A shot of Forbo linoleum with a custom logo. A Dave Stafford project, this one a retrofit for a middle school all-purpose meeting room and gym.

Do something exciting this week. Resolve to become an expert in commercial resilient products and their applications. If you do, I guarantee you will be setting yourself apart from 95% of your competition.

When Jerry was hired by a small retailer to sell and manage commercial projects, he had loads of experience in sales but very little in flooring. Within six months, he was selling the highest margin jobs in the company, and was an expert in resilient flooring. In fact, other sales personnel went to Jerry for help with their resilient jobs. How did Jerry so quickly build a consistent, high-profit sales record, and an unparalleled expertise in products and installation?

First, he picked a range of products in which to specialize, and selected resilient as his best bet. During his initial time on the job, he overheard others trying to sell lower-quality loop carpet or VCT instead of other high-quality tile and sheet goods. Jerry figured if he could become an expert in how and where to properly install a complete range of vinyl, linoleum, rubber and specialty resilient, he could justify a higher price, which meant higher profit and more commission for him. He was separating himself from his competitors.

Every day was another opportunity to read, study and memorize the ways different products should be used. Which products should (or should not) be used in high moisture conditions? When did the brittle nature of a resilient product cause failure? Where was the soft, satin patina of rubber flooring a real advantage? What were the inherent advantages of linoleum? Slowly but surely he gained an encyclopedic knowledge of the products.

Then he spent time watching the best installers turn concept into reality. He also witnessed the aftermath of installation failure and the pain associated with take up of a freshly laid floor on sticky adhesive, and the expense of moisture remediation at company expense. (Don’t skip moisture testing!)  Jerry resolved to follow the technical directions for floor prep, exactly, after an adhesion problem with rubber flooring where pallet jacks were being used. As the mill’s technical director said to him, “Sanding with 40 grit paper is NOT the equivalent of shot-blasting.”

As Jerry began to sell more resilient jobs, he was noticed by mill reps and offered training on specialty items. He and his company were recommended to designers and potential clients for their expertise and installation prowess. Of course, Jerry had to learn about carpet, laminate, wood and ceramic; and he did it well, too. But he always carried his favorite resilient “bag of tricks” in his car:  Samples and pictures of linoleum, rubber, luxury vinyl, vinyl and VCT.  His philosophy was, “There’s always an opportunity to sell something in resilient.”

As Jerry found, there is more to life than selling VCT. I am not denigrating vinyl composition tile. These products will always have a part in your sample bag. Rather, you need to get up to speed with a variety of other specialty products like sheet vinyl, rubber, linoleum and luxury vinyl tile.

The advantages of resilient flooring are many since they can adopt a variety of looks. From a non-descript institutional pattern of stone pebbles like polished terrazzo flooring, to strip hardwood, today’s choice are only limited by your imagination.

VCT in a high school corridor, from another one of Dave Stafford’s projects. Build your own picture book of jobs to show clients and colleagues.

What are the advantages of resilient? Appearance, easy to clean, will withstand high soil conditions, tracked debris, and may be maintained with a dry mopping, a wet or damp mop and periodic scrubbing. Some floors require an acrylic floor finish and low or high-speed buffing or spray buffing for higher gloss. Others may not need anything except dust mopping, damp mopping, and for higher gloss, periodic buffing.

When packing your bag for a resilient presentation, I suggest you take along several price points and product designs. Also think about the various areas in question: Basic, upgrade, upscale or exotic. You probably will not put VCT in the lobby of most buildings; rather, an upscale commercially rated luxury vinyl tile, or perhaps linoleum or rubber sheet goods. Put on your designer hat and think about flair and style. A stunning design is possible through use of vivid, bright, eye-catching color; perhaps incorporate the company’s logo within the main entrance or as an introduction to specific building areas.

Then there are the specialty items. Maybe there is high-quality flooring needed in a clean room. Here’s a chance to use a chemical-welded or heat-welded sheet goods resilient product. Proper heat welding and flash-coving must be done by a well-trained and experienced installer. Some electronic manufacturing areas are about as sensitive as an operating room! A well-crafted, secure, flash-coved and heat welded resilient job allows for complete cleaning, in effect building a bathtub within an area where complete decontamination can be done. Whether in a healthcare or industrial setting, it is important to control contamination and reduce the chance of residual bacteria growth.

Questions you need to ask your client: What type of traffic will you experience? Moderate, heavy, or extremely heavy foot traffic or rolling traffic like pallet jacks. How will the floor will be maintained and who will do it? What about sound and noise control? How about substrate conditions, including MVER? What is the budget available for flooring?

Many a time, prospective clients will be eager for beautiful sheet goods with a sweeping blend of colors, only to realize that product prices and installation cost are well beyond their budget. Unfortunately, they then pick VCT, not understanding the maintenance cost of stripping, applying sealers, floor finishes and daily touch-ups that would have been avoided with other products. This is where (and why) your knowledge of resilient, and other likely flooring options, is so important. Help them realize their vision; everyone has one and you’ll beat your competition if you show them a way to get it with their budget.

What samples should you always take with you? A couple of boxes of VCT samples that provide a wide range of colors and visual texture options; a strap set of sheet vinyl; catalogues featuring an upscale range of rubber and linoleum with some smaller samples; a chip or strap set of luxury vinyl tile plus a picture book of scenes. Are there other things you can take? Of course, but as I’ve found, samples of resilient products are heavy. Be sure to put these in your vehicle, but select only a few for the presentation. Sometimes, just using room scenes will be a lot more productive than an actual sample. You can always refine color and texture.

Here’s an idea for you: Build your very own picture book of jobs that you’ve done with flooring; if you have a particularly great one, see if you can entice that client to become a reference for you and have him proudly show off the areas you’ve done.

Be like Jerry. Become an expert in resilient and watch your sales boom.