14 Easy Ways to Be a Better Communicator With Your Families

After spending nearly a decade working with funeral directors, there is one thing I find to be the most challenging for them.

Can you guess what it is?

Effective communication! More specifically, communicating the value of their services to families.

Of course, before we communicate with families, we’ve got to make sure we’re good in the value aspect of our offerings (but that’s for another day). Today, we’re going to safely assume you’ve got services and offerings that truly bring value to your community and families. And now, you’re ready to start creating deep relationships with your families through effective, honest, and concise communication.

But first…

Why bother becoming a good communicator?

We’re glad you asked. By bringing in good, solid communication skills into your customer experience, you’ll:

  • Gain clarity and understand your families’ needs.
  • Handle miscommunications quicker.
  • Make better decisions.
  • Clearly articulate your valuable solutions.
  • Increase client family satisfaction.

If that’s not enough to put your money where your mouth is, we’re not sure what is! Now that we’ve got you, let’s dig deep into what good communication actually is, and then we’ll cover 14 ways to become a better communicator right now. Not in the future, or tomorrow. But now.

Sound good? Great, let’s get started.

What does it mean to be a good communicator?

We’ve defined a good communicator as: “Being able to convey information to people clearly and simply, in a way that means things are understood and get done. It’s about transmitting and receiving messages clearly, and being able to read your audience.”

Over our years of trial and research, we’ve found four main elements of good communication:

  • Preparation & Critical Thinking
  • Listening
  • Non-Verbal Cues
  • Speaking

Let’s go through each of them, and fill you up with some awesome new communication tips for your toolbox.

Preparation & Critical Thinking

“A wiseman reflects before he speaks; a fool speaks, and then reflects on what he has uttered.” –French Proverb

This stage of communication requires preparation, and critical thinking skills. Any good funeral professional will approach a conversation with a client family well prepared. How? With a clear message and the structure and tools to effectively get it across.

Why? Because it’s easier to communicate with families when you have the right facts and possible solutions in your back pocket. These tips will help you start communicating in a way to deliver maximum impact:

1) Have an outcome in mind
What’s your desired outcome in your conversation? According to the bestseller book “Secrets of Dynamic Communications”, every conversation you have is either meant to persuade or enable the other party. In other words, you’re either explaining how to do something, or why that something is important.

Choose one specific goal or outcome for each conversation you have with families, and then, get it down to one bite-sized sentence.

2) Visualize the outcome already happening
The next step is to visualize your desired outcome happening. I know, it sounds “New-Agey,” but this key visualization step is going to give you the confidence and clarity needed to convey your message and achieve your outcome.

How to do it? Imagine the end of the conversation. Get specific on how the other party will feel, what they’ll say, and where you’ll be when they decide to say YES to you, or your services. The more details you use in your visualizations, the more your subconscious mind will believe them, and the more likely they are to manifest.

3) Use structure (but stay flexible)
Want to make sure your families are going to understand what you’re trying to say? Have a few “checkpoints” for your conversation. It can be as simple as making markers for the beginning, middle and closing of every conversation.

According to psychologists’ theories about the “Primary Effect” and the “Recency Effect”, people will only remember the first and last things you say to them, so give those parts some extra thought.

Remember: Structure is important, and offers clarity, but don’t sound like a robot. Save some room for flexibility.

4) Anticipate possible objections
In order to win over the hearts of your potential client family, you have to be ready to hear their objections. By coming prepared with these possible objections, you’ll  be ready to respond, rather than react. Plus, you’re widening your understanding of the value of your offerings, your families needs, and sharpening your empathy skills.

Listening

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill

Knowledge is indeed power. And the more you know about your client families, the better able you will be in connecting and engaging with them.

And here’s a little secret: it’s not about simply relaying information to your families until their ears bleed. They want to actually connect and engage with you. They want to find out who you are – so they know if they can trust you to help them celebrate and remember their loved one.

Want to become a better listener? Here at f1 we have a 4-step empathetic listening process:

5) Give them your full attention
Clear away any distractions or noises and give them your undivided attention. Let them know you’re listening with non-verbal cues like head nodding in person, or verbal acknowledgements that work for you.

6) Listen for the *gold*
There will be a point where you can feel the essence of what your client family is trying to say, or how they’re really feeling. They might say it outright, or it might not even come out of their mouths, but you can get a sense of it either way. Listen for that gold, because it’s the most important part of your conversation.

7) Offer a reflection
Offer a reflection of what your client family is saying by summarizing, paraphrasing, and leading with the *gold* that you hear them say. Reflect it back to them clearly. This not only helps you better understand what they’re saying, but it helps them clarify if this is what they actually meant to say.

8) Ask follow-up questions
Go deeper with questions. Questions are the most powerful relationship tools because they put you out of the speaker’s shoes, and into the listeners shoes. Remember, we’re not here to blab, we’re here to create understanding, and that’s a two-way conversation.

Non-Verbal Cues

“It’s not about what you say but how you say it.” – Anonymous

Only 7% of good communication involves actual words! Yep, that means that how you use your body and voice makes up 93% of what people respond to. While you’re busy saying words to your client families, they are subconsciously receiving your energy, emotions and intentions behind your words.

By paying attention to how you feel, and what you want your client families to sense from you, you can master the art of nonverbal communication.

9) Go into it with gratitude
In the most influential book on sales, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie shares a story about how one performer, while walking up to the stage, says to himself over and over: “I love my audience, I love my audience, I love my audience.”

By creating this grateful energy in himself before approaching his audience, this performer was largely successful, and made his audience feel loved. Try it next time you’re going into a meeting or conversation with a client family, and see how it’s received:

10) Be a mirror
Mirroring is the art of matching someone’s patterns in a conversation, including their tone, movements, voice and even words. Why mirror? Because we naturally do it when we feel rapport, or relation or closeness to someone. And, it gives us better insight into the way our client families want to receive our message.

For example, if your client family is very casual, using their hands a lot, and talking louder than usual, you can mirror them to subconsciously let them know you’re on their side, and to give them the message in the way they prefer to hear it.

Speaking

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!” – Robert McCloskey

The language you use plays a role in how your client families perceive your funeral home, and the services you offer. With the wrong words you can come across as condescending or tacky – which could potentially destroy your funeral home’s customer experience instantly. But on the flipside, there are words, phrases and techniques that can take your level of service from good to great:

11) Build rapport
This is the foundation of gaining respect and ultimately trust with your client families. Building rapport can be as simple as making small talk in the beginning of a conversation (ie. asking what they do, where they’re from), and can be as significant as sharing a vulnerable piece of information with them (if it feels right). By building this base relationship with your client families, they can more easily relate to you, and are more likely to trust your suggestions.

12) Be clear and specific
To prevent any misunderstandings or overwhelming your client families, be as clear as possible with the message you’re aiming to deliver. That way, the message can’t be ignored. Use stories, quotes, pictures, and facts to drive your one message home. That way, your client families will walk away from your conversation feeling clear on your message.

13) Keep it brief
Less is always more. Research shows that the majority of people have an attention span of 8 seconds, which is even shorter than a goldfish!

14) Stay consistent with your “why”
Sure, everyone at your funeral home has different roles, and different messages their aiming to deliver, depending on their specific role. However, there is one overarching, consistent “why” behind everything you do. This is often your funeral home’s mission or vision statement. Essentially, it’s the meaning behind what you do.

It’s important for your team to let this big “why” shine through every conversation they have with families. By keeping this “why” consistent throughout your funeral home’s team, no matter what they’re communicating, your families will know exactly the high level of service to expect, regardless of who they’re working with at your funeral home.

What it all boils down to…

To sum it all up, it’s really about connecting. Treat your families like friends, and you’ll be golden. Maya Angelou says it best:

“People will not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

 

What other tips do you have for communicating effectively with your client families? Tell us in the comments below!

Rochelle Rietow

funeralOne

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