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Selling Furniture & Mattresses – How To Develop a Sales Training Program

Here is another round table discussion on how to develop a sales training program for your store.


If you were structuring a sales training system for a furniture or a mattress store what would you be sure to include?

In your mind what are the keys to success in developing a great sales training system for a furniture or a mattress store?

What common mistakes do you see stores make when it comes to sales training?

Keith Castonguay

I believe that a system that has a strong “lead” indicating system as opposed to a “lag” indicating system is most important.

For instance many stores may have the ability to accumulate great sales performance data at months end. (Lag indicators) – (Average sale, close ratio, total sales volume.)

This is all very important data, but it’s rearview mirror information.

An effective sales system has to be fluid and move like a speedboat and not like a cruise ship.

If a salesperson’s opportunities can be accounted for, that salesperson should be able to have an accurate accounting for what transpired between them and that customer everyday, and be able to share an “after action report” with a sales coach. That way the end results can be affected.

For example:

If salesperson Jason Smith has 5 opportunities and in his “sales journal” he has the first and last name of only 2 customers we can conclude that he is not building rapport.

If he has sparse notes of the elements of the room (flooring, wall colors, etc) we can coach on room sketching and asking design questions.

This can encourage salespeople to achieve better results on a daily basis and not be overwhelmed with a monthly view.


Mel Opp

Great questions. In my career I have worked for two major furniture retailers, both were in the top 10 nationally, one was #1 for years. Both are now out of business. In my time with them neither offered any type of sales training help from the corporate sector. At the end one of them tried but it was too late. I spent about 4 years traveling, managing store closing events, I spoke with sales people from all around the country, one major thing that stood out, lack of training.

If I was to start a training program I would cover 4 areas. Set an agenda and work it.

1. Sell your company. Every associate should feel proud of where they work. They should know every advantage your company has over the competition. They need confidence in who they work for.

2. Teach a proven selling system while you’re teaching the new people your product lines. Have them use the selling system as they learn it to present the new products. Hold off on bringing factory reps in until after the sales associates have been on the sales floor for about 2 to 4 weeks. The exception would be a mattress store. Bedding reps are trained to train in selling their products much better than furniture reps are. This gives confidence in the selling system as they are learning how to apply it, plus confidence in the new product. Confidence equals a winning attitude.

3. Administrative. Learning the computer system, delivery, customer service–all of the extra things they need to know.

4. FOLLOW UP. The real training starts when they start on the floor. They don’t know what they don’t know until they start getting questions from the customers. You need a quick follow up as a group plus continued weekly training of every sales consultant.

The common mistakes I have seen besides too little or not the right kind of training is ego. Many owners and managers don’t want to ask for help from outside sources. They use the “we have always done it this way” slogan. The world has changed. They may use cost as a factor, but if even 1/2 of the staff picks up 1 extra sale in the first week the extra training has been more than paid for. Also the extreme lack of follow up and continued training. Too much time is spent on micro managing sales people and not communicating with them to find out what they need.

With better and proper training I believe that the furniture industry can turn the corner faster in this tight economy than some other retail sectors.

Pete Primeau

I would be sure to measure the average ticket and closing percentage. I would also measure closing rates on mattress protection and fabric protection as well as any other additional services that are offered. I would create training videos using my salespeople to teach the new salespeople. Weekly short coaching sessions with the sales manager would be required. All new hires would be assigned a mentor who would work with them for at least 6 months. Shopping the competition and formalize the sharing of that information. It must be fun!

I used to require my salespeople to spend time in the warehouse, office, and yes even on the delivery truck! I did this so our salespeople understood clearly how their job affects the entire company. A training system needs to focus on skill development as well as product knowledge. It should be developed from within so the salespeople feel a sense of ownership in the program. The program should be able to adapt to an ever changing retail landscape. A static program is a dead and useless program. Sales and sales management need to share intelligence that is gathered by each sales encounter with each other. A follow up system that allows the salespeople to see additional opportunities with each customer is vital. There should be monthly rewards for the most important sales metrics.

The most common mistake is they don’t do any. The few that do often buy programs that do not allow any creative input from your best salespeople. Measuring metrics but not fully translating them and relating them to income for the RSA. Sales training needs to be part of the corporate culture of the store. Ownership needs to be involved every day not just at the beginning. Sales are the life blood of a store and an effective sales training program catapults superior sales performance. The highest level of management and ownership should be involved in not only handing out awards on a monthly basis but sending a hand written Thank You note to associates who do anything exceptional. A phone call or even an old fashioned pat on the back can make an incredible difference in how salespeople perform. Recognizing the highest performers should be done. But it is a mistake to exclusively reward high performers. There should be awards for sales associates who are improving their performance as well.

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Wishing You Success,


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Comments (2)

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  1. Pete Primeau says:

    Thanks Mel & Keith for another Great Article!

  2. Mel Opp says:

    I like your “rear view mirror” comment. This is so true of many companies. They fail to look at these and work with these numbers every day. Waiting for month end numbers can be to late, bad habits can be started and they are hard to break.


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