The Secret to Purpose-Filled Selling: Winning In Sales by Celebrating Life

What is the most common objection that you hear when advising families during a planning session?

Maybe you have heard some of these:

  • “The church is going*     to handle everything.”
  • “I’m not going to have a funeral because I don’t want my kids to be sad.”
  • “Just cremate me.”
  • “My dad did not want a big fuss.”
  • “I don’t care what will happen to me. I will be dead.”
  • “I’m not religious and don’t see the point.”

How do you respond when these types of objections get thrown your way?

At his ICCFA breakout session, Justin Baxley suggested ways to handle these objections in a way that feels good for all parties involved.

His #1 suggestion? ASK QUESTIONS.

Too often, in any type of sales position, the inclination is to talk. It can also be tempting to pull out a packaged pre-planned program. However, people increasingly want personalized ceremonies. Asking the right types of questions can help you design a custom experience.

But, there are two types of questions.  The types of questions you ask are every bit as important as how many you ask. Let’s keep learning about the right kinds of questions to ask…

Transactional vs. relational questions

Asking dozens of the wrong questions is definitely not helpful. Though they are not always “wrong.” transactional questions are practical, off-the-shelf, and they often focus on cost and money. They are all about moving through the meeting as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, they will not produce meaningful results when you are faced with objections like the ones mentioned above.

Relational questions, on the other hand, are about people, memories, feelings and, of course, relationships. They are questions that give you more information about the person’s life and their values. Asking these types of questions is a form of discovery that may pay off in spades later.

Let’s look at some examples of each kind of question:

Transactional Relational
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you want a casket?
  • Which of our options do you want?
  • Do you want to be cremated?
  • Do you want an urn?
  • What matters most to you?
  • How many children do you have?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Have you ever seen anything happen at a funeral that you do not want your family to go through?

Transactional questions are usually quite off-putting for client families. They can also decrease profits and sales, because they don’t show families the value of your products and services. However, relational questions give you a chance to learn about the person and transition to a personalized suggestion for a funeral plan.

Now that you know about the kinds of questions to ask families, what do you do with that answers? The easiest way to engage families in meaningful conversations  is to always refer back to what you have found out with phrases like:

  • You mentioned that….
  • Based on what you told me earlier…
  • You shared a concern about…


The gift of getting personal

The more personal you can get, and the more you can uncover about the people in front of you, the better able you will be to suggest specifics and help guide decision-making. Think of yourself as a storyteller summarizing the deceased’s life.

Makes sense, right? So, why do we sometimes revert to transactional questions?

“We can get a little bit of compassion fatigue in our industry,” explained Baxley. It’s not difficult to understand how that could happen. But at the same time, the people who come to a planning session want to feel like the only family you have been with that day. Making them feel important is key.

One easy way to do that is by putting them in the driver’s seat by having them focus on the loved one’s story. Taking them on a walk down memory lane will help them to realize what matters most to them.

What memories can they share with you? Ask them about:

  • The thing that they are most proud of
  • Their favorite family memories
  • The best vacations they have ever been on
  • Funny moments or inside jokes
  • Unique personality traits

In the end, it’s about remembering: what story should be told at the end of this person’s life?  How should it be told? The ceremony is like closing the book on a life, so focusing on memories, storytelling and the essence of the loved one’s life will only improve the service.

Using relational questions in pre-planning

In a pre-planning session, relational questions are still worth their weight in gold. To embrace this type of questioning, it’s all about talking about the needs of the surviving loved ones.

Ask questions like:

  • What do you think your kids will want when you are gone?
  • Have you considered the fact that the goodbye will be important for those who loved you?
  • How important do you think it is for your family to have a “send off” for you?

These questions do not focus on the problems that death can cause, but rather on how both the loved one and the survivors can have their needs met. They promote positive discussion.

And the more you bring the focus towards positive discussion, such as getting to know the family story, the better equipped you will be to tell the deceased person’s story in a loving and compassionate light. This storytelling concept is the key to guiding an engaging arrangement process and creating meaningful celebration of life.


Integrating all of this into your funeral planning process

Take a moment today to consider how you can make storytelling a part of your sales practice. Along with that, practice your objections daily and remember to work on answering objections with questions rather than statements.

How do you use questions and storytelling in your funeral planning process? Tell us in the comments below!


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