The following is a guest post by David Fisher
Before we start, I’d like to preface these remarks with the understanding that the comments are not an expert’s opinion but rather observations from someone with many years of retail experience.
Retail sales associates are a unique breed: Day in and day out they are on the front lines facing each and every customer, challenged with the responsibility of turning as many opportunities as possible into high-ticket sales. Those considered the best look at their job as if it were their own business. They are emotionally invested and take it personally when they do not have the right ammunition to meet the needs and requirements of all their clients. What keeps them motivated? On their game? How are they able to fine-tune their skills?
In my experience, the best sales professionals learn and memorize their bedding line-ups, understanding all the latest technologies and their relationships to a customer’s health and sleep issues. They know which technologies to focus on (after qualifying the customer) in order to narrow the choices to a manageable few. They learn to love their line-up, depend upon it, and sell it with confidence. There’s no confusion as to where to take their customers after building a relationship of trust and qualifying them as to their specific, individualized requirements.
Then, all of a sudden, without any warning, something happens they weren’t expecting. The line-up is being changed. Why now, just when we’re getting comfortable with it? I’m sure some beds are not selling, but for the most part the others are winners. I’ve fine-tuned my presentation toward these sleep systems. After all this hard work and effort to become comfortable with the line, these front-line pros will be made to relearn, reprogram, and retool for a new bedding line-up they didn’t even ask for. What message does this send to them as to their opinions in the decision-making process? Surely the person selling the mattress could make some valuable suggestions that could benefit the organization’s business. The feedback an RSA receives comes directly from the end-user. This information is priceless and can almost guarantee a bedding buyer’s success. How can it be ignored?
Hasn’t the RSA earned the right to be an integral part of the decision-making process? Shouldn’t the relationship between the buyer/owner and salesperson be more a partnership than employer-employee relationship? Shouldn’t switch-out decisions be made based upon need, missed sales, and newer, missing technologies? How easy would it be for sales staffs to love, support, and sell the heck out of a bedding line-up they had direct input in helping build. They could take pride in knowing that what is on the floor is a result of a team effort in which their opinions were taken into consideration. Then they can be truly motivated and, in fact, feel that this really is their own business. Building a powerful, thriving, growing bedding business demands a partnership of all the players who have a stake in the game.
David Fisher is originally from Philadelphia, Pa. He owned and managed a chain of women’s shoe stores in Pittsburgh for many years. Later he was a sales associate at Levin Furniture in Pittsburgh, Rooms to Go in South Florida, and RC Willey in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fisher was National Sales Manager for Bell Sleep Products LLC, a bedding line developed for Bell Furniture Industries by International Bedding Corporation. He is currently a sales consultant with Macy’s.
One of the greatest company’s I was ever part of empowered everyone to have input. We had a ownership in our floors and line up which in turn created a fanastic sales enviroment. But as we got bigger, that went away and so did that energy.
David Fisher is addressing an issue that has become apparent to me after a 30-year career in the operations side of the mattress business. In ‘retirement’ I opened a retail mattress store and now realize that this business takes place at the point of sale.
The RSA sees the customer, tries to understand their needs, and then guides them to the product in their store that best meets the customer’s needs. On the flip side, Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) was famous for creating products that we didn’t know we need. Tempur-Pedic did that for the mattress industry by getting the water out of the waterbed. I absolutely agree that smart mattress buyers should listen to their RSA’s and smart manufacturer’s should listen to their dealers.