Why Do Leaders Crush Followers?

My 10-year-old son, Nick, had a big class presentation last week where he was to get up and deliver a weather report using the map on his classroom wall. The poor kid’s a lot like his father, so he wanted to go big and make an impact, not just deliver a report. He dressed up in a suit, rehearsed his lines, and set off to earn that A.

 When he came home frustrated after the presentation, I assumed he’d forgotten his lines, or something like that. But it wasn’t that at all. Nick’s frustration sprang from that fact that a few of his classmates said that when they gave their presentations later on in the week, they were also going to wear a suit and copy a few other elements from his presentation.

I explained to Nick that having people copy what you do is great because, as they say, “imitation is the best form of flattery.” He wasn’t feeling it, but I further explained a few reasons that leading—not following—is the way to go, and when people follow you that is a good thing. When you lead instead of follow:

  1.  You establish yourself as an authority, which builds significant value for you on many levels.
  2. Your ideas are validated by your competition.
  3. You are the first to make an impact in the market, which delivers the “first to market advantage” that can give you an incredible edge on market share and profits.
  4. You are not troubled by trying to figure out how to copy the leader and not make it look like you ARE copying the leader.

 Why Do Leaders Crush Followers?

I was watching a commercial the other day and Gillette is now offering a subscription model for their razor blades to combat what Dollar Shave Club is doing to disrupt that industry. A small startup, Dollar Shave Club was a leader, and figured out a way to completely change the way consumers purchased razor blades. Now others are following suit, but not before DSC has taken some serious market share in the almost $13 billion dollar industry dominated by Proctor and Gamble. This is a great example of a startup schooling the industry big boys with creative ideas that made an impact. And they did it first.

Do you have the creative muscle in your organization to generate ideas that can lead your competitors in the mattress industry? I understand that it’s much easier to follow. There is less risk, and you save yourself some embarrassment should you fail. At the end of the day, however, if you let others lead, you’ll never realize the profits that are possible if you’re the one out front. I have heard some say that we are an industry of followers and so I gave that some thought. Pillow tops, one-sided beds, gel memory foam, hybrids, moving away from flexible foundations, and now temperature regulation, adjustable comfort solutions, and the integration of technology just to name a few. These are all areas where somebody has launched an idea, it was received well by the market, and in a few of these cases EVERYBODY followed suit. I don’t want to criticize our industry too hard because this happens all of the time in other industries as well, but it might be more frequent among the mattress faithful. Did Simmons have an early advantage being first to market on single sided? How about Tempur-Pedic or Select Comfort on memory foam and air?

Nick has this figured out now, and he’s very happy that his friends are following in his footsteps on this class project. The great thing about him—as with many of the leaders in this industry—is that he didn’t wait around for others to innovate. He’s already trying to figure out how to lead on his next project.

How about your company? Are you leading the way, or staring at the butt of the guy who’s always in front of you?

Simple Sells

When is the last time you heard someone say, “this is way to easy we need to make it more complicated.” Okay, outside of a conversation with an attorney, when is that last time you heard that? (My apologies to the legal profession, but I could not help it.)

That said, it irritates me to no end when I buy something and it’s difficult to assemble. Or when the second paragraph of directions on my son’s fourth-grade math page doesn’t make sense. So what’s wrong here? Simply put, some people just make things way too complicated!

We’re all familiar with the acronym KISS, or “keep it simple stupid.” Why can’t we apply that to the mattress industry? Pillow top, ultra cushion pillow top, euro top, foam density, ILDs, soft, firm, ultra plush, ultra firm, memory foam, visco foam, gel foam, gel bits, gel swirl, diamond particles … and the list goes on.

 Simple Sells

For consumers just turning their attentions to the mattress industry, there’s a lot to take in. The terms we use can confuse people, but how about the actual shopping experience? The consumer can’t really cross-shop beds very well and on top of that, we make them look so dang similar on the selling floor, it’s almost impossible to to compare and contrast their favorite beds.

Why should we try to simplify what we do? How about big profits?! I hate to do this, but I am going to make yet another comparison to Apple, as if everybody else out there doesn’t do this on a daily basis.) I just bought a new MacBook Air from Apple—and it didn’t even come with directions. Did your iPhone come with directions? These are some of the most complicated devices you can buy and they have made them so easy to use that you just have to turn them on to get started. Hmm. If we simplified the mattress industry, would it help create more interest from consumers or possibly make the buying experience better? Ask the guys at Casper or Tuft and Needle, and see what they tell you.

I know there are several reasons those guys are doing well, but you can’t discount the impact that simplifying the business has on driving results. Think about it: There is no magic in the products they are selling. I know many people in this business that could build the same products with no problem, but the approach to the consumer is what makes the big difference, and telling their story in a simple and compelling way is paying big dividends.

I’ve been around long enough to understand the need to have different ticks and names, so consumers have a more difficult time cross-shopping products. But at what point do the consumer frustration and cries for help trump our desire to maintain that healthy margin the way that we are used to doing it? When a company like Tuft and Needle comes along and makes things easier, the consumer reacts favorably and shifts their business to the “new way” of buying a bed. I’m not saying we’re going to change who we are because of a few Internet startup companies. But they sure have created their share of buzz and have a lot of people questioning their own business models.

All I’m saying here is that simplicity sells. We all like it when the ready-to-assemble furniture actually takes only three minutes to build, and the directions are easy to understand. How about the ease of using Uber when you are traveling and looking for a ride to the hotel? Simple equals easy, and easy equals happy, so let’s make our consumers happy. What do you say?!

Is this industry simple enough for you? How would you make it easier to navigate?

Many thanks to Beau Fraser at The Gate advertising agency for inspiring this blog by starting a great discussion thread in Linkedin.


If They Don’t Get It, Don’t Waste Your Time

 Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you are selling your butt off, trying to convince a group or an individual about a product or an idea, laying down your best stuff but your audience just isn’t tracking? If you have a great idea and find yourself working too hard and too long to convince others how brilliant you are, I say move along.

 If They Don’t Get It, Dont Waste Your Time

You Shouldn’t Have To Beg!

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying to throw persistence aside or to give up as soon as you hear that first objection. But if your target isn’t “hearing” you after a sincere effort on your part, it’s best to stop selling there and look for the person who does.

I was sitting in a Starbucks last week, and the guy at the table next to me—we’ll call him Tom—was on his phone speaking very loudly. You know the type. At any rate, Tom took a call from a telemarketer who was trying to convince Tom to use his company’s credit-card-payment system.

It’s worth noting that Tom is a consultant who doesn’t log enough transactions on a daily basis to actually warrant buying this guy’s product, and he told the telemarketer “no” in a very nice way. Then, he said no again, and then he told them no again. And again. And again. I kid you not, the person selling this service was relentless in his approach and had Tom on the phone for 20 minutes. Had it been me on the phone, the call would have ended after the third no. But Tom let the telemarketer continue, because at some level he was getting a kick out of the passion and don’t- take-no-for-an-answer approach from the salesperson. We both had a good laugh at the end of that call.

Here’s the deal: If you have to work that hard on getting to a “yes” then I say don’t waste your time. Some people just don’t get it, so give it your best effort and then shut it down. How much time do we waste trying to force the issue? If you have a product or an idea and you just barely get it sold, what are the chances of that product coming back to the store, or the idea failing because there wasn’t enough conviction behind the “yes” that got it sold in to begin with?

Sometimes we have to do a better job of finding the right audience for what we are selling. If your audience isn’t enthusiastic about what you are selling to begin with, then how great is it going to turn out? If they buy it half heartedly, is it going to end in a win-win for you both anyway? Present a good case for your product or service, but if you feel like you are beating your head against the wall with your target, stop wasting your time! There are people out there who are going to love what you are saying, who will buy and who will validate your efforts, so make them your priority.

Are you selling the right product to the right audience? Have your own story to share? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section.


Eat What You Cook

I want you to walk into your boss’s office and let them know that starting today, you can help increase your companies productivity by as much as 34%. What kind of reaction do you think you will get? I would imagine that you would peak their interest in a significant way. I have seen people get incredibly excited over a 2-3% improvement in efficiency so theoretically, this should send senior management to the moon and back right!?! Not so fast.

 Eat What You Cook

According to ABC News, a study conducted by NASA says that a 26-minute nap can increase performance by as much as 34%. Forbes tells us that a 10-minute nap can produce immediate improvements in “all outcome measures” including cognitive performance. If all of this is true, and we can be more productive at work as a result of a little cat nap, say around 1:30-2pm after lunch, why don’t we support that in our own companies? Forget what the studies show, don’t most of us just know this based on our own experiences?

“Well it’s just not practical and would be very hard to implement.”  “We don’t have the space for a nap room.” “It would be too hard to police.” Come on people, I said increased productivity by as much as 34%, are you telling me that we can’t think creatively to find a way? It must be that we simply don’t believe in the research that has been done by guys like the National Sleep Foundation, or NASA on the subject, nor do we trust our own personal experiences. Really?

some companies encourage napping at work to increase productivity 10090901 249x300 Eat What You Cook

Companies like Google, Ben and Jerry’s, AOL, Zappos, and Nike all have found a way to make the nap at work concept a success so what is keeping us? Mark Kinsley at Sleep-Geek actually wrote about the premier nap pod company so check that out HERE. If there is anyone that should be doing great things in the work place in support of sleep it is the mattress industry! If you were to visit a company that manufactured exercise equipment and the senior team you were meeting with were all fat and out of shape, what would you think about that company? How about going to the home office of a big health food company and their café had no healthy food choices on the menu and the break rooms were full of vending machines featuring junk food? Am I off base here or do these analogies work for you?

If you were recruiting people to come to work for your company and they were to hear about your new nap policy, I am betting that you will automatically have an edge over other companies. Earlier this year, I wrote about keeping your people happy and how important that was to overall performance. Allowing people to get a little siesta in the early afternoon would make your team very happy AND, did I already mention that you can increase productivity by as much as 34%! Okay, now I am being annoying, but you understand right?

Do you really think that if people are tired, they are not zoning out at their desk anyway, staring at a screen full of numbers. When they get tired and can’t focus they are likely playing a game, Facebooking or watching REALLY funny videos for a break, like this one from TheEllen Show? People are wasting time due to fatigue caused by being tired so why in the world would we not charge our people’s battery a little and let them finish strong the second half of the day?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bring this up in your next meeting. Have a serious discussion about it and instead of thinking about all of the reasons it won’t work, problem solve around how to make it happen. Google and Zappos are pretty successful companies by my measure and I really doubt they would allow naps unless they really delivered some benefit, so what do you say, want to give it a try?

Does your company support a short nap in the afternoon and if not, why not?

BONUS: I know that this little kid napping has very little to do with this blog post but I had to share it cause it is so dang cute.

 Eat What You Cook

Right here is good.








Free Rides on Adjustable Beds for EVERYONE

There is some good debate going on in the LinkedIn group Mattress Industry Executives about presenting adjustable bed bases to every customer versus only to those that have expressed the interest or have the need due to health concerns.    The discussion was actually started as a result of a great post written by Larry Shinkle on Sleep Geek where Larry tries to convince his readers that you should ALWAYS show an adjustable base during the mattress sale.   I happen to side with Larry on this one but realize that this is easier said than done. So the question is, why do rsa’s shy away from making the presentation to every single customer?

 There are many things that may prevent an rsa from talking about adjustable beds but I suggest to you that the leading fear the rsa has is the perceived high price of the product. I have done sales training in several industries and this is always true no matter what products people are selling. They don’t want to hit the customer up on the most expensive items because the closing ratio is lower on those products and they don’t like being rejected. After you have successfully sold a $2,000 mattress set,  do you really want to risk that and go for the add on sale of a $1,500 base? Could being that aggressive actually cause the consumer to back out of the mattress purchase? These are fair concerns by the rsa but consider this simple tweak to the typical approach. We need to give the consumer the, “just try it” request which is nothing more than the rsa saying to the consumer, “I know that you are just looking for a bed to go into your guest room but before you leave, you have to try out our new adjustable bed base, you won’t believe how comfortable it is.” With this presentation, you take away the intimidation factor on the part of the rsa because they are not officially asking for the sale, but instead just asking the consumer to give it a test drive. On the consumer side, you are not feeling “sold to” or pushed away because the rsa has clearly established the fact that they just want you to see how great it is and for them to give it some thought for their next purchase. You can use this same approach when someone is looking at a bed for their kid or even something for their own master suite. “I understand that your budget is $2,000 but I have to show you something that you need to TRY OUT before you leave that might give you a good reason to treat yourself later on.”

 To quote Larry in his Sleep Geek post, “Wayne Gretzky once said that he missed 100% of the shots he never took.”  The bottom line here is that we have to get the consumer to experience the product, because if we don’t we are not going to max out our potential here. When a consumer sees an adjustable bed, often times there is absolutely no interest because most people out there still see it as a product for old people or hospitals. It is only when they actually EXPERIENCE the comfort that they get fired up about owning one. We need to make the conversation easy for the rsa and minimize the risk of asking to begin with. Just lead the consumer into the conversation by telling the guys that there is cool new tech inside of beds these days or by giving the kids a remote to an adjustable bed base so mom can shop and kids can play space ship. However you get them there, just get them there.

Those are my thoughts on the subject, do you think this works? Either way, share your opinion in the comments section!