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Seminar On A Sleeper

Furniture World Magazine


Veteran salesperson tells tale - Si non e vero, e ben trovato (if it's not the gospel truth, at least it sounds darn good).

Recently I came across a veteran salesman named Joe, who, knowing I was somewhat involved in this thing called retail selling, shared an intriguing story with me, the truth of which I leave to my readers to decide. When I asked Joe to comment on the veracity of his tale, he replied, Si non e vero, e ben trovato (if it's not the gospel truth, at least it sounds damn good).

It seems, so his account went, that Joe had somehow fallen asleep on an un-opened sofa sleeper in the store's sleepshop. The sofa had been turned to face one of the walls there. Suddenly Joe was awakened from the soporific arms of Morpheus by the voices of several people who had just entered the sleepshop. One of these voices he easily recognized as one of his fellow sales associates. The other voices he soon realized were a husband and wife who said they were looking for a queen sleepset.


Joe swears that the salesperson never asked one further question. Instead he proceeded to spew the many technical features of his sleepsets. Those specifications he had 'inhaled' during his twenty years of selling, he now allowed to escape from his mouth, much like air escaping from an over-inflated tire whose valve stem has been suddenly yanked out. He was, after all, lying on his side, his right elbow propping up his head which lay cupped in the open palm of his right hand... but he imagined how dumb-founded the customers were over the salesman's logorrhea, which, Joe said, ran as follows:

"You've come to the right place, sir, ma'am. I've got just the mattress for you. It's the one most of our customers buy. It's at the best sales price it has ever been. It's got over 800 coils and can support a herd of elephants. It's fifteen inches thick and has more layers than your favorite cake, ma'am. And don't worry about whether you'll like it when you get home. We give a ninety day trial period. If you don't like it, return it for a full refund or a re-selection of your choice. It's got the best warranty, fifteen years non-prorated. You know the difference between pro-rated and non-pro-rated? Great. Look at the cover on that mattress. Most of the women say it's a shame to have to put sheets on it. Speaking of sheets, you can get sheets for this jumbo pachyderm in any department store. I can tell by your expression you can't wait to get the set in your home. Free frame too. You wait here while I check to see how soon we can deliver it to you."

The salesman left and returned two minutes later, but not before the customers had already fled. Before doing so, the wife turned to her husband and exclaimed: "Mercy! Can you believe a jaw like that? That must be the kind Samson used to kill all those Philistines!"


At the very same time that couple left, in walked two more people, a saleslady and a lady who told her she was looking for a full-size mattress set for herself. The saleslady, after very little probing, took the woman to what she called "the hottest selling mattress set in the store," stressing the "s" sounds in each of the words with that letter. She too assailed the customer with every possible spec, and then taking advantage of her own corpulence, proceeded to stand on the boxspring to demonstrate what she claimed was the most supportive foundation in the industry. The customer, far from being impressed with so much information, managed to yawn once or twice, thus proving the truth of the saying, that if you know everything about your product, you're an expert, and if you tell everything about it, you're a bore.

Well, try as she might, the saleslady failed to close the sale, so she resorted to one last feeble effort by saying: "Be sure to ask for me when you come back with your husband." At this the customer broke out into a loud guffaw, a bit surprising regarding her profession, which I shall now reveal, for when the saleslady asked if she had said something wrong, the customer replied: "Not really. It's just that I'm sure the other Sisters at the convent will get a good chuckle when I get back."

My anecdotist went on to say how he could feel the saleslady blushing the color of pink salmon. He himself said he had all he could do to keep from exploding with laughter, but fear of exposure kept him from doing so.


As those two were leaving the sleepshop, two more individuals entered- a male customer and a saleslady. Having noticed the confused look on her customer's face, she asked rhetorically: "A bit confusing, aren't they?" The customer replied: "They sure are."

"Don't worry," she assured him, between the two of us, we'll make it easy for you. You see, I know my mattresses inside out, but I don't know your comfort preference. With your cooperation we'll find that out right away." Then pointing to two mattresses which had the same level of support, but widely different surface feel, she asked him to lie on each one of them. Within no time at all she determined her customer's comfort level and soon had it narrowed down to two sleepsets. At that point she handled several of the customer's objections which she was intelligent enough to infer as customer needs of one sort or another. Still meeting with some resistance, she skillfully probed for whatever relevant circumstances lay behind his need for a new sleepset. She found out, for example, that it was he whose backaches had convinced him and his wife to go out shopping for a new set. She also found out that while his wife felt she could sleep on anything, even the floor, she did suffer from arthritis. The saleslady then pointed out the benefits of the wool in the mattress the customer was considering, that it could help with his wife's arthritis, even if it couldn't cure it. The customer liked that, he said, but quickly added that it was more than he intended to spend. Undaunted, the saleslady went on to point out the difference between price and cost. "Recently I had a customer who came in to buy my most expensive set," she said, and then added: "It seems he had made a mistake a few years earlier by buying an inferior product because it was cheaper. He paid dearly for having paid less," she said with confidence, and ended up with the words, "When you buy quality, you cry only once." The customer replied: "So you really feel I should buy this wool bed?" The saleslady came back with: "Fourteen Australian sheep surrendered their wool for your wife's nocturnal comfort."

At that the man broke out into appreciating laughter. "You win," he said. Do you take plastic?"

"Everything but American Express," she replied, "and speaking of express, how soon would you like to have it delivered?"

"I've got a truck. I'll pick it up myself."

Before the two left the sleepshop together, the customer muttered good-humoredly: "Fourteen Australian sheep! What a fine line."

My friend's tale now over, he turned to me and confessed: "You know, Peter, I've attended some great seminars, but none of them greater than the one on that sleeper sofa."

I thanked him heartily for his marvelous narrative. By the way, I don't really care if all he told me ever happened or not. Know why? 'Si non e vero, e ben trovato!'

Corporate trainer and educator Peter A Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. He is also a noted speaker and group leader. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to Peter care of FURNITURE WORLD at pmarino@furninfo.com.