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Next Level Training: Focus Your Ongoing Training On This!

Furniture World Magazine


Part 10— by Scott Morris

When a sales associate suggests adding a mattress to a bedroom set purchase, that sale may start to get complicated and possibly go really wrong.

Most Furniture World readers realize that educating sales staff should be, at least in theory, an ongoing process.

Many, however, haven’t thought about the “foremost topic” they should pencil in for continuing education once their full line “standard” new hire sales training has been completed. That topic will reveal itself once the following questions have been properly answered.

  • Which customer’s room affords your store its biggest average ticket?
  • What item in your store has the highest margins?
  • What is the biggest “add-on” most home furnishings stores routinely sell?
  • Which item provides the best “cross-selling” opportunity?
  • What is the one purchase that causes customers to remember you the most?

The answers to these questions all point to the benefit of selling a premium mattress either with or without a bedroom set. When coupled with the sale of a quality bedroom set, a premium mattress it is by far most stores’ highest average ticket—also sold at above-average margins. A good mattress is the perfect cross-sell to customers who don’t expressly come with the intention of buying one. Those customers will remember their life-changing visit to your store, assuming they’ve had a positive experience with a professional and very helpful salesperson.

This is why focusing on ongoing mattress training provides the best payback for your training time and efforts. It also zeros in on what’s by far the most complex selling process your salespeople routinely face.

What’s Required

Selling bedroom sets requires salespeople to walk customers through the steps of the sale to help them find the one collection they like the best. Presentations must be based on the customer’s specific needs, skillfully utilizing all the appropriate FABs. Then, the sale must be closed in a way that includes all the right pieces they will need.

Potential Problems

When salespeople suggest adding a mattress to a purchase, things can get complicated and may start to go wrong.

Some shoppers begin to feel overwhelmed by information overload. Should this happen, their natural tendency is to say, “I think we really need to go home and think about it for a while.” Others find themselves thinking about the financial burden of adding a mattress, an item they hadn’t originally planned to buy.

There are times when the added mattress decision introduces uncertainty about the entire purchase. That’s especially true if that decision is being made by a couple that can’t agree. When this happens, it can cause them to walk on the whole deal. Believe me, I found this out the hard way!

“When coupled with the sale of a quality bedroom set, this natural add-on is by far most stores’ highest average ticket—also sold at above average margins.”

What’s A Salesperson Supposed To Do?

For the few of you who remember the actor John Wayne, if he were writing this article, he might insert his signature phrase, “Now listen and listen tight!” Every salesperson should get an agreement on the purchase of the bedroom furniture and write everything down before moving on to an add-on mattress sale! Sales meetings and training should repeatedly stress this point. Why? Let’s say the bedroom furniture sale hasn’t been finalized and problems arise with the add-on mattress purchase. If the shopper gets cold feet, the furniture part of the sale can still be salvaged. The salesperson can say “I understand! You came in for a bedroom set and decided on the one that’s absolutely perfect for you. Let’s process your beautiful bedroom set now and lock in the delivery date you need. Then you can return if you decide on the mattress.”

That approach will almost always save the bedroom sale. At that point, if the salesperson writes up the furniture sale as close to the mattress gallery as possible, it can give customers a few minutes extra—on their own—to reconsider. Once the pressure of making the first decision has been lifted, they may gravitate back to the mattress gallery. Many times, they will emerge with newfound confidence and say “we actually made a decision, just go ahead and write up the mattress too!”

Perspectives on Mattress Training

New hires who haven’t sold furniture before often find that the amount of information they are required to absorb is daunting. This includes furniture styles, brands, SKUs, construction, materials, store policies, the selling process, delivery, customer service, computer systems/order processing, protection plans, warranties, decorating insights and your accessory assortment.'

They often have to train themselves by listening to impersonal computer modules, and be sales-floor-ready in about two weeks. Once mattress training is added to the mix, most new hires feel frustrated, confused, and disoriented.

“There are times, when the added mattress decision introduces uncertainty about the entire purchase. That’s especially true if that decision is made by a couple that can’t agree.”

That’s why, when I was a sales manager, upon the completion of their training, I asked every new hire, “How did your training go?” The three most common responses were:

  • “I don’t feel like I know how to talk about the furniture in a very interesting way.”
  • "I don’t feel like I was really taught how to connect very well with my customers.”
  • “No one actually shows you how to sell the furniture.”

I believe it’s a good idea for every furniture and mattress retailer to ask every new hire who has completed initial training if they agree or disagree with the above comments. My philosophy, which was acquired by asking those questions, led me to believe the following:

  • The high salesperson turnover rate in the industry is due to these shortcomings in training.
  • A high turnover rate results in novices waiting on a large percentage of retail customers every day, which negatively impacts store performance in a multitude of ways!
“If the salesperson writes up the furniture sale as close to the mattress gallery as possible, it can give customers a few minutes extra—on their own—to reconsider.”

Mattress Company Reps

Mattress-specific orientation training usually adds some demonstrations by mattress companies’ sales reps. Regarding these presentations, please, again, “Listen and listen tight!”

Later in my sales career, I observed that many mattress sales reps have limited direct experience giving live mattress demonstrations to retail customers. They tend to focus almost exclusively on explaining product features. Real-life retail mattress demonstrations, in contrast, almost always unfold along the lines of highly interactive, emotionally reactive customer experiences.

This epiphany caused me to rethink my mattress presentation approach, focusing instead on the “7 key psychological moments” customers experience during every mattress presentation. Before incorporating these key psychological moments, I was already my store’s number one mattress salesperson. Afterwards, my mattress sales rose by another 50 percent!

A Training Epiphany Awaits You Too!

If you are responsible for sales training, as a first step it is important to understand the true feelings your new sales hires experience after they complete their initial training. This alone will provide you with firsthand insight into how your training needs to improve.

“When I was a sales manager, upon the completion of their training, I asked every new hire, ‘How did your training go?’ The three most common responses were...”

Mattress training alone includes roughly half of the necessary training most salespeople need. New hires should learn all the feels and firmness of every mattress and the comparative differences among the major brands, both yours and your competitors. Also, know the different types of mattresses and materials, adjustable bases, when to present a split king or queen, low profile bases and bunkie boards. They must be able to present protector pads and pillows, advise customers about healthy sleep, and the impact that a good mattress can have on avoiding a host of health issues. And one more thing. They must know how to take charge of the sales process by delivering a convincing and emotionally charged mattress demonstration.

This, my friends, is why every spare minute you have, should be focused on mattress training. It’s not a challenge you should take lying down!


About Scott Morris

Scott Morris worked for the four largest furniture retail chains in America as a store manager and sales trainer. He is the owner of HSM Publishing. His mission is to stop the high sales associate turnover rate within the furniture industry. He has written and published six books on various topics, in addition to the “Sales Questions” laminate, and designed and produced the advanced level sales training course titled “The Best Furniture Sales Training Ever!!!” He also produced 12 insightful customer “handouts” designed to bring back the “75 percent who leave without buying.” Questions about this article or any aspect of sales education can be directed to him at hsm7777@att.net or visit TheBestFurnitureSalesEver.com.

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