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Today Mike drives about 200 miles in a 5-1/2-day week to see 450 customers (240 are on the books). He says his average turn is seven weeks, and that skips are definitely an issue. “Vegas by its nature is a highly transient town (and) skips will be three to four times what they are in other areas of the country. (But) if you keep the percentage right, it’s not hard to deal with.”
Mike’s sales techniques are also influenced by his customers’ payment habits. “I tote-and-promote selectively. I’m a big believer, there’s no question that it will make sales for you, but (where I use it) will depend on a customer’s balance. Right now most of them are right where I want them.”
New or tried-and-true
In acknowledgement of his years in the business, we asked Mike about recent changes.
“Diagnostics has been one of the major changes in the tool business today. You can’t function without diagnostics.” Mike carries several scan tools from Launch and OTC, but “not the high-dollar ones,” only the basic models because they sell quickly. When it comes to the more expensive models, Mike makes sure he knows what the customer really needs before ordering the tool.
And the things that haven’t changed? “The basics…They expect you to show up regularly, take care of their problems, and if you do that you’re going to get business…You’re building long-range relationships. You want the guy buying from you today to be buying (from you) five years from now.”
In light of how the recent economic situation impacted his business, we asked Mike how he would know things are getting better. “By the mood of your customers. When they’re hopeful and optimistic, they’re freer with buying tools and making larger payments. If they’re scared or think they’re going to be laid off, you watch your own collections and sales go down. It’s pretty accurate.”
In fact Mike says he’s been watching those trends for years and feels it’s an accurate way to gauge the economy in almost real time. “If you want to know what the economy is like, tool men are a pretty good group of people to ask. The government is working with 120-day-old statistics, and sometimes they doctor that information. We’re out on the streets on a daily basis with working people. We can see what’s going on today.”
What’s happening in Mike’s business today is a result of experience, understanding the local economy, and an instinct for finding new customers. He considers himself a lucky man, but we think he’s winning purely on skill.