A pre-arranged funeral is an agreement where a sales person contracts to provide services before death. A lump sum, or instalments are paid into a trust which earns interest. At the time of death the money is withdrawn from the trust and used to pay for funeral expenses.
The funeral pre-arrangement provides security to families by ensuring those left behind, don't have the financial burden of paying for a service. It also provides funeral homes with security of guaranteed business. Pre-need is often sold by a sales person, who represents the funeral home but is not employed by it.
Many funeral professionals are content, to give their pre-need sales people business price lists to sell on their behalf. Organizing lunch seminars and educating the public is a full time job in itself. What could possibly be the problem, with a motivated individual selling on our behalf?
I used to believe, preened sales was a major boon for funeral homes. I never understood why some directors had a dislike for the sales rep. It took a number of years to finally understand that maybe this "free" labor is not necessarily serving some funeral homes or families, as well as it should. If it's not serving us, what is it costing us?
Commission based sales in all marketplaces, have been associated with pushy staff. When you are not making a base salary. The desperation to put food on the table at home, can be smelled over that nice lunch being provided at the seminar.
Frustrations occur at the funeral home, when misinformation is told to a family during the pre-need meetings. Many sales people are not educated in funeral service and you cannot educate if you are not informed.
There has been occasions when a sales person has talked a family into purchasing more than they intended. This is one of the reasons for some of the negative feedback funeral homes have received.
The public isn't informed that the sales person is an independent entity and usually not an employee at the funeral home they are selling for. The rep will claim they are at the seminar on behalf of XYZ funeral home, and the average person automatically assumes that they are an employee at that firm. They don't understand that the sales person works on commission for a seperate company and that most funeral directors work on salary.
We go to school and spend years learning our craft. The training to be a funeral sales rep is a matter of months. Many are unable to justify a price list, when comparing different firms. Do they have any product knowledge of your goods and services, such as what differentiates the casket and urn companies you use, versus your competitor?
One could argue that the public isn't going to ask which company, the funeral home sources their products from. Families believe all caskets are the same, most have not seen photos of the bottom falling out of that $1000 casket from china. The public only sees the storefront of the funeral home and the price point, some are fancy and some less expensive. How can you sell something you have no product knowledge in?
Terminology is major factor when selling funerals. Poor use of it during a pre-need seminar can cause confusion with a grieving family at the time of death. The average person doesn't know the difference between an upright and bronze plaque, or that the only thing called a tablet is an electronic device made by Microsoft; which most funeral homes don't even own.
If a potential client asks why they might have a need for embalming on a pancreatic cancer case. The sales staff doesn't know the chemical reaction which takes place in the body and that the deceased is more likely to develop jaundice and tissue gas. Most have never even been inside a prep room. How can they sell adequate services if they are inexperienced?
If you have been a funeral director at a firm for a long time, you have probably spent years developing a relationship within your community. I can't think of a single occasion in my career, where the sales rep sat down with me and discussed my personal values or reasons for the community involvement I partake in. This is a very important part of sales, because the directors make the funeral home.
I don't think I could sell the services of company where I didn't know the staff or have any product knowledge of what they carry. Being able to describe the caliber of people at a firm to a family with details, creates connection and paints a picture that we are actually people not just funeral directors. Opening that door to communication, is something we should all be striving for daily.
The lack of knowledge creates an impersonal interaction which needs to be rectified at the time of death. It is imperative in our industry, to develop relationships before somebody passes away, especially during pre arrangements. These are just some of the areas about funeral service that sales people seem to fall short.
There is ignorance regarding the trust funds that insurance representatives are selling. Money is set aside for the funeral, but which companies are those funds supporting before they are withdrawn?
As an investor myself, I want to know that my hard earned money is invested in corporations which support my values. If we go to the bank, and put money into an RRSP, the bank discloses and allows us to choose what type of businesses we are supporting. As an industry professional, I still don't know where that money is being invested. This information should be disclosed when a family is buying a pre-arranged funeral.
I don't hate pre-arrangments or the concept of people selling them. I think they are valuable and I think they help both families and funeral homes, but insurance people have a lot to improve on.
We all care about making a profit, but as a funeral professionals, our bottom line is to serve families. That is what separates sales people from funeral directors.
We need to hold ourselves accountable for not informing our sales reps about what differentiates us from the competition. As funeral directors we need to empower our pre-need sales staff with knowledge. This knowledge can then be used to educate the public on our behalf. We can all agree how much it would help our businesses, industry and our sales representatives if everyone was more informed.
I would reccomend that you schedule a week with your sales person. Get to know them. Ask them questions about all of the information mentioned above and most of all, teach them. They are representing you and your reputation depends on it. Pre-need sales will improve if families know what you provide. Your price list will be justified and you will be defined as an important part of the community while building a relationship between your company and your clients before the time of death.