Pillow Sales: The New Basics

Posted by Sean Bergman on
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It is so easy to complicate pillow sales at retail. I hear it all too often. Sales associates tell us that they “Don't want to jeopardize the bigger sale by selling pillows.” or “If I bring pillows up, customers begin to resist right away and I need to focus on the mattress.” The reality is, however, that nothing on earth was more meant-to-be-sold-together than a mattress and a pillow. Maybe peanut butter and jelly or tires and wheels, but that’s about it.

We know how important it is to have a quality pillow, but the reality is your customer doesn’t. The key word here is quality. I would venture to guess - more often than not - those customers in a specialty store who purchase a mattress but don’t buy a pillow, walk out the door and godirectly to Target or Walmart where they pick up a bunch of cheap, crummy pillows. I saw a survey of mattress buyers a few years back that said about 60% of people who purchase a new mattress purchase new pillows within two weeks. If your pillow attachment ratio isn’t anywhere close to 60%, then you might want to think about this statistic. Also, remember thatpillow sales are crucial to profitability and generally have fantastic profit margins for you to capitalize on.

The solution, you ask? I will tell you that it is definitely not trying to compete by selling only cheap pillows or giving them away during a mattress sale. We must begin to remember how to instill value in pillows. We must trigger customer interest and find ways to make them want to participate in the pillow selection process. We can’t tell them what kind of pillow they need; we need to engage them in a simple and fun process that builds value into pillows. Here are three things we always do at PureCare® when training RSA’s to sell pillows that have been extremely effective. Try them out. After 30 days I think you’ll find they work for you.

1. We ask one question in the qualifying phase of the sale:

“Customer, when was the last time you were properly fitted for a pillow?”

Interesting question isn’t it? When was the last time YOU were properly fitted for a pillow? What is a proper pillow fitting? What do you think your customer will say? I have never heard a customer tell me they remembered the last time they were properly fitted for a pillow, and more often than not, the question garners a lot of interest. It opens the door for me to introduce pillows to the customer. I explain that pillow comfort is a subjective and personal thing, and that the pillow fitting introduces the sleeper to all of the new materials, shapes and technologies being used today to create more comfortable and healthier pillows. I guarantee you will find more success with this approach than with questions like, “Do you need new pillows?” or “Would you like to try new pillows?”

2. We do a pillow comfort test, or “pillow fitting.” 

Three pillows to start: one latex pillow, one memory foam pillow, and one down pillow.

We generally try to start with a pillow fitting on the medium level comfort test bed. If the customer asks for specialty bedding, we do a comfort test on a medium firm specialty bed. Tell the customer you want to show them three distinct comforts in pillows and for them to tell you which one they like best. When showing such different materials in pillows, generally there is an overwhelming response from the customer as to which material they like. If a customer picks memory foam, you should introduce one or two other kinds of memory foam or gel infused memory foam pillows. While you are showing them other pillows, it gives you the opportunity to talk about the material and comfort they have chosen and plants a seed in their head about the mattress. For instance, if a customer chose memory foam I might say, “It seems like you really like that memory foam material, I’ll make sure to show you mattresses that incorporate that same kind of comfort.” If they choose down, I say, “This really helps me move you to different mattress comforts. I can look to incorporate the plushness of down into the mattress sets I show you.” And then show another comfort that was similar to down. You always know when the customer has found the right pillow. They grow a big smile and hold on to it for dear life. When that happens – the pillow fitting is over.

3. We make our customer take ownership of the pillow.

Once we’ve found the customer that “just right” pillow, we give it to them! We make them take their pillow from bed to bed, not moving it for them. If they forget it, we say things like “Don’t forget your pillow!” or “Take your pillow with you to the next mattress.” Eventually the customer begins to hug the pillow, doesn’t need to be reminded to take their pillow with them to each mattress set, and often times brings it with them to the counter when they go to make their purchase. We know at that point the customer has taken ownership of that pillow. They consider it a crucial part of the mattress ecosystem and not just another cheap afterthought. The pillow you have fit them for has value. 

It’s really easy to complicate pillow sales, but if you remember how complementary the two products are and how much value pillows add to the overall comfort of the entire sleep system, it is only a matter of following a couple of easy steps that lead to pillow sales success. Try out some of these tools. They should help you make a solid impact on your attachment rates and margins. I’d love to hear how it works for you over the next 30 days.

Good luck!

During his 14 years in the bedding industry Sean Bergman has held positions in both retail and wholesale. As Chief Marketing Officer at PureCare® by Fabrictech, the fastest growing top of bed sleep essentials manufacturer in the United States, Bergman is responsible for all sales and marketing. He serves on the Better Sleep Council and the company's PureCare protectors are the official mattress and pillow protectors of the National Sleep Foundation. Sean lives in Virginia Beach with his girlfriend Rachel and Rottweiler Talon. Connect with Sean at sbergman@fabrictech.com

About Sean

During his 14 years in the bedding industry, Sean Bergman has held positions in both retail and wholesale. As Chief Marketing Officer at PureCare┬«, the fastest growing top – of – bed sleep essentials manufacturer in the United States, Bergman is responsible for all sales and marketing. He serves on the Better Sleep Council and the company's PureCare protectors are the official mattress and pillow protectors of the National Sleep Foundation. Sean lives in Virginia Beach with his girlfriend Rachel and Rottweiler Talon. Connect with Sean at sbergman@fabrictech.com View all articles by Sean
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