How to sell motion padding: features, essential intended use to guide purchase

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HIGHLIGHT—When customers walk into a furniture showroom, they may be overwhelmed with the choices motion upholstery offers, but the retail sales associate can be the crucial differentiator in whether the customer is spending a order or leave the store in search of more.

Perhaps the most important step an RSA can take is establishing a relationship with the customer. This is why the customer is in a retail store and not online. They may have walked into the store armed with information gleaned online and looking for a specific product. Or, they may have done some research but are interested in seeing what might be available and in stock. Or they may just be looking for ideas. “There is a trust factor when selling a piece of furniture to someone,” noted Tim Newlin, vice president of sales at Flexsteel. Either way, the customer comes to the store, seeking help from a human, not a bot.

Perhaps the fundamental way to connect is through authenticity.

“Our goal is to introduce consumers to the iconic La-Z-Boy brand. They expect us to have a warm, inviting atmosphere in which to relax,” said Amy Salm, Product Training Manager at La-Z-Boy, adding, “We want our salespeople to be themselves. Their personalities connect with the consumer.

Ask a few questions

To establish a relationship with the customer, the RSA must ask questions relating to the potential purchase. Who is it for ? Will everyone in the household use it? What time of day/type of use will it take place?

These initial questions can help steer the RSA toward productive engagement with the customer and help the customer better understand and explain what their needs may be.

For some customers, their needs can be very specific. They have a family member who needs a lift chair immediately due to a medical condition. In this case, the customer is normally very focused and in the store to make a quick purchase.

Sensitivity is key as the client may have difficulty dealing with a family member in need. The RSA must understand the importance that mobility offers lift chair owners.

“That’s the fun thing about selling this category,” said Kevin Meriweather, vice president of sales for Mega Motion. “When you sell lift chairs, you improve people’s lives.”

Conveying features and benefits is a must, but how this is done varies by customer and product. Providing a long list of technical aspects can overwhelm the customer. Understanding how the chair will be used and by whom can help RSA direct a customer to particular features and benefits that will meet their needs.

For example, not all lift chairs are intended only for the elderly. Someone might have surgery in sight and knows their mobility might be limited for a while. But then they would like the chair to be useful and fit into their decor after that event. It is up to the RSA to dig into this information in order to help the customer make a choice that he will not regret.

Go a little further

A customer may wish to enhance their relaxation at home and is looking for a recliner for this purpose. The RSA might ask if there are any pets in the house that would find this chair a useful perch? Is the resilience of the fabric an important characteristic? Should the chair be easy to move around the room to meet various needs? Will all family members share this product or is it specifically for one person?

One of the goals of La-Z-Boy training is to teach RSAs to ask open-ended questions.

“The RSA can open up communication so that they are a partner in the process of building the retail customer’s home, not just a salesperson,” Salm said.

The more RSAs interact with diverse customers, the more standard questions they will develop for their sales toolkit.

Movement as a Mattress

It is important to determine the amount of time a client will spend in a wheelchair. Especially for clients with limited mobility, a motion chair provides a place where they can spend most of their days.

Meriweather noted, “Many mattress manufacturers and bedding retailers are adding our recliners to their floors because it’s almost a sleeping option for some consumers.

Understanding this need for sleep can be an important tool for RSAs. Given the wishes of the client, the RSA can sell more than movement.

Look good

Helping the customer visualize the product in their home is key.

At La-Z-Boy, RSAs are trained in basic drawing skills. They ask the client to describe the layout of the room, noting basic elements such as the location of windows and doors. And they dialogue with the client to find out what their vision of the finished piece is. The RSA works with the client to help her realize her dream.

By reaching the customer at a particular level, RSA works to facilitate the customer experience. The customer “owns” the process and the product; she was not pushed into the transaction by an over-eager RSA and reports greater satisfaction, according to Salm.

It is also very important to provide practical information on wall clearance for recliners, even if the customer does not think to ask. By providing specific advice on these issues, RSA improves the service it can offer and creates that crucial element of trust.

Intelligence Collectors

RSAs can also provide valuable insights to the business on what is and is not working with sales efforts.

At Ultracomfort, the company has relaunched training and marketing materials around its Comfort Zone technology to focus on motors as zones versus the mechanics of functionality. This change came about due to feedback directly from the sales floor.

“We appreciate feedback from RSAs as we can better understand consumer needs,” said Sarah Lydon, Chief Marketing Officer at Ultracomfort. “Our products have a ton of features that can be confusing for the consumer and RSA. We want to help them make this process easy for the consumer.”

RSAs play an important role in two-way communication with the company, translating product features to consumers and informing the company of what captures the customer’s attention and what confuses them.

Bells and whistles

It is important for RSAs to understand the different features of the products they present. However, this can be a challenge, given the multitude of features that vary from seat to seat.

With so many features, it again comes down to questions. For example, it is better to ask: “Are you planning to spend time sleeping in this chair?” or “Do you need total or active relaxation?” to determine if a zero gravity recliner is right for the client or if they would benefit from a more traditional recliner.

For Newlin at Flexsteel, the big distinguishing feature of their RSAs is discussing the differences between their manual and power chairs.

Companies that show “signs” through marketing labels affixed to movement padding provide an effective “shortcut” for RSA to talk confidently about the product.

RSAs can also share with the business which features are of interest to in-store customers. Are these extra angles for the tilt? Is it that handy side pocket that can hold the remotes? Is adding a back massage function important? Are customers saying “no” to cords and “yes” to on-board chargers?

The crucial test drive

With all customers, the in-store experience can be crucial to their comfort level in making the actual purchase.

After discussing a customer’s needs, the RSA should encourage the customer to test compatible seats, with plenty of opportunities to try out all features. Do not jostle the client while she is manipulating the mechanisms. RSAs can be sensitive to whether the customer prefers close interaction or a more passive approach.

While the customer is in test drive mode, the RSA may want to sit close to the customer when discussing the product. Being at eye level with the customer changes the dynamic between the customer and the RSA, making the RSA a helpful friend, rather than an enthusiastic salesperson.

It’s important to note that mobile padding producers agree that RSAs should try out mobile padding in the store’s showroom. By sitting on the chairs and using all the features, they can talk, firsthand, about the motion cushioning experience.


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