BY GERRY MORRIS
It starts with being honest and having integrity—and then you can build other skills that will help customers see you as trustworthy.
Every shopper for every consumer product has a prioritized list of factors they use to determine what and where to buy. Mattress shoppers are no exception. Common considerations include brand, price, value, retailer and, of course, mattress size, type and style. Also in the mix are ratings, peer recommendations and a host of other determinants. Everyone’s list is unique in terms of what factors they consider and how those are arranged in terms of importance.
Surprisingly, one of the most overlooked factors (even by consumers themselves prior to starting the actual shopping process) also is among the most important—the element of trust, specifically, the trustworthiness of the retail sales associate.
For shoppers, the RSA represents not only the store but also the brands it carries. And it goes beyond that. RSAs are in some ways the ambassadors for the entire mattress industry.
Aiding the ‘leap of faith’
The power of trust cannot be overstated. We know that many, if not most, shoppers ultimately decide to buy from an RSA they like, trust and believe has their best interest at heart. While consumers may begin their shopping excursion seeking a particular brand, many willingly switch to another, even one they may not be familiar with, based on the RSA’s confidence in the product—if they find the RSA trustworthy. RSAs play a significant role, both positively and negatively, in terms of where and what shoppers choose to buy.
Trust, Webster’s Dictionary tells us, is the “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.” For shoppers, trust enables them to make a leap of faith that what the RSA tells them is true and that the product they are buying is itself reliable and will live up to expectations. Another way to look at trust is as the responsibility imposed on a person in whom confidence is placed. In other words, it’s incumbent on RSAs who want their customers to trust them to be, well, trustworthy!
Under-equipped RSAs quickly can be put on their heels when facing today’s well-educated, emboldened shoppers. Under pressure to make the sale, desperate RSAs sometimes resort to unscrupulous high-pressure sales tactics and manipulation. Hence, the stereotypical association of mattress retailers with “previously enjoyed automobile business development specialists.”
The great news is that trustworthy RSAs don’t need to win a power struggle. In fact, there is no war waged at all because perceptive shoppers willingly allow them to lead the way.
What are the elements that instill trust in mattress shoppers? Well, certainly there can be no trust without honesty and integrity. Here are some other characteristics that contribute to trustworthiness. Conveniently, they all start with “C,” which is great because alliteration is a handy tool that helps us recall what we’ve read and learned.
Credibility: The quality of being trusted and believed in. Credibility is the alignment of your words with your actions or, to put it another way, saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Credibility, which is the manifestation of honesty and integrity, is the building block on which all other elements of trust stand.
Competence: Having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge and experience. A foundational element of successful selling is product knowledge. You simply cannot know too much about the products you sell. In fact, the paradox of product knowledge is that the more you know, the less likely you are to overwhelm customers with information. That’s because a supreme command of product knowledge leads to a consequential element of trust: confidence.
Confidence: Believing that you are up to the task; believing in the products you sell and the company you represent. Confidence is an intangible, transcendent quality that others quickly perceive. A great analogy is the black belt in martial arts. Potential adversaries (if not inebriated) quickly surmise it is in their best interest to disengage when confronting a black belt. On the other hand, in a retail setting, potential shoppers who perceive the confidence of an RSA surmise it is in their best interest to engage.
Conviction: Believing that you are doing the right thing for the right reason. RSAs with conviction have a higher calling. Knowing the life-enhancing benefits of restorative sleep, they are on a mission to help as many people as possible reap those benefits. Conviction is one of the most compelling aspects of being trustworthy.
Conviviality: The quality of being friendly and lively. Embrace interactions with the shoppers who cross your store’s threshold. Retail sales is a wonderful profession that offers new experiences each day, plus the opportunity to form relationships, however brief, with people you may never otherwise meet and the chance to make a positive difference in their lives. Being friendly and happy puts shoppers at ease and communicates that you enjoy serving them.
Communication: The imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions or information. Imparting means “to make known” and interchange means “to give and receive reciprocally.” In other words, RSAs must share knowledge and information in a manner that can be understood, all the while seeking input, acknowledgement and validation from shoppers—and providing the same to them. Strive for give-and-take conversations, not monologue presentations.
Compassion: A genuine concern for the well-being of others; wanting to help others with their situation or predicament. Compassion is the glue that bonds all the other elements of trust together because it involves motive, and motive is both transparent and transcendent. When it comes to mattress sales, the “situation or predicament” imperiling shoppers is most likely a worn-out mattress and poor quality sleep. Shoppers can perceive if your motive is to make a sale or if it is to serve and satisfy their needs. A vital element of compassion is the “genuine concern” for the well-being of others. That comes from within, and while it can’t be manufactured, it can be developed. The best way is for RSAs to invest in and sleep on a quality mattress to realize the life-changing benefits that you will, in turn, want to share with others. (I believe so strongly in this idea, it’s my sign-off at the end of each column.)
Sleep well and help others do the same!
‘You like me—you really like me’: Trustworthy RSAs bank more sales
The power of trust is so important that many shoppers willingly pay more (up to a point) to buy the same product from someone they like and trust rather than someone who makes them suspicious or uncomfortable. That’s because they infer that if retail sales associates are trustworthy, then likely the retailer who employs them and the sleep products they sell are trustworthy, too. It makes sense. A trustworthy person probably wouldn’t work for a deceptive, unscrupulous retailer that sells inferior products.
It’s really pretty simple: Shoppers are compelled to buy mattresses and other sleep products from RSAs they like and trust because they believe what the RSAs say is true. Starting with core principles of honesty and integrity, RSAs can develop the other elements that constitute trustworthiness.
Gerry Morris is an author, consultant and training coach with more than 20 years of experience in the mattress industry. To learn more about him and to buy his books, including the new “Mattress Matters,” visit SellMoreBeds.com. Morris’ Inner Spring training company has a strategic partnership with The Furniture Training Co. to offer a premium online training course, “Sell More Mattresses with Gerry Morris.” For more information, check FurnitureTrainingCompany.com.