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Better Bedding & Mattress Sales: Closing the Sale

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 147 NO.4 July/August


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How can a quiet, modest, non-pushy RSA ever be a good closer? Here's how!

I have heard a lot of Retail Sales Associates (RSAs) say, “You know, I just can’t be a closer! I like people and I love to talk about products, but I am scared of trying to close the sale. It seems pushy, and I don’t want to be seen as a pushy salesman!”

I’ve heard others say, “Closers are born, not made. You have to have a certain aggressive, pushy personality to be a closer. I’m just not like that. I can’t do it.”

Well, let me say this. “YES, YOU CAN!”

Everybody knows that, once in a while, you will find a salesperson who possesses a big, aggressive outgoing personality and you think that this salesperson could probably sell ice to an Eskimo. But, these personality types are few and far between. You do NOT have to be one of these persons to be a good closer. In fact, some of the best closers I’ve ever observed were rather quiet and serious people. How can a quiet, modest, non-pushy RSA ever be a good closer? I hope this article will give the reader some insight into that very proposition.

What Is Closing Anyway?

Let’s actually define and analyze the term “closing the sale” and see if we can figure out why the concept is so intimidating to a lot of RSAs.

We’ll start with the mighty twenty-four volume Oxford English Dictionary. The OED defines closing as (1) the action of drawing together or ending (2) coming to terms, agreement or union (3) making fast. As usual, the OED is not very helpful when applying terms to the activity of selling products. The terms “agreement” and “coming to terms” loosely define what we are looking for. On to the Wikipedia definition, which paraphrased says, “Achievement of the desired outcome, which may be an exchange of money or acquiring a signature.” Okay. So, definitions alone don’t give us much information, do they?

Another description I found on the Internet comes closer to the argument I am trying to make. Here it is; “The reason making a sale is often referred to as closing the sale is that most sales involve a sales cycle. When a deal is closed, the sales cycle is completed.” Now, we are closer to what I am talking about. Closing the sale does not exist in a vacuum. It is not a stand-alone activity. It is part of the whole sales process or sales cycle. You could also say it is Act Five of the Play we call “The Sale.”

Our Five Act Play

To put this in a theatrical perspective, let’s define the acts of our “The Sale” play.

Act One: The Meet and Greet, for more detail see Furniture World Digital Edition from 6-9-2015.

Act Two: Qualify the Up, for more detail see Furniture World Digital Edition, 7-7-2015, 9-28-2015 and 1-14-2016.

Act Three: Selection, for more detail see Furniture World Digital Edition 3-25-2016.

Act Four: Presentation, for more detail see Furniture World Digital Edition 7-7-2016.

Act Five: Closing the sale, which we discuss in this article.

This article is about Act Five, wrapping up the play to a satisfactory finish for both the customer and the salesperson. But, Act Five doesn’t make sense without the first four acts.

I think everyone reading this would agree that any play or movie which left you hanging at the end of Act Four would be a very annoying and unsatisfying movie experience. No Academy Awards will be won for directing a movie that had no final act. So, what does that say about the sales associate who allows his Sales Cycle or Sales Play to end without the final Act Five, the Closing? Who is happy? Is the store happy? Is the salesperson happy? Is the would-be customer happy? No, no, and no! Nobody is happy.The timid RSA who fails to perform Act Five has ruined the play for everybody.



Let me remind the RSA who “does not want to be pushy” that the customer probably came into the store to buy something; to solve some home furnishings problem. If this customer leaves with his problem unsolved, he or she is NOT going to be happy. She may not have met a pushy RSA, but she’s still not happy.

So, for those RSAs who don’t want to be “pushy,” remember that your play has five acts, not four. Closing the sale is merely the final act of a five act play. Also remember that Act Five cannot happen without the first four acts preceding it. To repeat myself, “Closing the sale is NOT a stand-alone act. It is merely the culmination of the whole Five Act Sales Cycle (aka Steps of the Sale.)”

Don’t Neglect The First Four Acts

John F. Lawhon, in his famous book, Selling Retail, stated “If you perform the first four steps of the sale correctly, step five (closing the sale) is usually just a matter of writing it up.”

So what can we conclude from the above discussion? How about this? Maybe RSAs who are poor “closers” are also weak at the first four steps of the sale? We might also ask the questions, “If the RSA is afraid to ask for the sale, is it possible that this same RSA may also be afraid to ask qualifying questions? Or, maybe this non-pushy RSA also doesn’t know his products very well? Or maybe, he greets every new UP with a weak, ‘How may I help you?’”

The RSA who is afraid to be “pushy” probably should perform a little self-analysis on these subjects. “If I’m bashful about asking for the sale, is it possible I’m also bashful about the first four steps of the sale?” If this is true, how do we overcome this timid attitude?

Re-Make Attitudes?

If the RSA is timid about doing his job, we might ask the question “Why?” There is no question that some people just do not have outgoing, bombastic personalities. Is that a reason why these folks should not consider a career in sales? If you want to use that as an excuse, fine, it’s up to you. That being said, however, I very strongly believe that being quiet and reserved is NOT an impediment to becoming a great salesperson. It’s only an impediment if you let it become an impediment.

So, what is the prescription to remedy this apparent roadblock to sales success?

Preparation Is The Key

The answer is training and preparation. Have you ever noticed that real experts in their field are usually more than willing to talk about their field of expertise? (At least, they should be when they are asked about it.) When you know your stuff, even if you are reserved, you like to talk about what you know when the subject comes up. The RSA who has become expert in his field, will be sought out by the would-be customer. What is an expert RSA? An expert Retail Sales Associate is one who is thoroughly familiar with his store’s

  • Products
  •  Inventory
  • Financing
  • Policies
  • Advertising.

These are the Five Groups of Knowledge. It doesn’t stop there. The expert RSA also is thoroughly familiar with the Steps of the Sale and how to execute them. The RSA who has become expert on all these subjects is somebody the customer is eager to listen to. This RSA expert WILL be a closer, even if he doesn’t think of himself as a closer.

What is the bottom line? Knowing your stuff will make you more confident. When you are more confident, you WILL become a better salesperson and a better CLOSER.

To make one more point about the theatrical perspective; how great is a play where the actors do not remember their lines? Or, where the actors just read the lines as if the script was an assembly manual for a lawnmower? So, don’t worry about learning how to close the sale if you don’t know much about the first four acts or even less about the Five Groups of Knowledge.



Asking For The Sale

So, we are prepared and trained and we perform the first four acts to great applause, but we still are afraid to be so pushy as to ask for the sale. What now?

Let’s discuss the concept of “Asking for the Sale.” First, let’s look briefly at when we should ask for the sale and when we should NOT ask for the sale. I use a term in my book, "How To Win The Battle For Mattress Sales", called Landing on the Bed. It was a term that we used many years ago in a mattress chain that has now been absorbed into a larger chain. Landing meant this: the customer had found a bed on our floor that he preferred over any other bed he had been shown; and had expressed his preference in tones that were interpreted as Unmistakable Buying Signals. In other words, he was saying, “I really like this bed; better than any other bed.” BUT, he had not said he would BUY the bed. That is what I call Landing on the Bed.

Tjhe RSA should not ask for the sale until the customer is Landed on the Bed.

If the would-be buyer is not Landed on the Bed, I don’t know why any RSA would ask him to buy. How can you ask the customer to buy if you don’t know which bed he likes? However, when the customer is Landed on the Bed, the RSA must begin the process of Asking for the Sale. Asking for the Sale does not have to be complicated and it does not require a fast-talking, glib personality. Most of the time, my experience suggests, and as Lawhon has pointed out, if the RSA has reached the point in the Sales Cycle where the would-be buyer is demonstrating unmistakable buying signals, then it becomes the simple process of asking the customer, “Would you like to go ahead and get this one?” That simple phrase was, for over twenty years, my favorite closing question. Does that sound pushy?

There are numerous ways of phrasing this simple closing question. For example:

1. Would you like to go ahead and set this up for delivery?
2. Did you want to go ahead and take this one with you tonight?
3. Did you want to go ahead and set this up on our monthly payment plan?

Did any of these sound pushy, or like we are trying to trick the customer into doing something he did not want to do?

It’s Not Always That Easy

You may be saying right now, “Yeah, that sounds good on paper, but what if they say ‘NO’?” And, they do say NO; a lot of the time.

When the customer says NO, a huge percentage of previously stalwart, intrepid RSAs suddenly feel their knees buckle and then reach for their card. Don’t do that. There is still plenty of time to make the sale.
When you get a NO, back off for a minute and begin to analyze and ask the question, “Why did they say NO? Obviously, I have more work to do.”

Why Do Customers Say No?

There are many reasons why a customer, even after having given unmistakable buying signals, suddenly turns on the RSA, and gives a resounding NO to the closing question. We’ll talk about some of the main reasons why they do this.

1. FEAR: In an article from Furniture World, April/May 2003, Peter Marino made the statement that most customers “fear making a buying mistake.” In the same article he said, “If the RSA fails to ask for the sale, it could mean that the RSA doesn’t fully believe in the products he is presenting.” (Or, rather, doesn’t know much about the products he is trying to present.) John F. Lawhon also stated that he believed that fear was the primary reason most RSAs do not ask for the sale. So, both parties are scared. The customer is afraid to make a decision and the RSA is scared to ask for the sale. And, sadly, this is where a great many Sales Cycles crash after promising beginnings.

A very big part of closing the sale is easing the customer’s fear that he may be making a bad decision.

2. CONTEMPT: which can also be described as a lack of trust. This is related to fear, but slightly different. A lot of customers, for good reason, sadly, are contemptuous of sales people. They don’t think RSAs know what they are talking about half the time. They think RSAs are just out to make a buck and don’t care about the customer’s welfare. They think RSAs come and go, “trying sales”, and won’t be there the next time they come in the store. The better customers, upper income earners with college degrees, frequently assume that the RSA is some kind of beauty school dropout that knows nothing about how to do his job correctly. I hate to say this, but so often, the customer is justified in having this attitude; which is why I keep stressing the idea of training and preparation. The RSA who works hard, prepares himself for his job, and makes a good impression with his knowledge can quickly dispel this attitude of contempt that so often walks through the door with the customer. This is especially important when the RSA is dealing with the high income customer who is willing to spend the most money.

3. HATE: this is a strong term that I do not like to use, but a lot of people HATE shopping for mattresses. This revulsion toward mattress shopping probably goes a long way to explain the recent phenomenal success of the “Bed in a Box” category. Why do people hate shopping for beds? Peter Marino laid out a few reasons in his book The Golden Rules of Selling Bedding.

  • Negative reputation of salespeople (often well deserved).
  • Difficulty in determining quality.
  • Bogus advertising (HALF OFF EVERYTHING!!).
  • Confusing selection (a sea of pale covers).
  • What if I get it home and don’t like it.
  • How do I know if I’m making the right decision?
  • Too many mattress stores, everywhere.

4. GET A BETTER DEAL: a lot of customers, particularly men, are pretty cagey about the bargaining process. Delaying, threatening to walk out without buying, etc., are all known, proven ways to bargain for a better deal. And, they work. This is especially painful to watch when a flinty-eyed, hard-nosed customer is face to face with a timid, fearful, unprepared RSA. Some stores “combat” this problem with a One-Price policy, but these deal-seeking customers RARELY buy from One-Price stores. They are looking for “Monty Hall.” Many years ago, I had just opened the doors on a brand new store, and lo and behold, the first customer who walked in the door, literally said, “I am looking for Monty Hall.” I grinned and retorted, “You just found him.” Ten minutes later, the store had a $1000 sale and he had a new mattress. For those who are now hopelessly confused, Monty Hall was the host of the old TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal."

"No" - Just Another Objection
In previous editions of Furniture World, we discussed Objections and how to handle them. NO is just another objection that we RSAs have to handle. It is not the end of the sale. Sometimes it may actually be the beginning of bigger things. I would suggest reviewing my articles on Objections for a refresher in how to deal with objections. (They are found in the Furniture World Digital Edition archives.) Obviously, we have to find out why the customer, who seemed so enthusiastic a few minutes before, is now vigorously shunning our entreaties to set up his delivery. Remember, when you get an objection, what do you do? You go back to qualifying. Ask questions which will draw out the reasons why the customer is resisting your closing argument.



We're Just Getting Started
There is a lot more to closing the sale than we’ve talked about in this edition. Our next discussion of Closing the Sale will get into much more detail about specific ways to overcome the customer’s fears and resistance without making the RSA look pushy. I understand nobody wants to look pushy. And customers don’t like pushy salespeople either. But there is a difference between being pushy and being persuasive. Persuasive is what we want.

Always remember that the first closing question is usually resisted by the customer. He may even give you an outright “Not Yet, or No.” These negative answers should prompt the RSA to restart the qualifying process, wait for a new buying signal, and then Ask for the Sale, again. This can be done over and over, until the customer finally realizes that a YES answer is really for his own good. And, it is actually better if the RSA can accomplish all this without seeming pushy. It can be done. I’ve seen it happen, many times.

David Benbow, a twenty-three year veteran of the mattress and bedding industry, is owner of Mattress Retail Training Company. Dave’s company offers mattress retailers a full array of retail guidance; from small store management to training retail sales associates (RSAs.) Dave’s many years of hands-on experience as retail sales associate, store manager, sales manager/trainer and store owner of multiple stores in six different American metropolitan areas uniquely qualifies him as an expert in selling bedding at the retail level.

David is the author of the recently published book, “How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual”. This book is the first book to systematically present a complete, organized, but easily read and understood text book for mattress and bedding retail sales associates, beginner and experienced professional alike. It is a complete training course in one 292 page book. The book can be purchased on-line at  http://www.bedsellersmanual.com.

He also offers hands-on training classes for retailers on a variety of subjects and issues as well as on-line classes that can be downloaded from the websites mentioned above.

David can be contacted via e-mail at dave@bedsellersmanual.com or in person at 361-648-3775.
Read other articles by David Benbow