Over the holiday weekend, my wife and I went shopping for new mattresses. Holiday weekends are the best time to make such a purchase (or so the advertisements led us to believe), so we ventured to the two largest stores in the area. Our experience may shed light on your sales practices.
The only thing missing from our previous mattress to indicate where we slept would have been a chalk outline of our bodies. Years of sleeping in the same spot created a visible indicator that it was time for a change.
A tale of two sellers
We explained to each store that we were buying three beds: one for us, and two for our children. The two stores are located almost across the street from one another.
When we arrived at the first store, we passed a relatively young man smoking a cigarette just outside the entrance. He was talking to someone on his cellphone, and I overheard him say, "Dude, I gotta go. Customers are walking in." I'll call him Alan. This was to be our salesperson.
Upon finding the first bed we liked, I asked Alan for the price and replied, "You must be out of your mind. Nobody would pay that much. What's the real price?" Instantly, Alan dropped the price by 25 percent.
When I asked Alan, "Does this bed work to keep you cool?" He quickly said, "Yep." I sensed he would have given the same answer if I asked him if a given bed would cure cancer, neutralize nuclear waste or repair the ozone layer. Alan was interested in telling me anything I wanted to hear. He made it a point several times to tell me, "Dude, I will give you an awesome deal." Alan was focused on price, and we followed suit. When I asked him about trial periods, he said "We don't sell used beds. So, we don't take them back." We left Alan's store to continue our quest.
When we arrived at the second store, a professionally dressed salesperson introduced himself as Steve and asked, "Is there something specific you are looking for today?" Steve then said, "Can I ask you a few questions and show you a few examples? We can quickly eliminate one- to two-thirds of the store and save you some time." Once Steve helped us determine the firmness we liked, he showed us beds in a wide range of prices -- each having the firmness we wanted. At the same time, he made sure our son was directed to the bed that best suited him.
When showing memory foam beds, Steve showed two beds that differed in price by 400 percent. He said, "I would suggest you try them both. If you like the less expensive one, that's all that matters. Many people prefer that bed to the other more expensive one. You can't go wrong with any of these." Steve was working to find the best solution, not make the biggest sale.
Conclusion and Lessons
We ended up buying three beds from Steve's store. Steve quickly demonstrated his expertise, but was not at all pushy. He kept giving us time to lie on the beds, and would check back without pressing for the sale. Steve reassured us that their policy would allow us to try the bed for 90 days. They wanted to ensure we were happy. Alan might have given us a steeper discount, but he still lost the sale.
Too often salespeople focus on price over value. Poor salespeople rely on hype. Steve took the time to constantly ask about what was important to us. During the sales process, Steve would provide pillows for us to use. At the end, he calmly reminded us about all of their policies to ensure a risk-free purchase, and said that in addition to good pricing, they were including new pillows for the family.
Because he was focused on value and meeting our needs, we focused less on price. We could have walked across the street for a lower price, but the total value of the experience outweighed a nominal price difference.
Having received the beds, the children love theirs. After two nights, my wife and I are less than thrilled. So, we'll have to contact them and test their guarantee and trial policy. Next week we will detail that experience ... and I'll share the company's name that we bought from.
How can you apply these lessons to your business?