Education: Industry steps up training efforts for retail partners

Home Inside FCNews Education: Industry steps up training efforts for retail partners

Aug. 17/24; Volume 30/Number 5

By Ken Ryan

Industry executives dedicated to educating and training flooring dealers and their retail sales associates have all heard the refrain, “We don’t have the time.”

And yes, it is true: Retail training can be time consuming in addition to being costly.

The bottom line, however, is when it comes to a floor covering business—a dealer’s livelihood—it is imperative that he makes the time and invests the money. “Training costs money, but no training is unaffordable,” said Tom Jennings, vice president of member services, World Floor Covering Association (WFCA).

The good news is there is an abundance of useful and relevant training courses to help the independent flooring dealer. Following is a glimpse into what some groups and manufacturers are doing to enlighten sales forces.

Alliance Flooring

Ron Dunn, co-CEO of Alliance Flooring, the umbrella group of nearly 400 CarpetsPlus ColorTile members, said building a culture of training and continuous education starts at the top—so he travels by RV to visit with members each year.

At the end of each tour, Alliance puts together a book titled “Proven Ways” that encapsulates all the winning ideas and strategies of its members. “Everyone is good at something,” Dunn said. “Whether it is putting on an event, increasing productivity or sales, we want to know what people are doing that is working, and we want to share it.”

The organization also hosts a yearly summit in which members visit a retail member’s store to get an up-close, in-person look at how that specific store operates. “Our summit is training on steroids,” Dunn added. “At each one of these summits, there are at least five or six takeaways that our members can use effectively in their own businesses.”

CCA Global

At CCA University, a team of professionals teaches RSAs how to become trusted advisors by providing them with product knowledge, people skills and professional selling tips.

“At Carpet One, RSAs are called ‘floor and home consultants,’” said Sandra Wade, vice president, CCA University. “We train our Carpet One flooring consultants on our customer-centric selling system. We teach them how to provide an effortless shopping experience. We support their efforts with our Select-A-Floor selling system, exclusive brands and added-value services like our Healthier Living Installation System and our Beautiful Guarantee.”

CCA is rolling out a complete refresh of its successful Select-A-Floor selling system. This updated shopping experience is intended to make it easier for customers and flooring consultants to navigate the entire showroom and find the best product options. “While visually the system is very intuitive, we’re providing a robust training package that will help our members quickly get their teams up to speed,” Wade said. “The launch package includes videos, an online course and job aids, plus training sessions to help teams learn the details and incorporate the system into their sales processes.”

Another updated program is CCA’s benchmark Member Performance Report. This financial reporting system helps members assess where their stores may be leading or where opportunities exist for improvement in financial and operational performance.

Mobile technology has impacted the way CCA designs programs as well. Flooring consultants are taught how to integrate tools such as tablets while working with customers, but without detracting from the customer experience. “This past spring, our field training team went to over 21 locations around the country and conducted hands-on training workshops for Flooring America to show them how to effectively work in their iPad sales apps throughout the consulting process while keeping a high level of customer engagement and eye contact,” Wade explained. “Participants rated the program an average of 9.5 out of 10.”

FEI Group

As a CCA Global company, FEI Group members have access to CCA University. In addition, members participate in peer-to-peer workshops and other benchmarking courses that allow them to compare best practices on a range of operational, marketing and sales issues.

DesignEd is an online program for both consumers and FEI members that helps buyers prepare for their design appointments by describing the features, benefits and limitations of the various selections available to them. It also lists the requirements needed to maintain each flooring finish once product is installed. The ultimate goal is to enhance the design center experience. “Knowledge is power and the more the customer knows, the better her selection will be,” said Allison Rea, director of marketing, FEI.

The Home Solutions Builder Education program is a five-piece PowerPoint or keynote presentation that is used in a “lunch and learn” setting to educate builders on technical flooring issues and topics ranging from jobsite preparation to installation procedures and quality control.

Informa Exhibitions/The International Surface Event

The International Surface Event (TISE) in Las Vegas is the largest, most influential flooring trade show in the U.S.; it also quite possibly offers the most relevant educational sessions for dealers found anywhere.

Dubbed “Ignite,” topics for the 2016 education program include “Retailer forum: Share challenges and explore solutions”; “Exponential business growth: How retailers can maximize sales and minimize overhead”; “Navigating the top legal issues facing retailers—what you don’t know could hurt you”; “Growth strategies the big boxes don’t want you to know about” and “Insider secrets to finding high-impact sales training.”


“We focus on leads, leads and leads,” said Mike Zoellner, vice president of marketing services at Mohawk. The manufacturer also focuses on short training modules, which are typically in 10- and 20-minute clips but can be as long as 40 minutes for in-depth subjects.

Mohawk seeks to keep training up-to-date with the changing market. For example, well-trained RSAs are adept at face-to-face interviews, in which they can pick up on nuances such as body language. But what about telephone conversations? Or via text? “They are not necessarily good at telephone conversations, or know how to communicate via email and text, and today more appointments are made that way,” Zoellner said. Regarding text appointments, he recommends RSAs “say what you are going to say right up front, so the customer doesn’t have to scroll down.”

The company provides about 12 online modules that educate dealers on how to effectively use social media or respond to a lead on Facebook. “Right Click” takes a closer look at how social media marketing can benefit a dealer’s business. The webinar discusses best practices, how to create compelling content, social advertising, building a strategy and using social media to generate leads.

All of these tools can now be found at Mohawk University recently moved content there to give RSAs a one-stop experience.

Shaw Floors

Recognizing that individuals learn in various ways, Shaw is continually expanding its blended training offering, incorporating visual learning, online quizzes, podcasts and other tools so RSAs can expand their product and sales knowledge.

“The increased use of mobile devices in our personal and professional lives has led to an increased use of technology in our training as well,” said Lamar Starks, residential sales training manager, Shaw Floors. “Our aim is to provide a wide variety of options, including mobile-friendly platforms, to help ensure our customers have the opportunity to learn in the ways best suited for them.”

Shaw’s Total Business Transformation (TBT) program continues to receive praise from its dealer partners. TBT provides a customized approach to help retailers achieve their goals. “In essence, we provide an executive coach to support our customers in the areas of leadership, people management, strategy, vision and producing better results, as defined by them,” Starks said. “Dealers have seen their margins and sales increase as a result. Our needs assessment helps them define what is most important for their businesses. The solution could be a strategic planning workshop or series of workshops to initiate a culture change, to define success or to put an accountability plan in place. Or it could be as simple as providing tools for financial benchmarking.”


As a “non-denominational” educator, WFCA offers training and services to any flooring dealer, no matter his affiliation. New from WFCA is a seven-segment series titled “Beating the Box,” which covers everything the big boxes are doing—and not doing—and ways in which independents can capitalize off of such.

One takeaway from Michael Vickers’ presentation of “Beating the Box” is that “the sheer size and scope of the big boxes makes them less personal; being smaller and more focused gives you great opportunity. Focus on what you can control, the emotional connection with your customers and clearly demonstrate the value- added component of your business.”

WFCA is also offering a series on installation training for salespeople. Because many RSAs understand product but not the application, this course is intended to enlighten them on the critical installation phase. “Installation is an area in which you can certainly beat the boxes,” Jennings said.

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