People love the rich, warm look of a real hardwood floor, and consumer research has found it remains the most desired flooring look for consumers. But the road to purchasing a hardwood floor can often contain disappointments for consumers, either because:

a) They realize it's out of their budget, or

b) They are told they can't have hardwood flooring because they live on a slab.

Fortunately, today there are more options than ever before in the flooring industry, with products that can better withstand moisture—whether it's coming from below the floor or from spills above it—and can also work within a tighter budget. But with all of those options available today, chances are the consumer won't know the benefits of different products or even know to ask for them. Because of this lack of understanding, it's important to make sure you and your sales associates are asking consumers the right questions.

Here are a few questions your sales associates should ask the consumer to help guide their flooring decision and ensure they have a lasting wood floor they love.

But first: reassure the consumer

The floor shopping experience can be overwhelming. There are so many types of flooring and so many options, there's no way consumers can know everything they need to know, and there is often an intimidation factor. Many consumers may want wood but believe it won't fit their budget or location. In those cases, I think the first thing to do is to confirm that there's nothing more beautiful than a wood floor, then explain that even if a solid floor isn't suitable for their home, innovations in today's engineered flooring can make wood flooring an option.

What kind of lifestyle will you have on this floor?

Installing a wood floor and discovering it can't hold up to the everyday lifestyle of the consumer is a huge disappointment, so it's important to know up front exactly what the room's function will be. How much entertaining will they do on that floor? Do they have children or pets? A piano-smooth floor doesn't provide much opportunity to hide "life," so if you find out that the shopper has three toddlers, two dogs and is pretty active, you should probably make the recommendation that they aim for as much surface texture as they can allow.

Will the floor be located near any high-moisture areas?

We don't always think about moisture in our homes unless we're dealing with mildew or dehumidification issues, so many times there's more moisture present than the consumer realizes. Does the floor need to go over a slab with limited allowance for height differences? Will it be in an area that tends to be exposed to higher moisture levels? Today, we're lucky that we have engineered hardwood that performs where moisture is, so consumers can get the beautiful, authentic wood look they desire in areas where solid hardwood might not function as well.

How long do you plan on living with this floor?

Salespeople need to determine how long the floor will be in the consumer's life. If the consumers plan on living in this house for only another few years, they may not need to invest as much financially to get the look and performance they are looking for. I do not think you are down-selling the consumer when you take them to a product other than a solid hardwood floor. As retailers, we want to make the big sale, for sure, but what we really want are satisfied consumers who trust us and spread positive word-of-mouth to everyone they know—and to have them as repeat shoppers.

Buying a wood floor is a substantial investment, and consumers don't want to be scared about the process. Help them be confident in their decision by reassuring them that with today's myriad options, there's always an answer—they're going to get a wood floor they will be completely satisfied with. No matter which type of wood floor they choose, it's all about the beauty and all about the "brag factor" of showing off this beautiful product.

Kathy Young is vice president of marketing for Dalton, Ga.-based USFloors and COREtec. She is a 30-year industry veteran and has worked in all facets of marketing.