SAVE THE DATES: Dream Camp April 30-May 3 & Sleep Summit Oct. 8-11, 2024

The Science of Selling Sleep with Purpose with Dr. V

On this special bonus episode, Charlie is joined by his longtime friend and industry veteran, sleep specialist, and an honorary Memory Maker, Alan Vonder Haar (a/k/a “”Dr. V””). 

Dr. V. gives insights on how he started in this business in his early 20s in the waterbed business, falling in love with the waterbeds, and learning everything he could about flotation sleep. (Even since the beginning of his career, he has always been a student of the science of sleep!)  

He also shares the story of how he got his nickname and started playing a doctor in TV commercials.   “I’m not a doctor, I just play one on TV,” he mentions while recounting the purpose of his visit to the River. Dr. V came in to attend Broad River’s Sleep Summit and to give the keynote presentation to Broad River’s Retail Leaders during their in-person Rx (Retail Excellence) meeting focused on BRR’s pillar of sleep.  

In this informative episode, Dr. V shares memorable one-liners, such as, “Comfort is in the behind of the beholder.”  And he shared advice such as embracing a more consultative approach to selling that includes an attitudinal shift: “Don’t be a salesperson; be an assistant buyer.”

He offers a better approach than the industry standard sales question of, “How did you sleep last night?”  And, instead offers his three-step approach of “Fall. Stay. Felt.”

He discusses the innovative cooling benefits that aid sleep in today’s mattresses and mattress protectors as well as the sleep benefits to using an adjustable base as well as the proper pillow (I.e., a bed for your head). 

You will want to make sure you’re taking notes when he breaks down the four stages of sleep and how they assist with physical and mental restoration.  Plus, he shares how a certain sleep tracker is helping him improve his own sleep.   

Dr. V’s passion is still burning bright after 38 years in this industry, and he leads with a servant’s heart. If you want to improve your skills at selling sleep or just learn more about the science and benefits of sleep, this episode’s for you. 

Dr. V clearly lives by his favorite quote from Zig Ziglar, “You can get everything in life you want if you just help others get what they want.”

Additional Resources: 

His previous podcast episodes:

Dos Marcos Show – The Galaxy’s Greatest Mattress Podcast: 

Miskelly’s Secret to Success is PTF (Sept 2021) – https://open.spotify.com/episode/4Z3RUhu748uefiIIyscKDB?si=8-LpHLAtTFap0-eFEio8pw 

BAM! Dr. V from Miskelly Furniture and the Race to the Summit (June 2021) – https://open.spotify.com/episode/0KamTbASg3Ek97R1FqnpLa?si=LgJPef6jTimwdPhf2xxrXg 

Becoming the Face of Miskelly’s Mattress: The Dr. V Story (Sept 2020) – https://open.spotify.com/episode/3ZUJBOdASwTVks9WCpFNJN?si=m6VqbIKHTj-df2hLSKP58A 

On the Record with Furniture Today Podcast: ‘Not just about the Mattress, it’s the way you sleep’ – https://www.furnituretoday.com/furniture-people/podcast-not-just-about-the-mattressits-the-way-you-sleep/ 

Fitness Trackers / Wearables

WHOOP Fitness and Health bracelet – https://www.whoop.com/  

ŌURA Ring – https://ouraring.com 

Dr. V’s Place of Employment for nearly 30 years

Miskelly Furniture – https://www.miskellys.com

Broad River’s original Purpose Summit (August 28, 2019) featuring Dr. V as a keynote speaker

Purpose 8:28 – https://www.purpose828.com 

Mattress and Pillow Brands

Tempur-Pedic – https://www.tempurpedic.com 

Purple – https://purple.com 

Stearns & Foster – https://www.stearnsandfoster.com 

Sealy – https://www.sealy.com 

Ashley-Sleep – https://www.ashleyfurniture.com/c/mattresses/ashley-sleep-mattresses/ 

Bedgear – https://www.bedgear.com 

_______

We hope you enjoy this episode, and subscribe to our podcast for a new story each week.

Visit storiesfromtheriver.com for more episodes.

Stories from the River Podcast explores the personal journeys of Broad River Retail’s very own Memory Makers. Whether it’s interviews or standalone narratives, Stories from the River will bring you closer to what it’s like to thrive inside the company. This show will share personal experiences from stores, distribution centers, call centers, and corporate campuses, giving listeners a front row seat to what it’s really like to be a Memory Maker furnishing life’s best memories every day.

This show is brought to you by Broad River Retail. Visit www.BroadRiverRetail.com.

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FULL TRANSCRIPTION

Charlie:

Welcome to Stories from the River. I’m here with my great friend Alan Vonder Haar, Dr. V. Flown in from Jackson, Mississippi. You ready to go? 

Alan:

I am ready to go. 

Charlie:

Let’s get going. What brings you here today, Dr. V? 

Alan:

Well, certainly my good friend Charlie, but it’s been pretty exciting. You guys actually started to do a betting summit this particular week, and part of the topics was sleep and sleep is my passion. So you kind of reached out and said: “Hey, can you come to share a few ideas with our Memory Makers?” And I was like: “Absolutely.” So I flew on in here to kind of share some ideas.  

Charlie:

Now, this isn’t the first time you’ve flown in with this, but you used some really interesting words there. I think that was pretty intentional. Thank you for calling our people Memory Makers. 

Alan:

Absolutely. 

Charlie:

It is our first in-person Sleep Summit in three years. 

Alan:

Wow. It’s been three years. 

Charlie: 

It’s been three years. It’s been so great to roll all of our Retail people through three days, they’ve gotten to choose one of five sessions. The sessions are about four and a half hours each. We feed them. We give them drinks and prizes and raffles. And so that’s been going on. And you and Caleb have flown into, Caleb Carruth, have flown in to hang out with us. 

And then Stacey said: “Hey, also, we’re going to do a retail excellence meeting in-person and we’re going to focus it on the topic of selling sleep in parallel with our Sleep Summit.” Now, retail excellence and our X meeting is like a prescription for how we go in the month or the rest of the year, et cetera, the next quarter. 

And this with all of our Retail leaders. And so he said, we want a keynote speaker, Charlie. And so the first thing that came to my mind, he said, speaking to all of our retail leaders on a topic about sleep. I said “What about Dr. V? You’ve got to call Dr. V”, and you said you would do it. 

So we’re so grateful that you’re here. And you gave a phenomenal talk earlier to our team. I want to unpack that and get into that. And so welcome to Stories from the River. 

Alan:

Thank you. I am delighted to be here and excited to be a part of your journey and what you guys are doing at Broad River Retail. 

Charlie:

And I’ve listened to all of your podcast before. We’re going to put all of the ones you’ve done with Dos Marcos I think you’ve been on there three times. And with Bill McLoughlin from Furniture Today. I think you’ve been on there once. I’ve listened to all of your podcasts. 

Matter of fact, the first time I heard you with Bill Loughlin on your podcast, coming back from like a Ribbon Cutting or a Grand Opening we had in Forbes, I called you on the drive back and I said: “This is phenomenal. We’re doing a Leadership Summit or a Purpose Summit. Can you come talk TARP vote?” Can we agree to work that out. And so this isn’t the first time you’ve come to the River to come to speak to us. 

Alan:

Now, that was actually about three years ago, 828, if I remember correctly. And it was all about PURPOSE. Just realizing that there’s more to life and that you really need to have a purpose in what we do and more importantly, why we do it. And so at that point, I was able to come in and really talk about the science of selling healthy sleep. 

I’ve now expanded that particular topic. But back then a couple of years ago, it was all about really finding our purpose because, you know, Charlie, it’s not about the mattress. 

Charlie:

No, not at all. 

Alan:

It’s about where you sleep. 

Charlie:

And it was we were in our year of PURPOSE. And when I heard you talking about the science of selling sleep with purpose, I was like, this is perfect. This is a great topic. But you used an interesting word earlier. I don’t know if you do that intentionally or not. You talked about our bedding summit. It’s not a bedding summit. 

Alan:

No, as a matter of fact, you’re right. You know, that’s that is an interesting concept because that’s kind of a little bit of the debate that’s now in our industry. Do we call it bedding? Do we call it mattresses? Do we call it sleep? Yeah, I intentionally called it the bedding, hoping you might call me out on that. In reality, it’s a Sleep Summit. 

Charlie:

It’s a Sleep Summit. 

Alan: 

Overall, that’s what I prefer it to be, because I think that puts ithe focus where it really needs to be and that we can focus literally on our guests and what their needs are and how they are sleeping. All that just makes a huge difference when we make them the focus of our presentation and not the mattress, the focus of our presentation. 

Charlie:

Absolutely. So I’ve often said and described you in this way: Everything I know about marketing merchandising or selling sleep or mattresses, I learned from you many, many years ago. And you’ve had such a profound impact on my life and my business career, and you’ve become such a great friend. I love collaborating with you. I love your positivity and your energy and your ideation and your ideas. 

And so I really want to unpack what you guys are doing at Miskelly. This is really unique. We’re an Ashley HomeStore licensee and you guys are a multi-line shop. You have your own sleep stores, but you’re from my hometown. 

Alan:

Right. 

Charlie:

And we collaborate and there’s some family connection with my former business partner and his uncles. And we love Oscar and Tommy and Caleb Miskelly and the Miskelly’s sons and Elizabeth and, and the entire family. 

And you guys are just doing phenomenal things and so we’ll get into all that. But let’s go back a little bit further. How long have you been in the industry? 

Alan:

Well, let’s see. I was 22 years old and I was graduating from college and I was and I, I went and bought a waterbed and while I was there, buying a waterbed, I decided that I wanted to work for the waterbed store. 

And so I was 22 years old. I was in college and started selling waterbeds when I graduated, got a little bit more involved and went to a little waterbed convention down in New Orleans. And so I got a late start leaving New Orleans. I drove about 3 hours, landed in Jackson, Mississippi, and I woke up the next day I was just young and eager and I was going to go to all the waterbed stores in Jackson, Mississippi, and discovered there were none. 

And so all the way back to Saint Louis, Missouri, where I’m originally from for eight, nine hours, I thought I should open up a waterbed store. And so in 1984, I literally got in my car, drove to Jackson, Mississippi, and opened up a waterbed store and pun intended, rode that wave for like ten years from 84 to 94. 

Charlie:

That’s incredible. That’s when you were 22 years old? 

Alan:

I was 22 years old. 

Charlie:

I wonder if you had been shopping for a Harley if you would have decided you want to buy. 

Alan:

It’s a good point. Who knows what direction I would have taken it at that point I didn’t know for sure. But the interesting thing going back even just a tad bit further is I knew a little bit about Waterbeds. I had a waterbed when I was actually in high school at that point, and I remember that I had to do a research paper. 

You know how we all have all these different events that happen in our lives, Charlie? So I must have been probably at this point, maybe 19 or 20. It was a college class, there was an English class, and I had to write a paper, an informative type of paper, and I wrote it on Waterbeds and I was a pretty good student. 

But when I got my first draft back, I got an F and it was truly impactful. I was not used to getting F’s on my work and the teacher said that it was all one-sided, and this was a summer school class. And because I had gone to all the different head shops as they were called back then that were selling Waterbeds. 

And so all of my information wasn’t really balanced. And so I got irritated and I was like, I’m not going to accept this. And so I went to Washington University’s medical library and I spent an entire summer researching everything I could learn medically speaking, about flotation sleep. 

Rewrote the paper, came back. Not only did I get an A, but years later, when I was interviewing for the job at the waterbed store, I realized that I almost knew more about flotation sleep than the owner of the company, Denny Boyd. 

It was Boyd Royal Waterbeds was the name of it back then, and Denny Boyd and I got into this whole conversation about the medical needs of waterbeds, and as a result, I landed the job and that set me on the direction where I am today.

Charlie:

That is a fascinating story. And it ties into so much like you took a failure, a literal failure – 

Alan:

Yes. 

Charlie:

And turned it into an A. So we talk all about all the time about your – what’s your perspective is in Maxwell talks about feeling forward. That’s his new book and winning or losing, but he says now reframe that is winning or learning and you literally learn. 

Alan:

I did, it literally made a difference in an impact and set me on a trajectory that I would never have thought was going to happen.When I was in college and I was graduating and I didn’t I graduated with a business degree. I always thought that I was going to go to Crporate America on the West Coast. I have no idea why. 

And I ended up as soon as I graduated owning a waterbed company in Jackson, Mississippi, a state I had never even been in before. 

Charlie:

Well, I mean you’re in St Louis and there’s the gateway to the West. 

Alan:

Yeah,it is. 

Charlie:

Maybe that’s why. I’m wondering, since you’re wearing, for those of you who are on the YouTube watching this on YouTube, you’ll see that Dr. V is wearing a lab coat. Now, are you a real doctor? Did you maybe, you learned how to be a doctor from doing this medical research? I mean, I don’t know. Now I understand it a little bit better. 

Alan:

Yeah, well, I wish I could say that I was, but no I am not a real doctor, but I do play one on TV. So years ago. This is going back. Well, I’ve been at Miskelly Furniture, which is a retailer down in Jackson, Mississippi. We have four main furniture stores multi-line. We have two actual Mattress sleep stores, and we also have one Clearance center. 

So we have seven locations total. But one of the things that way back when is and it’s really kind of funny about the lab coat, okay, because it’s a marketing thing. Back then, we actually carried a mattress brand called Simmons Mattresses, and they were really big on their individual pocketed coils. And the guy that did the national commercials was a guy named Rudy, and he wore a lab coat because it was going to be very scientific. 

He dropped a bowling ball on the mattress, the whole scenario. So for Christmas one year, the owners of the company got me a lab coat because I was big on selling mattresses at the time, and it was supposed to be a joke. It was a Christmas prank-type joke. But then one of the owners, Chip Misskelley, at the time, said: “You know what? We can market that idea. “

So I literally just started doing commercials for Miskelly’s back in the 90’s. I have now been there 28 years doing this and wearing the lab coat, but I do all of the mattress advertising, so I always say: “No, I’m not a real doctor, but I do play one on TV. “ 

Charlie:

You absolutely do. And you also use it when you’re in the stores too, right? 

Alan:

Absolutely. And because of how much advertising I’ve done over the years, it’s amazing. I can literally drive-through windies and people will recognize the voice when I place my order. You’re like: “Oh, you’re that sleep guy.” And I take that as one of the biggest compliments. 

Charlie:

That’s amazing. Well, you’re very well known across the nation in the country as being a sleep specialist. What do you, and thanks for taking us through your story, and from the waterbeds to Miskelly. 38 years in the industry. Phenomenal. Does it still intrigue you? 

Alan:

I love it. Every day. 

Charlie:

What do you love about it? 

Alan:

I love that we have the ability to impact the lives of our guest. 

Charlie:

It’s powerful. 

Alan:

And it’s so true. You know, it’s interesting. Human beings are the only species on the planet that intentionally cuts themselves short of sleep. No other species does that. 

Charlie:

They sleep as much as they need to.

Alan:

Exactly. Cats, dogs, doesn’t matter. 

Charlie:

17-18 hours at a day. 

Alan:

Whatever they need that they needed, but humans don’t. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest challenges we have now with us as a species is what I call- me time. Meaning that when you finally get ready to go to sleep, you decide that now it’s going to be about me. 

The kids are down, the work is done, whatever the case might be, you know, and now either one of them, I want to go on Facebook or Tik Tok, or I want to watch a TV show, or I even want to just read a book, but I will do those activities that rather than go to sleep because now I want to be about me. And as a result, I will short-change the quantity and the quality of sleep that I could be entitled to. 

Charlie:

It’s so important. So, what is changed, though, with like from Waterbeds to the Simmons mattresses, the coils and the individually wrapped coils to where we are today with all the grid, the different foams, or is it foam? Is it that is it timber material, like, what are your favorite brands? What are how is the just the product changed?

And then let’s talk about how the customer shopping has changed and then we’ll get into the sales aspect of it. How’s the product changed and is it better? 

Alan:

Well, it is substantially better because for the first time, for example, back in the 80’s when waterbeds were very, very popular and I had my waterbed company from ‘84 to ‘94. But the reason why waterbeds don’t exist anymore is that the mattress manufacturers finally realized they actually had to make comfortable mattresses. 

You know, the early days of Sealy, it was firm, firmer and firmest and that was the concept and it was a commodity purchase. 

However, the industry is really started to move along and that’s when the introduction of pillow tops came out in the mid-nineties because they wanted to make mattresses more comfortable, and eventually that’s actually what kind of killed off flotation sleep. So I think there’s been a real movement in terms of understanding that the surface that we sleep on has impact on our quality and quantity of sleep. 

For example, when you start to fall asleep at night, when you finally get into that stage that: Hey, I’m going to go ahead and snuggle into this mattress, I’m turning off the TV, I’m putting down the book, whatever it might be, you kind of get into your favored position. 

Well, let me ask you, what’s your favorite position when you get into that mode, Charlie? What’s the position that is most favorite for you? 

Charlie:

Thought I was interviewing you. 

Alan:

I know, I’m sorry. 

Charlie:

No, you’ re good. You’re  good. I’m a side sleeper. 

Alan:

You’re a side sleeper. Left or right? 

Charlie:

Typically on my right side. 

Alan:

On your right side. 

Charlie:

But switch it up about 10 or 20% of the time. 

Alan:

Yeah, I get it. And we do a lot of us will do that kind of changing back and forth. And it’s actually quite normal. About 75, 80% of us are actually side sleepers. So you’re right in the norm. Well, that’s information that’s actually kind of worth knowing if I was going to sell you a mattress going on the road. 

But as you start to settle in and you go into that first stage of sleep that kind of falling asleep, your body temperature starts to drop and that’s important to put you into a state of sleep, which is the reason why if the environment in your room is too hot and uncomfortable, you will toss and turn, flip back and forth kick off the sheets, all of those kinds of things and it won’t be near as restful for you. 

We now have mattresses that have cooling covers. They’re cool to the touch. We have pillows that are cool to the touch. And all of that helps in the transition to sleep. And so the quality of the products and you were talking about the foams and there a variety of out there, different types of foams and springs. 

And now even with Purple, which they call the Grid, it’s all designed to give you a sleeping surface that has more comfort, which helps you to fall asleep, but also designed to give you also support that helps you stay asleep and wake up feeling recovered and refreshed the next morning. So the companies I think that do that best. I do think the tempur-pedic, which is what I personally sleep on, is one of the finest mattresses out there. 

Charlie:

Which one? 

Alan:

In particular I mean LuxeBreeze, individual. Happens to be their top of the line, but I love it because they have designed a mattress that literally is not only cool to the touch, but it remains cool all night long. Literally, update degrees and because of my knowledge of sleep and how important temperature is in that, that’s a mattress that I chose to sleep on. And I could sleep on anything, but that’s the one. 

But like Purples come out with the Grid, which is now temperature neutral. So it’s neither hot nor cold because it has airflow involved in it. Sterns is a great traditional mattress been around for 150 years. Then you look at Sealy. 

Charlie:

My wife, sorry to interrupt, my wife and I, we sleep on a Stern’s pillow top. 

Alan:

Really? 

Charlie:

Yeah, yeah. 

Alan:

How long have you been sleeping on it? 

Charlie:

Many years. 

Alan:

So why did you choose it? 

Charlie:

You know, my wife wasn’t comfortable going with a tempur-pedic or one like that. So it’s comfortable, it supports us well. So it’s a cushion firm pillow top. 

Alan:

Nice. Nice. I love that. And I think that just that’s the concept of choice. And, you know, I always say comfort’s it’s the behind of the beholder. 

Charlie:

Yeah. 

Alan:

And I’m a firm believer in that. So I think it’s important that you be comfortable with whatever that surface is. But even the new mattresses, like what you’re seeing coming out from Ashley, that I mean, you guys do a great job with. They’re value-minded mattresses. They’re not the most expensive. And so for that customer who wants to be a little bit more conservative on the dollars, they are great values at their price points. 

Charlie:

Absolutely. So let’s go into, like you’ve got new material, you came to present to us?  

Alan:

Yes. 

Charlie:

It’s fresh off the press. 

Alan:

Yes.

Charlie:

And I just sat through the presentation and took copious amounts of notes. What’s the main topic of that you wanted to present to our retail leaders today? 

Alan:

Well, the name of the presentation was: “How did you sleep last night?” Okay, I love that topic because it’s all about sleep. It’s all about you and your recent experience. So the title itself works “How did you sleep last night?” But it actually goes deeper than that. 

So, here’s the deal. We know that our Memory Makers will have conversations with our guest, but if we don’t teach them what that conversation should look like and what it should be, they will come up with that conversation on their own. 

And unfortunately, if they don’t have the knowledge and training, they’ll talk about things that may not be important. They will focus on themselves and not on the guest. You asked earlier what’s changing? Well, the guest is way more educated than ever before due to research and so that whole buying experience is totally different. 

It used to be, where the guest would come into our stores and we were the experts and they would come to us for information and guidance. They don’t need that anymore. They have this thing called the Internet. You may have heard of it. 

Charlie:

Al Gore had something to do with that. 

Alan:

Exactly. Al Gore designed it. But yeah. So they don’t need us for that reason. What they need us to be is more consultants. You know, it used to be ABC always be closing. Now it’s ABC, always be consulting. We need to come along inside. But here’s the whole concept of consulting. Consulting is focused on you, not me. Doesn’t matter what comfort I like, what mattresses and  what comfort you like. 

And so my whole purpose of meeting with your leaders today and for them to transfer information onto your actual Memory Makers was quite simple. Let’s focus on, them as an individual and their sleep experience. The challenges that the title isn’t enough. How did you sleep last night? Doesn’t go deep enough. I’ll ask you, Charlie, how did you sleep last night? 

Charlie:

I actually slept pretty well last night. 

Alan:

Yeah. And unfortunately, that’s information that doesn’t help me. 

Charlie:

It doesn’t heIp you at all. 

Alan:

It sounds good. But now what do I do with that? 

Charlie:

It sounds like I don’t need a new mattress. 

Alan:

Exactly. Because you told me you slept well last night. So one of the things that I want to talk about and trying to really get our Memory Makers and our leaders to understand that for talking about sleep, is there’s really three areas, and I call it fall, stay, feel. 

Charlie:

Fall, stay, feel. 

Alan:

Absolutely. 

Charlie:

Okay. 

Alan:

You got it. I might make a Memory Maker out of you, Charlie. 

Charlie:

You might. That be great. 

Alan:

The first one is how did you fall asleep last night? And this is going to talk about like we talked before about your preferred position. It’s going to be talking about what are the activities you do right before you go to sleep, watch TV. We’re going to have this whole idea of transition to sleep, setting up the stage, the environment, if you’re sensitive to light, you can actually, you know, have those blackout curtains. 

Charlie:

And probably those are really, really important. And to go as dark as possible in the room and as cool as possible, in the room as well, like you’re saying. 

Alan:

Well, so when we talk about the stages of sleep and I won’t go too deep here, but there are really four stages of sleep. There’s REM sleep, non-REM sleep, non-REM sleep has three stages, stages one, two, and three. Three being the deepest stage there is, okay, really difficult for you to wake up during that stage. 

Charlie:

I think that’s my son, Luke. 

Alan:

I get it. Yeah. That’s when people are, quote, dead to the world as they talk about it. 

Charlie:

That’s definitely my son Luke. 

Alan:

Yeah. Well, it only represents about 20 to 25% of your sleep throughout a given night. 

Charlie:

Except for Luke, he’s 99%. 

Alan:

Yeah, he gets, he gets a little more than that. Well, what happens there is that 80, 75 to 80% of the time that you were actually asleep, you were actually in a lighter stage of sleep. You’re either in, in one a light stage which is the lightest, in two which is still a light stage, or REM sleep. 

REM sleep as we know is rapid eye movement. That’s the stage where the brain’s in beast mode and you’re having vivid dreams and all those kinds of things that are happening, but you’re actually very close to being awake. 

And as a result of that, external stimuli can now disturb that sleep and so when we talk about someone being sensitive to light. 80% of the time throughout the night, if someone flips the light on in your bedroom, it could wake you up, if your partner gets in and out of the bed to go to the restroom, he can wake you up. If a dog barks outside, it can wake you up. 

And so what we want to do is have products and materials and features and benefits that help aid in that sleep process. 

Charlie:

So you talked about fall and now you said you also talked about stay? 

Alan:

Exactly. So we need to change the conversation. And if I just ask you how you feel, how you slept last night, it’s not deep enough. So the first one, as we talked about is how did you fall asleep? But then I might actually ask you a few questions on how did you stay asleep? Are you the type of person that sleeps all night long or are you the type of person that kind of gets disturbed through the night? 

And if I say that, well, let me ask you, are you the type of person that sleeps all night long, or do you sometimes get disturbed through the night? 

Charlie:

On my best nights. I sleep all night long. 

Alan:

Right. 

Charlie:

But probably I’m getting up to go to the restroom at least once. 

Alan:

Yeah. And a lot of that has to do with your fluid intake after 6 p.m. and as I don’t have to be a real sleep expert, I don’t have to know everything, but I can know some basics on the way I can consult with you. And so I want to have a conversation about how you stay asleep throughout the night. 

And then, of course, the next one, the next word is – feel. How did you feel when you woke up this morning? 

Charlie:

Yeah, so if I felt like a sore or if my neck was sore, that might tell you until I don’t have the right spinal alignment or the right support layer. So what are you looking for based off the answers on those three things? What are you looking for? How do you tie that into putting them in the right sleep system? 

Alan:

Well, that’s exactly it. So the areas that you just mentioned them, there’s comfort, there’s support, there’s pressure relief, and there’s temperature. Those are the four big factors that affect the quality and the quantity of sleep that you get every night. But the cool thing is, those are the biggest features of our sleep systems that we sell: comfort, support, pressure, relief, and temperature. 

And so, if I’m talking about the breeze technology that is eight degrees cooler all night long, well, that’s significant If I’m talking to someone who’s a hot sleeper. And if they’re not, than I can talk about just some of the more cooling aspects because some mattresses have cooling covers help you in transition to sleep. If we’re talking about body alignment in support in the way that the mattress comes up and supports the lower back, you know, unfortunately, are a lot of people that wake up with aches and pains. 

And when we talk about back pain, what we’re really talking about is the muscles that contract around the spine. And when those muscles get super tight, because here’s the goal, your body wants your spine to be in a straight line between your shoulders and your hips when you sleep at night. And if you’re on a line, your muscles contract around the spine try to pull it back into place.  

And it’s that contraction back, is what causes you to have those lower back pains. So if I can align you properly on the right type of mattress, your muscles can relax. If I put you on one of the power bases, or lifestyle bases, or quite simply an adjustable base, a slight elevation of your legs takes your pelvic bone and tilts it back. 

It gives you a more natural curvature of your spine, takes that pressure away. It allows you to stay in one position so you don’t have to toss and turn every time you toss and turn can disturb your sleep pattern. 

More importantly, slight elevation of the head will actually open up your airways. It can minimize snoring, which is a huge deal. 

Charlie:

Oh yeah. 

Alan:

Well, it’s a huge deal for the partner. The first is actually doing the snoring. They don’t have a clue. 

Charlie:

Were you play the video of yourself, phone audio or something?  

Alan:

I did. I am actually one of those weird people that actually records myself every night. And so I get to hear my snoring. 

Charlie:

So you talked about FALL, STAY and FEEL, and they tie into comfort and pressure points, and temperature, and things of that nature. And then you also talked about earlier today in our presentation the deep sleep versus REM versus non-REM, and what your body’s trying to do. The mental restoration versus the physical restoration. Can you just give us a little bit of that? 

Alan:

Yeah, absolutely. So the real value is the way the body works. And it’s really pretty simple. When you start to fall asleep you go into what we call non-REM stage one. Back in the 1930’s, they discovered that the mind went through different stages of sleep. And then in 1950’s they also discovered that the mind was really active, which was a real surprise because they always thought that sleep was just a passive mode, you know, that not much happened. 

In reality, that’s not true. So they came up with REM, rapid eye movement, and non-REM. I can’t say these scientists were very creative in their descriptions, but so you have non-REM one, two, and three. 

One is a very light stage of sleep, easily woken up. Stage two takes you a little bit deeper. Your body temperature, core body temperature start to decrease. At this point, your muscles start to relax, your breathing actually slows down, your eyes are closed, and they quit moving. And so you’re in stage two still a light stage of sleep, but important. Then you go into stage three. This is beautiful. This is deep sleep. This is that slow wave-type sleep. You’re in big delta brainwaves. 

This is where you’re basically you’re going to be in a position where the body takes over, more blood flows to the muscles at this point. And it is all about recovery. This is the deepest stage of sleep. And so the body will repair at this point. They will repair the muscles, the bones, the tissues. It’s all about repair at this point in recovery. It is the stage that athletes want to be able to get to. 

So, if you’re disturbed and before you get because understand that once you get to deep sleep now, the great thing is it’s really hard to wake you up at this point, but you want to get as deep sleep as you have. And it’s longer at the beginning of the night, because we go through these different cycles throughout the night and it gets shorter or nonexistent towards the towards morning time. 

Charlie:

Okay. 

Alan:

So you want to get into that deep sleep. 

Charlie:

And then that’s the physical restoration? 

Alan:

That’s correct.

Charlie:

And what’s the mental restoration? 

Alan:

That’s the next stage. And it’s really not the next stage because the body doesn’t just go in a circle. It actually goes back up from deep sleep. It’ll go to non-REM two, another light stage and then go up, but eventually gets up to this REM sleep. 

Okay, the brain’s in beast mode at this point. Neurons are firing off, blood pressure goes up, heart rate actually increases all while you’re sleeping. And this is where you have the most vivid of dreams. You’re actually almost this close to being awake and you’re easily woken up if you’re in the REM stage. This is when most people are really coming up with dreams that make no sense to them at all. The imagery is really there, but what happens is short-term memory, gets converted to long-term memory. So this is where you actually learn. 

As a matter of fact, I told your group today that if they don’t get enough REM sleep tonight, they may forget everything I taught them today, because of that is part of it. But the cool thing is the way God designed us because as much as your brain is firing are all on all cylinders in your eyes or moving back and forth in your head the only other muscle that moves is your diaphragm that allows you to breathe. 

The entire rest of the body is paralyzed, paralyzed. No movement of feet, arms, hands, legs, nothing. And we believe that God designed us that way so we don’t act out our dreams. So we wouldn’t be like running in our sleep. And most sleep disorders, like sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome, they don’t happen in REM sleep. They actually happen in stage three or that deep sleep.  

Charlie:

That’s fascinating. What would you say to someone who has a partner who sleepwalks? Don’t answer that question. 

Alan:

Yeah. Crazy question. I wish I knew all those answers. 

Charlie:

You know, this is fascinating stuff. 

Alan:

I’m not a real doctor. I just play one on TV. 

Charlie:

All right, we got it. We got it. Maybe we should consult a real doctor. Well, you get way into the technology here, or I see that you’re wearing a sleep tracker. You talked about that. I’ve been thinking about getting this. What are you, what are you wearing here? 

Alan:

So this is what we call a WHOOP. 

Charlie:

A WHOOP bracelet. 

Alan:

It’s not, there’s no watch, there’s nothing, I know people have Apple watches and all sorts of things, I think. What’s the one with the ring? 

Charlie:

It’s OURA. 

Alan:

And it was OURA.  Yeah, there is a ring that you can wear, basically because of when the body goes to these different stages of sleep, your heart rate, your pulse rate, your breathing, all changes. 

And there is distinct attributes that happen in those stages. And so, one of the things that they are focused on is that it tracks it, all day and all night. And because of that, it can determine the different stages. Now, out of fairness, it’s not near as accurate, if I put like electrodes to my head, okay, but it’s about 70, 80% accurate. 

Charlie:

Have you found that it’s you’ve improved your sleep by using it, being aware of the metrics? 

Alan:

Yeah, I have because I track it every night. I know exactly. I know that I need to get about 20 to 25% deep sleep. I know I need to get 20 to 25% of REM sleep. 

Charlie:

Oh wow!

Alan:

And because of that, I know that I’ve got to give myself an opportunity to sleep long enough. I’ve not used an alarm clock in years.  I know that generally speaking, I’m going to go to sleep between 11-11:30, and I’m going to wake up between 7 and 7:30. 

Charlie:

That’s fascinating. 

Alan:

Every single day, even on the weekends, because why? The mind and the body love regularity. It is the number one thing people can do to improve their sleep is to get regular. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, even on the weekends, and you will find that the quality and quantity of your sleep. 

Because there are going to be disturbances and you’re going to wake up throughout the night, you’re going to lose an hour. So if I only give myself 7 hours opportunity, then I realize that I’m only going to get about 6 hours of actual good quality sleep. 

Charlie:

We’ve hit on so many topics on the science of selling sleep and it’s so important and listening and hearing and reading so much. Like you well known people like, Arianna Huffington is really talking about the power of sleep. And Dr. Andrew Huberman from the Huberman Lab podcast. 

He really extolls a lot of the same virtues that you do about no caffeine, no alcohol after a certain time, and making the room really dark, taking the temperature down and really going to bed at the exact same time and being super regular about that, all critically important. 

And what you’re talking about with the products and the technology just having such a big impact on our health and this certainly your passion about it. 

Well, maybe two more quick topics here. And then I want to pivot to just other elements of the business. We haven’t really touched on bases. You mentioned this earlier. Are they adjustable bases, lifestyle bases, power bases, just things that move up and down? 

Alan:

Well, I can tell you that I’m not as concerned about what label you give it. I’m really concerned that you show it. It has a tremendous impact on a person’s quality of sleep. We’ve got a starter model, which is just a heads up only base that we use at Miskelly’s, and we actually call it the anti store base because to me, the biggest feature that it does is not just allow you to watch TV at night, but it really allows you to open up your breathing. 

Something as little as 12 degrees is enough to kind of open up the airwaves to minimize snoring. So I’m not really concerned whether you call it a power base, or lifestyle, or even just an adjustable base depend on what the customer can relate to. 

But what I am concerned about is that in every single presentation at Miskelly’s, we kind of have a rule. Every single presentation feet rise, because I want to say another feature of this mattress is that the feet can rise. Told me the power base, the adjustment base, it is part of the sleep system. It enhances the quality of our sleep. 

And I do want to touch on one thing here what we’re talking about here, I don’t expect Memory Makers to know as much about all the different stages of sleep. They should know that’s the deep sleep regenerates the body, that REM sleep regenerates the mind and helps in learning, those are kind of some basics kind of things, but they really need to focus on the guest. 

At the end of the day, it’s what’s going on in your sleep, Charlie, that I need to know about. And then as you tell me things, I can match up your needs, wants, and desires for a better night’s sleep with the products that I have.  

Charlie:

Is this where you were kind of talking about? And maybe that’s where we get the bad stereotype with mattress salesmen or saleswomen, you know, like the used car salesman. But you said take it away from selling to assistant buying, I think is how you describe it. Is that, is that what you’re talking about here? 

Alan:

Absolutely. You know, the reality is we as people, we hate to be sold. If I feel like you’re trying to sell me something. And that’s what’s happened in our industry for so long. We put people in mattress stores or furniture stores, we don’t properly train them. A lot of times are on commission, which means you know, they’re going go ahead and try to force the sale.

They’re going to try to sell them products that they may or may not want. And that’s mainly because they never connected with the guest. And so I think people hate to be sold on any product. But on the flip side of that, we love to buy, we love buy things. We’re Americans.

Charlie:

Especially they help us sleep better, feel better. 

Alan:

Exactly. And so I say don’t be a salesperson, be an assistant buyer. But that’s an attitudinal shift. That means I’m no longer trying to sell you. I am now going to have an attitude where I’m going to come alongside you. 

Now, you and I together are going to find out which products I carry, match up to what your needs, wants, and desires, and how you’re sleeping at night. And when I can start to do that, I don’t have to worry about my competition because you won’t leave. 

Charlie:

That’s right. We have this thing called butts on beds. We call it Bob. You have to sell mattresses, make sure you get comfort tests. You said something earlier, comfort is in the? 

Alan:

Behind the beholder. You know, for years, you know, we always would, you know, guests would come in and we say, do you like a firm or a soft bed? You know, and no matter what answer they give you, it’s a bad question. 

Because then you have the reference for what you think is firm or soft and not what the guest thinks is firm or soft. So it’s a really bad question because I think comfort is in the behind of the beholder. 

Charlie:

So really lot of what you’re talking about is we have to ask more intelligent questions, but position us as that assistant buyer as opposed to something that just gonna like, not serve the conversation well at all – how did you sleep last night? 

Alan:

Well, not just it, we’re not looking for interrogation of our guests. 

Charlie:

Right. 

Alan:

We’re looking for conversation. Because when you begin when you and I start having conversation and I learn a little bit about you and what your needs are, and you learn a little bit from me about what products I have that can help those. Now we’re having conversation that is about you, but you were different than the next guest. 

So, it actually can become easier to be able to connect with the guests the more that you do it. Because I don’t have to talk about coil counts, or other weird features that you have no interest in, I can instead focus on you. 

Charlie:

Now I want to make sure my wife watches this, cause talk about the adjustable base and our legs to rise in and get the oxygen improve. 

Alan:

Do you have an adjustable base? 

Charlie:

We don’t. 

Alan:

Oh my. 

Charlie:

Yeah, I know. 

Alan:

Charlotte! 

Charlie:

I know, super traditional. 

Alan:

Oh, my!

Charlie:

Don’t have an adjustable base.  

Alan:

Stearns&Foster will work on a power base. 

Charlie:

I understand that, we don’t have a temper-pedic, we don’t have a purple, we, you know, we have a Stearns&Foster on a flat foundation. 

Alan:

Oh, so you’re still sleeping on one of those flat mattresses? Oh my, I’ve heard of people that did that. 

Charlie:

We may have to edit this part out. 

Alan:

(laugs)

Charlie:

And so, but then you mentioned the sleep tracker. And so now I know that why I need to have one because I need to monitor, beacsue if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. 

Alan:

It’s correct. 

Charlie:

I need to understand how much deep sleep I’m getting, how much REM sleep I’m getting, and how that’s going to serve me well. And so make sure I’m not waking up too early. I’ve been waking up earlier and earlier. Which are, so as humans, we’re the only species who catch our sleep short. So I need to really dig into that. 

And then just to complete the sleep system, you know, there’s things about you hear about mattresses and, and in the 30% of the comfort or the support, you hear about different type of mattress protectors. And then there’s weighted blankets. 

Just help us debunk that just a little bit on sleep accessories and what your position is on some of those? 

Alan:

Well, I think sleep accessories are exactly that, they accessorize the sleep system. Let’s start with the big one and that’s the pillow. Pillow is a bed for your head on your way to describe it. 25% of our spine actually is from our shoulders up in terms of our spine. But more importantly than that, it supports the head. Now we have pillows like from bed gear, which is one of your vendors, that has a material that will not absorb body heat. So it feels cool to the touch. 

Well, that is an amazing product to help you fall asleep at night. When you lay on it, it is cool to the touch, so it has that cool sensation. It doesn’t stay cold all night long, but it helps you to start to have that core temperature drop. So it helps in the transition to sleep. 

So, and if your neck is properly aligned because there’s a curve there, just like there’s a curve in your back, it requires that proper alignment and support. Your mattress protectors. They either have one, they’re also cool to the touch to make it cooler because once again, you can’t fall asleep to your core body temperature starts to drop. That is a physiological aspect of you falling asleep. 

So we got products that can speed that up for you, help you out in that area. But also mattress protectors are also designed to kind of wick away moisture, because as your body temperature drops, you’re now releasing heat, and so that heat has to go somewhere. And if not, it will cause you to get a little sweaty. And so if you have fabrics in your mattress protectors that wick away that, it’s a cool, more comfortable, more restful night’s sleep.

And that really just made the sheets the same way you want it to be breathable. I mean, there are so many different ways to really complete the sleep system that ultimately gives you a better night’s sleep.

Charlie:

Got it. Super helpful. I want to shift gears completely. 

Alan:

Okay. 

Charlie:

With the time we have left on this conversation. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. 

Alan:

You’re so welcome. 

Charlie:

What are you working on this year? What’s Miskelly? What are your goals? 

Alan:

You know, we want to connect more with our guests. I mean, that is really the format of what we’re doing. 

Charlie:

Okay. 

Alan:

We know that, that COVID came and there was a real burst in business and the demand, the consumer demand really went up. We sense that there might be a little bit of pullback now that COVID is kind of over. 

Charlie:

That’s fair. 

Alan:

And we sense that in our industry and so what’s going to make the difference? The difference is going to be how we connect with our guests. 

Charlie:

Love that. 

Alan:

There may be a few fewer opportunities in terms of traffic. So we got to make the most out of those opportunities. So our whole focus at Miskelly’s is how do we develop those relationships, get away from just selling and make it relationship selling, build those relationships. 

We know that the average person, spend 50 to $80,000 in their lifetime on home furnishings, and we want to be the source of that in central Mississippi. 

Charlie:

And I would even say we can go upstream just a little bit further to use the Heath Brothers concept on connecting with our guests. If we connect with our people. 

Alan:

Yes. 

Charlie:

Then they can go connect with our guests. That’s the whole purpose of this Sleep Summit in training, and connecting in person. What do you think about the Sleep Summit. you got to sit in on some of the sessions? 

Charlie:

Oh, I loved it I loved it. So the Sleep Summit itself was you had four major vendors that had come in Tempur Sealy, Purple, Bedgear and Ashley, and they all got to present their products. And I was very proud of the way that they presented them. 

They were not what I call spec in tech, which is the way they would have been done in the past: “Hey, you’re all just our features“. But it was way more about how these can benefit our guest. And I love those presentations. And for you to bring in your entire Memory Maker staff to have that type of learning. 

But then I got to meet with your leaders today and share some of the things that we’ve talked about on this podcast. And it’s not how much they retain, but how much they’re able to pass on to the Memory Makers. And they were fully engaged in taking notes and asking questions. And so the company that Broad River Retail is becoming and the focus and I know everybody knows it, but Furnishing Life’s Best Memories, that’s all about connecting. 

Charlie:

Yeah, absolutely. 

Alan:

It’s beautiful. 

Charlie:

And it’s for other people. 

Alan:

Yes. 

Charlie:

That’s what we like to say. Thank you for that. And thank you again for coming to the Sleep Summit and speaking to our leaders. So lets, I like this icebreaker question and I know we’re like 45 minutes into the conversation. You’ve had a great 38-year career and you’re going to have several more years and then maybe you come help us some more, I don’t know. 

Alan:

Yes, that’s a good idea. I always say when Miskelly fires me. 

Charlie:

Which they’re not going to. 

Alan:

Yeah, I don’t think so. At least I don’t I don’t plan on that anyway, but …

Charlie:

But I love our collaboration, our relationship that we have, back and forth here. At the end of your days when you’re sitting on your front porch in Jackson, Mississippi, and drinking some sweet tea, and reflecting back on your career and how you remembered the legacy, the impact that you left on people, what three words do you want them to remember you for? What comes to mind? What are the first three words that come to mind? 

Alan:

Wow.

Charlie:

I think I feel this helps us get to know someone and how they want to be thought of. 

Alan:

Yeah. And it’s it would be easy to say my faith and family, and all those would be true. 

Charlie:

And that’s okay. 

Alan:

I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with this, don’t get me wrong. You know, I was fortunate. I was saved. I grew up Catholic, 

Charlie:

So did I.

Alan:

Yeah, but I wasn’t truly saved until I was in my twenties. And so that had a real impact. So clearly my faith is important, to me. My family is important. Matter of fact, I got my first granddaughter. 

Charlie:

Congratulations. 

Alan:

A couple of months ago. And so, family is important. But I like to be known also as a teacher, you know, to me, I want to be able to share and impact lives. So, impact would probably be a word that would come to my mind. I want to know that I gave your folks just a little something today that makes them just a little bit better tomorrow. 

And I do that every day. I wake up passionate about this industry and about what I can accomplish at Miskelly Furniture. Somebody asked me the other day: “When are you going to retire?” And I was like: “No clue”. 

Charlie:

You love what you do. 

Alan:

I do, exactly. Why would I deny myself that opportunity? 

Charlie:

Well, you’ve definitely had an impact on me for many, many years. And on our team, our people through several events and I can definitely see the teacher. And for the third one, we can use faith, we can use family, or we can give you five or six words. 

Alan:

Yeah. 

Charlie:

So we could just use doctor too. 

Alan:

We could. But I’m not a real one. I just play one on TV. 

Charlie:

You play a really good one on television. 

Alan:

Thank you. 

Charlie:

What advice would you give someone who starting off in sales, and struggling with selling mattresses. If they said: “Hey, can you help me out, what do I need? What am I doing wrong?” What advice would you give? 

Alan:

Yeah, there’s no magic pill, okay. There’s no magic phrase. If I try to do that, then I would try to be selling something. I notice that everything we’ve talked about here is that I understand you, first before I try to match up what products that I have. 

So here’s the thing. Salespeople will do what they are confident in and they will not do what they are not confident in. Now, I know that sounds like that’s so simple, but it’s not. For example, if I don’t understand the different power bases that you have, I don’t know what the remote does. I don’t know where the buttons are. Guess what I do? I avoid that presentation because I don’t want to look stupid in front of a customer. 

Charlie:

Nobody wants to look stupid. 

Alan:

Exactly. 

Charlie:

You’re not an assistant buyer then.

Alan:

So if I don’t have the confidence right, then I avoid it because I don’t want to look stupid. On the flip side of that, if I’m confident and know about it, then I don’t have any problems telling you about it. 

So one, I would say as a new associate, you got to get the confidence and the confidence comes through training and learning. And once again, there’s this thing called the Internet, there’s YouTube. It is an amazing source of information that is out there, as well as other sales associates that have been down this path. They can teach you and your reps and everything else. 

So first I would understand that as a sales associate, you want to be confident in your knowledge, not that you want to share it all, but that you have it because that gives you the confidence. 

And then, more importantly, you realize that, and I love this from Zig Ziglar, you can get everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want. And if you have that type of servant attitude when you’re actually in a sales position, it’s an extremely honorable position. Because now you’re that assistant buyer, because it is focused where the focus should be, and that is on the guests that have entered into our place of business. And all we’re trying to do is to help and serve.

Charlie:

I think it’s probably a great place to end this conversation. That’s very well said. Is there anything else you want to share? Anything else that we haven’t discussed? 

Alan:

I just I’m thankful for what Broad River Retail is doing and the changes that you have made and the focus that you’ve had in the industry. The very idea that we are changing the conversation and that you’re having a Sleep Summit shows that this industry is going in the right direction. 

For years, there’s a reason and a legitimate reason why customers didn’t like us, okay? It’s because of the way we treated them and the way we behaved. But it’s leaders like you, Charlie, and things that are happening at Miskelly’s, where we are refocusing our energies to be more about our guest. 

And as a result of that, we are changing the industry and we’re going to change this whole concept of mattresses because it’s not going to be about the mattress. It’s going to be about the way people sleep.

Charlie:

One guest at a time, right? 

Alan:

One guest at a time. 

Charlie:

One Memory Maker at a time. 

Alan:

I like it. 

Charlie:

Yeah, one guest at a time. 

Thank you so much for being here with us, for taking the time. That is Dr. V. You can hear, feel since the passion from this man still going strong after 38 years of selling sleep with purpose. I love it, Doctor V, you’ve imparted so much wisdom with us. 

And so check us out here from Stories from the River wherever you listen to your podcasts, from Apple Podcasts, Google, Amazon, YouTube, or any of the major podcasts, apps, players. And we launch these episodes every Wednesday and try to bring you the best content that we can. 

And this is a special guest. He’s not a Memory Maker, but he’s an honorary Memory Maker. He’s made a lot of memories. Furnishing life’s best memories for us. And thank you so much again for being here. 

Alan:

Thank you, Charlie. 

Welcome to Stories from the River, a podcast brought to you by Broad River Retail, where we’ll explore the personal journeys of our Memory Makers and share real stories from across the organization. And now for your host, president and CEO at the River, Charlie Malouf.

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