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Home Articles Selling the Why to Flooring Customers

Selling the Why to Flooring Customers

By Paul Pleshek, NAFCT


When I was 12 or 13 years old, we had an appliance repairman come to fix our washer. I clearly remember my mom telling them not to send a specific person because he didn’t know what he was talking about I asked her why she didn’t want that person to fix our washer and she said she just didn’t believe him the last time he was there. Fact of the matter: the repair person had lost all credibility. She just didn’t trust him and as a result we ended up hiring a different company.

Some 40 years later that experience has still stuck with me. Once I started working it worried me that I would be asked questions that I couldn’t answer. From working at Stein Garden Centers to The Good Housekeeping Shop (yes, I spent years working at an appliance shop fixing washers) to owning my own businesses I have been a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge and information I could get.

What I really learned from those experiences is I had to sell the why. We live in a world of skeptics. Everyone has been ripped off at some point and it leaves us cynical. When you go into a job and give a quote on subfloor prep the customer hears, “I want to talk to you about extending your new car warranty” and says, “You are just trying to upsell me.” What they are really saying is “I don’t understand why this must be done and I am afraid of paying for something I don’t need.”

This is the exact point where you can prove to them you are the right professional for the job. Unfortunately, too often, this is where conflict starts. Your brain starts telling you they just insulted you, disrespected you and questioned your integrity. What you just heard is, “YOU ARE TRYING TO RIP ME OFF!” What you should have heard is, “I don’t understand; can you explain?” This is the exact moment you should look forward to.

Right here, right now you have a chance to brag about how much you know, how professional you are and why you are the only person who should be installing this floor. But do you have the patience, experience and education to sell the why? Over time this became my favorite moment in every customer interaction, to the point I was a little disappointed when I handed them a quote and they said, “Looks good. Let’s do it” without any convincing.

Respect is earned, not given. Same with credibility. Answering the why in a clear, concise way is where you earn your credibility. Simply saying, “Because that is what the instructions say” doesn’t earn credibility. It is a good place to start but you must be able to explain the process, testing, materials and the cost of failure.

The why on a concrete slab involves explaining the porous nature of concrete, how vapor passes through the slab and condenses, leaving water between the flooring and subfloor. Explain proper testing to determine if the moisture levels in the slab are acceptable for the floor they want installed. Discuss test results and, when applicable, which moisture mitigation system you are recommending and why it is the best solution for this application. And finally, explain what happens if the recommended process isn’t followed. Discuss how left unaddressed, the water between the flooring and subfloor causes adhesive degradation, mold problems, plasticizer migration, cupping, gaps or buckling. Explain if the flooring fails, the only way to fix improper subfloor prep is to tear it out and start over. (You think it is expensive replacing your floor once—try doing it twice.) Finally, when all else fails, explain if the installation is not in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and industry standards you, as the installer, would be held responsible for the failures.

Every one of these explanations should include references to industry standards. Even manufacturers’ instructions are based on industry standards including statements like:

“All concrete substrates should be tested for IRH (Internal Relative Humidity) according to ASTM F-2170,” “Calcium Chloride tests may be conducted in addition to IRH and must be performed per the latest edition of ASTM F 1869” or “New and existing concrete subfloors should meet the guidelines of the latest edition of ACI 302 AND ASTM F 710.”

Your recommendations are not based on your opinion. They are based on required industry standards like ASTM, ANSI, NWFA Installation Standards, CRI Carpet Installation Standards, etc. Get to the point where you can quote specific sections. Being able to say to a customer, “ASTM F-2170 states…” tells them you don’t just have answers, you have specific references.

Businesses in every industry invest billions in telling consumers why they should buy their product or trust their company. Examples are CNN’s slogan “The most trusted name in news,” while Fox News had “Most watched—Most trusted”. What they are selling is credibility and saying you can believe what they say.

When you can clearly explain not just how you are going to install the floor, but why it must be done a particular way, then and only then does the customer understand you are a professional flooring mechanic, not a telemarketer selling an extended warranty.

Selling the why is where you get your credibility. Every time a customer says, “I got a cheaper price” or “You’re just trying to upsell me on floor prep,” you have failed to explain the why and you are in clear and present danger of losing credibility. Put on your teacher hat and start to educate the customer. Some will listen; some won’t. Either way they will remember it. And when that lower bid is a complete failure, you will get the call—and repairs always cost more than doing it right the first time.

Paul Pleshek
Paul Pleshek

About the Author: Paul Pleshek has 31 years of experience in the flooring industry. He has served on committees for the FCICA, NWFA, CFI and IICRC and served as a director for the IICRC. Paul is also a founder and executive director of the National Association of Floor Covering Technicians (NAFCT), a non-profit trade association involved in the training and certification of professionals in the flooring industry. NAFCT also works to involve members on industry standard committees like ASTM and ANSI, and promotes certified installers to retailers, manufacturers and consumers.


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