Motivating Shoppers to Buy



An interview with a Texas retailer reveals winning ways to overcome customer objections, close the deal and follow up

Devin McNeal

“When we do things right up front, closing becomes a ‘nudge’ that allows the shopper to buy.”

— Devin McNeal

This is the third in a series of my interviews with Devin McNeal in which we will cover handling objections, closing the sale and follow up. McNeal is the general manager of three Ashley Home Stores, two Four States Furniture stores and two America’s Mattress stores in northeast Texas — with more to come.

In my July/August column, McNeal revealed his four-step selling process. In his approach to sales, he likes to boil things down to simple, well-executed steps and procedures. He views the selling process as a funnel that narrows down to the spout, symbolizing the closing as being a “nudge” that allows the shopper to choose to buy.

Everything is predicated on the relationship, rapport and trust that are established early in the process. Retail sales associates must believe in their products and focus on serving the shopper instead of obsessing about making a sale. Such an attitude motivates shoppers to be forthcoming about their concerns, offering the RSA the opportunity to isolate real objections and to address and then overcome them.

Objections vs. excuses

McNeal compares dealing with excuses to being in a round room with lots of doors for escape. RSAs have to close those doors.

Early on in the process, many shoppers will make excuses about why they are not going to buy: just looking, not really ready to buy, needing to check with a spouse or partner, and myriad others. Excuses are a direct result of shoppers not feeling comfortable, having sticker shock, being guarded, etc. But, McNeal says, the main reason we hear excuses rather than objections is when we aren’t doing things right. In other words, that’s when RSAs don’t establish trust, talk more than listen and don’t know how to discover real needs and — most importantly — how to fit a customer to the right product.

With trust established, RSAs can overcome excuses by asking more probing questions: “Is there another reason you are hesitant to buy?” “Is your real concern the mattress itself or is it the price?” “I’m here to help you. Is there something you don’t feel comfortable or confident about?” By doing this, RSAs can close the door to many excuses and discover legitimate concerns.

Agree and restate on your terms

When it comes to addressing legitimate objections, McNeal advises RSAs to first agree with them. This act legitimizes and validates the shopper’s concerns. Disagreeing sometimes may win the battle and lose the war. Cleverly, McNeal teaches his RSAs to restate the objection in different terms, opening the door for further conversation.

For example, when someone says, “I never buy from the first place I shop,” agree and restate the objection: “I understand. You want to make sure to take in enough information to make an intelligent decision. I’m the same way.” Many people at that point let their guard down, enabling RSAs to make a case for buying from them and touting the quality of their brands, the credibility of the store and the numbers of satisfied customers.

Notice the RSA doesn’t encourage the customer to shop around; instead, the RSA deals with the issue of giving enough information to gain the shopper’s confidence. Try this: “While there are good brands and values out there, finding the right fit is what matters the most. Like shoes, you can find a top-quality pair at a good price, but if you wear size 11 and buy size 9, how good is the value? We specialize in fitting you to a mattress you’ll likely enjoy for years, along with a price and comfort guarantee with a sleep trial period so you will be confident in your purchase.” It’s hard to argue with that.


According to McNeal, “People who are known as ‘great closers’ are often ones that con people out of their money, creating a false sense of urgency or intimidating and manipulating shoppers to buy.” Of course, no one can close every sale, but, by following McNeal’s advice, RSAs can close more sales than the average RSA. That happens most every day in his stores.

When RSAs follow the simple procedure described in my previous column — start a conversation, understand the shopper’s needs and offer options that fill those needs — closing becomes a mere formality. In essence, RSAs boil down the clutter of issues and concerns to what matters most, resulting in shoppers choosing to buy because they want to rather than need to. From that point, all the customer needs is a nudge: “Let’s get your new set to you ASAP!”

No-interest financing

This is a great service for closing sales, but only when used correctly. I mentioned in a previous column that I worked with McNeal at the new America’s Mattress store in my hometown to help get it started. The worst situations I faced were when someone was ready to buy a top-quality set with financing only to be rejected or approved for a much lower amount. One hundred percent of the time the shoppers left disappointed and embarrassed. They had their hope dashed and didn’t want to start all over again to find an “inferior” product.

McNeal taught me to bring up no- or low-interest financing early on, especially when showing adjustable beds. “Financing allows our customers to get what they want. Let’s take just a few minutes to see what you qualify for and we’ll go from there.” RSAs then can tailor the presentation for what shoppers can afford without having them feel like they are settling. That made all the difference.

Follow up

Just because someone leaves without buying doesn’t guarantee they won’t come back. McNeal has devised a follow-up procedure that has a fair percentage of people actually returning. Here’s the great part. Of those who do, 80% buy. Wow!

Here’s how it goes:

  • Within the first hour after a shopper leaves, send a text simply thanking her for shopping with you. That’s it.
  • One hour later, make a quick phone call to see if she got the text and thank her again. No sales pitch.
  • The next day, call to ask if she talked to her partner, measured, checked finances or shopped and found something she liked. Ask if she bought it.
  • If she still hasn’t bought, say, “I had an idea of how you can get a mattress you’ll be happy with.” That idea could be about financing, that you realized there was another mattress that may be more suited to her needs, that you put together a package deal that could save her money or that you want to help her by discounting the delivery. Be creative but offer sincere, valid ideas.
  • Finally, send a handwritten thank-you note. Just the fact that you are thinking about the shopper and are trying to be of service means a lot.

In retail you win some and lose some. By following up like this with every shopper, over the course of the year, your sales will be dramatically higher. People who buy from you do tell others. The proof’s in the pudding. McNeal’s system of mattress sales works. Try it and see for yourself.

Sleep well and help others do the same!

Common Excuses and What They Likely Mean

  • “I need to go home and measure.” Code for: “I’m going to shop your competitor.”
  • “I need to talk to my partner.” Code for: “I’m not feeling comfortable or confident to make a decision here.”
  • “I have to take care of some financial things first.” Code for: “I didn’t realize mattresses were so expensive.”
  • “I’m just looking. I don’t have much time now.”  Code for: “I saw some things I don’t like.”

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 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


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