Frustrations in Selling Floor Finish ? !

Janitorial sales reps have stopped “selling” floor finish to their customers, and the floor finish product category has almost become as much of a commodity as toilet paper, where the lowest price wins, or the guy with the strongest customer relationships just automatically gets the annual floor finish order.   When was the last time you had a in-depth conversation with your customers about their floor maintenance programs?

Does floor care have to be low margin and poor performance?

I find most sales reps today simply accept the fact it has become a low margin product category, and thus aren’t going to spend time focusing on it, as they perceive there is no way to build value.  I even spoke with one distributor in the past year, who has decided to not sell floor finish at all, as they feel there is very little profit in relation to the effort needed to sell floor finishes.    As a result of customer attitudes and ‘price only’ buying habits, and the low margins associated with floor finish, many of us within our industry have stopped discussing floor maintenance strategies and products with their customers.  

A floor maintenance program should achieve 2 goals:  #1- make the building look great with a high shine & clean appearance.   #2- protect the flooring surface and extend the life of this important building asset.   Everyone feels they have the best strategies to achieve the highest results towards those objectives, but in reality what works for one facility may not be appropriate for another.   Often times the effectiveness of a custodial staff is based completely on how high the gloss is on the hallway floors, and yet surprisingly it is often where many custodial managers fail.  

The product costs of maintaining floors is still one of the largest expenditures within a custodial department, and over 60% of the labor associated with cleaning activities is dedicated to floor care.   A shine on the floor usually makes everyone happy, and is an indication of much hard work, dedication, and they take pride in the results.   Regardless, despite the need to have and maintain bright shine and clean floors many facilities fail in their efforts, and this is where there is opportunity for both custodial management and distribution sales consultants.   

With new chemical technology, and new cleaning tools and equipment, leading to new maintenance strategies, the opportunity to educate and offer customers total cost reduction solutions is greater than ever before.  Unfortunately, many within the cleaning trades industry are still stuck in the dark ages, and maintaining floors like we did over 20 years ago.   Don’t you love it when a customer still refers to his floor finish as a "wax”?    Paraffin bases have not been used in floor finish products since the 70’s!   

The biggest impact you can make on a customer’s budget is to focus on their floor care program.  What are they doing, why are they doing it, and what results are they getting?   Are there cost saving alternative strategies, which can also improve results, which you can offer your customers?  

Cost Savings Strategies

Some suggestions for alternative floor maintenance strategies may be:
▪    Using flat mop finish applicators, which can reduce finish consumption by 50%, and reduce labor associated with apply finish by over 50%.
▪    Top-scrub and re-coat maintenance vs total strip-outs of finish can save 70% in labor and materials over a 4 year period.
▪    Apply the proper # of thin coats versus just piling on 7-8 heavy finish coats.
▪    Stop using sealer coats.  The floor finishes today are so hard and durable the use of Sealer finishes is not really necessary, and saves time when strip-outs are needed.
▪    Use the right finish for the floor location, and the daily maintenance of the floors.  For example: one type of finish for school classrooms, and another for the hallways.
▪    Pay special attention to flooring within 50’ of any exterior entrance, as this is the most difficult to maintain, and the most visible to staff and visitors.
▪    Use as much entrance matting as possible, particularly during winter months.
▪    Utilize micro-fiber dry and wet mop cleaning for their ability to remove fine soils from a floor, which is often what dulls a finish.
▪    Utilize auto-scrubbers when possible, and try to wet-mop with micro-fiber mops every day in the most difficult areas.
▪    Burnish and repair floors when they begin to loose their gloss.  (there are ways to do this cost-effectively)
▪    Use finish cleaner / restorer products to bring back the shine to a dull floor.

There is much to talk about, and much to explore with your customer’s floor care programs, because in my experience there is always room for improvement.   
On a recent floor finish demo/trial with a large building service contractor, they were using standard looped finish mops, and had never considered using a flat mop applicator.  I congratulated them on the lack of finish on the baseboards, and he shared how much labor is expended to get the finish off the baseboards.  I then shared how he would not need to worry about the extra labor if he used a flat mop applicator, and since labor is costly he began to see the value.   It all begins with observation and asking questions.

Stop being frustrated with low-margin floor finish business, challenge yourself and begin to have conversations today with your customers about their floor care programs.   You may be surprised at the value you can build by offering them cost saving solutions, which will have the greatest impact on their total cleaning budget.   

And, if you are a user of floor finish and manage floor care programs for your facility, and would be interested in exploring ways to reduce costs and improve floor care, please reach out to your supply representative for ideas. Email us at:

The Bullen Companies and it’s consultative sales team can assist any facility to develop a cost-effective floor care program.

Jack Collins, The Bullen Companies