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Better Bedding & Mattress Sales Bedding Exam

Furniture World Magazine



What RSAs know, or may not know but should know, about the business of selling bedding. Take this quiz and find out!

In my 28 years in the bedding business, I have noticed, with some dismay, that some RSAs who sell bedding lack even the most basic skills and knowledge to perform their job with competence. This situation does not translate into success, either for the RSA, the store, the manufacturer, or especially, the unfortunate customer, who often counts on sales associates for detailed information to guide him/her to a wise buying decision.

On the other hand, many RSAs do have some knowledge and preparation for their job, but only rarely do I find one that truly stands out as a supremely competent professional.

Self-evaluation is the key to self improvement. We probably learn more from our failures and errors than from our successes and correct responses. With that in mind, this bedding test can be used by retail managers to evaluate how much RSAs know about selling bedding, and identify areas where improvement is needed. This is not a comprehensive test. It will cover a lot of different subjects directly related to selling bedding and a few subjects that seem indirectly related. I welcome readers to respond with comments and additional questions. Taking this test will give Furniture World readers a decent review of what they know, and also may not know but should know, about the business of selling bedding.

An answer key for many of the questions asked in the following section can be found at the end of this article. For some questions, however, the answers will be unique depending on your store's operations and inventory.

Readers of this series of bedding articles may have noticed that I never mention bedding brand names. This time I made an exception because a big part of an RSA’s essential knowledge is brand awareness. A professional RSA must thoroughly know the specs, lines and names of the brands and merchandise that her store, as well as competing stores, sell.

Bedding Product Questions

 1. List all the mattress SKUs on your showroom floor by the following criteria: 

  • Brand name.
  • Line name.
  • Complete mattress name.
  • Construction type – meaning coil/foam, etc. Include composition of various comfort layers.
  • Feel – degree of hardness or softness.
  • Color – include quilted panel type – if any.
  • Foundation type.
  • Warranty.
  • Queen size price as tagged on the floor.
  • Location on the floor.
  • Inventory normally in stock.
  • Approximate number of turns per month.

Answers should be written down strictly from memory without consulting any specs, or looking at the models on the floor.

2. List all the pillows that your store carries, by:

  • Brand.
  • Construction type.
  • Feel.
  • Shape.
  • Sizes available.
  • Price by size.
  • Inventory normally in stock.
  • How well does it sell?

Again, list answers from your memory.

3. List all mattress protectors in your store by the same criteria as listed in question number two.

4. What is the difference between a bed frame and a “complete bed?” What is the difference between bed rails and a bed frame?

5. List all the bed frames/rails your store carries by the following criteria;

  • Brand/Manufacturer.
  • SKU name.
  • Sizes available.
  • Primary function of the frame/rails.
  • Is there an example of the frame on the showroom floor, either supporting a mattress set or in short rails?
  • Price by each size.
  • Warranty. List as many as you can from memory.

6. Do you know how to assemble each and every frame/rails your store carries in stock? Which SKUs have you personally assembled and which ones have you not assembled? Do you ever lose a sale because of your lack of knowledge about frames?

7. What are modi plates and what is their function?

8. List all the models of adjustable bases that your store carries. List by:Brand name. 

  • Model name or SKU.
  • Sizes available.
  • “Do you explain the EXACT meaning of SAC to every customer so that they do not misunderstand it, whether they ask or not?”
  • Price by size.
  • Configurations available, meaning splits, etc.
  • Features and benefits.
  • Location on the showroom floor and which mattress is featured with it.
  • Warranty coverage.
  • Queen and twin extra long prices.
  • Also, answer if you have personally operated and tested the bases you listed above, and are you completely familiar and comfortable with demonstrating them using the control mechanism?

9. List the six standard mattress sizes that virtually every manufacturer produces. List their dimensions. List the “mattress language name” that each goes by in RSA parlance. Hint: the “four-oh”was the name of a four foot wide mattress that once was produced on occasion for special beds.

10. Does your store offer non-standard, special order size mattresses and, if so, who are the manufacturers and what restrictions, if any, do they place on the special order?

11. What is a hybrid mattress?

12. What do we mean by coil count? What do we mean by gauge of wire on a coil? What is the range of gauges usually found in coils, and which is the thickest and which the thinnest? What do we mean by coil turns? What is the significance of coil height, if any? What is the significance of coil profile or shape, when viewed from the side?

13. List at least four types of coils and their features. How many of these coils are found in mattress models on your showroom floor? How many of these coil examples have “cutaways” on your floor?

14. What is a helical/helicon wire? What is its purpose? Do all mattresses have helical wires? What is a border wire? Do all mattresses have border wires?

15. What are the three basic types of foam products found in mattresses?

16. What are the different kinds of edge supports that can be found in mattresses?

17. What is the difference between foam density and foam firmness? Is there a way to measure the characteristics of each category?

18. List the different headboard/footboard sets on your showroom floor by the following criteria:

  • Name or SKU.
  • Manufacturer.
  • Sizes available.
  • Price by size.
  • Warranty.
  • Whether in stock or wait time for special order.

19. Do you think that the “Bed in a Box” phenomenon is affecting your sales?

20. Do any of your suppliers offer a competitive “Bed in a Box?” If so, do you know all of the specifications, prices, and availability of this product? How competitive is your product with the merchandise that is widely advertised on TV?

21. What's the difference between a California king and a regular king?

Financing Questions

1. What percentage of your mattress “ups” ask for third party financing? How much of your sales volume is paid for by third party finance companies? How many applications (by percent) are turned down (TD)?

2. List all the finance companies your store uses. Do you know how to fill out all the forms that they require to approve financing? How long does it take to fill out or enter the data finance companies require? How do you communicate the information to the finance companies?

3. What exactly does the term “Same As Cash” mean? Do most of your customers know what it means? Do you explain the EXACT meaning of SAC to every customer so that they do not misunderstand it, whether they ask or not?

4. Do you know how to calculate monthly payments?

5. What if your customers tell you they are buying a new home? They have been approved for the home mortgage, but the purchase has not closed yet; and they want to buy and finance an expensive new mattress set. What is a thoughtful way to handle this situation?

Advertising Questions

1. List every advertising medium in which your company advertises. How often do they advertise on each? Approximately how much of the advertising budget is devoted to each? How many ups do you get from each? Do you ask customers what brought them into the store?

2. Are you familiar with every advertisement your company runs; in each and every medium? Is it possible that there are some you are not aware of? If so, how can you fill in the missing knowledge gaps?

3. Are you prepared to explain any ad a customer might bring into your store; what it means, which products are mentioned, etc? Do customers ever catch you off-guard with an ad you didn’t know about?

4. How does sales management keep all RSAs in your organization up to date on every advertised item?

Do any of your ups ever leave
your store without buying, only to go straight to your competitor to buy a similar product? How would you know if they did? ”

Inventory Questions

1. Is in-stock, ready to deliver inventory important when selling bedding? (I thought I’d start with an easy one).

2. Do you know where to find exact, up-to-the-minute inventory counts on every SKU in every size your store offers? Does your store make this information available to every RSA? Why is this important?

3. Does your store back up every SKU on the showroom floor? If so, how deep is the backup and in what sizes?

4. When was the last time you visited the warehouse? Do you know the warehouse managers? Are you allowed to visit the warehouse? Why would you want to visit the warehouse?

“List the ten most important qualifying questions RSAs should always ask.”

5. Are you aware of “hidden” or discontinued merchandise in the warehouse that might help you to make a sale?

6. What is the normal scheduled delivery date of every manufacturer/supplier that sells to your store? How often does each deliver?

7. Is it better to stack mattresses in the warehouse or stand them on end in rows?

Policy Questions

1. Does your company/store have a published policy manual? If so, have you read it lately?

2. What does your company charge for delivery? How far will they deliver? How quickly will they deliver? Do they offer “white glove” service? Is out of town delivery available only on certain days? Does your store have its own delivery trucks and staff, or does it contract out some or all deliveries?

3. Will your company carry off and dispose of the customer’s old set?

4. Does your company offer “comfort exchanges?” If so, list every requirement your company has specified in order to validate a comfort exchange. What does your company do with the products taken back in a comfort exchange?

5. Are customers allowed to pick up merchandise rather than have it delivered? Who is responsible for securing the merchandise to the vehicle, customer or store employees? What hours is the warehouse open for customer pickup?

6. Does your store have a return policy? What conditions must be met by a customer before your store will accept a return? If your store accepts returns, does it offer cash refunds or in-store credit?

7. Does your store have a layaway plan? What are the parameters, conditions and terms of starting a layaway? Will your store refund a layaway deposit on demand?

8. Does your store offer special orders on merchandise not carried in stock? What are the terms and conditions of executing a special order? Are you familiar with ALL the different product categories that may be special ordered and how to show them to customers?

9. Are you familiar with your store’s customer security procedures, such as protecting against identity theft?

Competition Questions

1. List the five primary competitors in your trading area. How close are they to your store?

2. List all the mattress product lines your competition carries. List as many of the models (or SKUs) they carry including specs outlined in question number one in the Product Knowledge section. Of course, no one will know the full answer, but the more you know about your competition, the better served you will be to help customers on the showroom floor. Remember, customers shop and compare.

3. How does your store compare with the competition in the following categories:

  • Product selection
  • Competitive pricing
  • Advertising and financing
  • Inventory in stock
  • Ability to deliver.

4. Do any of your “ups” ever leave your store without buying, only to go straight to your competitor to buy a similar product? How would you know if they did?


Industry Knowledge

1. List the four “major” mattress companies/brands. Which of these does your store carry? Which brands are carried by your five main competitors?

2. List at least 10 other mattress manufacturers, and which ones, if any, your store carries. Do the same for your competition.

3. Approximately what percentage of the entire American bedding market has been captured by the “Bed In A Box” imports?

4. What is ISPA? What is the HFA?

5. When was the last time you visited the websites of the top 15 mattress producers in the USA? When did you last visit the websites of the major “Bed in A Box” importers?

6. Which domestic mattress brands also produce a “Bed in A Box?”

7. Are you personally acquainted with every manufacturer’s representative of each mattress brand on your floor? How often do you see them, and how often do you ask them questions about their products?

Sales Techniques

1. List as many “Steps of the Sale” as you can think of, in the order in which they should be executed. Can some steps be repeated, and can they be repeated out of order from the usual sequence?

2. What is your usual greeting to a new up you have never met before? Why do you think it is an effective greeting? What does the RSA hope to accomplish with the “Meet and Greet” step?

3. What are the three biggest mistakes an RSA can make?

4. List the ten most important qualifying questions RSAs should always ask.

5. What is the single most important thing any RSA must do during any sales encounter?

6. Should an RSA use a memorized sales script or just go with the flow?

7. List at least six common customer objections and explain how an RSA might handle them.

8. What is the difference between a firm feel and a hard feel?

9. Should offering a comfort exchange be an important part of closing the sale? How about the warranty?

10. What is a prorated warranty?

11. What problems does a mattress warranty cover?

12. How should the RSA respond if the up complains that his old mattress is sagging in the middle. What does this usually mean?

13. How should the RSA respond to the customer who says, “I just want to look.”

14. Does every mattress SKU on your floor have an adjustable base supporting it?

15. Should every customer, even if they are just looking for a twin mattress, be encouraged to try out an adjustable base?

“If the RSA uses the comfort exchange as a close, he will probably get a comfort exchange."”

16. Should RSAs ALWAYS take new ups to the most expensive bed in the store (start at the top?) Explain your reasoning for this answer.

17. What should RSAs do when customers ask, “Can/may I have your card?”

18. Should the RSA ever recommend a certain mattress set?

19. Do you consider yourself a sleep consultant or a bedding consultant?

20. How often do you follow up with a customer who bought from you? How often do you follow up with a prospect who has not yet bought from you?

21. At what point in a sale, is it permissible for an RSA to utter uncomplimentary language about either a competitor or another product?

Final Thoughts

Allow me to repeat that this is not a comprehensive quiz. Hopefully these questions will get retail owners, mangers and RSAs thinking about the level of mattress sales and sales management competence in your retail organization. In addition, maybe this quiz will encourage further research and investigation using some of the many resources available for training.


Bedding Product Answers

1. All answers to the mattress SKU questions are unique to your store.

2. All answers to the pillow SKUs questions are unique to your store.

3. All answers to the protector questions are unique to your store.

4. A “complete bed” is a headboard, footboard and rails. It does NOT include a mattress. Confusing, I know, but this is industry parlance as I learned it. Bed rails are the pieces, frequently angle iron, between a headboard and footboard, preferably never free standing by themselves. A bed frame (also called a Hollywood frame), is a free standing, mattress set supporting frame, usually angle iron, to which you can attach a headboard but not a footboard.

5. All answers to the bed frame questions are unique to your store.

6. Do you know how to assemble frames/rails, and have you?

7. Modi plates are flat, iron pieces (with holes) that can be used to attach a headboard to a frame when the holes on the frame and headboard do not match up.

8. All answers to the adjustable base questions are unique to your store.

9. Sizes in inches are Twin 38 X 74, Extra Long Twin 38 X 80, Full 54 X 74, Queen 60 X 80, King (standard) 76 X 80, and California King 72 X 84.

10. Answer to the special order question is unique to your store.

11. The general definition of a hybrid is a mattress with an innerspring (usually a wrapped coil unit) with layers of memory foam (visco) on top of the innerspring.

12. Coil count is the number of coils in a given size mattress. The measuring standard until about 12-15 years ago was number of coils in a full size mattress. Now most brands count the number of coils in a queen size mattress. The coil count, along with the innerspring type, is also used as an identifier for a given innerspring unit, for example a “312 Bonnell” has 312 coils in a full size Bonnell knotted coil unit. The gauge is the thickness of the wire. Gauges usually run between 12.5 and 15.5, with the lower number gauge being the thicker wire. “Turns” is the term used for how many spirals, from top to bottom, in the coil. Taller coils can make the mattress thicker, without using extra foam padding. Coil shape can be either barrel shaped or hourglass shaped. Barrel shaped, in the days before foam encasement, often meant better edge support.

13. Bonnell coil (knotted and tied by helicals) are mostly used in promotional sets.

In continuous coil units, a single wire stretches throughout the entire innerspring unit. In a Marshall unit, wrapped coil/pocketed coil, each coil is individually wrapped with fabric and not tied together with helicals, so that less motion is evident when moving objects are placed on the mattress.

Offset – usually means that the top and bottom turns on the coils are squared off on two sides so that they perform a hinging action when compressed. The desired effect is to have less motion and better contouring to body shape.

14. A helical wire is the tight spiral wire that “sews” the innerspring unit together by lacing through each coil and attaching to the border wire, which is the heavier, usually six gauge wire that forms the outer perimeter of the mattress innerspring. Many mattresses no longer have border wires, because they are not compatible with the necessary bending that a mattress must do with adjustable beds.

15. Basic foam types are: flexible polyurethane foam (FPF), the most common comfort layer found in mattresses, and least expensive; Memory foam, or visco (slow recovery foam); and Latex (rubber and more bouncy).

16. Various forms of hard foam are now most often used as edge support in “foam encased” mattresses. Older modes, especially Bonnell units, sometimes had various kinds of metal clips between bottom and top border wires.

17. Foam density is the weight of the mattress. Foam firmness is a measurement of how much the mattress will compress under a given amount of weight. For a more complete discussion, consult my book, "How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual".

18. Answer to the headboard question is unique to your store.

19. Ask your sales manager about your store's Bed in a Box sales.

20. Ask your reps about Bed in a Box options if you haven't already.

21. See question number nine's answer.

Financing Answers

1-4. Ask your sales or finance manager about financing if you have trouble answering these questions.

5. A new finance application for a mattress, or any other item, can spoil an approval on a mortgage application, especially if the mortgage was approved on tight criteria and is still waiting to close. Don’t ruin a new home purchase by possibly voiding the mortgage.

Advertising Answers

1. Various media are TV, Cable TV, and all manner of social media, newspaper, magazines, billboards, direct mail and many others. Check off yours. All answers in this section are unique to your store.

Inventory Answers

1. Yes, ready to deliver inventory is obviously hugely important.

2. Ask your sales manager and inventory manager. It is important because you do not want to promise same day delivery if another RSA just sold the last set in stock.

3. Ask the sales manager about back up depth for all SKUs.

4. It's important to visit the warehouse to get to know warehouse personnel, which might come in handy if you need a favor. It also helps to know the location and presence of non-stocked merchandise that might help make a sale.

5. See answer to question four above.

6. Ask your sales or warehouse manager for customer pick up information.

7. Mattresses should not be warehoused standing up, end to end. Gravity affects padding. Also, it encourages dragging and pushing mattresses on the floor, which is not a good thing.

Company Policies Answers

Check with your managers for answers to the ten store policy questions.

The Competition Answers

I suggest doing your own research. Much of this information can be found on competitor's websites, by checking their ad messages or visiting their stores.

Industry Knowledge Answers

1. The four “major” brands are Serta, Simmons, Sealy and Tempur-Pedic. Do your own research on the other questions. Visit their websites.

2. Do your own research online and in furniture/bedding publications.

3. It was recently reported that Bed in A Box imports have captured approximately 15 percent of the US bedding market.

4. The International Sleep Products Association and the Home Furnishings Association. Every bedding RSA should at least be familiar with these organizations and what they do.

5. Ask yourself.

6. Look it up on their websites.

7. Are you?

Sales Techniques Answers

A brief disclaimer is in order here. Some sales trainers and RSAs may not necessarily agree with my answers, or even my questions, for that matter. I base my opinions on 23 years of service on the showroom floor and over 30,000 sales made personally by me; as well as multiple readings of every retail sales book I could find over the same period.

1. Steps of the sale, as published in my book, "How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual", are:

  • Approach and Greet.
  • Qualify the buyer.
  • Product selection and discovery.
  • Presentation of features/benefits.
  • Closing of the sale.
  • Goodbye and the Finish. (There are many other sub-steps, I refer to as the “Elements of the Sale”).

2. If you are still greeting with “May I Help You?” read my Meet and Greet article, which can be found in the Furniture World online archives at https://www.furninfo.com/Authors/David%20Benbow/37.

3. Number one is wasting your valuable time, which could be spent becoming the professional you should be. Number two is failure to control the sale. Number three is failure to ask for the sale once you have earned the right to ask for it.

4. Refer to my article on qualifying, also found at https://www.furninfo.com/Authors/David%20Benbow/37.

5. Acquire and maintain control of the sale until the customer walks out the door.

6. Somewhere in between memorization and going with the flow. RSAs certainly need to follow a pattern.

7. Refer to my article “I Object” at https://www.furninfo.com/Authors/David%20Benbow/37.

8. In my opinion, "firm” refers to the interior, usually the innerspring and how flexible it is. “Hard” or “soft” is the surface feel (in infinite degrees, of course). For example, a mattress can be both firm and soft; meaning a firm innerspring or inner core, with soft, luxurious padding. I think of the word “firmness” as non-measurable description of potential back support.

9. No and no. If the RSA uses the comfort exchange as a close, he will probably get a comfort exchange. The RSA shouldn’t mention warranty at all unless he explains it only covers “manufacturer defects” and nothing else.

10. Usually found in less expensive, promotional products. Prorated means full value is only for the first year (usually) and loses value yearly thereafter.

11. Look at answer number nine above.

12. Sagging in the middle often means the mattress does not have proper center support from the bed frame. Manufacturers will not warranty a mattress that is not properly supported by the frame.

13. Refer to the “Aloof Customers” chapter in "How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual". Remember, you must gain control of the sale, or there will be no sale.

14. Look and see. Having lots of adjustable bases on the floor increases sales.

15. YES. Every customer should be encouraged to demo an adjustable base.

16. It's not always best to start at the top in my opinion. Refer to the chapter in "How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual", titled Stepping Up.

17. You must re-gain control of the sale, if possible. Otherwise, see my article in Furniture World archives on Be-Backs.

18. I recommend that the RSA NOT recommend a mattress.

19. RSAs are primarily bedding consultants. Certainly, they should discuss sleep with their customers, but I am concerned about the trend in this business to encourage RSAs to promote themselves as sleep experts. I sold beds for years and I am definitely not a sleep expert. Even medical science is still a bit in the dark regarding its knowledge of the science of sleep. This also jibes with my suggestion in answer 18 above. Any RSA who recommends a bed to a customer, I think, is greatly exaggerating his thin resume of expertise, and very possibly creating a disservice to his customer.

20. Follow up at least every six to 12 weeks for the rest of the customer’s life.

21. It's probably never OK to bad-mouth the competition.

Final Note

This quiz may take days or even weeks to complete. I’d like to hear feed-back from anyone who reads this. My contact numbers are in the following bio.


About David Benbow: David Benbow, a veteran of the mattress and bedding industry, is owner of Mattress Retail Training Company offering mattress retailers a full array of retail guidance; from small store management to training retail sales associates (RSAs.) He has 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.

He is the author of  “How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual” that systematically presents a complete, organized, but easily read and understood text book for mattress and bedding retail sales associates, beginner and experienced professional alike. It can be purchased at  http://www.bedsellersmanual.com.
Questions an comments can be directed to him at dave@bedsellersmanual.com or 361-648-3775.