3 Sales Truths From a Mattress Salesman
Can a new mattress change your life? Maybe—more on that later. But my recent experience shopping for a mattress highlighted three essential sales insights that you can apply to B2B sales.
Last week I went mattress shopping for the first time in many years. After a few minutes, I was bewildered. Imagine a large showroom filled with dozens of mattresses, all of which look the same. Unfortunately, online research didn’t help me much since the mattress store sells many proprietary brands or national brands with confusing model numbers, making it hard to compare products.
In the first store I visited, the salesperson couldn’t answer basic questions about the different mattresses. I quickly exited the store frustrated and confused.
Shopping at the second mattress store was a completely different customer experience. As I entered the store, I was warmly greeted by Joe (not his real name), the mattress salesperson. Ninety minutes later, I left having spent three times my original budget on a mattress that I was convinced would give me a better night’s sleep.
So, what can we learn from Joe about sales?
1) Build Confidence
Selling is about the transfer of confidence. You're transferring your confidence that your solution is the best option from yourself to the customer.
Here, Joe excelled. He wore a button that said, “Sleep Expert,” and that was no lie. Joe quickly demonstrated his deep product knowledge. Innerspring, foam, hybrid, or adjustable mattresses– Joe knew it all! Joe could explain why one mattress cost $600, but another seemingly identical mattress cost $2,000 without being too "salesy." Joe also demonstrated industry expertise, explaining the quality history of one manufacturer versus another. He also brought product insights based on his family’s experiences and customer feedback on different mattresses.
By demonstrating his expertise, I felt that I could rely on Joe’s recommendation. I was starting to view him as a mattress advisor and not just a salesperson.
Sales Insight #1: Master your solution and industry. Become that advisor who is relied on to know the answers.
2) Expand the Problem
Once Joe established his expertise, he moved to the discovery phase of the sales process. How’s your sleep at home? When you wake up with your current mattress, do you have any joint aches? What kind of sleeper are you? He then had me test a mattress for a few minutes and asked more questions. How did that compare to your mattress at home? What did you like about it? How did your back feel? Do you feel the support under your neck?
These questions helped me connect my presenting problem - I need a new mattress - to a bigger problem: better sleep. Joe also discussed the benefits of an adjustable mattress base that allows you to raise your head and feet. Now I could customize my resting positions to find the perfect position for reading and watching TV from bed. According to Joe, sleeping with my head and feet raised had many health benefits, including helping manage high blood pressure and acid reflux while reducing snoring and back pain.
I walked into the store looking to solve a simple problem with a modest budget. Joe convinced me that I needed a customizable sleep solution consisting of a state-of-the-art mattress and adjustable base. This would provide me with better, healthier sleep that would improve my life. I was now ready to spend three times my original budget for better sleep.
Sales Insight #2: Skillful questioning can overcome pricing concerns by having the customer consider broader problems they didn’t know they had.
3) Reduce Risk
Customers are often reluctant to close a deal since saying “yes” involves risk. Will the product perform as promised? Maybe I can get a better deal with another supplier.
Throughout the sales process, Joe skillfully reduced the perceived risk of buying a mattress by emphasizing the 10-year guarantee on the mattress and the 120-day return policy. Joe then walked me through the delivery and installation process.
Joe also shared success stories of customers in similar situations getting great results from buying the same mattress/platform combination I was considering. People are receptive to stories. Buyers need to see themselves in the same situation. One good technique is to base a story on your own experience, and Joe did just that, explaining how he got a mattress for his son, but when the son didn’t like it, he returned it and got a different mattress – no risk, no hassles.
Sales Insight #3: As you move to close a sale, manage the buyer’s natural anxiety by reducing the risk of saying yes.
Joe is a highly skilled sales professional who provided me with a master's class on great selling techniques. As a result, I walked out of the mattress store feeling like I had made the right decision despite spending more than my original budget. More importantly, after one week of sleeping on my new mattress, I feel more rested, have fewer joint aches, and am more productive during the day. So, yes, the mattress did change my life.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.