How many times does your phone ring and with one look at an unknown number you click “ignore?” This happens all the time. Most every person asked will say, “If I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. If it is an important call they will leave a message.”
In today’s society we are driven by a fast pace and we juggle multiple responsibilities. If you take a look at the refrigerator calendar in any American home you are likely to find a to-do list that would keep even Martha Stewart’s head spinning. Everything from soccer camp to pottery classes, doctor appointments, workouts and what’s for dinner is likely included. Every person and family has to have priorities. Considering this, how then do we get someone to actually answer our call, let alone engage in a conversation about their funeral?
With increasingly few “land lines” in homes today, connecting with the head of the household can be difficult. Many folks prefer text messaging to speaking directly on the telephone. Most are more likely to email rather than talk because they are commonly near a computer in their office or home.
Calling upon members of your community should be seen as an opportunity for a funeral home or cemetery to reach out to its community one person at a time and ask what prospective clients’ needs are. Hopefully, with the intention of improving lives, need-based solutions can then be offered. Not every call is intended to be sales focused, however, every contact is an important step along the path to sales growth. Re-imagine cold-calling as community outreach.
If you ask a funeral director or pre-need counselor about their favorite way to generate business, you are not likely to hear, “cold calling.” Most would like to make a living just selling pre need funerals to people who have experienced a recent death and fear being unprepared. But for a funeral home and a sales person to be even more successful you must reach beyond the same-old-same mentality. Get creative.
There are many tips available to aid in when using the telephone to reach out to the community. A good place to begin is brainstorming with your colleagues about what works best for each individual person on the team. Obviously the family in Los Angeles will be slightly different from the one in Birmingham. Keep this in mind when you begin to develop a strategy for “warm”calling.
Here are a few other ideas that might help you succeed when dialing the phone:
- RESEARCH – If you are using a phonebook, old funeral files or a database to compile your call lists, try doing a Google search of the prospect’s name followed by a Facebook search. Learn all you can about someone prior to dialing the phone. If you are in a small town this might not be so difficult. Search names in obituaries and be certain the person you’re calling hasn’t recently experienced a death. Calling a grieving family is a sure way to lose a client for the funeral home you represent.
- STUDY – When dealing with a lead-based call, be sure to study the information you have received regarding the needs of the consumer. If your call is generated from an archived funeral file, become familiar with the choices the family made previously.
- PREPARE TO TALK – Is there an upcoming community event you might be able to discuss? Plan a community pot-luck at the local VFW and make your call about that. Perhaps you can offer complimentary literature about what to do when someone dies? Maybe your prospect’s neighbor recently passed and your call is to inform the neighborhood the surviving spouse might appreciate a watchful eye. Don’t pick up the phone and abruptly begin a conversation with “Are you the person who makes funeral decisions for the household?” Oh, and stay away from a script. It is good to prepare topics to cover with each family but refrain from reciting a word-for-word message that might appear callous and insincere.
- MAKE THE CALL – The best response is usually received when a call is made Tuesday through Thursday between the peak hours of 2pm and 5pm, but never later than 8PM. Make sure you are not calling and disturbing a family on a holiday or over the weekend unless you have been given express permission to do so. Keep a call log of your activity so you can best determine the call times that generate the best customer responses. If you are calling from a archived funeral file, make a note on the folder of the date, time and what you discussed with the family. Also, consider where you are calling from and what will show up on the caller I.D.
- SPEAK – The tone of the conversation should reflect the person with whom you are speaking. For example, how might you address Beverly, the supermarket cashier? Wayne, the local mechanic? Dr. Butterworth, the county physician? Or Marla, the church organist? Each prospect deserves the respect of a tailored approach.
- LISTEN – Give thoughtful attention to the person on the other end of the line. You have no way of knowing their current circumstance. They may hang up or behave rudely. Perhaps they will be kind and interested in what you have to say. Remember to listen and behave accordingly, your funeral home’s name and reputation is at stake.
- DANCE – Conversation is key to making a connection with someone. Take the lead but allow the other person time to speak and react. In listening you will learn what focus to maintain during the conversation. Just like dancing, conversations require two people. Be mindful not to step on your partner’s toes.
- SET THE APPOINTMENT -Do not try to sell anyone over the phone, use this opportunity to share your message and if possible set an appointment. By dialing back your aggressive inner salesperson, you will gain the confidence of the prospect and enhance your closing potential when you meet in person.
- TAKE NOTES – Family names, special interests, what you hear in the background during phone conversations, etc. Too much information is never a bad thing.
- FOLLOW UP – A few days after your initial phone conversation, follow up with an email thanking your prospect for taking the time to speak with you. Reiterate to them what you called about ex. “Potluck.” Remind them of the future appointment you have set to discuss matters further. If you do not have an email for your contact it is acceptable to follow up with another phone call.
If you feel someone you are speaking with needs priority attention, ask your supervisor to place a courtesy call on your behalf. In the eyes of the prospect this will award you credibility and impress on them their importance as your customer. Your supervisor can handle any concerns or resolve any issues while gaining knowledge for future conversations or your upcoming appointment.
Once you have spoken with a prospective client over the phone, make additional notes regarding your conversation. Perhaps even take the time to rewrite your notes for the sake of clarity. This will not only help jog your memory about the details of the call, but will also prove valuable in enabling you to refer back to them for accurate follow up.
Notes may seem bothersome but can prove quite profitable. Reminding yourself of details such as the barking dog in the background when you spoke with Beverly, the supermarket cashier, means you could bring along a dog treat to your appointment with her. Such authentic gestures could help forge the kind of relationships that are imperative to attaining even the loftiest sales goals.
If you hate cold calling don’t let it discourage you. You are not alone. Rethink your strategy and possibly incorporate the tips we have discussed. This type of warm calling can help build your business.
Written By John Christian Phifer