First and goal

John Wolfe has been a Matco dealer for more than 20 years. Every year since 1995, this Plainfield, Ill. tool dealer has achieved the company’s Top 150 Distributor Award, often finishing in the number 20 spot, or number 14, or number 6. Now for four...

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“I was naive; I took a lot of money out of the business.” But he was still attracted by the advantages of self employment, and that finally motivated him to do what needed to be done.

When asked what advice he would offer to someone struggling after only a few years in the business, the first thing John said was “Be careful how you spend your time.”

‘Cultivating’ a customer base

One of the most important things a distributor can do is to pay attention to how he’s running his route, making sure it’s being done efficiently. John drives only about 300 miles a week, but he still visits about 300 customers. John stops at a variety of shops, including mom-and-pop shops, large chain shops, one car dealership, some heavy truck shops and two small airports.

He also says you “can’t stay away from a place just because there’s a lot of turnover. Go where the money is, don’t be afraid of it.” That said, it’s also important to “prospect at shops that offer promise; don’t spend time where you’re not succeeding.”

And how does he handle those customers once he’s working with them?

John advises it’s important “letting customers know you care about your business.” He does this by making up his own fliers and his own contests for customers. “Do things over and above just showing up regularly, because people appreciate those things.”

Patience is also important. John says he thinks of a tool territory “like a farmer’s field: it takes cultivation, it doesn’t happen in one season. Some territories are better cultivated than others, but they can all be brought around. It just takes time.”

Goals, personal responsibility, time management: concepts that are familiar to anyone who drives a sales route for a living. They’re also part of a balancing act that needs to be adjusted from time to time, and to some people, that’s the art in selling. Some of John Wolfe’s art hangs on the wall of his tool truck, in the form of four Number One Nationwide medals.



Top 5 Tools

  1. TOOLBOXES. (He had three on the truck – “I’ve got a lot more at home. If I could carry 10, I’d carry 10.”)
  2. 1/2” impact guns
  3. 3/8” and 1/4” air ratchets
  4. 1/4" cordless impact gun
  5. Ratcheting wrenches



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