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Retail education: Installation, sales training opportunities galore

August 20/27, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 5

By K.J. Quinn

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.

When seeking out training opportunities for their sales and installation teams, dealers need to look no further than the leading trade organizations and professional training providers. Several groups continue to offer workshops aimed at helping dealers and their staff hone their skills and help them become more proficient at their craft. The curriculum runs the gamut from store management and floor inspection to sales, installation training and even manufacturing 101.

Following is an overview of some those training programs.


WFCA University offers a variety of training programs for retail sales and management taught by personnel with extensive experience in the flooring industry. WFCA has introduced two immersive programs in sales management for professionals: Effective Customer Engagement Strategies and Counting Traffic and Calculating Close Rates. The Strategies topics discuss the importance of a first impression, buyer behavior overview, customer engagement techniques and customer satisfaction. In Counting Traffic and Calculating Close Rates, store operators will learn, among other things, how to qualify leads, gauge the adoption process and enhance their overall sales performance.

“Through WFCA University, subscribers will have access to dozens of training platforms tailored to professionals at all levels of their career and for every discipline within a company,” Frieda Staten, vice president of sales and marketing, explained. “Our sales management training program consists of 15 modules that deal with every element of sales and are taught by industry leaders from across the country.”

For more information, contact Tom Jennings, vice president, professional development, WFCA, at 816.231.4646, or email


The International Certified Installers Association (CFI), now part of the WFCA, offers accelerated training and professional certification to individuals seeking to learn how to install all types of floor covering. Together with the WFCA and several support partners, the group works continuously to address an issue that poses challenges to various parties across the supply chain.


The Flooring Consultants and Inspection Training Services (FCITS), which

celebrates its 30th year in business, offers educational programs designed to familiarize participants with the entire inspection process. “We review the industry, cover the most common issues they'll encounter, and then spend a great deal of time on the reporting process,” said Beth Brown, president and CEO.

Classes cover soft and hard surfaces, and inspectors are graded on the quality of their reports. Introductory classes cover many of the basic issues, while advanced classes drill down further in the specific nuances of specific products. The classes are held for five days at FCITS’ facility and inspectors take a test online when they return home. “Upon successful completion of the test, they receive their diploma,” Brown said. “As an added benefit, we provide contact information for the claims managers at all the major manufacturers.”

A three-day Masters Series class, introduced last year, provides education on field repairs and services. Each class is $1,395, which includes the FCITS manual and testing. Mill tours are also available.
Visit for more details.


The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) provides online training courses that teach salespeople and installers the basics of tile and stone. The classes, which take about five to eight hours to complete, provide technical information but also emphasize how to work with clients and teach professional salesmanship. Students have 24/7 access for 14 days, enabling them to take the course on their own time.

“The UofCTS courses use the latest technology and learning methodology to effectively teach the students and have them retain what they learn,” said UofCTS founder Donato Pompo, CTC, CMR, CSI, CDT, MBA. “All UofCTS online courses are interactive, professionally narrated and have lots of photos, video clips and animations to reinforce what the student should learn.”

Courses examples include: “Understanding the Basics of Ceramic Tile” and “Understanding the Basics of Natural Stone.” The Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification class teaches installers and do it yourselfers, among other things, about industry installation standards; how to inspect and prepare substrates; tools of the trade; and how to avoid problems.

Upon successful completion of each course, students receive a certificate and reference guide containing key information from the class. Each class costs $150 and discounts are available from various trade organizations.

For information, visit


The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) offers a comprehensive library of continuing education courses. “We have several ways to access these valuable resources, so you can choose the one that works for you,” noted Paul Tucker, communications manager. “Many of CRI’s courses are certified by the Interior Design Continuing Education Council, the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council.”

The CEUs cover everything from carpet manufacturing and interior design to sustainability of carpet and dye methods. CRI’s CEU courses also provide vital information about carpet and the industry for a number of different stakeholder groups, including installers, retailers, designers, architects, building professionals, and many others.

What’s more, there is no cost to enroll in the programs. Most CRI member companies provide instructors that will lead a session at your location. “Even if you don’t need certification, the CEU courses are readily available to the public,” Tucker explained. “Each CEU is updated biennially to present the most current information.”

Visit for more information.


The International Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL) offers an evolving curriculum designed to teach foundational basics and keep flooring installers up to date with cutting-edge trends, technologies and techniques. Participants are taught core skills for proper floor preparation, installation and finishing procedures for carpet, resilient, resinous flooring, hardwood, substrate prep, concrete polishing, artificial turf and more.

The program covers a variety of skills. Courses range from “Standard Skills Training” to “Safety Skills Training” classes. “The extensive INSTALL training program prepares installers for anything they will encounter in the field,” said John McGrath, Jr., executive director. “With INSTALL certification, it demonstrates an unmatched level of proven skill and training.”

INSTALL reports its curriculum is endorsed by more than 100 mills, manufacturers, flooring consultants and associations. “Our Alliance Partners have a vested interest in participating in the INSTALL training program and contributing to its curriculum,” McGrath said. “Together, we ensure installers train with the exact products they will use in the field and receive the knowledge and training that is specific to those products.”

INSTALL also offers a four-year apprenticeship program followed by career-long continuing education. Training is financed by trust funds created by labor/management hourly contributions; there are no additional costs to installers or their employers.



The National Wood Flooring Association’s NWFA University offers training for wood flooring retailers both in-person and online. Online training enables large sales crews to be trained simultaneously, or individual participants can complete the training at their own pace. “It also allows us to provide timely, accurate education in a way that is extremely convenient and affordable,” said Anita Howard, COO, NWFA.

Online education is set up in different areas of expertise, one of which is sales. Within the sales curriculum, there are 38 online and hands-on courses for members interested in increasing their knowledge on various aspects of the business. Each course is 10 to 20 minutes in length and includes a testing component, following each course, to verify understanding.

“Courses can be taken on a PC, a tablet, or a smartphone; this way they can be completed where and when the user wants it,” Howard noted. The annual $100 enrollment cost per member company provides each employee with unlimited access to the online training courses.

Individual courses are organized into nine different learning paths, each of which earns users a digital badge upon successful completion. Subject matter for sales “badges” covers topics such as wood flooring types, sales fundamentals, renewability, health and safety, moisture mitigation and job-site evaluation, to name a few. (Badges serve as prerequisites to hands-on training, which allow participants more time to develop their skills.) “They are graphic images that represent a learned skill, but in NWFA’s case, they also contain metadata verifying the recipient’s proficiency with that skill,” Howard explained. “This metadata includes the date the badge was earned, information about NWFA as the issuer of the badge, and the specific skill that was learned and confirmed through testing.”

In-person training can be conducted at NWFA headquarters or the retailer’s location. The cost is $1,000/day, plus instructor travel expenses.



The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) offers both in-person workshops and regional training programs at more than 140 venues nationwide. 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 workshops consist of a three-hour overview and is free to industry members seeking to improve their knowledge in installation.

“We have three full-time trainers who provide these programs,” noted Bart Bettiga, executive director. “NTCA trainers and technical support employees are also available to help retailers provide accurate information to their customers.”

In addition to these workshops, the NTCA now offers day-long regional installation training programs (currently is a member benefit). NTCA also offers its members online courses focusing on tile installation education, ceramic tile and stone knowledge, as well as general business courses, at its NTCA University Learning Management System.


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Retail education: The real science behind WPC

FCNews Ultimate Guide to WPC: July 17/24, 2017

By Bill Treiber


Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.49.50 AMThe emergence of WPC (wood plastic composite) core flooring into the LVT and LVP product sector has accelerated in recent years. In this article, I explain what WPC is and how it differs from other products in the market.

Though it may be defined differently depending on the person/company you ask, WPC cores are basically a mixture of thermoplastics, wood particles/ fibers and other added materials like stone. These components are generally combined above the melting temperature of the thermoplastic and then mixed with different polymers to make various WPC products. Most likely the first product you saw in the building profession that used WPC was decking material. Today, a full array of products can be seen in the market—including flooring.

The most commonly used plastics for this type of application are polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). Next to PE, PP is the second most widely used plastic in the world. PP is lighter, stronger and stiffer than PE. However, it is also more brittle. This factor makes its use in WPC products very low.

Polyethylene is the most common plastic used for consumer goods, but be aware that there is more than one variation of PE. There are also linear low-density PE and very low density PE, which is seldom used due to flexural weakness. Polyethylene, when used in WPC, is mostly high-density PE. Polyethylene has a high resistance to wear and withstands the effects of weather, chemicals in the sulfuric acid families, as well as nitric and hydrochloric acids. It is also highly resistant to oxidation—a common concern for exterior products.

Product attributes. The use of WPC in commercial products is growing rapidly. For many years only extruded products were available. The main reasons for extruded plastics are their ability to produce products from recycled plastics that otherwise cannot be recycled. In essence, it offers an alternative to pure virgin thermoplastics more commonly used in injection molding processes. Being that its composition is tightly extruded recycled plastics, fibers and polymers, the product is not only environmentally friendly but structurally sound—thanks in no small part to the heating and melting of the components at very high temperatures. With such a solid product, temperature changes that would normally affect other materials do not impact WPC. This enables the use of radiant heat with WPC products without worrying about adverse effects from the warmer temperatures.

The most notable characteristic of WPC is its waterproof qualities. The product’s well-known resistance to water damage makes it superior to other products found in high moisture exposure areas such as bathrooms, kitchens and entryways. This inability to attach water particles to itself also creates an antimicrobial product, thereby eliminating potential for bacteria to grow.

Ongoing developments

The future looks bright and strong for WPC’s application to the flooring industry. The ability to finish flooring products with a LVT or LVP wear layer and use WPC as a core backer creates endless options. Currently 7.5mm- to 8.5mm-thick WPC floors are most common. Look for WPC floors to fluctuate in thicknesses from 5mm to 12mm. With the desire for more recycled product choices, WPC provides a viable option going forward in the product niche. When looking about at all of the positive product attributes, it’s safe to say that WPC flooring is here to stay for a while.


Bill Treiber is technical sales and education manager for Artistic Finishes (Moldings Online). He began his career in the lumber industry and built a strong sales record in wood flooring distribution for more than 15 years.

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Retail Education: Negatives make positives

By Kelly Kramer

July 22/29; Volume 27/Number 7

Kramer, Kelly Color 05So often in sales we tend to leap headfirst into selling. We greet our new customers and move straight to selling a product we like or the company has asked us to push.  This technique makes us just like every other salesperson out there and lets our potential buyer know we have no concern for their given situations.

It’s like the car dealership that offers everything from sub-compact to high-end luxury cars. The salesperson takes you to the high-end car before he even knows what you are looking for. Sure, pushy and ignorant sales will work a small percentage of the time, but why be like the rest? Why not double or triple that closing average by actually investigating the buyer’s wants and needs and proving you understand which direction to take that is in her best interest? Continue reading Retail Education: Negatives make positives

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Relax, do the footwork

Kramer, Kelly Color 05Volume 26/number 28 June 10/17, 2013

by Kelly Kramer

For many of us old timers in retail flooring sales, we understand there seems to be no rhyme or reason for sales being up or down. The only times I’m pretty sure will be slow are the last two weeks of August and three weeks after Christmas. Then the traditional spikes in business are before any holiday and when folks figure out they are getting money back from taxes.

Periods between those “up” times can be like a roller coaster. For those of us with a tremendous referral, those unstable phases are generally much more common. But recently I find myself scratching my head when I hit those patches when the sales stop for two weeks and it seems most buyers are indecisive or simply can’t buy for some time.  Continue reading Relax, do the footwork

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retail education: My Schlüter experience

Kramer, Kelly Color 05by Kelly Kramer

Well it’s been about 27 years since I took my first job as a retail flooring salesperson. During my initial 17 years I didn’t work or manage a store that sold tile or stone. So when I wrote my first product knowledge book, “Selling Clean,” I had to do very extensive research to write the chapter on those products.

It was about that time I started to sell some tile at a store I was managing in my current town of Loveland, Colo. Since then, I’ve vastly increased my tile sales to the point I’m considered a very strong tile designer and my store is one of the largest tile showrooms in northern Colorado. Continue reading retail education: My Schlüter experience

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Retail education: Quality takes time

By Kelly Kramer

Volume 26/Number 26; May 13/20, 2013

Often in an effort to generate dollars immediately, we forget that selling bottom line and cutting corners to win a bid are harmful to our future.

Having gone through the last five years of a downturn economy put many of you in survival mode. That often means lowering margins and believing you had to lower the quality of your work to match that lower margin. Meanwhile those of us who had a 10 to 40-plus year track record of great quality installations, great service and fair prices simply continued our quality practices. Continue reading Retail education: Quality takes time

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Retail Education: The phenomenon

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Kelly Kramer

Earlier this year I encountered a situation that you, as a retailer, may have already had happen to you. Or maybe it will never happen.

A customer called me to complain that the carpet we installed nine months ago in her home was getting large spots on it. Only twice before in my career—which has spanned over 25 years—had I seen this. My first thought was pooling, and as it turned out I was correct. Continue reading Retail Education: The phenomenon

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After-sale follow-up

by Kelly Kramer

This article is from page 49 in my 184-page training manual “Selling Clean In Retail Flooring.” Is this a plug to sell my books and layout tools? You bet it is. But I’m always proud to show you various ways to help your buyers and grow your income.

The category that keeps good salespeople from becoming great is generally the starting point. When you think about how many sales you make in a year, you need to ask yourself how many of those people would refer their friends or neighbors to you. Continue reading After-sale follow-up

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Can meatballs be your competitive advantage?

by Lisbeth Calandrino

Several years ago I took a trip to Ikea in New Jersey. Ikea is the largest furniture store in the world with over 10,000 items on display.

After a tour of the store, a stop at its day care center and, of course, a plate of Swedish meatballs, I took out my notebook and my pen and convinced my companion to help me interview customers coming out of the store. Since we were both in suits, people thought we worked for Ikea and seemed playful and delighted to answer questions. We spent 45 minutes asking questions and were never accosted by the Ikea people. Continue reading Can meatballs be your competitive advantage?

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Retail education: Match maker

by Kelly Kramer

The television and radio stations are flooded with commercials telling you that you need to pay them to find you a mate. My personal opinion on this is so many people have made poor choices for mates/spouses in their past they feel they need guidance the second, third or fourth time around.

I got very lucky the first time around when I married my wife Anne. But I was a bachelor until I was 30. Not that there weren’t a number of would-be candidates willing to marry before that time, there was just never the perfect one. Continue reading Retail education: Match maker