Seeing the forest and the trees: Gaining a broader perspective on mattresses by looking at their components and the industry that produces them can deepen your appreciation of your job
BY GERRY MORRIS
If you can’t see the forest for the trees, take a closer look at the trees.
Confusing? Contradictory? Yes, but I’ll explain.
Most everyone has heard or perhaps used the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”—meaning, if you are too close to the trees, you can’t possibly see the larger context of the forest they inhabit. The implication is to take a step back to see the bigger picture and gain a better perspective and understanding.
This certainly applies to mattresses, in that focusing on the products themselves can obscure the context of the industry that produces them and the benefits to the consumers who sleep on them.
Here is the paradox of this column: We are going to take a closer look at the elements that make up mattress sets to see the bigger picture of this great product and industry of ours.
Why is that important? Well, for retail sales associates, viewing what you do on a daily basis in the context of the overall industry can be empowering—in fact, so much so that I’ve spent most my career helping RSAs see from this perspective. The results have been nothing short of amazing. I’ve received feedback from people around the world saying their feelings about their job have changed in a positive way. Consequently, their sales have grown dramatically. Many have decided to make selling mattresses a career.
Paradox of simplicity
I often joke about the simplicity of our products. There are two parts: a mattress and a foundation; four basic sizes: twin, full, queen and king; and a handful of simple materials, such as wood, steel, foam, fiber and upholstery. That’s pretty much it. But the cover story of this issue, “A Down-and-Dirty Guide to Springs, Foams and Latex,” will shed light on the complexity of some of these so-called “simple materials.”
My challenge to you is to consider what it takes to manufacture these components, as well as how they are incorporated into the finished product and delivered to your warehouse for you to sell to a customer. Here are a few examples to give you a glimpse of this intricate process.
- WOOD: As you read this, somewhere people are planting saplings that will turn into mature trees and be harvested to provide the wood for the foundation of a mattress set that an RSA will sell to a customer one day. That customer will most likely sleep on it for years.
- STEEL: Somewhere people are either mining the ore that will be processed into the steel used for springs, or, more likely, someone is reclaiming and recycling the steel for the same purpose.
- FOAMS: Chemists are spending their careers developing foam comfort layers for more comfort, durability and support. I’ll never forget the first time I saw foam being made. I was stunned to see a few inches of poly oils mixed with a catalyst practically explode into an 8-foot block with a core temperature of more than 300 degrees.
It’s almost incomprehensible to consider the complexity involved in manufacturing a simple product such as a mattress. Even more amazing is the impact and influence you have in the process, however slight and however far removed you may think you are. What you do really is important.
The above examples are only a small part of the process. You are not working in a vacuum, even though you may be alone at times. Understand that all those people, most of whom you will never know, are dependent on you making the sale to generate a portion of their income and vice versa. You are dependent on them to do their job to provide the finished product you sell.
Consider that each of those people is a part of a company that produces these products. Each company has executives, marketing and customer service people, accountants and mechanics, drivers and warehouse employees. Each company has multiple companies with whom they conduct business and are dependent on and vice versa.
It doesn’t stop there. Every one of these countless people likely has a family dependent on the income produced by their efforts.
Where you fit in
To empower yourself, you must consider how you view your job. Imagine a huge chain of people, materials, processes and events. You are the last link in the chain on the supply side of the equation. Every mattress sold at retail results from a single conversation between two people—an RSA and a shopper. (It’s often said, nothing happens until something is sold. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You know a lot happens.) It’s the sale that triggers and supplies the flow of benefits back to all the countless, aforementioned companies and people.
The industry’s revenue originates from successful selling to shoppers.
The best news of all
Finally, realize the effect you have on your customers and how far reaching that may be. Imagine the impact on their lives, and those around them, when they feel better, are more productive and are happier—all benefits of restorative sleep. Again, it’s the interconnectivity that you can’t possibly track. But you can feel pretty dang good (Texan for “very good”) about the job you have, along with the satisfaction of having a positive effect on so many lives.
Here are some suggestions to help you develop this empowering vision:
- Read or reread the cover story in this issue from this new perspective.
- Research the companies that supply your products.
- If possible, tour a factory of a mattress manufacturer and, if possible, some of its suppliers.
- Watch YouTube videos; search for “How Foam Is Made,” “How Coils Are Made,” “Mattress Manufacturing” and “Lumber and Steel and Fabric Production.”
- Visit people within your own company and your suppliers to get to know them. Learn more about their roles in the process, how they relate to yours and yours to theirs.
It’s up to you
Do you have to think about mattresses and your career in this abstract manner? Of course not, but in my experience of explaining this big-picture thinking, I’ve witnessed amazing transformations of the RSAs who have chosen to.
Like putting on a special new pair of glasses, suddenly one can see the forest and the trees.
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. 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.”