Use the Law of Reciprocity to Increase Pre-Need Sales

As funeral professionals, we are acutely aware of the benefits of pre-arranging to both the family as well as the funeral home’s business. From the family’s perspective, it provides peace of mind in that they have saved loved ones from having to deal with the commercial side of a funeral. All the details have been taken care of leaving them only to attend to their emotional needs.

From a financial perspective, it fully funds the funeral in today’s dollar…what a tremendous parting gift to the family! And from a funeral home’s perspective, it provides security and confidence in future business.

Funeral professionals typically approach a pre-need funding call armed with knowledge – the downside of failure to pre-plan. We gain a family’s trust, present all of the logical reasons to do so, and yet many times they are still not convinced. They understand both the emotional and financial benefits but they still don’t respond.

Perhaps we need another tool in our bag.

Think reciprocity!
The law of reciprocity states that when you do something nice for someone, they feel a hard-wired human need to do something nice for you. They can’t explain it, it is just the way things are. Think about this in everyday life. You open a door for someone they smile back at you. You take a friend out to lunch, they offer to take you out the next time they see you. We don’t think about this on a conscious level, it is basic human instinct.

Marketing driven companies have known this for years. Walk through an airport and see how often an American Express sales rep tries to give you some sort of airline themed toy just to get you to open a credit card account. Move this up a level and see what timeshare salespeople are willing to give you in exchange for listening to a short presentation on whatever deal they have to offer. The toy at the airport is inexpensive but on par with the low value of a credit card account. Contrast that to the several hundred dollars that a timeshare person will dole out to get you to hear the pitch, and make no mistake the gift will come right before they ask you to sign a contract…. Reciprocity.

Why does reciprocity work?
Peeling back the layers of the onion takes us into the science of brain development. Our innermost and oldest region of the brain is the limbic cortex. It controls our wants, needs, emotion, fear, desire, anger – why we do something. This portion of our brain does not allow for speech or pattern recognition. If we only had this portion of our brain, we would be more like animals, which is why it often is referred to as the lizard brain. The only way to get this portion of the brain to activate is to create an emotional response. Emotion drives behavior, including buying behavior. The wonderful feeling that you get when you receive a nice gift is generated by the limbic cortex. Your desire to say “thank you” and perhaps respond with a hug all comes from the same place.

The newest and outermost layer of our brain, the neocortex, is our higher functioning logical brain. The neocortex tries to put into words what the limbic brain is emoting. If the limbic brain is not emoting feelings of happiness and trust, then whoever is “selling” us is fighting a losing battle. If we don’t feel good about who is presenting to us, we will not make the purchase. You can sell to the neocortex. You can give it a logical argument and your customer will respond with words. However, the emotional inner limbic brain controls “gut feelings”. It is best not to fight the limbic cortex, but to win it over.

To close a sale in general, you must first recognize that you have two sequential sales to make. The first, an emotional sale to the limbic brain and the second, a logical argument to the analytic neocortex.

So the fundamental question is, how do we as salespeople speak to the portion of the brain that does not recognize speech? You can’t sell or convince someone’s inner brain, it only responds to feelings and only gives feelings back in return. We cannot summon the smell of chocolate chip cookies every time we make a sale, but we can do things that elicit an emotional response.

Reciprocity works. Bring a gift. Balance it with confident and sincere peace of mind that what you have to offer is ultimately in the best interest of the family. Not only will you induce trust with them, but will also trigger a second limbic cue – the repayment of sincere gratitude for the gesture. Follow up with a reasoned offering and you have spoken to both “brains.” You have satisfied both the emotional and logical needs, and ultimately created a win/win for both the family and your business. FBA

Karl Weisenbeck is President of Funeral Home Gifts, the premier supplier of heirloom quality woven Tribute Blankets, beautiful custom cap panels, keepsake pillows, and photo urns to funeral homes throughout North America. Karl can be reached at 800-233-0439, email at [email protected] Visit their website at

By | 2017-03-10T13:38:28+00:00 March 10th, 2017|Editorial|Comments Off on Use the Law of Reciprocity to Increase Pre-Need Sales

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