August 22/29, 2016; Volume 31, Number 5
This special FCNews Retail Education series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help specialty retailers build their business through proven merchandising and marketing strategies as well as general best practices.
Whether the goal entails honing a retail salesperson’s selling skills or getting in-house crews up to speed on the latest hard surface installation techniques, continuing education is becoming increasingly important for store operators as a means to bolster service levels and ensure customer satisfaction.
Retailers need to look no further than the training and continuing education services offered by industry trade associations. Many of these hands-on programs, which vary in scope, are presented by seasoned industry professionals and proven to have helped dealers bolster average tickets, number of transactions, profitability and installation quality.
Following is a roundup of the latest training programs available from five major industry trade organizations.
The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) offers a variety of training programs for retail sales and management taught by personnel with extensive experience in the flooring industry. One of the latest developments is WFCA University, a dynamic program powered by Benchmarkinc that offers 36 training camps through the U.S.
The curriculum includes two- to three-day sessions covering four themes ranging from inside sales and business strategy to outside sales/hunter and sales management. The sessions are held in various cities throughout the year. “Each program is tailored to the respective needs and wishes of our members, allowing them to achieve maximum benefit,” said Tom Jennings, vice president of member services. “Upon completion, each attendee is given an action plan to assist them in achieving greater success going forward.”
For example, the inside sales training camp covers topics such as, “How to turn objections into a closed sale,” “How to curb negotiations and hold margins,” “Building rapport with all personality styles through the use of DISC” and “Gound-breaking methods for bringing in business.” The business strategy camp, which is designed to refine a retailer’s entrepreneurial skills, covers the best methods and tools for budgeting, inventory control, performance-based pay systems, sales tracking and metrics and marketing efforts, among other topics.
“You will compare your company to industry averages, determine the deficiencies and walk away with a serious strategy for implementation,” Jennings explained. “You will be exposed to tried-and-true strategies from consultants who have owned flooring companies and have helped more retailers make unimaginable profits.”
By comparison, the outside sales/hunter training camp provides insight into how flooring retailers who utilize outside sales programs can significantly increase profits, while the sales management training camp is based on researched and proven industry methods to help attendees boost net sales.
Additional details and calendars for each program are available at wfca-pro.org.
One of the latest training programs from the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) is NWFA University (or NWFAU), which offers more than 50 online and hands-on courses for members interested in increasing their knowledge on various aspects of the business.
Launched in July, NWFAU includes several career paths leading to different certifications, one of which is sales. “NWFAU removes some of the barriers to education and training by making it available when and where wood flooring professionals want it,” said Stephanie Owen, education manager. “There are numerous courses within each path, and each course has a test associated with it upon completion of the course.”
A major component of the NWFAU is the opportunity to earn badges, a digital representation of a learned skill which contains content that can be shared on social media. Badges serve as prerequisites to hands-on training, which allows participants more time to develop their skills. A combination of badges and training will lead to certifications. “These badges are not just images, but contain digital data that will tell consumers what the individual did to actually earn that badge in terms of the education they received,” Owen explained.
The courses required to earn each badge run the gamut from wood flooring types, renewability/sustainability, health and safety, jobsite evaluation, moisture control, and installation methods and considerations, to name a few. In addition, NWFAU offers a stand-alone course covering sales fundamentals.
“NWFAU is designed to provide affordable, consistent training to help retail salespeople sell wood flooring with confidence,” Owen said. “Because our membership is company based, all employees within that firm can use NWFAU to enhance his/her wood flooring knowledge.”
The annual $100 enrollment cost per member company provides each employee with unlimited access to the online training courses—each of which runs 10 to 20 minutes long. “The more they know about wood flooring and how it will perform in specific areas and situations, the more they will be able to lead their customers to make informed purchasing decisions,” Owen explained. “Ultimately, this should improve customer satisfaction and reduce claims.”
More information is available at nwfa.org/nwfa-university.aspx.
Informa, organizers of the International Surface Event 2017 (TISE), is introducing two special educational programs for retailers attending the show: The Retailer Experience and Retailer Day. “Both programs are flexible and cost friendly,” noted Carol Wilkins, senior conference manager.
The Retailer Experience, to be held Jan. 17-19, will be packed with self-select IGNITE Education sessions, an off-site culture tour—Retail Culture Tour @ Zappos—and Speed Trending Tour: An Eye on the 2017 Trends. “Retailers can find out what they need to have in every product category in their showroom,” Wilkins explained. “They can search through the Retail Track to view all the retail education sessions occurring in the IGNITE Education program.”
The Retail Culture Tour @ Zappos enables attendees to hear first-hand all about the legendary customer service experience from Zappos and how this company built its business on word of mouth. The Speed Trending Tour provides an opportunity to see the latest surface trends in one place. “Our team of experts will do the work for you and identify the latest in surface trends in each of the product categories and then bring these hand-selected manufacturers together in one location for retailers to experience,” Wilkins stated. “The session will be moderated by a Lifestyle Trend expert with 27 years’ experience and a strong emphasis in flooring and interior design.” Limited space is available for both events and discount pricing is available for signing up early.
Retailer Day, set to take place on Jan. 19, includes a pass to the self-select Ignite Education sessions and Retail Culture Tour @ Zappos. Some of the IGNITE sessions include “Retailers Forum: Interact, Engage, Motivate,” which provides a forum for retailers to share their experiences and learn from each other; “What is Happening in Washington, DC?,” focusing on how changes in the law affect the retail business; and “Finding Your Sales Unicorn: How to Recruit and (Keep) Your Next Great Sales Associates.”
Attendees are encouraged to visit “The Trends Hub” on the show floor, where a retail design firm showcases the latest in hardwood, stone, ceramic tile, luxury vinyl and carpet. “The Trends Hub will feature ‘Live in the Hub Talks’ to hear directly from the design team and their concept and inspiration behind the trend selections,” Wilkins pointed out.
The International Surface Event partners with industry associations and organizations to bring a suite of nearly 90 bonus education sessions from which to choose during the four-day event. Many of the topics fall under the theme of the 2017 program, “Building a Strong Business Culture to Retain Excellent Employees and Customers,” such as employee relations, customer (culture) service, quality installation and business management.
“TISE 2017 will be offering a new webinar series to highlight and reinforce several TISE 2017 sessions and what participating attendees will learn by attending the sessions in Las Vegas,” Wilkins said. “These webinars will begin in September 2016.” Visit https://tisewest.com/Attendee/Register for more information.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) works closely with industry leaders to develop and maintain installation standards and promote qualified labor. NTCA’s new NTCA University is an online tile and stone industry training and learning system developed to create awareness of industry standards, improve product knowledge and train tile installers. Programs available and in development include contractor apprenticeship and continuing education that unite sales and product training, plus business education.
“It is impossible for retailers to stay on top of all of the technological advances in the tile industry, as well as standards and methods developments,” noted Bart Bettiga, executive director.
NTCA Workshops, hosted by distributors and manufacturers, emphasize installation failures and how to prevent them. Hands-on demonstrations and video training are featured as well as Q&A periods and networking opportunities. The organization can also provide custom training by the day, if a retailer is interested, according to Bettiga.
Visit tile-assn.com for details.
The International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) offers programming aimed at training novice and veteran installers about everything they need to know about soft and hard surfaces. These sessions cover a variety of topics, from product types, installation techniques and tools, to estimating, troubleshooting and floor preparation.
Several classes provide comprehensive hands-on training in a short period of time, taking into account the daily workloads of flooring installers. “Retailers are so backed up on the installation side, they’ll be the first ones to tell you how badly their installers need training,” said Robert Varden, vice president of the World Floor Covering Association’s CFI division. “They’re sending them out to do jobs with such little experience.”
There are one- and two-day specialty classes centering on skill training and knowledge for residential flooring installers. For instance, the one-day course focuses on topics such as creating a better carpet seam, moisture testing and proper floor preparation. Two-day sessions are more technical in nature, covering installation of every product category, and include a workshop on patterned and woven carpets.
CFI offers two-day programs to certify installers, based on skill and knowledge, for all floor coverings. These classes are open to entry-level and experienced installers, the latter of whom can attempt to qualify for Master II certification status, considered the black belt of installation.
The more comprehensive installation training programs span one and five weeks, with the curriculum varied, based on level of experience. For example, a one-week course provides an introduction to installing either wood, laminates, ceramic tile and stone, resilient products, commercial or residential carpet. “This is for someone who has experience and we’re just giving them a different type of product to install,” Varden said.
By comparison, the five-week version centers on the installation of residential or commercial carpet, and designed for beginners. “When the students graduate, they have the confidence and ability to put down carpet in a three-bedroom residential home, know how to estimate, seam and power stretch,” Varden noted.
Visit cfiinstallers.org for more details.