to rest in a casket, seeing the styles is usually the first thing they ask about. Some funeral home directors and associates allow themselves to agree to an immediate showroom tour, thinking that the way to get clients to sign on is to give in to their wishes. Wrong. This approach turns your mission to help grieving families into a sales pitch. Your prospective clients will feel that their misgivings about all funeral directors is well founded and the appointment will turn into little more than price-comparison, with the prospect possibly deciding to look elsewhere for a better deal.
Some directors also make the mistake of trying to push their highest priced casket first. Pummeling prospective clients with great-sounding reasons as to why they should buy the high-end casket is taking advantage of their vulnerable emotional state, any guilt over unresolved issues they feel toward the deceased, and time constraints. This is ethically and morally wrong, and if you are doing this, you are no better than the proverbial used car salesman.
Your goal is to provide the emotional and psychological support your grieving family needs right now. So start there. Resist their desire to push to see the caskets right off the bat. Instead, encourage them to talk about their loved one, what his life was like, and what values he had. Then ask them what kind of remembrance they had in mind to honor him. The combination of the funeral service, family gatherings, the casket choice, and the burial should all reflect their interpretation of what the deceased wanted as well as their own feelings. Then, after they have made some of the decisions concerning other aspects of the arrangements, let them view the caskets. This way, their frame of mind will be choosing a casket that fits with what they have been discussing, instead of a spur of the moment decision based on heightened emotions.
Showing the most expensive, most elaborate casket first is not wise. Although the tendency of people is to buy one of the first three options they are given, that usually is because they don’t want to keep on looking. If you talk them into the top option under these circumstances, they may feel that they were coerced and that it wasn’t really their decision. You do not want to get a reputation of being pushy.
Instead, have a casket brochure with a General Price List handy and or let them see the selection on your computer. The best time to do this is in your office after you have discussed other aspects of the funeral arrangements and they have had a chance to express how they feel about their loved one. Encourage them to look through the options and then ask them if there is a ballpark price range that they are considering. Once they let you know what they feel they can afford, then you can point out the features of the caskets within that range. Do mention one or two specialty caskets that are just above their stated budget and offer an incentive with it, such as a complimentary service or a slight discount off one of the services that you offered earlier. After discussing the options, give them an opportunity to see the caskets. You might be surprised that they may prefer just to purchase from the brochure or website.
You have to make a profit in order to stay in business. Deep down, clients know this. They just don’t want to feel that you are making a killing off of them. By taking your time with them before going to the showroom and by letting them see that they have serious options, you will enable them to trust you. Once they trust you, they will be more willing to consider your reasoning behind purchasing a casket that you recommend.