Changing the conversation around the role of a retail sales associate

It’s no secret that retail turnover rates are high. One survey found that in 2022 the turnover rate for all hourly in-store positions rose to 75.8% from 68% in 2021.

However, even with this knowledge, the problem continues to get worse.

After talking to a few people around the Las Vegas Market last month, it’s clear that manufacturers have innovative products with great stories for retailers to tell. They know the importance of telling a story and connecting the mattress to better sleep and how that can lead to more sales at retail.

Where there seems to be a bump in the road is when the sleep consultant or RSA needs to relay that story to the customers. Many look at the job as “disposable” and don’t care enough about it to try because of the preconceptions that come with RSAs.

So what if instead of continuing the narrative that RSAs are simply salespeople we position retail jobs as lucrative careers?

Because that’s what they can be when done right. By doing this, it takes away the preconceptions that are often associated with retail salespeople.

A good salesperson who cares about the customer and believes in the product can make a lucrative career out of selling mattresses.  

I always think about Broad River Retail’s Million Dollar Writer program and how they have more than 100 people that write a million dollars in business per year.

Scale that idea down to a smaller retailer and it’s still relevant. If an RSA dedicates themselves to the job of educating the customer you can sell higher-priced tickets and make more money. That’s the message that needs to be told. 

There are two immediate ways to begin this transition from RSA to sleep expert:

  1. More money. Ask any RSA what they care most about at their job and the answer is likely “making money.” But because that’s known, there’s a way to change their thinking from “I’m not getting paid enough” to “putting in a little work can make me a lot more money.”

    If that changed industrywide, it could have a bigger impact on the way consumers view the importance of sleep — which is already happening on a small scale because of savvy retailers preaching the good word about better sleep. Plus, for the cost of excessive turnover, you could afford to pay a worker 20% to 30% more if they were loyal and dedicated to the job.
  2. Expert positioning. For mattress stores, sleep drives much of the conversation around the product. But to keep that conversation going and build trust with the customer, the sleep expert needs to know everything there is to know about the products they’re selling. Investing in education for these sleep experts is extremely important both for translating that information to a consumer but also for gaining the trust of the employee. If you give them the resources they need to sell they will feel better about getting out on the sales floor.

Ultimately, I think there’s potential to change the conversation about what the job of a mattress salesperson really is by helping them realize their importance in the process and teaching them to value that role. 

Alex Milstein

Alex Milstein is the Editor in Chief of Casual News Now and Bedding News Now. He previously served as senior editor of both Casual Living and Designers Today, and covered technology for Furniture Today, with a focus on augmented reality, e-commerce, and 3D visualization.

View all posts by Alex Milstein →

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