Do you sell using a Mattress Test?

image Here is some advice I got as a student. To make ends meet, I took a job selling wedding chest products. (Those old enough to remember may recall Carrigans, a boutique firm that sold a quality product range by referral based selling.

My sales coach at the time told me.

“Don’t try to sell products, show solutions to real problems” and something practical that goes with that is a mattress test” 

“What is a mattress test?” I quizzed.

It is a simple concept that alerts or disturbs a prospect unexpectedly that he or she has a problem, But the skill is to do it in a way you and your product or service are seen as part of the solution.  Most rookie sales people learn this but rarely apply it.  If you do, you will sell well”

He went on to explain the metaphor:

For example you may not know it, but a vacuum salesman knows a used mattress has a lot of dead skin in it. And he also knows any decent vacuum will pull it out easily.

So if  when he demonstrates to a prospect with a quick swipe across an old mattress it will show on the filter pad a pile of dead skin. That disturbs people and it also does a lot of the work for his sale so he needs to talk a lot less to close it.

It seemed to me as I applied that lesson, it is not about being slick and not always about having the best product or service. It is about identifying and solving problems. When a prospect becomes concerned they’ve got a real problem and you not only help them to see it but also become  part of the solution, you spend less time on vague conversations and more on working out the terms of a deal.

The use of a mattress test concept does take work to find a prospects real pain point. And to pick the timing and have skill to make it show up in a way that lets you be seen to be part of the solution. Doing your home work is the key, and it works a treat too, as you have happy customers and do good business.

At time of writing this post I am sitting on a plane with a colleague from Infor, our solution partners, who provider enterprise software solutions.  Being a seasoned salesman and someone I trust, I asked him for his experience on this. His reply was un-expected.

In that case if you are selling vacuum cleaners it may be a good idea to hook up with a mattress company. Sometimes the customer may need a new mattress rather than just getting a new cover and or a quick clean up tool”

By the way my boss at Carrigans always got mad at me for giving away fine linen table cloths and without making a sale. And I was not supposed to cannibalize my samples case either, which annoyed the stock room too.

But when I did I found what disturbed my prospect was the thought that they may not be able to get the full matching set later when I was gone. I closed heaps of sales that way as I had the solution right there or when I rang back in a day or as promised and remade the point. With a good offer on terms many then bought the whole chest and even better I always got heaps more leads.

It was great fun too as I made lots of friends of clients who we very happy with what they had bought.

Since then I suspect nothing has changed… But I wonder what others do now?