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The New Rules for Selling Furniture & Mattresses

It was 1982 and I was still in college. I started selling furniture. I had to call credit cards into a call center and wait for an operator to give me an authorization code. Then I would manually run the credit card through a machine with multiple copies utilizing carbon paper. If you were not careful you would get black ink all over your hands. The transaction took an average of 5 minutes, but could take up to 20 minutes. Today the same transaction is done in less than a minute.

Finance deals took 2-3 working days for approval. Today the same transaction is concluded in a max of thirty minutes. If the consumer’s credit is good it is approved in minutes.

The most expensive sofa on the floor was $999. No one ever bought it. There were very few if any real leather sofas available. Today you can buy genuine leather for $999.

The most expensive mattress set was $999. Our best selling queen set was priced at $399. If I sold a $599 high fives were in order. Today the average is $799. Today there are mattress sets that sell for $5,000 to$7,000 for a queen set in mid priced stores.

There have been many changes. These are just a few. Please go to and add a comment with the changes you have noticed along with your new rule for selling furniture and mattresses. Here are the top responses from the question, “What changes have you seen in our industry in the past twenty years?” The poll includes furniture and mattress stores in Ohio & Western Pennsylvania. I look forward to your feedback. 

The Internet- Customers now use the internet to educate themselves prior to shopping in the store. There is good information on the Internet and there is also bad information on the Internet. You need to know both. You face the only new objection in sales in the past 100 years. It is “I can find it cheaper on the Internet.” The new rule is to do Internet research everyday so you know what information your customer is accessing. If a consumer makes this statement to you and it is possible to get on the Internet this objection can be handled easily with your manager’s assistance.

Instant Gratification- Once the customer decides on a product they want it now or sooner. This is also known as the McDonald’s mentality. Customers are conditioned to immediate gratification for a number of reasons. Many work two jobs and between the responsibilities of home and work have very little time. The common complaint is that my life is speeding by. They want answers and product now. They do not have the time to invest in things that do not add quality to their lives. Be light on your feet. Know your product. Practice being a good problem solver. Serve you customers’ needs. Diffuse the objection early, how soon do you need the ____, when do you plan on completing your room or project?

As a salesperson you do not have control over the inventory. However there are two new rules that will help you make more sales. The new rule is to know what inventory you have on hand that is available to ship right away. If you know the approximate delivery times for arriving merchandise your customer will appreciate your attentiveness with their loyalty. The other new rule is to qualify the customer on their delivery needs prior to presenting product.

The Economy- News Flash! It is better this year than last year! It is not fantastic yet but most of my dealers are up this year. The basics never change whether the economy is good or bad. The new rule is pay attention to every aspect of your sales business. This includes your education as a salesperson. When was the last time you read a book about selling or went to a seminar?

Extended Finance Offers- Many experts warned us that our addiction to the now infamous No…No…No… finance offers would have possible negative consequences. Our economy was already slowing down when the finance companies pulled the extended finance plans off the shelf. They are gone for now and may not be coming back. We have lost a great tool to step customers up into ultra premium product.  Credit today is about expanding the customer’s awareness of how much furniture they can get for so small a monthly investment. Customers are more judicious about their spending. The freewheeling days of 3 or 4 years ago are over. The new rule is to focus on your customer’s needs and give them a creative high value solution.

Bigger Furniture- Today there are more oversized sofas and bedroom sets than ever before. While many customers enjoy these new larger luxury items, some customers get there hopes dashed when the item will not fit into their home. Professional salespeople avoid this situation by anticipating it and dealing with it proactively with good questions. The new rule is to thoroughly explore the customer’s needs who are considering oversized furniture. Successful retail salespeople help their customers avoid the unpleasant task of having to re-select because an item did not fit.

Ultra Premium Mattresses- Mattresses have more than doubled in price and comfort. Everyone in our industry should say Thank You to Tempur-Pedic. They have raised the selling price of mattresses for the entire industry. The new rule is let the customer experience the best mattress in the store in a non threatening way. Ask the customer for their opinion. “Mrs. Jones please try this bed and tell me if you think it’s comfortable.” Please resist the urge to give any product information until Mrs. Jones gives you a reaction to the bed. Have fun with creatively showing the best bed in a non threatening way.

Action Step- As soon as possible go on the Internet and research your competitors. The information you will receive will make you a more valuable resource to your consumers.

Some of these rules are not new at all, but needs analysis is more important than ever. Our next few articles will explore needs analysis in detail. This is critical to retail sales success. We will also share with you our polling results on the easiest and hardest items to sell in a furniture store and why. Please email me any questions you may have.

Wishing You Success,

Jonathan Diprinzio & Pete Primeau

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