LET’S GET REAL: Increase Mattress Sales with Scenario Based Learning

_MG_4132_rect540Dealing with Reality

It is a harsh reality. When it comes to retail mattress sales, most often sales associates have one chance to make the sale. That’s a lot of pressure but as the saying goes, it is what it is. Retailers must be able to help facilitate the likelihood of success if they hope to compete.

Few shoppers care where they buy a mattress as long as the get what they want at a price they want to pay. Unfortunately even the slightest negative can send them straight out the door to a competitor. Of all the factors shoppers use to determine what and where to buy, their experience with the sales associate is arguably the most powerful influence.

So how does a store like yours maximize its odds of closing sales?  A great place to start is to make sure all retail sales associates are up to the task. Of course, retailers have lots of other issues to consider such as merchandising, promotion and pricing, but even with all that in place, sales associates are ultimately responsible for closing the sale.

Most every retailer utilizes some form of mattress sales training or else they wouldn’t be able to compete. Throwing associates to the lions is bad for one’s turnover rate.

Typical training consists of teaching product knowledge and selling skills. While that is obvious and appropriate, it is not enough. These are simply tools that must be learned but then must be put to use. Unfortunately, the sales floor itself is too often the testing lab where associates learn from their mistakes.

largeThe key is to teach new associates how to effectively use their knowledge and skills before they deal directly with shoppers and to help veteran associates increase their effectiveness on a continual basis.

The best method for putting theory to practice is scenario based learning (SBL) recreating real life situations for associates to problem solve and then practice as a means of learning.  

Authors  Hans Kövi, Kasper Spiro  in their article, How to Engage Learners with Scenario-based Learning (Learning Solutions Magazine February 2013 issue) say “with scenario-based learning, facilitation helps the learner use preexisting knowledge, understand it in the context of the training, apply the knowledge, analyze new situations, evaluate, and create new outcomes.”

One can create hypothetical situations for teaching, i.e, “a young couple on a limited budget wants to buy an inexpensive mattress.”  How would you help them decide to invest in a better quality product?

While this is a great idea, I encourage retailers to enhance the process by using actual situations that occur daily on their own sales floor. Here’s how to do it.

Have sales associates keep a journal to record pertinent information throughout each day.  When possible, after each selling encounter, jot down few highlights, notes of anything significant, both the good and bad, as detailed as possible, with some dialog. Using actual statements or questions is most helpful.

It’s important not to make this a burdensome chore similar to medical charting, but rather as a useful tool to capture issues where the sale didn’t go well and also to capture the issues and events that lead to closing a sale.

Then there are a variety of options of how to utilize the gathered information for training purposes:

Individually: Each associate can reexamine and analyze the situation to determine how they may have overcome objections to close the sale or to have stepped a buying customer up to better quality, added on accessories, sought referrals or discovered future needs.


  • With a partner:  Associates should seek confidants to discuss, analyze and recreate the selling situations for solutions and to share successes.


  • As a group. A great idea is to schedule regular weekly meetings with a staff to discuss situations that occurred the previous week. In that meeting, encourage creative analysis, input and discussion.

Photo of displeased businesspeople looking sternly at snoring man at presentation

Examine the failures for how the sale may have been saved. Share the elements of successful sales and critique them to examine possible ways to improve.

Then in both cases, use role playing with real give and take dialog to recreate the situations using the gathered suggestions for success.I can’t stress enough the effectiveness of this type of training.

In addition to real life situations, create scenarios to cover basic issues such as delivery and customer service, returns and warranties,financing, competition, or anything that may likely occur.

  • In a forum. Some companies create intranet forums to share this type of information, an especially great idea for larger companies  with multiple locations.

Here are a couple of other ideas to utilize reality based training and learning:

  • Mentoring: Pair new associates with veterans to actually “listen in” on the floor thduring the selling process, like new waitresses, observing “how its done”, along with having some limited interaction with the shopper. Most shoppers appreciate companies that care enough to teach their employees how to take care of customers.

As the associates progress, the veteran can take on the role of observer to help ease them into the process and to be there to help if necessary.  Amazingly, this is very helpful for veterans as well. New associates often find creative things to say and ways to sell. Sometimes amazed veterans jokingly say, we forgot to tell them business is slow right now.

  • Questions: In addition to recording selling situations, RSA’s should write down questions about products, specs, pricing, policy and any other issues that are sure to come up each day. There are likely many that may be forgotten if not written down.  Then they can seek out the appropriate person to consult with, whether that be a manager, someone from another department or from the manufacturer or their reps.

Finally, the above mentioned authors, Kovi and Spiro say there is a huge additional benefit to SBL motivation.“ Motivation, in short, is what makes a human being act to achieve a goal. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic, in which motivation emerges from the desire to learn, to master a task, or to prove oneself, and extrinsic, in which motivation emerges from the rewards gained when completing a task in the right way. At first, most learners will be extrinsically motivated. They take the training because it is mandatory. We find however, that SBL makes it possible to address the intrinsic motivation of a learner.”How? I believe the real life experiences of SBL taps into one’s emotions. Associates discover the reward and satisfaction of helping improve the lives of others.

"I'll take it!"

“I’ll take it!”


The best way to deal with the harsh reality of mattress retail?  Close more sales!. It is what it is.



If you haven’t already. Please check out my comprehensive, accredited training course “Sell More Mattresses” at Furniture Training Company.

Mattress Sales Training Program

Whether you are new to mattress sales or have years of experience this program is guaranteed to increase sales and create true sales professionals. The Mattress Sales Training Program includes three courses:

Sell More Mattresses

Sell More Mattresses with Gerry Morris

15 Modules

  • An Overview of the Mattress Industry
  • Mattress Product Knowledge
  • The Secret to Mattress Sales
  • How to Deal with Competition
  • Warranties and Comfort Guarantees

Learn More

Selling Skills

Selling Skills

35 Modules

  • Selling with Service
  • How to Greet the Customer
  • The “I’m Just Looking” Customer
  • Discovering Customer Needs
  • Presenting Solutions
  • Closing with Confidence

Learn More

Professionalism and Customer Service

Professionalism & Customer Service

19 Modules

  • Setting and Achieving Sales Goals
  • Courtesy
  • Telephone Skills
  • Business Card Marketing
  • Selling Your Store’s Credit Plan



About sellmorebeds

Gerry Morris is an author, speaker, and veteran industry consultant with over 25 years of experience in the mattress business. Gerry began his career as a manufacturer’s representative for Serta in 1986. He is passionate about the benefits of a good night's sleep and enjoys educating others on the true value of a good mattress. Gerry is the author of Sell More Beds and Spring Training, two of the most widely read books in the history of the mattress industry. Gerry is a columnist for Sleep Savvy Magazine, a member of the National Speakers Association and a sought after sales trainer and coach. He is also an avid and accomplished triathlete.
This entry was posted in Empowering Concepts, Priciples of Success, Retailers, Sales Training, The Selling Process and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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