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Stop Losing Those Bedding Sales - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


There are twelve major ways retailers lose bedding sales.

Editor's note: This important 2 part article is based on a video and book by Peter Marino called "The Golden Rules of Selling Bedding". For more information contact booksales@furninfo.com.


The Mishandling of Customers Who Call for Information

Customers often call for information on your bedding products and services. Some of the most common are:

  • Do you carry brand X?
  • What's your cheapest twin mattress?
  • Do you have free delivery?
  • What time do you close?
  • How much do you get for your queen frames?

Handle these calls in the following ways that will serve to provide good information and encourage customers to take the time to visit your store:

  • Show that you care for that customer, that he or she is not an interruption of business.
  • Answer the question positively and then engage customers in a manner that that leaves them excited to come to your store.
  • Do not try to make the sale over the phone.
  • Always end the conversation by thanking the customer.
  • Give your name but do not ask them for theirs.
  • Always thank the caller for the call.

Salespeople Are Unaware of the Average Customer's Normal Mindsets and Fears.

There are three major mindsets that most customers have about salespeople in retail home furnishings stores. Understanding them will help you to turn browsers into clients.

  • They don't trust the depth of their salesperson's product knowledge.
  • They trust their own presuppositions about mattresses more than they trust their salesperson (for example, many consumers presuppose that a harder mattress is more supportive).
  • They don't really trust their own knowledge. This means that they don't feel that they know enough about home furnishings to make the best buying decision.

In addition to these general mindsets, your customers may have additional presuppositions and fears regarding the purchase of a sleepset.

Customer Mindsets about Shopping for a Mattress

  • They find shopping for a mattress both confusing and disturbing because of the jargon they hear.
  • They find mattresses to be hidden packages.
  • They believe that mattresses are overpriced.
  • They believe their old box spring is still good because it still looks good.
    Customer Fears
  • The mattress they find comfortable in the store won't continue to feel comfortable once they get it home.
  • The sleep set won't last as long as they'd like it to.
  • They fear they will pay more than they have to.

Salespeople Don't Rid Themselves of Their Own Mindsets and Fears.

Consumers are not the only people unfortunate enough to suffer from wrong thinking, pre-suppositions and fear with regard to mattress sales. Retail bedding salespeople too, have mindsets and fears that hinder their ability to serve customers properly.

  • Those who sell readily recognized brands are convinced that they cannot successfully compete against all the others who are selling the same brand.
  • Those who sell less readily recognized brands are convinced that they are too difficult to sell. For example, they don't feel comfortable with their own ability to handle the customer statement, "I never heard of that brand."
  • Only a handful of customers will pay for their more expensive mattresses.
  • There are no "be-backs" in the bedding business.
  • Believing that there are no "be- backs" in bedding, salespeople turn to being pushy when it comes time to close the sale.
  • Many salespeople believe that it's good enough to get customers to lie down on a mattress for a mere several seconds.
    ·Each of these mindsets carries with it its own corresponding fear that tends to lower the salesperson's self-confidence.

An Inability on the Part of the Salesperson to Establish Immediate Rapport with the Customer as a Partner.

Customers quickly see the salesperson as friend or foe, partner or opponent. Until they see the salesperson as friend and partner, they are not ready to listen to the salesperson's product knowledge. "Customers don't care how much salespeople know until they know how much they care."

Some personal qualities of salespeople that interfere with proper rapport are:

  • Poor attitude.
  • An indifference toward customers as a whole.
  • Unclean or untidy attire or poor personal hygiene.
  • Poor voice quality. The salesperson's speech is too fast or too slow or too loud or too soft or simply unclear. The Salesperson simply talks too much.

Another way salespeople fail to establish rapport is when they fail to acknowledge customer statements such as, "I bought my other mattresses here," or "My neighbor referred me to your store."

And finally the sale can get off to a poor beginning when salespeople fail to welcome customers into the store or do not observe proper eye contact.

The Salesperson Lacks Specialized Product Knowledge, Both His or Her Own and that of the Competition.

A consequence of the lack of specialized product knowledge is that the salesperson cannot be a consultant to the customer and therefore fails to win the customer's trust and confidence. This is the main reason why salespeople ought to have specialized knowledge. In general, customers first accept the salesperson, then the salesperson's store, and finally the salesperson's product.

A further consequence is that the salesperson's ability to act as leader is greatly hampered.

When salespeople are unaware of the merchandise carried in competitors' stores, they are unable to effectively handle situations in which a customer asks for a comparison of such things as price, quality, etc. Nor can the salesperson that does not shop the competition know whether he or she is dealing with "apples to apples" when customers say they've seen the same mattress at a lower price.

A final consequence of this lack of specialized product knowledge is that the salesperson's selling skills are greatly hampered especially at the moment of supporting a customer's specific needs.

The Salesperson's Lack of the Basic Professional Selling Skills

Bedding sales are often lost by salespeople who lack the basic "equipment" for uncovering customer needs. These include both verbal and non-verbal probing skills.

  • Verbal: open and closed probes
  • Nonverbal: the habit of listening with one's mind, one's eyes, and one's ears to the messages coming from the customer's body language. Largely we are referring to the salesperson's ability to listen actively both to the logical and the emotional messages of the customer's communication.

A reliable rule that retail salespeople should consider states that whenever the salesperson's verbal and nonverbal messages are in disagreement, customers always believe the nonverbal component.

Not Supporting the Customer's Needs with Clearly Related Features and Benefits

A general rule to follow is not to get into feature-benefit statements until the customer is clearly leaning toward one or two of the salesperson's sleep sets. There are two reasons for following this rule:

  • Salespeople who do not follow this rule get into a show-and-tell mode of selling that rarely leads to a successful close. This occurs because the salesperson doesn't know exactly which benefits the customer is looking for. In other words, the salesperson's qualifying is incomplete, so he or she resorts to "product dumping."
  • The indiscriminate "dumping" of features and benefits on the customer often includes some of the very features and benefits the customer is looking for. However, should the sale get to the point where the customer finds a set he or she likes, the salesperson will be forced to repeat those same feature-benefits. The repetition of the same features and benefits will interfere with their ability to be perceived as special. What moves all of us to look upon our purchase as "the best" is that specialty we see in it.

Delayed Supporting

While it is proper for the salesperson to support a customer's need as soon as it is uncovered, it is also proper at times to wait for a more appropriate moment. Let's say that early in the sales conversation the customer mentioned that the mattress he is currently sleeping on is simply not supporting the small of his back properly so that he is experiencing severe lower back pain. Say tests by his orthopedic surgeon revealed no serious back problem. She advised him to try sleeping on a new mattress. At that point when this customer seems to have found a mattress he likes but is still hesitating to commit, the salesperson might say the following:

Salesperson: "Earlier you mentioned how your mattress is not supporting the small of your back properly. Let me show you several reasons why this mattress is going to provide you with the kind of support that will help alleviate that lower backache."

Improper Response to Buying Signals

The wrong way to respond to buying signals is to take them as signals to keep talking about or demonstrating the product. The reason they are called buying signals is that they signal the customer's readiness to buy.

The quality of the buying signal should determine how ready the customer is to buy. It is not wise to follow the practice of always asking for the sale regardless of how weak the buying signal is. Following that practice can raise a red flag for the customer, creating a belief that the salesperson is pushy. That can result in a total loss of whatever good rapport had been built up to this point. A better way is to trial close obviously weak buying signals. Use an open probe to find out what is keeping the customer from giving a strong buying signal, and don't be afraid to follow with a succession of probes to find that out.
The right way to respond to buying signals is to recognize that the customer is leaning toward committing to a purchase. If the signal is strong, ask for the sale. If the signal is a bit weak, probe to find out what's keeping the customer from giving a stronger buying signal. Also, act quickly on buying signals, otherwise the customer might use your hesitation to justify putting off his or her commitment.

It is also important to ask for the sale with confidence when you receive a strong buying signal. Strong buying signals are generally an indication that the salesperson has done a good job of selling. Oblige the customer by asking for the sale.

Next Month
This series will continue with additional ways you can avoid losing bedding sales. Included will be information on how to handle customer objections, sell with a strategy, the rule of three, a discussion of the "valence factors" (support, conformability, durability and price) and the proper way to test a mattress.

Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at pmarino@furninfo.com.