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The Traveling Retailer's Bedding Sales Tip #2: You Can’t Learn From What They Do Lousy!

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by Gordon Hecht

During this past week, I went on a Competitive Shopping Trip. You know, getting out of the comfort zone to learn why we don’t close sales at 100%. After all, if we aren’t getting them, someone else is! I visited 5 stores, three mattress retailers and two furniture stores. It was the same old thing-No one talked about finance terms, mattress protection, power bases, or the value of good sleep. Only one RSA asked me to buy, only one (a different RSA) asked me to try a bed, only one person showed me a pillow, and only one RSA told me what their store stands for. At the fifth store, no one greeted me at all-and the store was not busy.

As I shopped, I thought of the advice I had gotten from Simon Kaplan. Our store owners in the NJ-PA area may know that Simon is a WWII veteran that operates the Value City stores in that area. At the time I met him he was very active in the business, although he was near 90 years old! Simon’s comment about Competitive Shopping was “Don’t tell me what they are doing lousy-we are already beating them on that”. He said “Find out what they are doing good, and let’s top that!” With that in mind, here are the GOOD or GREAT things your competitors are doing to drive their business.

I’ll start at the bottom. I don’t want to use names, call it Mystery Store #1. This is the store where I was not greeted. It is a full line furniture store and I spent 17 minutes in the building and walked all the way to the back where they keep the mattresses. It was at the front of the store where they excelled. In fact, it was even before shoppers entered the store. There was a professionally lettered sign on the entry door, just below the push bar. The sign stated “GREAT CAREERS START HERE” and gave an e-mail address. This is a store that recruits 365 days a year to people who are interested in their product. You can only grow your business by growing your team-and attracting the best players. The investment is probably about $25-40 and should pay dividends for years. If you would like a photo of the window (complete with reflection of me) shoot me an e-mail.

MS #2 is a mattress store with prices ranging from $299 to $11,999 for a queen set (power not included). I rolled around on a $3999 mattress for a while but was not asked to buy or told about finance terms. But, just like the first store, the most impressive part of the operation was at the front. Just inside the breezeway is a 30 x 40 poster on an easel. Not a sale poster, but rather an uncluttered statement of what the store stand for, and what makes them different than the competitors. Being placed inside the entry encouraged shoppers to stop and read. It was more of a billboard than a manifesto: just some bullet points that one could quickly read. If you don’t want to invest the 50 bucks to create a great poster, be sure that your sales team is telling YOUR story to every shopper.

MS #3 was only store where the RSA asked me to buy. If I was a retail shopper, I am not sure that this is where I would invest my money, but as a market shopper, the RSA did two things that I would add to my presentation. First, after introducing himself, the RSA asked my name. He then used it generously, almost to the point where he wore it out! When I shop, I use the nom de plume of Scott Gordon. Every bed he showed and every question he asked started with my name- “Scott, when do you need delivery”, “Scott, who else needs to see the bed?” The second part that I liked fit into the first. On the way out of the building, the RSA invited me to enter a drawing. He said they are pulling the winner this Friday, and I should fill out an entry. The entry asked for my e-mail address, and I gave the one I have for personal use. Then the most amazing thing happened. 10 minutes after I left the store, I got a THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING e-mail, addressed to the first name that I used. There were links to information and finance terms. I LOVE a drawing-theirs was for 2 memory foam pillows given once a month. I would kick it up to a mattress or recliner once a quarter. This is a great way to build an e-mail marketing list. Next, chances are that I was heading to another mattress store, so the 10 minute note just reminded me of where I had been. I saved the note, so e-mail me if you want a copy.

MS #4 is a full line regional chain store. This is the store where I told the RSA I wanted medium plush, but she continued to show me firm beds. She ignored the pillow rack and protection shelf, and never asked me to buy. But she did give a good greeting and pointed to her name badge when she introduced herself. Name badges may seem so “last century” and while all stores have good products and good services, the hardest thing RSAs have to sell is themselves. Name Badges give your team an IDENTITY and help sell your brand and themselves.

MS #5 is a little local store. Look up Dirty Window Store in the dictionary and you’ll find their picture! They had about 30 ugly mattresses set on an ugly dirty carpet. The POP was faded, and the RSA had a sandwich with mustard on it back in 1997 from the looks of his tie. There was another couple shopping in the store when I got there, so I browsed and listened to the RSA’s pitch. Not a lot of product knowledge, although he did get them to test rest a bed. At one point they tried a modestly priced firm queen set. She said “I like this, how much is it?” The RSA replied “$499 in queen”. She said “OK”, and he finished with “I’ll write it up”. The Bedding Business is HARD WORK, and sometimes we make it a little harder than it is. I am always amazed how infrequently I get asked to BUY. More amazing is the number of times RSAs miss the buying signs that shoppers give. If you are 15-20 minutes into a presentation, and your shopper asks: How much is delivery, do you finance, do you take credit cards, how long for delivery, or how fast can I get it-you need to know that these are BUYING SIGNALS and your shopper wants to buy NOW. Answer the question and ask for the order. It’s that simple!

Retail stores selling anything from sandwiches to sailboats all do some things LOUSY. If they are not out of business, they are also doing some things GREAT-and if they sell mattresses then they are chipping away from your market share. Make it a point to see how they are earning sales, improve on that, and WIN!

Gordon Hecht is a Growth and Development Manager for National Bedding Company’s America’s Mattress stores, nearly 400 locally owned and operated bedding stores across the country selling Serta-branded and America’s Mattress-branded mattresses. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver. 

He has been recognized for outstanding sales and management achievement with several organizations including Ashley Furniture HomeStores, Drexel-Heritage, RB Furniture, Reliable Stores, and Sofa Express. He has served as Store Manager, Multi-unit manager and National Director of Sales. With his first-hand knowledge of our industry’s front line, Gordon has devoted his career to guiding others to exceed their goals.

Joining National Bedding Company in 2014, as part of the Serta Retail Concepts Group With over 400 stores, America’s Mattress stores is one of the fastest growing bedding retailers in the country. 

Co-author of the “Better Bedding Selling Tips” featured on Furniture World Online, Gordon has been a frequent contributor to company newsletters, and contributing writer for industry magazines. 
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht

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Read other articles by Gordon Hecht