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The Traveling Retailer's Tip #14: Portrait of the RSA as an Artist

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By Gordon Hecht 

Longtime readers will know that I believe that retail is a WAR for scarce spending dollars- and that wars are won with INTELLEGENCE. Knowledge of what your competitors are doing in their fight to win is best gained by COMPETITIVE SHOPPING on a regular basis.

To that end, I make it a practice to comp shop in markets that I travel to. In over 10 years of travel I have probably shopped 600 competitors, and a few of our own stores. It is not unusual for me to visit 40 or more stores in a row without being asked to buy, and I can report that of the hundreds of RSAs that I have shopped, I have met none that I would urge you to recruit (aka STEAL). That is, until this week.

FIRST A LITTLE BACKGROUND. When I comp shop, I make it clear that I am in the store to buy and engage the RSA in conversations that let them know exactly what I want, when I need, it, how much I am willing to spend, and-in the rare times they ask, the names of the other stores I have shopped.

This past week I worked in the largest metropolitan area of the US. I shopped a branch of a large mattress store chain recently mentioned as part of a merger, and two large local full-line store chains. My experience there was totally underwhelming, and one of the full line stores provided the typical substandard performance, including the RSA telling me that his store was a furniture store and not a mattress store, and the manager dropping the delivery charge before I had settled on a selection.

Then I went into the store where TRACIE C. works. Her store was another full line store with bedding in the back. I told her I was relocating to the area for one year for work-and I was taking a few things with me, but not a mattress. I wanted something good, but nothing expensive, as I was going to put it on the curb when I was done. I added that I wanted to spend around $600.

Then TRACIE asked me the most amazing question I had heard in the last 10 years. She said “What would a mattress have to feel like for you to love it so much that you would never want to get rid of it?” I was genuinely surprised! I replied that I was keeping my mattress at home because I really liked it and added info on the component parts of the bed that I liked. She then took me to a mattress and said “Try this, I think you will like it”. It was part of the premium line of one of the Major “S” brands. Although the price card was covered, I knew this was no $699 bed!

It felt pretty good, and I asked the price-Tracie responded that it was on sale for $1799. I assured her it was far more than I wanted to spend. She directed me to another “S” brand bed that felt inferior, and when I asked the price, she told me it was $1399. When I asked about getting closer to my budget, Tracie reminded me that I was used to sleeping on a great mattress and anything less would disappoint me. Now the amazing part!

Tracie asked me to try one more bed. This was an ultra-premium model from a factory that claims to handcraft their beds. The cover and upholstery was top-notch-she pointed out the foot protector and told me to get comfortable on it. She also brought a top end pillow for me to use-removed the protective cover and let me try it dead on. We like to say “The feel is the deal” and this bed felt fabulous! I think I gave the sigh of satisfaction when I stretched out on it! She caught on to that and said “I knew you’d like it”. I asked the price; $3299. I informed my dear RSA that there was no way I was spending $3299 on a bed! This was not her first rodeo. Her reply-I don’t expect you to give me $3299 today, but I would like you to give me $500 a month for six months with no interest!

I could probably write a chapter on my experience with Tracie. She did not offer a mattress protector, but did have a program to keep my mattress fresh and clean, and it came with a FREE mattress protector. (I suspect the program was the protector, but I love the way she framed it). She also told me that I would want to keep the $3299 bed for many years, and could move my current mattress to the guest room to give visitors a great sleep. My exit card was that I “want to show my wife the mattress and she was flying in tomorrow” Tracie asked what the arrival time and I said “noon”. She said “You’ll want to stop and get lunch, and with traffic, you can get here by 3.”

Tracie had the ATTITUDE to be a great RSA-friendly and breezy, and she had the APTITUDE to learn, internalize, and change her presentation. I’ll bet that not all of your RSAs are like TRACIE, and I’ll even bet that if she came to work at your store, your sales would skyrocket. There would never be a “BAD” up!

Here are some important points that I learned from Tracie-get your RSA team to learn them and see those sales soar!
  • Ask about the product your shopper is using now. Most buyers want to UPGRADE and few want to DOWNGRADE
  • Ask the MAGIC QUESTION-“what would your next (product) have to have to make you never want to get rid of it. Paint the picture for your shopper and they will see it.
  • COMMIT to showing at least one PREMIUM PRODUCT to every shopper, no matter what they came in to buy. If I ever have to sell Chevys for a living, I would have every shopper take a test drive in a CORVETTE. Even if they are looking for an Aveo or $3500 used car. Who wouldn’t want to take a spin in a ‘Vette? And after driving a $65,000 car, that $15,000 price tag won’t look so bad. I might even sell a few “Vettes, upgrade other shoppers, and make a lifelong impression that they would tell their neighbors and friends about.
  • Mention financing on every purchase. Six months is short financing, but break down any mattress price to 12 or 24 months and it is probably less than their cable or cellphone bill.
  • Accessories can seem expensive. A mattress protector looks like ten bucks worth of fabric. But what it does for the customer is desirable and spectacular. Make it part of a program and you’ve added value at no extra cost.
  • I had fun during my visit with TRACIE, and she seemed to make it fun too. Have fun in this great game of providing products and you’ll never have to work again! 

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


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