What does selling mattresses have to do with a love of the links and the clubs used to play on them? More than you might imagine.
BY GERRY MORRIS
There is a similarity between golf clubs and mattresses. No, I haven’t lost my mind, but I’m pretty sure that I have your attention now.
I don’t play golf, even though I do like watching it on TV. But I do know that the mattress industry can learn a lesson or two from golf. What could these two disparate products possibly have in common? And what could we possibly learn from golf clubs? Actually, there are several things.
Both products are limited by strict parameters.
With golf clubs, there always has been and probably always will be putters, irons and drivers. With mattresses: there are four basic sizes: twin, full, queen and king. Of course, there’s nothing stopping golf club manufacturers from developing a 10-foot club made for hitting balls out of a ravine or mattress manufacturers from making a mattress set that mounts to the ceiling. While these may help manufacturers differentiate from their competitors, these “inventions” would be absurd.
Golf clubs have three components: a grip, shaft and head. Mattresses have a foundation, a support unit and comfort layers. That’s it.
Both products are made from relatively simple materials, especially when viewed from a consumer perspective.
Traditionally, golf clubs were made from wood, metal, leather and rubber. Mattresses were made from wood, steel, foams, fibers and fabrics.
Innovation and improvement for both products largely have been subtle and incremental.
Limited by those parameters, manufacturers in both industries are in constant pursuit of innovation and differentiation, making changes that are quickly copied or improved on.
Golfers, please don’t write to let me know how much clubs have improved—I get it. Same with mattresses—I get that, too. There are advanced, high-tech materials being introduced on a regular basis, along with advancements in design and construction.
But in a broad context, from a distance, both golf clubs and mattresses look pretty much like they always have. Even though people in the respective industries are up to date about technological advancements in construction and performance, to the average consumer, the products have not changed dramatically: A golf club is a golf club; a bed is a bed.
That’s where the similarities end
Recently, a friend was talking about how often golfers replace clubs. He said some do it every few years, not because the clubs wear out, but because new technology compels them to. Compare that with mattresses, which people tend to keep long after they have worn out. Mattresses keep improving with better technology, as well, so why don’t more consumers seek better sleep because of advancements in mattress technology?
One answer is that, while golfers are very aware and up to date on the latest improvements, few consumers pay attention to mattresses. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this is. There’s not much excitement about buying a new mattress.
Golf clubs are used for a hobby, but mattresses are right there in the mix of life’s basic necessities—food, shelter, clothing—and that makes all the difference. Because consumers think of a mattress as a utilitarian product, it means out of sight, out of mind. Unless there is a problem, they don’t tend to notice their bed. Golfers have their own view of life’s basic necessities: Eat, sleep, golf, repeat!
Turning excitement into action
So, let’s take a closer look at why there is excitement about buying golf clubs. Do you think golfers are most interested in the clubs themselves? I’m sure there is some thrill in the visual aspects and feel of the new tools, but what is most compelling for golfers is the prospect of what new clubs can do for their game.
I call it, “getting a glimpse of what life could be.” As golfers get the feel of the club and take a practice swing, their imagination enables them to vicariously experience scenarios that evoke strong emotions. Seeing that perfect shot in their mind often is powerful enough to motivate them to take action: Buy the clubs.
Many manufacturers do attempt to create images of a better life, health and happiness. I am pleased that people are taking note of this trend and starting to invest in better quality products. Still, all too often—mainly because of so much competition—retailers get into bidding wars for lowest price, most free services and longest financing. Why? It works. It swings the door, but the result is that a lot of people buy lesser quality products than they otherwise would.
Unfortunately, much of our industry and many of our customers focus on the product itself and its price more than what the mattress can do for us. I see or hear ads daily touting low price—I mean low price, like $299 and $399 for queen sets. One of the biggest problems with this is that it sets retail sales associates up to be the bearer of bad news. “The nice mattresses sell for up to 10 times that much. Would you like to try one of them?”
That doesn’t curry much favor with shoppers.
Is it any wonder that consumers are less than excited about the prospect of shopping for a mattress? Is it any wonder that selling mattresses can be stressful? Is it any wonder that we have a high turnover rate among RSAs?
Just like golfers with new clubs, many consumers do like the look and feel of new, top-quality mattresses, but when they fail to make the connection with what the mattress can do for them, they step down to a safer choice that fits their budget.
Golfers aren’t willing to hack around the course with old, inferior clubs. Why are consumers willing to toss and turn all night on a cheap, worn-out mattress? It’s simply a lack of awareness. It’s up to us to connect the dots by putting mattresses in their proper context.
What to do?
If you are an RSA, what can you do? Through conversation, you have the opportunity to redirect customers’ focus and help engage their imagination.
Instead of asking, “How does this mattress feel to you,” try asking, “How do you feel on this mattress?” Get customers to really think about it. “Imagine it’s late and you’re really tired and have to get up for work tomorrow. Do you think you would be able to fall asleep more easily on this bed? Do you think you would feel pretty good each morning after sleeping on it all night? If so, imagine how you would feel sleeping well on it every night.”
Tell shoppers that in 10 years, most people will look younger, weigh less and feel better by sleeping on a quality, comfortable mattress because
they can get extra minutes of restorative sleep every night. How about this: Tell golfers great sleep will improve their game. Wow! It’s true. It’s in this deep state of sleep that our minds are renewed and restored, and our body tissues are repaired at a cellular level.
While it’s doubtful mattresses will ever evoke the same passion as golf clubs, RSAs can help shoppers use their imagination to get a glimpse of what life could be, and many will invest in a top-quality mattress to make their dreams come true.
Take a swing at it and see how it improves your game.
Sleep well and help others do the same!
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.