retail education: My Schlüter experience

June 03, 2013

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.

When I started in flooring, an average home was 90% carpet and, in most cases, 10% percent linoleum. Today those numbers are about 60% carpet and 40% hard surface, including vinyl, laminate, wood, tile and a few other categories. For me, a necessity to sell tile is simply keeping up with the times, as its market share is simply too big not to become a real player.

Making my weak point a strong point is the mission on which I’m currently working. A few years back, more customers started to ask about this new Schlüter system that was all over the home improvement channels and the Internet. While Schlüter is certainly not a new company, it was to me. Just the name itself sounded complicated.

And, truth be told, I started selling the Dietra (another strange name) uncoupling membrane mostly to do-it-yourself customers who had studied the substrate instruction films online. Or, when I faced a complicated application, I would turn it over to Tom at the store who understood the Schlüter lines better than I.

The fact was I refused to sell a product with which I was not knowledgeable. But at one point the Schlüter requests were far too many for me to keep handing over to Tom. So, when the opportunity came for me to take the Schlüter two-and-a-half day class just outside of Reno, Nev., I jumped at the chance.

Classroom: Old to new

The class trainer was Andrew “Andy” Acker, Schlüter’s manager of education and training. As a flooring educator myself, I could not have been more impressed with Andy. But I think what helped the most is he did not start out just pushing and educating on Schlüter products.

Instead, he started by giving a history of ceramic and stone tile installation methods. As an educator I know the best way to describe advancement is to explain the past.

This class generally holds about 30 to 50 people. The class I was in was mostly tile setters and store owners—most of whom had a strong history in tile installation and sales that far eclipsed mine.

For once in my career I was the most ignorant person in the flooring class. As the person who is normally training the group, I found it refreshing.

The good part about being a newcomer was I was a fresh slate with no mental blocks to the newest inventions and better methods that Schlüter’s systems had to offer. You might say I understood sooner what was being taught than the real old-timers because they were possibly a bit stuck on the old methods.

To use a correlation, I felt like a kid of today who just saw an old black and white television set for the first time. Kind of like how kids today have a quick grasp of high definition and wireless devices while I still have not learned how to text message. But understanding the old methods of drainage, building shower pans, and water proofing floors and walls was a real eye opener. The time required and the use of heavy materials seemed to make the old methods scream to be modernized.

The visionary/inventor

Any time I study a product or product line, I like to learn the history and reasoning of the inventor. In this case, I learned there is an actual Mr. Schlüter; Werner Schlüter to be exact— and he is still alive and well today.

I guess there would have to be someone named Schlüter; why else would you put that confusing (German) Schlüter name or your U.S. lines? If I had Werner’s mind and visionary capabilities I’d certainly put my name on products as well. But I guess Kramer (also German) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Schlüter started out in the heritage of the old German craftsmen who actually had to learn a trade before they were allowed to go out on their own. As he progressed in tile and masonry, Schlüter started to see better ways to do things.

It reminds me of the man from Dyson vacuums; he lives to invent better ideas. I think he enjoys the inventing more than the money he makes from it. What a great life that must be. In fact, after my education on Schlüter’s systems, I think its tag line should be: “Quality and style by understanding a better way.”

This is starting to sound like an advertorial, but I always bring my readers what I think are easier, smarter products to sell. After my eye-opening class and hands-on installation of the products, I can say I’m all in.

When you feel just how little the Schlüter products weigh; how easy and less time-consuming the installations; the perfect water/vapor tight system, and the strength and aesthetic appeal of the transition and profile metals, you’ll want to get rid of that old black and white TV.

Again, my thanks to Andy Acker, a shout-out to the world’s fastest demonstration tile systems instructors, and an ap-plause for Zach Paulson for a highly educational and eye-opening trip.

Schlüter classes are held at its national training centers. It also takes the show on the road and may come to a town near you. For info on classes, call 800.472.4588 and ask for the training department.

One last plug for Schlüter came to me from an installer I met in class. He said, “I’ve been installing Schlüter systems for years and I’m just starting to understand the big payoff—no call backs.”

Thanks for reading.

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