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Investing in RSAs pays dividends

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By K.J. Quinn

 

Let’s say you are a floor covering store owner and your business is running smoothly. The latest advertising campaign is reeling in customers and sales are holding steady, if not thriving. Then, your top salesperson quits.

After trying in vain to talk him out of leaving, you quickly write up a help wanted ad and place it online and/or in a local newspaper, or attempt to recruit someone from a competitor. Your hope is a superstar salesperson will soon call and everything will return to normal. But the reality is it could take months or even a few years to find one person to replace the success and sales volume achieved by that salesperson, industry members say.

“Unfortunately, this industry does not do a good job of attracting younger, more aggressive, design-oriented people,” said Steve Lewis, president, Lewis Floor & Home, Northbrook, Ill. “Our industry needs less product training and more design and sales training.”

By properly investing in sales training, dealers not only put their team in a position to put their best foot forward, but provide a cushion to absorb the blow of losing a valuable performer. “If you are truly committed to sales training, it’s never ending,” noted Olga Robertson, president, FCA Network. “With the plethora of products today and 90% of consumers doing research online, the retail salesperson needs to be armed with all the tools available to win the sale.”

Characteristics of a successful salesperson

The list is long, experts say, but it often starts with being honest and possessing integrity, reliability, punctuality, patience and good judgment. “It’s not always product or PK training,” FCA’s Robertson said. “It’s more about building rapport and guiding the customer to the product that best suits her needs.”

The best salespeople possess excellent communication skills and the ability to quickly make customers feel comfortable. “One of our salespeople is a real ‘people’ person, so that’s a great asset,” noted Lola Ledebur, co-founder of Carpetime, Grand Junction, Colo.

One thing that can’t be taught, or changed overnight, is a salesperson’s attitude and personality. “You can’t really teach personality,” said Kim Campbell, owner, Campbell’s Carpet, Port Washington, N.Y. “We deal with many designers, so you must be careful not to step on their toes and be respectful of their opinions.”

Salespeople also have to pay careful attention when sizing up a customer’s needs so they can recommend the appropriate styles and floors. “The key is teaching them to listen and really pay attention to what the customer is telling them,” said Matt Pfeiffer, owner, Northern Flooring & Interiors, Lake Orion, Mich. “If you’re listening and you get that window where you can offer a solution for the problem the customer is trying to solve, then ask for the sale.”

Salespeople should thoroughly understand the store’s products and services and come across as knowledgeable and professional. “Given the breadth of products we carry,” Lewis Floor & Home’s Lewis said, “it is a never-ending battle to keep the salespeople informed of all the new products and changes.”

Success in sales is often measured in dollars, and retail is no exception. Salespeople are challenged every day in an increasingly competitive environment. “Most customers visit more than one store,” said Tony Greco, vice president, CAP Carpet, St. Paul, Minn. “You have to be the one that wants their business, go after it [and] follow up.”

Utilize training to improve selling skills

Successful retailers spend their time and capital wisely to find and keep the right salespeople. This makes it imperative to focus their resources on the front end of the business and develop an effective sales staff to keep customers coming back.

“A consistent, ongoing [training] program gives sales consultants confidence in most situations,” CAP Carpet’s Greco said. “A confident salesperson has less fear and is able to consistently improve and close sales.”

It’s rare for a new salesperson to achieve success right out of the gate. Many may not achieve their full potential until after training and learning the ropes from experienced professionals around them. “We put our new salespeople through a relatively intensive sales and product training when they start,” Lewis Floor & Home’s Lewis said. “However, to be honest, much of it is done by the local reps who really don’t do more than pitch their products.”

Buying groups and trade associations offer training classes that teach, among other things, basic and advanced selling methods and how to maximize their sales and marketing tools. By utilizing sales training techniques, “successful salespeople become more adapt at selling both solutions and visions to the customer rather than constantly resorting to selling on price and specifications,” said Tom Jennings, vice president of professional development, WFCA. “They learn to sell as customers want to buy.”

WFCA offers online training through its University, plus weekly video tips and custom on-site training events for members. “One of the most popular sessions is titled, ‘Installation for Salespeople,’ which focuses on ways to build value into the service element of a sales presentation from the moment RSAs and potential customers are first introduced,” Jennings explained.

FCA Network trains its salespeople how to compete with home centers and deal with customers who shop online and by price. “We also work on phone techniques—role play—to enable them to handle price objections or pricing inquiries over the phone,” Robertson said. “Ultimately, the goal is to get them in the store, not negotiate price over the phone.”

Overall, industry members agree if salespeople know their products well, understand their customers’ needs and are proficient at delivering product at minimum hassle and discomfort to the consumer, then dealers will be successful. “Knowledge is power,” Robertson said. “It builds confidence.”

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Tried-and-true interview techniques to pick the right person for the job

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By Reginald Tucker

 

Finding the right employee for your business—whether you’re looking to bring on new salespeople, installers or even managers—can be a challenging, time-consuming task. First, there’s the creation and posting of the job listing. (Or perhaps you’ve decided to recruit via the networking route.) Then there’s the screening process, scheduling of interviews and, ultimately, the actual hiring and onboarding phase.

But experts in the field of hiring, recruiting and training believe the selection process needn’t be so arduous. Some say it can be an enlightening, eye-opening experience. Following are some trusted interview tips and techniques business owners, managers and consultants recommend in narrowing the search for the ideal employee.

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions
In a recent CNBC feature titled, “Eight highly successful entrepreneurs reveal their best hiring secrets,” hiring managers and business owners—including

several start-up companies—emphasized the importance of avoiding run-of-the-mill questions during the interview process, such as, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?” Instead, experts recommend managers pose more probative inquiries—or a series of associated questions—to illicit more genuine responses and discern the true nature of a particular candidate.

“I’ve found that I learn the most from a candidate when I ask them a bit of an uncomfortable question,” said Liz Wessel, WayUp co-founder and CEO, in the CNBC report. “I like to see how they react and whether they’re able to stay calm. I don’t do this because it’s fun; I do this because I want to see whether can they keep their composure and how they perform when they’re out of their comfort zone.”

John Kelley, CEO of CoachUp, is in agreement. His technique? Pushing candidates to answer the whys. For example, “Why did you choose that college or that course of study? Why that company or that role? Why did you decide to move on? I feel this gives me a deeper understanding of their motivations and goals, which helps me determine whether our company and culture are a good match,” he said.

The more specific the question, hiring managers say, the more meaningful responses you’ll get from a candidate.

In 2010, Jenny Blake, who oversaw Google’s career development and mentorship program prior to launching her own coaching firm, started a global program at Google to provide scalable, drop-in, 1:1 coaching to all Googlers, which involved teaching dozens of senior-level staff members transformative coaching and career development skills. Her new book, “Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One,” offers a sampling of meaningful interview questions:

  1. “Tell me about a time when you solved a particularly interesting problem.” According to Blake, this question gets at problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
  2. “What are you most excited about learning?” Blake said this is a good alternative to the popular five-year question. “I don’t like the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’” she said. “Because things are changing too quickly, it is totally irrelevant.” Instead, she recommends employers get a sense of what potential employees are eager to work on and which skills they want to develop.
  3. “Recall a time when things didn’t go as planned—how did you handle it?” Regarding this question, Blake said, “I do think it’s good to try to frame something up around how someone handles uncertainty or even mistakes.” Missteps, she said, are inevitable; therefore, hiring people who bounce back is critical.

Properly structure and plan for each interview.
Statistics show that nearly 30% of candidates refuse a job offer because of how poorly the interview went. This is why it’s vital for employers to create—and consistently follow—the proper protocol for job interviews. Hiring and recruiting experts like David Romano, currently director of Romano Concepts—creator of six national restaurant models and multiple brands in the Dallas market—is a firm believer in this principle.

As the former owner of Benchmarkinc, which provided consulting services to retail businesses, including flooring dealers, Romano knows a thing or two about developing effective hiring processes. Once a regular columnist for FCNews prior to the recent sale of his consulting business, he continually stressed the importance of following a well-planned interview process.

Step one is to establish an interview agenda. “Build an outline for the entire interview, which should take no more than 45 minutes. Sketch out the framework with a set length of time for each section, covering information about the company, the job scope, position requirements, compensation. Include time to find out about the candidate through probing questions. Reserve a few minutes at the end for question and answer.”

Step two is to focus on the candidate. “Before asking the first interview question, review the job description, especially the hiring criteria, as well as everything the interviewee has submitted: résumé, cover letter, online profile, etc. This allows you to hone in on what you’re looking for in candidates.”

Romano advises against improvising during the interview process. While this might seem counterintuitive, it helps to keep the interview on track. “Prior to the actual interview, write down questions you intend to ask based on key areas of the candidate’s background,” he stated. “While it’s a good idea to have a core list of questions that you ask every candidate, it’s also helpful to jot down some targeted questions for clarification as you review the job description and résumé.”

Romano suggests managers ask more open-ended questions, as they require more thought and will help the person speak openly. Ask two or three hypothetical questions framed in the context of an actual job situation. More important, he said, it’s essential that hiring managers pay particular attention to the candidate’s answers. “Don’t rehearse your next question in your mind. Although you have your questions written down, don’t hesitate to veer from those if you want to reword or follow up, or eliminate questions already covered.”

Step three is closing the interview. After the candidate has had a chance to ask questions, end it by thanking him/her for his/her time and tell him/her when to expect to hear from you. “As soon as the candidate leaves, collect your thoughts, write down your impressions and summarize your notes. Get feedback from the other interviewers while the interview is still fresh.”

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Dear David: Should RSAs generate their own leads?

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By David Romano

 

Dear David:
Is it just me or do sales associates seem less motivated these days? It is like pulling teeth to get them to go out and get their own leads. Am I wrong in expecting them to generate their own business? Do you have some techniques that have worked to incentivize them to get out of the store and shake the trees?

Dear Owner,
What you are facing is most likely attributed to generational differences and a flaw in your philosophy. Workers today are much different than those of your generation. Some of the differences are amazing and some can be frustrating. Expecting employees to be “just like you” is not only an unfair request due to these generational differences, but it is also unfair because you are a business owner with different aspirations and priorities.

The bigger concern is your overall philosophy on generating new business. There are two types of people in this world: hunters and skinners. Very rarely do you find a person with both qualities. Most RSAs fall under the category of skinners, people who do a great job with product selection, measuring, quoting, etc. They are content to work with customers to solve a need and be an advisor throughout every step of the process.

A hunter, on the other hand, is someone with a thirst for the thrill of the kill. They want to prospect, close the deal and then go back for more business later. They don’t want to do any of the “mundane” tasks of a skinner. In fact, they are rather bad at that part. These highly specialized individuals make up less than 10% of the population.

You should have your skinners focus on doing the best they can with the customers in front of them. Don’t push them out the door to fumble the ball and ruin any real chance you have of securing new business. However, you are looking for marginal gains and want to feel better about your team driving more business. Here is what I recommend:

  • Have your team ask for referrals. Have them send an email to all closed customers with an attachment explaining your Friends and Family Program, which provides special accommodations to anyone who closed customer refers. All the referred customer needs to do is mention or print out the email to get the accommodation. For the person who provided the referral, they get a store credit for future purchases they can either use or transfer to anyone else.
  • Have them send cards with handwritten envelopes to previous customers inviting them to a special event. Include all customers who have received a quote in the last six months but haven’t yet purchased. Also, include customers who have bought flooring from the store seven-plus years ago.
  • Send a birthday card to the flooring. (Yes, I did just say send a card to the carpet, wood or tile.) Include tips to making sure it is cleaned and properly maintained. This simple, two-minute process will keep the RSA top of mind when there is a flooring need.
  • Have each RSA join local referral groups. A ton of business can be generated over a glass of wine with the girlfriends or having lunch with other businesspeople.
  • Make sure they are active with their online network of friends and colleagues on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. They need to let everyone know where they work and keep them informed of any special events or latest trends.
  • Lastly, make sure they always have business cards to distribute to potential clients.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.37.51 AMDavid Romano is the founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, a group that provides consulting, benchmarking, recruiting and software solutions to the flooring, home improvement and restoration industries.

 

 

 

 

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Compensation conundrum

Dealers debate salary vs. commission for RSAs

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.08.06 PMFlooring is an unusual retail species. Unlike mass merchants or other high-traffic venues, the typical flooring store may only see five or 10 customers in a day. Further research shows that for nearly 25% of dealers, between one and five people will buy flooring from them in a given week—which translates to less than one transaction per day on average.

The way flooring dealers compensate their RSAs is often different as well. Many successful dealers employ a commission-only structure, a model that seems to work for the largest dealers that have the traffic and transactions to satisfy their staff. Other retailers choose a straight hourly salary. Then there are those that combine salary plus commission, with higher amounts depending on the gross profit of the sale.

Deb DeGraaf, co-owner of DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich., avoids a one-size-fits-all salary approach when it comes to compensating her salespeople. Rather, she takes a more customized approach, which allows her to work with the individuals and determine what suits them best. “Overall the majority of our sales staff operates on a commission basis. For those who appreciate the predictability of a salary we offer that as well; in those cases we monitor the amount of commission they would have earned. It is our goal to have a system whereby a salesperson can sell under the compensation plan that allows her to do so without worry or trepidation.”

Steve Weisberg, owner of Crest Flooring in Allentown, Pa., uses what he calls a “bucket system.” In his store, the majority of his staff works on salary plus model, which means they receive a weekly salary for which they have to write a certain percentage of business. “Once they write that specific amount in the month, any more sales beyond that earn them commission,” he explained, noting the commission is a floating scale. “Fill up the bucket and you’ve earned your salary. When the bucket is filled up, the fallout earns at different levels—2%, 4% and 6%. Once an RSA earns his salary he should be able to make more at no additional cost to the business.”

Bobby Meredith, who runs Flooring America OKC in Oklahoma City, provides a base salary that helps promote comfort and financial security for sales associates. “In addition to the salary, we pay a commission per sale that is calculated as a percentage of the sale based upon the gross profit,” he explained. “The commission reminds the sales associate of the value of each and every customer who walks through the door.”

Some flooring dealers refrain from a commission-only approach because they do not want their RSAs to become overzealous in their approach. However, some of the most successful flooring retailers in the industry are all-in for a commission structure. Avalon Flooring, with 14 locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, is one of the largest such dealers. “We believe a commissioned sales force will produce a far better result for both the company and the salesperson,” said Brian Witkin, executive vice president of sales. “This gives the salesperson more opportunity to increase his or her earnings, and if the company is making more money I want my salespeople to make more money. Also, paying on gross profit rather than the total sale of the job will have a greater bottom line impact for everyone.”

The challenge Avalon and other dealers are starting to face is the younger generation wants more security and are somewhat afraid of a commissioned-based job, according to Witkin. In addition, some dealers believe many young salespeople do not like the pressure of their performance being responsible for their income. As such, a salary can give them the security they desire.

For retailers like Carlton Billingsley, owner of Floors and More, Benton, Ark., their job is to persuade millennials that a commissioned structure will pay dividends in the end. “We believe in earning what you work for, and your compensation is a reflection of your book of business by reaching goals/benchmarks through a commissioned sale,” he said. “Our commissioned [salespeople] will be focused on getting the sale, keeping the sale and expect referrals/additional business from their relationships built from the first transaction with a client. Our commissioned sales professionals write more business to grow their individual wealth and expect our business to grow so that we can grow together.”

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Technology, demographics are changing the face of retail sales floors

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16
By Sarah Bousquet

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 10.54.33 AMAs consumer demographics and shopping habits change, specialty retailers are adapting accordingly. Specifically, they are working to ensure their sales associates evolve through training and by developing a better understanding of the way consumers shop for floor coverings today.

While customer service and product knowledge are still key qualities for sales, the expectations associated with each have changed immensely over the past 20-plus years. Where Mrs. Consumer used to physically visit a handful of brick-and-mortar locations, today she has most likely done all her research online prior to ever stepping foot in a store—and knows more or less what she wants.

To better understand what that evolution looks like from the perspective of the sales team and management, FCNews reached out to a few showroom executives who have lived through it. Here is what they identified as the major factors changing the face of the retail salesperson to provide consumers with the 21st century floor-buying experience they expect.

Understanding the new consumer. Today’s buyers are typically more tech-savvy, informed and design conscious. They also tend to be pretty busy. To that end, retail sales associates need to be ready. “Our consumers today come in very well educated from researching products online,” said Wendy Werner, president of Carpet Town in Milwaukee. “Therefore, our sales associates need to be more informed and educated on products than ever before, and they need to be technologically savvy as well.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 10.54.41 AMOther dealers tend to agree. Kevin Arscott, president of Floor Trends in Ontario, Canada, also pointed to technology and a shifting consumer demographic as the key drivers for helping RSAs develop their selling skills. Like Werner, he believes better-educated shoppers are looking for more professional and technological sales associates. To meet those expectations, Arscott and his team have focused on developing and improving education for showroom employees to keep sales associates up to date. “In recent years we’ve set up an internal training process that did not previously exist,” he explained. “Our salespeople have come a long way thanks to that training.”

While several industry associations offer members training opportunities in this area, independent retailers say the onus is on the business owners to educate their employees on how to engage with customers. “Sales associates today have to show the consumer their knowledge, understanding and yet have true confidence in what they are selling,” Werner said. “If they don’t, customers will go elsewhere. With online shopping available, sales associates need to be more astute and aware of the consumer’s needs and be able to build solid relationships with trust and personal service—things the customer cannot get from an online experience.”

Connecting on a personal level. The research phase of today’s consumer experience doesn’t stop at product specs. Rather, customers are interested in having in-depth conversations around installation methods, design and in some cases sustainability. From online design platforms and social media forums to the growing popularity of home improvement/remodeling shows on cable television, there are countless opportunities for consumers to obtain information on floor coverings and home furnishings. For these reasons, many showrooms are seeing a shift in the demographics and expectations of their sales teams as well.

“We’re almost 100% residential replacement, and our clients need design assistance and a lot of ‘hand holding,’” said Elisabeth Stubbs, owner of Marietta, Ga.-based Enhance Floors & More, which employs a high percentage of women on the showroom floor. “Females tend to be better at this.”

Other retailers are seeing demographic shifts as well, not only in terms of gender but also age. While the sales associates at Floor Trends have remained mostly male, Arscott noted the average age of his team has decreased significantly. “Fifteen years ago our salespeople would have been 75% males over the age of 40,” he explained. “Today our male associates still outweigh our females, but the age mix has changed to more than 50% of the entire team being in their 20s and 30s.”

With that shift, Arscott noted more new staff members are coming into the role from other industries, which he says has been a plus. Werner agreed, citing the advantages of bringing in people with sales experience outside the flooring industry. She noted it’s more important than ever for salespeople to have an overall design awareness. “Consumers come in with definite design ideas and visuals they’ve seen on TV, Houzz or Pinterest, for example,” she said. Environmental consciousness is also a factor in the way consumers shop and the products they select. As Werner notes, “Millennials have increased ecological and environmental [awareness]. Sales associates need to be aware of and comfortable with these same tools and concepts. For example, they need to know which products positively affect indoor air quality by reducing allergens and off gassing.”

Bottom line: The more educated, experienced and knowledgeable the sales rep, the better equipped she will be in addressing the consumer’s specific questions and needs. “At the end of the day it’s still all about customer service,” Stubbs explained. “The person who measures the job has to have extensive installation knowledge, and the sales rep on the showroom floor has to have great skills in assisting the client in selecting the right product out of thousands of choices. I find these skills are very, very different and continue to evolve.”

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Wood: Not so made in America

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15

Mystery shopping exercise reveals RSAs don’t always properly identify product origins

By Reginald Tucker

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-4-11-50-pmMuch has been made about the “Made in the USA” slogan in recent years, particularly as it applies to big-ticket items such as automobiles, appliances and, yes, even hardwood flooring products. While it has served as a rallying cry for those who support domestic sourcing and manufacturing, it can (and has) backfired when products claimed by some retail sales associates to be made in America turned out to be produced elsewhere.

Several such instances were exposed when representatives of American OEM conducted a series of “mystery shopper” exercises whereby they asked retail sales associates in select stores to confirm the origin of particular hardwood flooring products that were on display on the showroom floor. In more than a few cases, American OEM representatives report, salespeople did not properly identify the products’ origins when asked by the mystery shoppers.

Allie Finkell, vice president of American OEM, explained how the program began. “Earlier this year one of our team members who was on vacation ended up stopping at a bunch of retail stores up north. He gave the sales rep specific information in terms of what he wanted as far as specifications, style, color, etc. More importantly, he told the rep he wanted a product that was made in America. He was just trying to see if the rep would take him to a private-label brand that was manufactured by American OEM, knowing pretty much that was the only product in the rack that fit the bill.”

What the American OEM mystery shopper found, however, was either the salesperson had no idea where the hardwood flooring was made or he was simply incorrect. While Finkell realizes it’s hard for salespeople to know everything about every product in the store—including where they are made—she feels there ought to be systems in place whereby consumers can readily discern between flooring manufactured within the U.S. or outside the country prior to making a purchasing decision.

“With many consumer goods, especially clothing or seafood at the supermarket, for example, you can look at the tag or the label and see where it’s made. Then you can make a choice if that’s important to you or not. There’s so much transparency happening in virtually every other consumer category at the point of sale. But when it comes to flooring, we have so much imported product that’s coming over and some of it is being marketed with misleading information with American or U.S. sounding names.”

One of the main problems, Finkell says, is there’s no regulation in terms of labeling hardwood flooring products at the point of sale; you only have to put the country of origin on the box itself. Problem is, by the time the customer sees the box she has more than likely already made her decision. “In many cases she doesn’t even see the box in which the materials are shipped because the product usually gets installed before she comes home,” she noted.

While leading industry trade groups such as the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) do not have authoritative powers with respect to enforcement of claims regarding country of origin (that burden falls on the Federal Trade Commission), groups are working to set standards regarding “responsible” sourcing. Such is the case with NWFA’s Responsible Procurement Program, which was developed to ensure member companies observe guidelines pertaining to the environmentally friendly harvesting procedures. The program is a joint initiative between leading environmental groups and wood flooring manufacturers committed to producing products obtained from environmentally and socially responsible sources.

However, this program is voluntary and—while well-intentioned—lacks the regulatory “teeth” that federal mandates might carry.

Other industry groups have been known to take a much more fierce stance in this regard. For instance, Finkell cited the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA), which was created in 1898 to establish a uniform system of grading rules for the measurement and inspection of hardwood lumber. Over time, NHLA’s purview has been expanded beyond hardwood lumber grading. Today it is the world’s largest and oldest hardwood industry association, representing more than 1,200 companies and one million hardwood families that produce, use and sell North American hardwood lumber or provide equipment, supplies or services to the hardwood industry.

NWFA, for its part, is working with retailers on the education front as opposed to serving the role of “enforcer.” As Anita Howard, COO, explains: “NWFA does offer retail sales training for wood flooring professionals, both in person and through our online courses through NWFA University. Some of the courses specifically discuss the regulations regarding chain of custody reporting, so this issue is definitely one we address through our training programs. It provides teams with consistent messages that help them steer their customers toward the right products. We also participate regularly at shows like CCA, Flooring America and ProSource to provide education and training on a larger scale.”

 

A matter of choice
Even those who advocate domestic manufacturing and the proper identification of products and species at the point of sale realize it’s not an issue that’s top of mind for many consumers. As Finkell points out, “Some people might not care where it comes from—maybe they just want the best price or a certain look. But for those consumers who do care about where it’s made, they ought to be able to get the most accurate information and a straight answer at the point of sale.”

For some consumers it is an important issue. And it’s one that manufacturers are sensitive to. Mohawk, for instance, believes the Made in the USA label means more today than it ever has with all the press on the various environmental issues. To that end, the company has people in place to ensure all facets of its hardwood production—including everything from finishes to adhesives—are in compliance.

“The majority of our manufacturing is in the United States, but we also have a large presence in Europe,” said Gary Lanser, president of Mohawk’s wood and laminate business. “Obviously there are many advantages to our customers and ourselves in purchasing and supplying domestically produced products. Clearly there’s the speed of supply and excellent service.”

Other major hardwood flooring suppliers share that philosophy, emphasizing the importance of properly sourcing raw materials and complying with environmental regulations. At Shaw Floors, for instance, the aim is to go beyond standards required by law to pursue independent, third-party assessments such as Cradle to Cradle, Greenguard, FloorScore and others. Shaw says it carefully considers the impact of its products on the environment and on society throughout their life cycle. More importantly, it examines the ingredient materials, the impact of its supply chain, the use of natural resources and the ability to recover and recycle its products.

While Shaw manufactures many of its own products and sources from strategic partners in the U.S. and internationally, the company takes “numerous steps to verify that its products, regardless of where or by whom they are manufactured, meet customers’ high expectations. These steps include: performing manufacturing site inspections to ensure suppliers meet the same high-quality standards the company practices internally; setting raw material specifications that restrict the use of certain chemical substances of concern; and ensuring all products meet the relevant indoor air emissions requirements,” according to a statement.

 

 

 

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Training the workforce of tomorrow

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15

In this Internet age, successful RSAs need to understand the language of lead generation

By Danielle Brooks

sales-futureToday’s retail floor covering salespeople require different competencies and skills compared to 15, 20 or even 30 years ago. While the core fundamentals of selling skills and customer service are still relevant, a change in the way consumers research and shop for floor coverings has forced store owners to adapt accordingly.

A big driver behind that change is technology. Thanks to Internet sites, online product reviews and social media, consumers are armed with a wealth of information (and sometimes misinformation). This represents a dramatic departure from, say, 15-20 years ago, when Mrs. Consumer was more likely to stop at several stores prior to making a purchase. This not only means fewer face-to-face interactions during the research phase of the shopping cycle, but it also requires RSAs to be better prepared to provide additional information and guidance to the consumer as they work toward closing the sale.

So, how are retailers ensuring that their staff is equipped with the necessary skills to gravitate from the online checkout to the in-store checkout? For many retailers, it all goes back to recruiting and training.

“As a company we understand the average consumer probably spends at least three times as much time online as they do in our stores, so when they come in, it’s a different shopping experience, especially with the millennials,” said Tom Heffner, owner of All About Floors, Birdsboro, Pa. “It has changed so that when they come in they already have the basic knowledge of the product when they hit our doors.”

workforce-of-tomorrow-picWhile All About Floors employs seasoned, experienced salespeople, management strives to continue to develop their representatives in order to adapt to emerging market sectors and demographic groups, millennials included. The key, according to Heffner, lies in relating to the shopper. “I think the real answer is to sell based on fashion, because I don’t think that’s ever going to go away,” Heffner explained. “I think some people lose track of that sometimes.” Heffner cites recent data showing millennials represent the single-largest group of floor covering purchasers in the marketplace today. Although they may have delayed the purchase of houses, they are planning to buy. To that end, All About Floors is currently looking at online purchasing metrics and other options to target and capture millennials’ disposal dollars. One effective approach entails working closely with manufacturers (Mohawk, in this case) to convert online shoppers into bona fide leads. The company utilizes consumer websites and reviews, search engine marketing and behavioral targeting campaigns to deliver these high-value leads to retail partners. Having salespeople who fully understand this process, retailers say, makes all the difference in moving the sales process toward a successful completion.

Hence the reason why some dealers emphasize the basics when coaching salespeople. “There is a fine line between having knowledge and proper knowledge,” said Winston Whitehead, owner of Sterling Carpet Shops in Sterling, Va. When coaching his staff, he finds one-on-one training sessions to be the most effective. “This is why it is important to continue to have the face-to-face discussions, to ask questions, identify what a customer is in the market for and what their expectations are.”

In an ideal world, store owners hope to develop retail sales associates who can demonstrate a wide range of selling skills. This way, they are equipped to handle the traditional consumer and the modern customer alike.

“Customers are enlightened to the quality of goods and services but are still visiting the showrooms to buy,” said Bill Zeigler, co-owner of Charles F. Zeigler & Sons in Hanover, Pa. “Consumers want to view the product, touch it and see it in use. This is increasingly important when hiring new staff as the individual must be up to date on new technology and ways to integrate that into marketing and sales to create a modern sales manager.”

This creates both a challenge and an opportunity for retailers to equip their staff with the necessary skills to transition consumers from the online to in-store shopping experience. Consumers demand both, the best value and personalized service. With the many options available for customized training and educational development—be they workshops, seminars, online training or utilizing lead-generation techniques—retailers have a variety of tools at their disposal. Industry associations are doing their part as well. The World Floor Covering Association offers a wide range of opportunities for educational development incorporating regional camps and seminars, plus more than 40 online training modules that encompass areas such as back office management, leadership sales training and installation training.

 

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Dear David: Is training really a good investment?

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

By David Romano

Dear David:
Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.15.31 PMI am having such a hard time when it comes to training my staff. I know everyone needs training, but how do I justify the investment? And if I send someone off to training, who is going to help with customers?  

Dear Short-Term Focused Owner,
When thinking how to properly answer your email I was reminded of something I learned when training to teach DISC. During training I learned I am a high D/I personality type and my blind spot is short-term solutions cause long-term problems. What you described is a mirror image of my issue. The idea that it’s impossible to send people to training because it will put strain on you or the rest of your staff only prolongs your potential to have a really motivated and productive staff. Wondering if you can afford to send someone to training because cash flow is too tight only prolongs the potential of producing more cash because your staff is more effective.

The worst decision you can make is to not send someone to training when there is a chance that performance can be improved long term. Also, owners and managers need just as much, if not more, training than sales staff. Missing out on those opportunities because you and/or your management staff are too busy only prolongs the potential of generating more profit, reducing employee turnover and providing the support to improving customer service.

Here is some simple math to help you understand the effects a good training course can have on your company’s sales. Let’s assume:

  • Close rate prior to sending a sales associate to training = 35%
  • Average transaction prior to sending sales associate to training = $2,000
  • Average annual written sales volume = $650,000

During a class your associate spent three days being exposed to how to identify the customer’s needs, build rapport, sell to multiple personality types, sell upgrades and add-ons, and learned the best way to close a customer and effective methods to counter negotiation tactics. Could their close rate go from 35% to 38.5%? Could their average transaction go from $2,000 to $2,200? If you’re thinking yes, that represents a 20% increase in performance.

With those results, one sale associate who attended a training class would go from $650,000 to $780,000. Multiply those results by the number of staff that attended the training and the results are exponentially greater. Let’s take it one step further:

  • $780,000 (increased volume) – $650,000 (original volume) = $130,000
  • $130,000 @ 35% gross profit = $45,500 in profit dollars
  • $130,000 @ 9% commission = $11,700
  • $45,500 – $11,700 = $33,800 gain

There is no training on the market that costs more than $33,800. The only question left is of what training should you take advantage?

The WFCA University has an online training platform that consists of 45 modules for every facet of your business. The WFCA University also has five live camps for sales managers looking to improve their management skills, an inside sales camp for rookies or those who have lost focus, an outside sales camp for owners looking to quickly grow their sales volume, and a camp for owners interested in networking with peers.

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Shaw announces winner of CTS Awesome Dream Car Giveaway

160302 - CTS Giveaway 20Dalton—Nothing says “awesome” like receiving a free Cadillac CTS luxury sedan. And that’s exactly what happened recently for one Colorado flooring retail sales associate upon winning Shaw’s Capture The Spirit Awesome Dream Car Giveaway.

Capture The Spirit (CTS) is Shaw’s industry-leading rewards program, designed specifically to incentivize floor covering retail sales associates to sell better-end Shaw flooring products. Last year, Shaw announced its plans to run a year long, nationwide CTS Awesome Dream Car Giveaway promotion with the winner promised a Cadillac CTS sedan. Thousands entered, hundreds qualified to win but only one RSA walked away with the luxury vehicle: Josh Cooper from Denver-based flooring retailer Carpet Exchange.

“I was so shocked to win,” Cooper said. “This experience was one of the biggest surprises of my life. I thank everyone at Shaw Floors for giving me all the tools I need to succeed in my business. Winning this promotion really shows that hard work pays off and I want to thank Shaw for being a great partner.”

Aaron John, Director of Shaw Flooring Network and Retail Programs, said, “We couldn’t be happier for Josh. He is an amazingly talented retail sales associate who continuously strives to better serve the consumer. By actively participating in our [CTS] platform, Josh and hundreds of retailers just like him have honed their craft and have been lucratively rewarded for their efforts. We invite all RSAs to sign up for Shaw’s CTS program and start earning money for selling products they already know and trust.”

Shaw’s Capture The Spirit rewards program was created in 1998, making it one of the oldest and most respected loyalty programs in the industry.

To see Josh’s surprise reaction to winning the CTS Awesome Dream Car Giveaway, visit www.shawcts.com/giveaway.

To learn more about or sign up for Shaw’s industry leading rewards program, Capture The Spirit, visit www.shawcts.com.