January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14
By Jenna Lippin
In an effort to revitalize the industry’s interest in cork flooring options, USFloors launched a cork certification training program in the summer of 2014. To help continue the momentum the category has gained, USFloors will continue to host educational trainings for both its sales associates and dealer partners throughout 2015.
“The goal was to reinvigorate and reenergize interest in cork,” said Gary Keeble, product and marketing manager. “One of the obstacles that’s most difficult to address, partially because of turnover, is the retail salesperson on the frontline selling the consumer having a strong comfort level with cork as a flooring choice. It’s human nature to gravitate away from things you don’t understand, especially in a selling situation where you want to be successful. [RSAs] will move toward products they have confidence in selling because they know features, benefits, proper application, etc.”
In order to educate and certify retail sales associates, USFloors has sought to educate its sales force first. In the summer of 2014 the company took its sales reps to Portugal, the largest producer of cork in the world, to learn about its harvesting, processing and manufacturing of cork-based products.
Once they fully understand the life of cork, USFloors associates offer cork certification training to retail salespeople through three educational modules. First is the “Nature of Cork,” providing information about the harvest, what cork means from a sustainability standpoint, its socioeconomic implications for regions in Portugal, the various industries that use cork (other than flooring) and more.
The second module introduces the various USFloors Natural Cork product collections and their features, benefits and performance attributes. This portion is specific to USFloors and why its products outperform other cork flooring options. It also addresses why cork makes sense in certain rooms and installations vs. other flooring types.
The third and final step meets the RSA on the store level, explaining how to sell cork based on different types of consumers, and what they may be looking for according to certain criteria such as lifestyle. To help educate in this module, USFloors has created pocket guides that act as “cheat sheets” for retailers, allowing them to keep something on hand with the guidelines and tips for selling cork. The guides specifically address how to sell cork for different room applications and how to debunk cork myths and misconceptions, like the belief that cork absorbs water.
To date, USFloors has certified over 3,000 retail sales associates, called Certified Natural Cork Specialists. Once certified, retail locations receive a certification kit—delivered by a USFloors rep—that includes a door decal that identifies the store as a Certified Natural Cork Retailer, certificates for the store and certified retail salespeople, cork magnets, a cork dealer manual and additional pocket guides for future salespeople to use as reference.
“The certification program opens your eyes to more possibilities with cork and presents a selling opportunity for us, but also, at the very least, it allows retail sales associates to know how to sell cork,” Keeble noted. “If a customer asks questions, they can provide service with confidence.”