TEAMWORK: The strategic advantage you seek

Looking for a real strategic advantage over your competition? Look no farther than your own funeral home and staff. Does your firm do a good job of cultivating Teamwork? By teamwork I mean, getting the entire organization working together, as a team, for the good of the company. In particular it is important to create synergy between all the members of your At-Need, Pre-Need and Aftercare staff.

Winning funeral home teams are unified in purpose and in their commitment to success. Successful funeral home owners know teamwork among the staff is no longer an option. For this century, teamwork is a known competitive advantage, which means every employee, no matter what they do, should be fully prepared to join and support the funeral home team and cause.

Most funeral home at-need and pre-need staff members are under enormous pressure to get the job done in highly competitive and ever challenging environments. If you can identify with this it is likely that a major challenge for you is to effectively introduce team development processes when people are already overloaded. It is essential that all team members understand that the team cannot succeed in the long term, and neither can members succeed individually, if the team process is not effective. Through the development of a working team atmosphere, individuals develop a new sense of self-esteem and self-awareness as they experience the difference between what they thought they could contribute toward the success of the funeral home and what they actually contribute.

In relationship to pre-need; teamwork involves the at-need and pre-need staff working together in reaching, educating, informing and guiding consumers through the many features and benefits a carefully conceived and crafted pre-need plan offers them. No pre-need department or individual planner can do it all. It takes many motivated, competent people throughout the organization, all working off the same page, to garner enough leads to build a quality pre-need program.

Is your at-need staff fully trained to keep their eyes and ears open during visitation and funeral services for subtle signs of pre-need interest displayed by consumers? Do they know how to correctly approach and engage in conversation a consumer who is casually glancing over a pre-need brochure during a visitation or funeral service? Do they know how to ask probing questions that will guide the consumer to an appointment with your pre-need representative? Do they know how to listen for specific details, when the consumer speaks? Do they know hoe to pick up on casual signs of pre-need interest from friends, family, business acquaintances and others?

There are dozens of opportunities funeral directors fail to take advantage of every day to arrange a consultation session between an interested consumer and the firm's pre-need representative. A conference that most likely would result in a funded pre-need contract and increased market share for the funeral home.

Here are other tips for encouraging all staff members to generate and voice innovative pre-need ideas and feel a part of the team.

  • Promote a climate in which people encourage rather than criticize new pre-need lead generation ideas.
  • Foster the attitude that innovative, supportive pre-need thinking and behavior is part of everyone's job, regardless of function or level of responsibility. This should be particularly true of pre-need lead sources and support of the total pre-need program.
  • Reward people for their creative pre-need lead generation ideas by thanking them publicly and telling others about them. Support their ideas and help implement them.
  • Set aside time at staff meetings to discuss new ideas for reaching, educating, informing and promoting the advantages of pre-need planning to everyone in the community. Get everyone involved. They ALL have to participate.
  • Initiate two or three staff meetings dedicated to brainstorming on a particular pre-need issue or questions.

If your at-need and pre-need staff are not working together for the overall good of the firm, everyone looses. I implore you to sit everyone down at your firm and review what the overall goals and objectives are of your firm. Share with them how all the pieces (at-need, pre-need, aftercare, etc.) fit together to make a total package.

Get them supporting each other and working together. If you do this everyone comes out ahead, especially the families you are privileged to serve. For more ideas, feel free to contact me at The Outlook Group, Inc. (800) 331-6270 or visit

Mr. Christopher Kuhnen is Director of Marketing for The Outlook Group, Inc. Mr. Kuhnen has considerable experience in the field of funeral directing, funeral prearrangement planning, educational training, advertising, marketing, consumer and business to business sales. He provides comprehensive consultation and positive support to funeral directors nationwide to help them coordinate and develop their funeral home advertising, marketing, image, sales and public relations strategies.

Christopher has been actively involved in funeral service since 1986. In 1994 he joined The Outlook Group, Inc. Mr. Kuhnen is a Kentucky Licensed Funeral Director, Life Insurance Agent and member in good standing Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky. Additionally, Chris is a Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC) as bestowed by the National Funeral Directors Association; Certified Funeral Celebrant as bestowed by the In-Sight Institute and a recognized Certified Marketing Specialist as bestowed by the National Marketing Academy.

He has developed and presented copious continuing education, advertising, marketing and pre-need seminars to a variety of national, regional, state and local funeral associations.