A Consultative Approach to Funeral Arrangements

My wife and I walked out of the attorney’s office, having just agreed to spend five times what we had expected. And yet, we were okay with the outcome because we knew it was the right decision.

Our CPA has been telling us that we needed to “get our estate in order” for years. This topic always came up as he was preparing our business and personal tax returns.

Every year, he looked through our list of assets and asked things like “Who’s name is on the title?” and “Who’s the beneficiary?”. Then he’d shake his head and hand us the business card of an estate planning attorney he recommended.

It could be because we are now empty nesters and thinking of selling the family home that no longer fits our needs, or it could be because we knew he was right. Regardless of the reason, we finally scheduled a meeting with the estate planning attorney. 

We did a little homework ahead of time and decided that all we needed was to fix the titles and beneficiaries of our assets and have a will drawn up. We read that on the internet, so it must be true (LOL).

Our meeting with the estate attorney didn’t go quite as planned. She was very professional and thorough in her analysis of our situation. Eventually, she broke the news that what we wanted was a good first step but wouldn’t accomplish what we needed.

I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say that before the meeting, we knew what we wanted. After the meeting, we knew what we needed.

The estate attorney helped us understand what we needed, gave us the information, and then left the decision up to us. This wasn’t about selling us something we didn’t want or need; it was about outlining a plan, giving us the information, and letting us decide for ourselves.

We went into the meeting with a ballpark budget in mind. We left having agreed to ballpark x 5, but as I said above, we were okay with that because we knew it solved our real problem.

Making arrangements with a Baby Boomer family is similar to the meeting I’ve just described. 

They come into your funeral home knowing what they want but not what they need. It’s your arranger’s job to help them understand what they need, give them a plan, and let the family make an informed decision.

Most people know what it feels like to be sold something. You can sense that the salesperson cares far more about their commission than they do about meeting your needs.

The process my wife and I went through with the estate attorney had nothing to do with selling. Likewise, the process your Funeral Directors go through with families has nothing to do with selling.

If it’s not selling, then what is it?


“Consultant” – noun – a person who provides expert advice professionally

I’ve asked many Funeral Directors to describe their arrangement process. The most common answer is “we ask what they want and then give it to them.” Unfortunately, that is not even close to consulting. It may give them what they want, but will rarely give them what they need.

I have been a consultant or managed consulting teams for most of my career. That’s many decades of providing expert advice professionally. 

Over the years, I have mentored and trained hundreds of consultants on subjects like client acquisition, client management, and expert positioning. To say that I am an expert on the subject of how to be a consultant is an understatement. 

Making funeral arrangements with a family is fundamentally a consulting process. This is especially true with Baby Boomers because if they feel they are being sold, they will leave and go to a competitor.

In the past, I have designed consultative funeral arrangement processes for my private clients that have been very successful. I’m considering releasing a training program on this topic, but in the meantime, here are five key points for you to keep in mind when meeting with Baby Boomer families.

Explore their situation first

The dictionary definition of a consultant that I gave above is flawed. It implies that a consultant’s value comes from the advice they provide. Actually, a consultant’s primary value comes from knowing what questions to ask.

By asking the right questions, the family will recognize you as an expert who understands the situation better than they do.


It is important to take the time to educate the family to solidify your position as an expert. In the case of funeral arrangements, most people know what a traditional funeral is like, but they can’t envision a personalized Celebration of Life. Educating them on the difference would be a good starting point.

Have a package in mind

The estate attorney we met with made it easy to take the next step with her by presenting a very clear package that met our needs. Your Funeral Directors need a similarly clear packages to offer families. And by the way, a GPL is not a package.

Give them room to make the decision

As our meeting was winding down, the estate attorney presented her package and left the room to give us some time to discuss it privately. I don’t know if she had been trained to do this, but it’s exactly what I’ve taught other consultants to do for years.

Give a family the room to have a private conversation so they can decide without feeling pressured. Always leave the room and let them decide privately. They may not always decide what you want, but it’s their decision to make.

Take your time

Planning a traditional funeral with a family that has already made the key decisions is a relatively quick process. But planning a Celebration of Life with a Baby Boomer family takes much more time. In fact, my clients will typically block out 1.5 to 2 hours.

Of course, if you do not want to go through the steps I’ve described above, you can write up a direct cremation in about half an hour. But if you are hoping to have a service of some kind, it will take a lot more time with a family.

The bottom line is that making arrangements with a Boomer family is a consulting process. Therefore, you will need good consulting skills, be prepared to help them explore their wants and needs, and have a great option for families who do not want a traditional visitation and church service. 

It might sound like a lot of work, but if you are going to serve the coming wave of Baby Boomers, that’s what it will take to succeed.

Until next time


PS: Please take my new Funeral Arrangement Survey. It will only take a minute and it will help me help you.



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