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Sheen's Reed succeeds by selling better night of sleep

LONDON - James Reed is a fine, good-natured bloke, a veteran on the mattress scene. He's been selling beds for The Sheen Bed Company here for 12 years and knows his way around the sales floor.
A good mattress purchase experience, he says, begins with a nice friendly greeting for the customer.
"I'm not a pushy salesman by any means," he said. "The English don't like that. If you are too pushy, the customer will take offense." And that, of course, is not a good thing.
There is an art to talking with shoppers, according to Reed. You've got to get basic information, such as the type of bedding they are looking for, the size of bedding, and who the beds are for, but you need to avoid "yes" or "no" types of questions that don't encourage shoppers to engage in a fuller conversation.
"I try to come across as not too salesman-like," Reed said. Establishing a good rapport with the shopper boosts the chances of making the sale, he said.
Reed admits that a friendly relationship with the shopper is necessary to overcome a major potential obstacle: "Fundamentally, this can be a terrifying process for the customer. They don't want to tell you how they sleep."
The Sheen Bed Company is an independent bedding retailer in southwest London with years of service to customers in the area, which includes a growing number of Americans. A Pizza Hut is across the street. So is a Blockbuster video store.
The customers in this area can afford better bedding, and Sheen Bed sells a number of high-end sleep sets. But despite those successes, price is often a key factor on the sales floor.
"The market is very price-driven at the moment," Reed acknowledged.
What are his toughest challenges as a mattress salesman? He quickly comes up with a list: "The price. Getting a commitment. Trying to hang onto margin. Trying to get the customer to place an order."
U.S. sales associates know that list well.
Sheen Bed carries the well-known English brand Hypnos, which makes encased coil models, and the retailer has another innerspring line as well. But Reed says he is careful not to engage in the coil count game when presenting those lines. That simply sets up a battle to see which bed offers the most coils, and that's the wrong approach to take, in his view.
What he's really selling is a good night of sleep. And that's what gives him success on the sales floor at The Sheen Bed Company, he said.

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