I have had the privilege to work in the preneed market with funeral homes and counselors for many years and have seen many best practices that are time tested and true to increase your preneed results and ultimately your at-need calls.

One of the most important is that in order to sell more funded prearrangements you must prospect for people who are looking for information on how to prearrange and preferably in their homes. Our target demographic, the 50 plus age group, is in our favor today so taking advantage of the growing potential preneed arrangement market makes perfect sense. A good way to prime the pump is to use direct mail or digital marketing as a starting point, as long as you follow up promptly with a phone call and set that all-important appointment. I want to share a four-step program that will boost your preneed results and ultimately your call volume.

Step 1: Prime the pump with direct mail or other targeted marketing.
It all starts with a direct mail campaign, in which you send to selected families in your servicing area. I recommend using services or companies who have a great understanding of your business and have the heart of a teacher on direct mail efforts. Since direct mail is not inexpensive obtaining a return on your investment is the goal here. Using a provider with expert knowledge of our industry or direct mail house may be an option for you after all, they are the experts, and their services do not have to cost an arm and a leg. Some direct mail providers will work with you on your efforts so again knowing who the experts are is crucial to your campaign. Your direct mail message should be short and sweet, just one page, and have a clear call to action. The easier you make it for people to respond, the more responses you’ll get. Use large font, black and white print. You want your message to be easily read by our target demographic. Using black and white print for example rather than full color cuts your costs, and color does not always guarantee that your response rate will be higher. You may also want to sweeten the pot by including a free gift with each survey. The secret is to make sure the gift is practical. Items that seniors may want such as keychain flashlights, eyeglass repair kits and planning guides. Of all the gifts I’ve experimented with, the one that seems to be well received is the miniature eyeglass repair kit. Why? Seniors need them. At the same time, you mail the surveys, I suggest placing an ad near the obituary section of your local paper. The ad doesn’t have to be large; it should simply announce the fact that you’ve sent information to the community and invite them to respond or contact you. This works to spread your message even further, and you might be pleasantly surprised to get phone calls from people in zip codes you didn’t mail to but who read your ad and want to know more about what you have to offer.

Step 2: Follow up on the phone.
Next, wait for the responses to start filtering in. Go straight for the ones who tick “yes” next to the question that reads: “Would you like us to contact you with more information?” Then get on the phone immediately and call them to set up face-to-face meetings in their homes. When you call, here’s what you say: “Hello, Mrs. Adams. This is Michael Main of Main Funeral Home. I wanted to call and personally thank you for responding to our recent mailing thank you. I really appreciate you taking the time to complete your interest in getting more information. Mrs. Adams, was there a specific reason you sent this back to us? Were you looking to prearrange your own funeral or another member of your family’s funeral?”

Step 3: Find out exactly what you need to know, without saying a word.
When you ask a question wait for them to respond. If you’re quiet, people will tell you everything you need to know. And after the person has finished talking, confirm their decision say this: “That’s exactly why I’m calling. I have prepared specific information on our process for prearranging, and I’m going to be in your area on Tuesday. Are morning or afternoon appointments better for you?” That’s important. You are always aiming to set up a meeting in the person’s home. Experience proves that home is by far the best venue for selling preneed. Don’t try to sell people over the phone, and don’t settle for a promise that they’ll drop by the funeral home next time they’re in the area. If you want to be successful selling preneed, you’ve got to be a lot more proactive and set that home appointment. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to call candidates as soon as possible. Think about it: When you get a good lead, you must mentally picture that it’s hot; it’s burning up. You need to get them on the phone fast, because in two or three days, that lead is going to get cold. The longer you wait, the less receptive the person is going to be. Also, think of it this way: If a person responds to your survey by checking the “Please contact me with more information” box, something must be going on in her life that made her respond that way. Maybe they know of someone who just experienced a death in the family. Or maybe they went to a movie that made them think about their own mortality. Whatever it is, they won’t stay in that frame of mind for long. So, get a meeting while you can. Finally, a great way to keep the aggressive edge is to keep a rotating file going of all the people you need to call. It keeps you organized and gives you daily specific tasks to follow through.

Step 4: Training.
I believe in comprehensive training for preneed producers from the basics on how to make a phone call to prospecting for preneed clients and closing those sales today. The Certified Preneed Consultant program CPC designation is a good start for preneed counsellors and agents. Before you begin your direct mail or other programs obtain the best training you can on how to conduct the program in the most effective way for your firm and your families you want serve in the future. Being prepared and well trained will reap you benefits today and generate more preneed results from your other initiatives you may have ongoing in your community.

By following this four-step program you will boost your preneed results and ultimately your call volume. It benefits your business and helps your families by giving them a sense of security for their families they leave behind. FBA

Thomas Holland has been helping funeral homes and preneed counselors across North America for over 24 years. Tom’s field positions include, Agent, Manager, Training Sales Director, Director of Conservation, Director of Development/National Accounts, Director of Preneed Development, VP Sales/CMO. Currently, Tom is the Vice President National Accounts for Atlantic Coast Life. He can be reached at 404-229-8648 or by email at [email protected] You can meet Tom and other senior decision makers at the ICCFA Convention in San Antonio at booth #1034.