BY GERRY MORRIS
Believe it or not, a query about tires can transform the way you—and your customers—think about mattresses.
I can trace a turning point of my mattress industry career to a single question I asked more than 20 years ago, “How would you feel if you had to buy a new set of tires?”
Let me explain. Prior to being a mattress manufacturer’s representative, I spent several years selling home accessories, such as lamps, occasional tables, artwork and knickknacks. Rarely did I interact with retail sales associates, much less conduct sales meetings. There wasn’t much reason to do so. The items I sold would be placed around the store and shoppers would buy them because they liked them. Any clerk could write the order up: No training needed.
Who needs training?
When I switched to mattresses, my sales manager told me I needed to train RSAs on our products and how to sell them. I wondered why. The sales process seemed pretty obvious to me: “This is the mattress. This is the box spring. (Yes, we actually had box springs back then.) Each one comes in four basic sizes and they all are made of some combination of wood, steel, upholstery layers and fabric. The more expensive they are, the more components they have in them. Like everything else, ‘you get what you pay for.’ No one browses for mattresses. It’s as close to a guaranteed sale as you’ll ever get. Help shoppers pick out the one they like.” Meeting over.
My first inkling that RSAs would benefit not only from proper training but also from a shift in thinking was the realization that in most of the furniture stores I visited as a manufacturer’s representatives, only a few RSAs sold the vast majority of mattresses. Most others struggled and some avoided working with mattress shoppers at all. Even more stunning, I would watch RSAs spend considerable time with furniture shoppers who said they were just browsing or looking around. Instead of closing a sale, the RSAs handed out business cards, hoping that maybe someday those shoppers would be back.
Another bell went off as I observed the body language of different types of shoppers. To this day, I can identify them when they walk through the door: Home furnishings shoppers typically are happy, impulsive and seem to enjoy the experience of looking around and getting ideas for their homes. Mattress shoppers, on the other hand, are guarded, more serious and less animated, like they are on a mission—because they are. They are thinking: “Let’s get this out of the way” and “Let’s get our money’s worth,” even if they aren’t sure how to quantify what that means to them.
I began to understand that it was the demeanor, attitude and motivation of the typical mattress shopper that sent some poorly equipped RSAs running. Instead of hearing “I love this color!” about a throw pillow in the accessories department, they were greeted with “What’s the difference between these models?” in the bedding department. Uh-oh.
Now I get it
Then, during a sales meeting I was conducting for Weir’s Furniture in Dallas, I asked about a dozen RSAs the all-important question I mentioned earlier: “How would you feel if you had to buy a new set of tires?” Not unexpectedly, the consensus from the group was that they would be less than thrilled by the prospect. But I was able to change their mindset with my follow-up: “Now, imagine that the reason you have to buy new tires is that you just survived a blowout on an interstate doing 70 mph with family or friends in the car. How would you feel about buying new tires then?” Silence, gulps and then a strained response, “Well, that changes everything.” Later Dan Weir, then-president of the retailer, wrote to tell me that sales meeting changed the way his company sold mattresses.
In a brief moment, I was able to demonstrate that we have the ability to totally transform the dynamics of the sales process. With a little explanation at the beginning of the conversation with shoppers, we can help them put mattresses in a different, more accurate context: Mattresses are important to our lives, maybe more so than almost any other big-ticket consumer product.
Most people have an intellectual understanding that mattresses are important to health, just as they know tires are important to safety. But an intellectual understanding lacks an emotional component—and emotions are what help compel people to action.
If I can change someone’s mindset about buying tires with only a quick thought experiment, as an RSA, you can help shoppers make an emotional connection to a mattress—a process made even easier when they are in your store where they can physically experience the mattress while you help them engage their imaginations.
What if you said something like this to your next customer: “Did you realize that in one month, on average, we spend the equivalent of 10 days on our mattress? We spend more time on our mattress than with any other single product. Mattresses can have a profoundly positive impact upon virtually every aspect of our lives, from our health to our happiness to our well-being. People who sleep well not only feel better, they look better, too!
“Here is the best way for you to truly get the feel of a quality mattress and what life might be like if you slept on it every night. Lie in the position you normally wake up in—that’s how you probably sleep most of the night. Focus your attention on your feet, then your legs, working your way up your whole body, all the way to your head. Think not so much about how the mattress feels to you, but rather how you feel on the mattress. Then relax and clear your mind.
“Now, imagine it’s late. You’re tired and you have to get up early in the morning. Is this the mattress you look forward to sleeping on? We’ll do this little experiment on the various mattress models you try so that you can determine which makes you feel best. Then, from there, you’ll able to choose which one to buy.”
I can’t count the number of RSAs who have told me this method has transformed their selling approach and improved their success in closing rates. But the real beneficiaries are the satisfied customers who experience life-enhancing benefits from getting deep, restorative sleep every night on a quality, comfortable mattress. That is the most rewarding aspect of being a mattress sales professional.
Now, I ask you: “How would you feel if you had to buy a new mattress?”
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. His latest book, “Mattress Matters,” is available at SellMoreBeds.com. As a special introductory offer exclusively for Sleep Savvy readers, you can purchase a copy for only $12.95 (regularly $19.95). Use coupon code: f3c4jq. 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.” To view the course, click here.