Momentum – The key to easier funeral arrangements

My first car was an old beat-up Toyota Corolla with over 100,000 miles on it. But as a 16-year-old with $800 saved up, that’s all I could afford at the time.

The first skill I had to master was driving the Toyota’s finicky manual transmission. It took a lot of practice, but I eventually learned how to shift smoothly through the gears.

The second skill I had to master was how to “pop the clutch” to get the car started. That became an important skill when my Toyota developed an electrical problem and kept draining the battery.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a technique for starting a car with a manual transmission if your battery is dead. It involves turning the car on, pressing in the clutch, getting it moving (usually with the help of a few strong friends), and then popping the clutch.

If you do it right, the car engine will start up, and you can continue driving.

The key to using this technique is momentum.

For this to work, you needed to get the car up to around 5 miles per hour. My friends quickly tired of the extra exercise, so I made a point of always parking at the top of a hill facing in the right direction. I’d simply jump in the car, release the parking brake so that it would start moving, wait until I had enough momentum, and pop the clutch.

I drove like this for a few months. You don’t need a working battery if you know how to leverage momentum.

Years later, I was sitting in a business seminar when the speaker caught my attention by mentioning the use of momentum. He even used his own “popping the clutch” story to illustrate the concept.

The basic idea was to always use momentum in every conversation with a potential client. It doesn’t matter whether you are having a face-to-face conversation or writing a sales and marketing piece; if you can leverage momentum, you have a better chance of achieving the desired outcome.

So how do you get momentum with a potential client?

You get momentum by collecting a series of minor agreements before you tackle the major decision on which you hope to get an agreement.

Think of it this way…

Minor Agreement + Minor Agreement + Minor Agreement = Momentum

Momentum + Major Decision = Major Agreement

If you try to address a major decision without momentum, you probably won’t get an agreement. But if you add some momentum, you’ve increased the chances of getting a yes.

For example, consider the process you go through when making arrangements with a family. Having some form of event is the primary decision you are hoping to get agreement on.

It doesn’t matter whether the event is a traditional funeral, a celebration of life, or a casual gathering. The important thing is for the family to take the time to do something that acknowledges the loss of a loved one.

Here’s how the conversation goes with a family when you don’t have momentum.

Funeral Director: “Were you planning on having a funeral?”

Family: “No”

**end of discussion***

Or, you could try building momentum with open-ended questions or requests like the following.

“What happened?” (notice it’s not a yes or no question)
“Is there anyone who will want to see the deceased?”
“Were you planning on cremation or burial?” (we’re still not dealing with the event, just the disposition)
“Tell me a little about their life and family.”
“Which family member is going to be responsible for the estate?”

Then when you feel like you have enough minor agreements (aka momentum), you can ask something like, “How were you planning to celebrate their life?” or “Would you like their service before or after the cremation?”

The key point is that you should build momentum by starting with a series of minor decisions before you ask about the type of memorial event.

Asking about the event is the equivalent of popping the clutch on my old Toyota. You’re good to go if you build momentum before popping the clutch. If you pop it too early, you’re going to stall out.

This week I reviewed the feedback from the funeral owners and directors who have been checking out my new Arrangements Course. Overall, the feedback was very positive, and everyone thought the material would help funeral directors, especially those without years of hands-on experience.

One of the reviewers made a suggestion that made me pause and think, “Dang! I wish I had thought of that!”. The suggestion wouldn’t necessarily make a difference for a seasoned funeral director, but it will definitely make it easier for newer directors to follow the process I’ve laid out.

So, as much as I’d like to release this course in its current form, I will take the time to rerecord one of the sections. It means my planned release is delayed, but the resulting product will be better.

The change that I’ll be making will help increase momentum with a family, and as you can tell from this newsletter, momentum is incredibly important.

Until next time


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