Would you hire someone with no retail management experience to run your store? Select Comfort, a Minneapolis manufacturer of high-quality air mattresses, does. Before entering a new retail market, the company sends recruitment postcards to "Comfort Club" members--customers who have spent at least $1,200 on its innovative "sleep system." "We knew that if we had converts to what we were doing, we could train them in the selling process," says Mark de Naray, board member and former CEO.
Select Comfort's satisfied customers make effective salespeople. Karen McFarland was initially skeptical of the company's claims--her husband, who suffers from a degenerative spinal ailment, ordered his mattress in secret using a neighbor's phone because she thought it was a gimmick. Now she believes the bed saved her husband from surgery. McFarland's enthusiasm for the product persuaded area sales manager Tim Brasfield to hire her to manage the Cary, N.C., store. He was glad he did: Her store exceeded its sales goals for 11 of 12 months, earning it three top-performance rankings.