August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5
By Ken Ryan
Training at the retail level is more important than ever, most flooring observers would agree. Furthermore, the opportunity for dealers to succeed improves every year given the amount of hands-on and online training/education currently available from associations, buying groups and manufacturers.
Following is a rundown of the companies and associations offering training to flooring dealers:
The group that encompasses CarpetsPlus, Color Tile and Carpetland USA dealers has focused most recently on providing digital and web-related help for its members. Alliance offers a website program called Web Pro as well as a related add-on module called SEO Pro. At its 2019 convention, Social Pro was added. “We feel this is a real growth area our members need to be focused on,” said David Ellis, marketing and merchandising manager.
With an ever-increasing array of products in categories such as LVT and multilayer flooring, consumers can easily get confused. To help flooring dealers demystify the process for consumers, companies like Armstrong Flooring are providing hands-on training. “We focus on making the benefits of our products easy to explain and support,” said Bill Furman, residential marketing manager. “We put our products through rigorous internal testing and provide those findings to retailers to substantiate the benefits. This allows them to feel comfortable with what they are explaining to consumers.”
A major objective at both Flooring America’s Building Buzz and Carpet One Floor & Home’s summer convention last month was to embrace and elevate their RSAs/managers and provide them with the necessary tools to be successful. In fact, Flooring America dubbed 2019 the “Year of the Sales Professional” in recognition of their critical roles.
During the summer conventions and regional event in Philadelphia, nearly 300 sales professionals from the retail divisions took part in a series of training modules. “We focused on things like handling difficult customers, dealing with telephone situations, how to redirect conversations, using different language choices and how to own the conversations in a professional way that is good for both parties,” said Nicole Harding, vice president, CCA Global University.
Other areas emphasized closing sales, product knowledge and how to use LinkedIn or other social media. “We put the learning into action by utilizing the vendors who were on location,” Harding explained. “We are hearing from members loud and clear that they value this emphasis and want to see more of it since [RSAs] are the ones talking directly to the customers.”
For 2020, onsite dealer trainings are returning to Mohawk University. These four-day sessions in Calhoun, Ga., will allow flooring dealers (up to 10 per session) to spend valuable time at Mohawk headquarters, visiting manufacturing facilities and gaining in-depth knowledge of Mohawk products. “We give them personal attention,” said Brandon Leslie, director of sales training and development. “We have a lot to offer and are trying to be as thorough as possible.”
According to Michael Martin, CEO of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), consumer research shows U.S. homeowners want wood floors in their homes. However, Martin acknowledges that flooring retailers are often ill-prepared to sell wood flooring successfully. “This represents a missed opportunity as wood floors can have a tremendous impact on a retailer’s bottom line,” Martin said.
To that end, NWFA University is provided as an online learning platform of 150-plus courses about wood flooring—how to refinish it, how to repair it, how to install it and how to sell it. The sales learning path contains nearly 40 courses that address a variety of topics ranging from the types of wood flooring available and how each differs to wood anatomy and how environmental conditions can affect performance, among others. Each course ranges from 10-20 minutes and includes an assessment to determine knowledge retention.
To help educate its retailer partners, Shaw hosts tours that entail new product introductions, technical training, trends, presentations and consumer insights. Additionally, product consultants offer specialized digital product training based on platform, technology, collection and category, according to Julie Beth Fisher, senior marketing manager - retail. Live webinars and prerecorded videos are used in tandem to provide the most up-to-date information to RSAs.
Shaw also offers a three-day training initiative called Floor Tech, a comprehensive seminar program that covers all aspects of the flooring industry and is designed to enhance a retailer’s ability to service customers and build their flooring business. Floor Tech is hosted four times a year in Dalton and twice a year in California. “This program is an excellent opportunity to learn about the industry in addition to attending facility tours of several of our manufacturing operations,” said Todd Callaway, Shaw Flooring Network director - digital marketing, content & communication.
One of the cornerstones of the World Floor Covering Association is the exclusive education for its 1,000-plus retail members. This includes primers on green flooring, writing contracts and understanding the independent contractor, as well as an abundant array of training seminars and online education under the WFCA University banner.
WFCA’s online training presence offers education for store owners on operations, which is about one third of its offerings; the other two thirds focus on sales-related issues.
One new module is product and its application. “Everyone has product knowledge [sessions] but it changes every two weeks,” said Tom Jennings, vice president of professional development for the WFCA. In this module, retailers will dive into the nitty-gritty to learn the different applications such as sand and grout vs. unsanded. “It doesn’t teach them how to set tile, but it allows them to be more effective in explaining the installation to sell tile on the sales floor.”