Back in the soft, pillow-y saddle…

Hello, dear reader of the Maximum Customer Experience Blog! It’s not such a secret that MCE took an unplanned holiday for personal reasons recently—thanks to those of you who sent a note down into the rabbit hole to see how the MCE-bunnies were doing. With a bit of luck, only planned and announced holidays from now on.    🙂

And now, back to Customer Experience!

Well, I had occasion to consider buying a new mattress recently. That’s a big chunk of change, so I did my research online, determined what I might be interested in, then found the store near me that carried the mattress and went to try it out.

When I got there, as is often the case with matters of personal preference, the one I thought I liked based on reviews online, was not the one I liked in the store. So I checked out a couple of others that were similar and found exactly what I… think I… want. Then I walked away for a couple of weeks to think about it, and went back again to see if I still liked it.

The verdict: I still haven’t decided. Buying a new mattress is a long-term commitment to a good night’s rest! Maybe I’ll stick with the one I have, maybe I’ll get a new one. But I had an experience the second time I went window-shopping that many of us could put to use in our own businesses.

Listen to what this gentle salesperson (GS) had to say:

Me: I’m not sure yet. I was here before to try them out. I do think I like this one, but I’ve had some awful back trouble and so I’m picky…

GS: Sure, it’s a big decision.

Me: They’ve almost all got these pillow-y things on top now… seems like that might be too hot! But the one I thought I would like was too soft, and the one without the squishy top is pretty hard. [Note my dazzling use of technical terms… and distinct resemblance to Goldilocks.]

GS: Some people do find the pillow-tops keep them too warm. But the one you’re considering has [name of fancy-pants fabric] which the company claims alleviates a lot of that.

Me: Does it work?

GS: I’d guess about half of the people feel like it does.

Me: Wonder which half I’d be in…

GS: [Smiles, knowing this was not a very salesy thing to say and also knowing, I suspect, that being less salesy is working on me.] Well, if it’s the one that feels best to you in the store, you can give it a try. You’ve got 30 days to do a return or a “comfort exchange.” That’s where you just call us up and say “I guess the other one would be better after all” and we come out and change your mattress out, set it up, and everything. Everything except make the bed.

Me: If you made the bed, my kid would have your guys out every week, ha ha.

GS: [Goes on to explains other salesy stuff that all places that sell mattresses have in common about delivery, very conversationally.]

Me: Just so I know how fast I should decide… How long is this sale good for?

GS: Ah, well, here’s the funny part. Up at one of the corners of the bed [I pull the pillow away from my corner and I see an odd fabric swatch sewn on]—right, that’s it— this main fabric and that one on the corner are the two covers that you may get when the mattress is delivered. See, they make your mattress to order the week you buy it. That’s nice because it doesn’t sit around in a warehouse warping or getting dusty, but also because—I’m probably not supposed to mention this, but the sale goes on for most of the year. We just switch which cover we make for you, so we’re selling something “different” on the sale. So you don’t have to hurry. Same mattress, same construction, whenever you decide.

Me: Wow, really? So the only difference will be what fabric you cover it with?

GS: Yep.

Me: Thanks. I am going to think about it a while longer, but I’ll be back when I can make a decision.

GS: And I’ll be here…

Now, I had already tried mattress-hunting a couple of weeks earlier, at this store and a couple of others, and I’ve done it in the past as well. Much of what he said was what most anyone would say… but not all salespeople understand the art of the gentle sale.

Like you, probably, I really don’t like being pushed or “convinced.” A salesperson who lets me convince myself creates a memorable experience for me, but the salespeople I’d talked with on my first expedition hadn’t understood that at all. I had expected their sales pitches—and I had ignored their sales pitches. Because it was the expected pitches in the usual style, I couldn’t remember a word anyone else had said. This gentle salesperson, I listened to.

The truth is, I haven’t bought a thing from any of them. And I can’t guarantee that (if I do make up my mind) I’ll go back at a time when GS is there. I’m not even sure that he works on commission, so I don’t know if I’d help him personally if I did come back and ask for him. But the gentle salesperson, giving away “insider secrets” to me about the sale and their manufacturing process, encouraging me to be undecided for as long as it takes, he sold me on the store. I was pretty sure I’d buy there before I talked to him, and I was certain of it afterwards. So his technique was good for everyone who works at that store… and in the end, what’s good for the store is good for all the salespeople at the store.

So for our MCE purposes:

1. Don’t be afraid to be conversational. Not to “act” conversational, but to have a real conversation with your customer. Be yourself.

2. Don’t feel like you have to make the sale today. You may just save the sale for your company by being the guy who doesn’t need to make the sale right now.

3. Don’t be afraid to tell a few trade “secrets.” Maybe even agree in advance with your staff on some little insider secrets that you don’t mind letting out to a customer who’s still undecided… things to make the conversation valuable enough, and to extend it long enough, that he or she can’t forget to come back when they’re ready.

Which “insider secrets” might your customers enjoy knowing? How can you use those secrets to make a more interesting conversation, and a more memorable experience for your customers?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson