The earliest recorded use of pillows dates back to ancient Mesopotamia—around 7,000 BC. Back then, pillows were a status symbol, and the more pillows you owned, the more affluent you were.
A lot has changed about pillows since those times, but two things have stayed the same:
- They’re still used to help with neck, back, and shoulder pain.
- Each person has their own (sometimes very particular) pillow preference.
Luckily, today, there are more ways than ever to help sleepy customers find the right pillow for the job. And you have an opportunity to sell multiple pillows to increase your sales ticket, because it’s not just the affluent who use multiple pillows anymore.
Here’s what 10 mattress industry experts had to say about selling more pillows:
Fit Customers for Pillows
- By far, the most popular answer was to fit the customer for a pillow first. Joshua Rigsby, co-owner of ESC Mattress, says he first asks customers how they sleep and if they prefer a firm or soft pillow. “I kind of ignore the firm or soft [preference] but want them to be invested and won’t go too far to the extreme,” Rigsby says. “After asking if they want to go firmer or softer, I ask them if the pillow was comfortable and go from there.”
Sean Fitzgerald, owner of Vermont Mattress and Bedroom Company, agrees, saying that you should show customers pillows first and have them bring the favored one around with them. “At the end they will want to keep it,” Fitzgerald says.
Rachel Ann Smith-Turvin, director of sales at Intellibed, adds that once customers have selected the most comfortable for themselves, they need to try it with each mattress. And RSAs need to speak about the entire sleep system with the guest, a point Jennifer Ann Fulton, account manager at Southerland Sleep also brought up tby reminding us that pillows are 20% of a customer’s sleep system.
- “Give a customer the wrong height pillow to start, then switch to the correct height pillow, comparing the difference in neck and head position.” – Louise Brescia, sleep expert, Mattress Firm
- “Pillow height and firmness is important, but you should also ensure that you focus on different materials that have a significant effect on the overall comfort of the pillow. Some customers prefer latex, some memory foam, some down and fiber pillows. It might be best to see what materials customers respond to first, and then dial in the height and firmness in that material category. The customer’s choice in pillow material can also give an RSA clues as to what mattresses the customer might enjoy the most. – Sean Bergman, chief operating officer at PureCare.
Position as Part of the Sleep System
- “You should change out your pillow like you change out your phone, every 18 months to two years. Pillows shouldn’t be sold by price point, but more so as part of selling a sleep system. Have the RSA fit the consumer for the pillow when trying out a mattress. I have seen consumers buy a $199 retail Bedgear pillow with a $599 mattress and not even blink. Never, never give free pillows away. The consumer will spend on the right fit before looking at a price tag, assuming the RSA knows what he/she is doing.
“Think about buying a pair of $150 running shoes and then cheaping out on the socks. Any person passionate about their body and performance will spend.
“I always say selling a mattress is like selling a Happy Meal. The mattress is the burger, the pillows are the fries, the protector is the drink, the sheets are the cookie. Don’t just sell value meal burgers and expect to make money.” – Todd Weinstein sales representative for BedGear
Pricing and Step-up Strategies
- “If you are comfort selling, you need to use the same selling approach with pillows. A good, better, best system works, but I have found that a five- or six-pillow assortment works for my customers — two firm, two plush, and two soft.” – Mark Bohn, marketing representative for Malouf
- “Have a realistic pricing strategy. By doing a good, better, best pricing strategy we sell roughly 116 pillows per week, per location. Twenty-nine dollars for good, $49 for better and $99 for the best. Forty seven percent margin plus good volume. Never price it in with the mattress; if you have to give it away, use it to get an online review in exchange.” – Lawrence Heilers, salesman at Texas Mattress Magnolia
- “Bundle list, bundle list, bundle list. Good, best, better, and luxury. Accessory sales have doubled since we added it. We had a ton of king pillows and other stuff that was sitting around. I’d have no idea what it is but people really love that list. I have it almost every day that someone will spend more money on accessories than their mattress.
“We have add-ons for better pillows or better items. We really have had a mix of about five different vendors to keep the list up. It really doesn’t matter what you have in the good, better, best and luxury bundles, the only thing that matters is they have to be easily explainable. People are simple. Make it easy enough for a third-grader to understand it.” – Chris Robbins, owner of Columbus Mattress Wholesale
As these experts show, there’s more than one way to sell a pillow. And the common link between all of their advice is to first educate customers on the options. Once you show them what’s available and tie it into the sleep system as a whole, you’ll be selling pillows like they’re going out of style.