ICCFA Wide World of Sales Conference Recap and January News Roundup

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Happy New Year! I just got back from the ICCFA's Wide World of Sales Conference in Phoenix, along with Jordan and Bill, and it was a nice way to jump back into things after the holiday break. This was our first year attending, and the 2017 program focused on three areas: Cremation, Technology, and People. Those are broad themes that we all encounter in our own ways each day - and ones that have been covered pretty regularly here at the blog - but the WWS did a great job of really honing into varying specifics of each of the themes. We arrived at the beginning of the week and spent a couple of days traveling around the area and visiting some cemeteries before we got into the bulk of the seminars.

Jordan took part of the Sales Boot Camp, which ran concurrently with the regular presentations in a different room, and was more intensive workshop format with shorter sessions and more specific speakers. We all were impressed with the programming and took something away from it - even Bill, who in his time with Bosch has been to his fair share of sales conferences. It was relaxed and informative, with some breakout sessions to change the pace up and offer something for everyone, some great food, a great venue, and excellent speakers from inside and outside the industry. Though we are not the precise target audience (which would be cemetery and funeral home sales staff, I think), learning about the concerns, challenges, and experiences from the perspective of our customers (cemeteries and funeral homes) was really illuminating.

Joe DeMike, who has worked for years in Google's advertising wing and has focused on small business digital advertising, gave a really practical presentation on small ways your business can take advantage of the search engine. Dave Brown from Southwest Consulting spoke in the afternoon (he has done over 100,000 business to business cold calls, and before that knocked on 50,000 cold doors!) and his presentation - a mix of motivational speaking and exercises for developing a daily prospecting plan (like setting a goal for the number of "no" 's you want to get each day) was excellent. I've seen Kizer & Bender speak at a past conference, and they were entertaining as usual. And Cole Imperi's breakout session about website considerations gave me a lot to think about regarding our own online presence and what I am trying to do with the blog each month. Focusing on deathcare and wellness, she founded Doth and works with businesses to focus on branding and design. 

We were fortunate enough to work with an awesome advertising agency that helped us with a top-to-bottom redesign of our company and our website, and the more business development-y presentations I sit through the more thankful I am were got a jump on it. It can seem like a really big task, especially starting from scratch, but informative presentations like Cole's and Joe's help to demystify the process and give you a jumping-off point. It's a smaller industry where many of us are working through the same challenges towards the same goals, but not alone - and there is a lot to learn from how other industries have adapted and grown. Next year's Wide World of Sales is in New Orleans, so if you've never been before I would definitely recommended it. Anyways, aside from that, here are just a few articles that caught my eye over the past month.

Two stories came out in December, one in the Harvard Business Review, and one in the Wall Street Journal, that focused on palliative care and the role that technology is starting to play in end-of-life treatment. The crux of the problem is around expensive care that is a drain on resources and may not actually make a difference in extending life, not to mention potentially being painful and disruptive to the patient. The startup Aspire Health is working on an algorithm to improve end-of-life experiences inside and outside of hospitals by predicting patient mortality, informing patients and doctors on the effectiveness of treatment and avoid expensive hospital procedures. In recent years, these considerations of comfort and quality of life have become more central to palliative care. The Harvard Business Review piece is focused on the when, why, and how conversations about end-of-life wishes do or do not take place. The essential takeaway there is that these conversations need to happen, and they often don't happen, so what can be done to make sure they do happen? Both were striking to me, in particular the HBR piece, because they are not dissimilar from our industry-wide Have the Talk of a Lifetime initiative and pro-active pre-need selling at cemeteries and funeral homes.

This last one is more fun; as part of a project with the Columbia University Death Lab - whose aim is, generally, "revolutionizing how we live with death in the city" - they have proposed "Constellation Park", a cemetery of burial "pods" suspended underneath the Manhattan Bridge. Part park, part cemetery, and part environmentally-friendly green burial project, Constellation Park could alleviate some of the strain on New York City cemeteries land concerns. The concept art is beautiful, and the rest of the work they are doing is super interesting. That's all for this month. Thanks for reading!