October 13/20, 2014; Volume 28/Number 9
By Ken Ryan
Today’s consumer is arguably more informed about flooring than ever before, having spent considerable time researching products and categories online before even venturing into a store.
These changes require sales associates to be well trained and prepared. Individual dealers, buying groups and major manufacturers and distributors are all taking an active role in the training of RSAs. Following is a glimpse into what some entities are doing to boost their training efforts.
Carpet One Floor & Home University has introduced two new programs for members. The first is a collaborative effort with the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI), and the second is a new business consulting service.
The CFI tie-in is aimed at enhancing Carpet One Floor & Home’s installer training programs and certifications by giving members access to the best options available, ensuring that their installers are providing an optimal level of service.
In addition, Carpet One Retail Consulting Services gives storeowners access to experienced business coaches who provide analysis and assistance from qualified experts to help increase performance.
Bill Gauthier, director of training at CCA Global Partners, works predominately with Flooring America members. He estimated that 70% of Flooring America’s retail training is done online, which includes webinars. Another 20% is handled in the field, where retailers come to a location, and the remaining 10% consists of one-on-one in-store visits.
Flooring America offers programs for both novices and experienced RSAs. The group hosts an intensive five-day Fast Start Program for new employees, with the goal of achieving 90% proficiency in the curriculum. For sales pros, the three-day Re-Start Program is available to those who have been in the business for five years or longer and may require a refresher course.
“We want professionals to engage customers in the selling process and work with them to ensure that their needs are met,” Gauthier said.
The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) is in the midst of rolling out online training for salespeople, both beginners and veterans. In addition, the group offers training for installers on how they should conduct themselves while on the job.
WFCA training features more than 200 tutorials, many of them five- to eight-minute vignettes designed to stimulate conversation or reinforce lessons. Its training also touches on effective recruiting and hiring.
WFCA offers members a 50% payment toward Mohawk University or CCA training if they choose to participate in either program.
FEI uses the CCA Online University, which is a supplemental resource for FEI Group Members to ensure new hires are properly trained without breaking the bank.
The platform entails 12 PK courses, seven installation courses, three selling and service skills courses, and one three-hour course on color and design trends.
Each year, FloorExpo organizes a series of benchmarking workshops in which its members compare their own business practices to those of their peers. Attendees are given workbooks on key topics such as accounting, customer service, contingency planning, installation, technology, sales management and human resources.
Mohawk is recognized as one of the top corporations in America for training, which includes education programs for its dealer partners. According to Mike Zoellner, vice president of marketing services, nearly all of the company’s training 15 years ago was conducted inside a classroom. Today, almost everything is done online.
Zoellner said that the recession accelerated the change to a digital format. “The reality is you can have more effective training face-to-face, but it is very expensive compared to doing something online. You can have 200-300 people on a webinar and touch them all the time. Plus, they can watch this on demand.”
To keep up with the evolving online universe, Mohawk is aggressively looking at social media avenues to see which platform works best for certain retailers. For example, Pinterest is considered ideal in a retail segment such as flooring because it is very visual.
One traditional method Mohawk uses is its Comprehensive Flooring Sales Training program, run by Sam Allman. The four-day program for owners and RSAs includes a tour of a Mohawk carpet manufacturing facility, product knowledge seminars and examines the selling process and the customer’s new path to purchase, as well as buying patterns in today’s digital age.
In 2014, Shaw brought back one of its most popular programs, SALT (Shaw Academy for Leadership Training) Retail. This program provides an intensive leadership experience to help owners and managers become better leaders within their organizations. Shaw also offers individualized assessments to determine business needs and, therefore, what tools, training or executive coaching will be most valuable to each individual retailer.
Mobile and digital technology have made it easier for retailers and RSAs to take advantage of training, and for Shaw to ensure content is current. Shaw’s offerings include a mobile app for dealers, in addition to online training modules at no cost to the retailer. The company’s Capture the Spirit program provides incentives for RSAs to complete modules on an ongoing basis.