This brief history of selling bedding—from quantity of coils to quality of sleep—shows how far we’ve come and where we should go from here BY GERRY MORRIS Over the years, our approach to mattress sales has evolved, with the focus on presentations progressing from coil counts and firmness to “selling…
In my farewell column, I want to thank readers and friends, as well as share lessons I’ve learned and imparted during my tenure with Sleep Savvy
BY GERRY MORRIS
The time has come for me to turn the page (pun intended) and move on to another chapter in my life. So, this is my final column in Sleep Savvy, and I want to make the most of it, by highlighting a few of the experiences and memories I’ve enjoyed over the years, along with some of the opportunities writing for Sleep Savvy has afforded me. And most important, I want to acknowledge several of the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.
It all began in 2002 when Nancy Butler, the creator and first editor of Sleep Savvy, paid a visit to Dave McIlquham, then the president of Sealy, to inform him of the new publication she helped launch. Somehow a copy of my newly published book “Spring Training” had found its way into Dave’s possession. He mentioned to her that she should take a look at it. Soon after, I got a call from Nancy asking if I’d allow her to include an excerpt, “10 Things You’ll Never Hear a Mattress Shopper Say” in the inaugural issue.
Of course, I was thrilled to say yes and didn’t waste any time asking Nancy if I could be a regular contributor. Unfortunately, she said “not at this time.” I was disappointed, to say the least, but I decided to go ahead and submit a brief “selling tip” column to her anyway. She called back and said she loved it. I’ve been in every issue since, and it changed my life for the better. Thanks, Nancy.
Sales training workshops
Soon after my first few columns, I started getting hired to do sales training seminars and workshops for retailers and manufacturers all over the United States and Canada — from mom-and-pop stores to large chains and buying groups. I always thought I could trade places with anyone in the sessions and they could teach me more than I could teach them.
Speaking engagements, seminars
Another favorite benefit from the “credibility” I gained from Sleep Savvy was doing speaking engagements. I spoke 12 times at the Las Vegas Market, as well as at engagements at Toronto and High Point markets, and national buying group conferences in some of the most wonderful cities and resorts in the country. What a blast!
Better Bedding Sales speaking tour
In 2007, my friend Brad Geddes hired me from Serta to join his company Magi Seal in London, Ontario. These were the greatest few years of my professional life. We launched a new venture, Better Bedding Sales, providing sales training to retailers, along with an extended warranty service called Sleep Trust. Thanks to the support and promotion of Sleep Savvy, we conducted free training seminars for retail sales associates and sales managers in 14 North American cities.
I’m most proud of some of the ideas and concepts I presented in my columns over the years. I always was taken aback to hear from readers who said they had benefited from them.
A little secret: I followed the same strategic plan for every column I wrote. With no forethought, when I was prompted that a due date was near, I’d sit at my laptop with no idea whatsoever of what to write about. For nearly 17 years, somehow an idea would pop into my head and I would crank out a new column.
Here are a few of the fundamental themes for mattress retailing that I often emphasized:
O Needs vs. wants: People buy things they need for the function those things perform, and they buy things they want for how they imagine those things will make them feel. Through simple dialogue, RSAs can add the emotional component to turn a need into a want. If someone wants something badly enough, you can’t talk her out of buying it.
O Big-picture thinking: This simple product we sell is not so simple. If you trace every component back to its original source, you’ll discover thousands of people played at least some small role in bringing the finished product to the point of purchase.
O The importance of retail: Every dollar the industry makes passes through the hands of retailers. It is the conversation between seller and buyer that results in the transfer of ownership of finished goods from the supply side to the demand side of the equation.
O Interdependency and interconnectedness: We are connected in some small way to every person in the industry. RSAs produce the dollars that contribute to the livelihood of all those who produce and bring finished goods to market.
Some people may find these statements controversial, but I think they are accurate observations of the sleep products industry:
“No manufacturer nor retailer will gain significant, long-term marketshare through product innovation or price.” Any new innovation with legs quickly will be copied or replicated, e.g., foam mattresses, gels, nonflip, adjustable bases, foam edge encasement, cooling covers and fibers. Price? Second stop on shoppers’ missions usually results in a lower price.
“If you want to increase sales, quit focusing on sales.” Motive is transparent; focusing on sales makes shoppers the mechanism for getting what you want. Knowing what we know about the positive, life-changing benefits of mattresses, we focus on serving our shoppers by helping them choose to buy for their own good. Increased sales will be the byproduct of doing so.
“Mattresses are and always will be one of the single best consumer products to buy or sell!” Amen!
Here are a few of my favorite phrases:
O Social media Darwinism: In the marketplace, it’s survival of the fittest accelerated by technology. Word-of-mouth travels by lightspeed through social media. Companies providing poor service or inferior quality products will be quickly called out and culled out.
O Needs vs. wants paradox: It’s often the things we need most that we least like to buy, while we gladly will find the money to buy the things we can least justify if we want them badly enough.
O Active awareness: We have the ability to become more aware of our surroundings. It is a skill that can enable us to see things from another perspective. This is a necessary tool for RSAs to develop.
O Guided discovery: Change selling steps into a goal-oriented conversation, which empowers shoppers and makes them a partner in the process. By establishing a relationship and then engaging them with meaningful open-ended questions, listening to their answers and addressing their needs, you help them choose to invest in top-quality products.
About my books
I was able to preserve all my columns and articles from Sleep Savvy in my second and third books, “Sell More Beds, Guaranteed!” and “Mattress Matters.” I am liquidating all three of my books, including “Spring Training,” at half price — $10 each. Visit SellMoreBeds.com, if you’re interested.
To my friends
I’m blessed to have developed lasting friendships with more people than I can list.
Thanks to Dave Perry of Furniture Today for being so kind and supportive, and doing so many great things for me.
Thanks to my great friends Gerry Borreggine of Therapedic International, Roger Cunningham of The Bed Store, Mike Allen of BrandSource, Jerry Honea and Mallory Parker of Mega Group USA (Nationwide Marketing Group), and Dick James of Blackberry Creek Mattress. And thanks also to Mike and Michael Petersen of Furniture Training Co. for helping create and host my online mattress sales training course. (It is available at FurnitureTrainingCompany.com.)
Finally, to my friends at Sleep Savvy, especially my editors Nancy, Julie A. Palm and Mary Best, and creative director Stephanie Belcher — it’s been an honor and privilege to work with you, and I will miss you.
And to you, Sleep Savvy readers, you’re the reason I kept writing for so long.
Sleep well and help others do the same!
P.S.: I will be helping my wife market her divinely inspired jewelry and clothing. See Mary’s Lamb Creations on Facebook.
Gerry Morris has been an author, consultant and training coach with more than 20 years of experience in the mattress industry. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.