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Don't Sell Mattresses... Sell ”Quality of Life” Through the Science of Sleep.

Furniture World Magazine
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See additional articles in this Furniture World Magazine Series below


Article Summary: Part four of our selling better bedding series looks at creating demand by using the “Science of Sleep” approach.


A big challenge that sales associates face when working with bedding clients is that many customers view our mattresses as commodities; seeing the bedding purchase as a necessary evil, instead of what it really is, a major decision that affects the quality of their lives.  

Changing this mindset requires that furniture stores and sleep shops go beyond pitching mattresses based solely on price and brand. It requires a consultative approach that addresses quality of life concerns. We can accomplish this through the utilization of a process I call the “Science of Sleep”.

Stores that use this Science of Sleep  approach see significant improvement in sales, closing rate and average unit selling price. Customers exposed to it show more interest in looking at better quality sleep sets and ultimately spend more money. That’s because they gain a deeper understanding of why spending more is in their best interest.

In order to help our clients make an informed investment decision we can share the latest research that illustrates the importance of sleep and how it effects every aspect of their daily lives. We can provide solutions and share the benefits gained from quality sleep. A prerequisite for doing this is to be able to relate to our female customers and their families.

The remainder of this article will look at some of the sleep science you can share with customers. But first let’s take a moment to recognize that this process starts with questions you ask them such as how they sleep, how they feel in the morning, and how many hours of sleep they get.  From there it’s an easy segue to ask them something like, “I would like to share some information with you before we look at any mattresses and it will just take a couple of minutes.“ Once you’ve done that, you’ve set the stage for them to start thinking about the importance of investing in a quality sleep set. You can plant the idea that mattresses are not all the same, they are not a sack of potatoes, they are not a commodity. Buying a mattress is a big deal. That’s the mindset you want them to have, and you can create it in just five minutes.

The Science

The keys to living a quality life are exercise, nutrition and a forgotten dimension called Quality Sleep. Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Sleep determines our alertness, energy, mood, thinking, productivity, safety, longevity and especially our health. The sleeping brain promotes synaptic growth, a process that enhances memory, problem solving, decision making and creativity during the REM, or rapid eye movement portion of the sleep cycle.

Remember to share with your clients the fact that when we sleep it’s not like parking a car in a garage. We sleep in 90 minute segments. In the early segments of the sleep process, our body is healing itself. In the later stages of sleep, called REM, where dreaming is at its height, the brain heals itself which is essential for  creativity, decision-making, problem-solving and memory. So if your customers  are not getting a full eight hours of sleep they are truly cheating themselves. To accomplish peak performance, we humans must, on average, invest one third of our lives to sleep.  Remember, the quality of sleep has an impact on our quality of life and undisturbed sleep is highly correlated with quality sleep. Studies show that every hour of sleep deprivation below 8 hours results in a 25% loss in productivity.  Six hours of sleep or less lowers our resistance to viral infections by 50%.  Six hours of continuous sleep is more restorative than eight hours of interrupted sleep.

Our clients need to understand the impact of quality sleep loss.  Sleep loss results in drowsiness, mood shifts, anxiety, depression, decreased motor skills and decreased cognitive performance such as the ability to concentrate and remember.  It affects our communication and decision skills; our ability to handle complicated tasks.  It also affects our productivity and creativity.

I mentioned earlier the importance of relating to the female customer and her family. The quality of sleep is especially critical to women.  Since women influence over 85% of mattress sales it is important to illustrate that we understand her particular needs. Women have significant sleep quality problems. They sleep less than men and have shorter periods of Deep Sleep.  Women are more vulnerable to being disturbed by partner movement and more prone to insomnia (53% more than men). The menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause also impacts their quality of sleep.

According to Dr. James B. Maas of Cornell University:

  • 51% of women recognized the impact of their sleep problems. 
  • 46% said it impacts their ability to accomplish household duties.
  • 34% said it impacts their marriage.
  • 28% said it impacts how they deal with their children.
  • 27% said it impacts their job performance. 
  • 24% said it impacts how they care for and maintain their family
    relationships.

You can sell more bedding if you make an effort to show your female shoppers that you understand their specific needs and can help them to develop solutions to help them achieve better quality sleep.

One of the major causes of sleep loss is backache.  Americans spend at least $50 billion each year to help them deal with their low back pain.  According to the National Institute of Urological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is the biggest cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work.  A new mattress that provides the proper support and comfort for proper spinal alignment has been shown to make a big difference in back health.  Dr. Mehmet Oz, of the Dr. Oz Show, states that most cases of back pain are mechanical or are non- organic, meaning they aren’t caused by serious conditions as arthritis or injury.  Improper posture or lack of spinal support is at fault.  Also, Dr. Clayton Dean of the Maryland spine Center says replacing a mattress every five to nine years is a great idea, especially for those who wake up with back stiffness or pain.

New scientific research continues to unmask the effects of chronic sleeplessness, and the results are enough to keep us up at night.  Here are four of the most devastating effects, courtesy of the American Heart Association.

  • Sleep loss can lead to Diabetes. A recent study shows that people who sleep less than six hours a night appeared to have a higher risk of developing impaired fasting glucose, a condition that can precede type 2 Diabetes.
  • Sleep loss can raise your blood pressure. Another recent study found that a lost hour of sleep – 1 hour or less than the recommended 8 – increased the odds of developing high blood pressure on an average of 37% over five years: skipping two hours raises the blood pressure risk 86%.  This condition can lead to heart attack stroke or kidney failure.
  • Sleep loss can make you gain weight. Several recent studies have confirmed that there is a link between the loss of sleep and weight gain. In one study, participants who slept six hours per night were 27% more likely to become obese than those sleeping seven to nine hours: people getting five hours of sleep per night were 73% more likely to become obese: and those with only two to four hours of sleep per night were 76% more likely become obese.
  • Sleep loss can make you vulnerable to Cancer. Yet another recent study showed that even when people taking preventive actions that have been proven to lower cancer risks such as exercising and eating right, inadequate sleep seems to counteract those benefits.

This kind of information can be shared with consumers through the Science of Sleep approach to help them understand the importance of quality sleep and the necessity to invest in premium bedding in order to maximize their opportunity to obtain quality sleep. Stress the fact that a mattress is an investment not an expense. Furthermore, it’s an investment that affects their quality of life and everything that they do.

The Science of Sleep approach also has significant relevance to the consumer and to you as a retailer.

  • It enhances the importance of the investment. 
  • It answers the Consumer’s request for information and knowledge. 
  • It supports your subsequent feature and benefit presentation. 
  • And it stresses that the investment in bedding is “something for me.”
  • It enhances the retailer’s value to the consumer. 
  • It removes the commodity product association. 
  • It facilitates the step-up story to premium bedding. 
  • It accelerates the purchase cycle.

Today’s furniture and bedding retailers have moved aggressively toward promoting the importance of their own store brands. Every store can say that they have great prices and carry major mattress brands. Using the Science of Sleep approach can be a further point of differentiation. It’s a way to enhance your brand and become more important to your  female customers by showing that you care.

Nora Lee, the author of “The Mom Factor, What Drives Where We Shop, Eat and Play”, says 75% of America’s 108 million adult women are moms.  They do business with companies who care. Women are the key influence in mattress purchases.  She purchases not only for herself, but on average three other people.  By sharing some of the research through the Science of Sleep approach with her, you can illustrate that you understand her needs and care about her and her family.

In doing this, your salespeople take a consultative selling approach that illustrates they are not simply salespeople; they are home furnishings consultants focused on establishing long-term trust and solid relationships.

The Science of Sleep process is dedicated to creating a win/win/win situation. Clients win because they truly understand that their investment in a quality sleep set will improve their quality of life. This is the type of information that they have not received in other stores. Retailers win because they truly provide service, knowledge and value that separates them from the competition. Sales consultants win because they found a way to develop a deeper customer relationship based on knowledge, that allows them to step up customers to sleep sets with features that help to promote a better night’s sleep.

Science of Sleep in 5 Minutes (Sample Dialogue)

Sales Consultant: Welcome, have you been in our store before?

Client: No, we thought we'd check you out.

Sales Consultant: Great! We have a large selection of sleep sets available in all sizes and in stock for immediate delivery. Tell me, who's the sleep set for?

Client: For me and my wife.

Sales Consultant: What size bed do you have now?

Client: We have a standard, a full size now.

Sales Consultant: Before we look at sleep sets, I'd like to share some information with you on the most recent sleep research. I want you to make an informed investment decision for the right reasons. Tell me, how long have you had your current sleep set?

Client: We think about 10 years.

Sales Consultant: Since you last purchased a lot has happened. Society is faster paced now, more competitive, more demanding on our time and the level of stress has increased dramatically. Because of this, people, especially busy moms; have become more and more interested in finding ways to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families.

Sales Consultant: Research has found that there are three elements that affect our lives. They are nutrition, exercise and quality sleep. Quality sleep has a direct impact on our ability to cope with the stress and pressure of everyday life. This is really magnified by the pressure of raising families.

Sales Consultant: How many hours of sleep would you say you get regularly?

Client: I don't know, probably six hours. I'm sure not enough.

Sales Consultant: Well, you're not alone. With all the things we have to stuff into our days, we often don't consider the importance of quality sleep. This question of sleep has never really been explored until recently. It's been determined, that on average we need eight hours of quality sleep to rejuvenate and revitalize ourselves so we can achieve peak performance.

Sales Consultant: Recent research has clearly established that proper sleep is not a luxury, it's a necessity. It has also been determined that quality sleep affects our energy, alertness, mood, productivity, health and even our safety.

Sales Consultant: If we're getting 6 hours of sleep or less, our resistance to viral infection is lowered by 50%. We also know that Delta, or deep sleep, is where the body is healing and repairing itself. So, if we're not getting continuous quality sleep, we're like 63 million other Americans, we're sleep deprived and not realizing our full potential quality of life.

Sales Consultant: Sleep researchers have developed some simple questions to determine if we're sleep deprived. (Hand the card to the client). May I share them with you?

  • Do you need an alarm clock to wake you up?
  • Do you hit the snooze button, weekday mornings?
  • Do you fall asleep watching TV, or relaxing after dinner?
  • Do you ever feel drowsy when driving?
  • Do you sleep extra hours on weekend mornings?

Sales Consultant: As you can see, there are more questions, but if you answered "yes" to at least 3 of these you may be sleep deprived and need more and better sleep. If you do, don't feel alone, 64% of Americans get less than 8 hours, experience these conditions, and are sleep deprived.

Sales Consultant: One of the keys is to obtain uninterrupted sleep. The 2 major reasons for interrupted sleep are the transfer of motion from one partner to the other when one of them turns. The other is back pain, which is caused by the lack of proper spinal alignment and support by the mattress.

Sales Consultant: Now that we've seen the need and the benefits of quality sleep, let's discuss how we'd provide that quality sleep and improve the quality of life for you and your family.


Ron Wolinski conducts a full day seminar that takes an indepth approach Science of Sleep. He is VP Performance Groups for Profitability Consulting. His expertise in management stems from the positions he has held such as Manager of Training for Art Van Furniture, VP of Sales and Marketing with Contact Interiors,   training consultant to Thomasville and architect of Thomasville University, President of Behavioral Dimensions, Director of Sales Education for Simmons, National Director of Education and Development for Value City Furniture and most recently, Director of Education and Retail Services for La-Z-Boy, Inc.

He consults with retail organizations internationally on Consultative Selling, Communications, Leadership Skills, Organizational Development, Interviewing and Recruiting, and Customer Service. Questions relating to this article or to other related topics can be directed to Ron at rwolinski@furninfo.com. Read more of his articles posted to the www.furninfo.com website or call him direct at 734-420-3430.


Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.

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