The first time I stepped onto a tool truck, I was at the beginning of my career and the tool man was near the end of his. I remember him as a white-haired, easy-going gentleman who showed me tools I would need as I gained experience and, presumably, a credit history. He must have asked how I got into the business, because during that first visit we figured out that early in his career he had sold tools to my grandfather. That’s a connection I’ll never forget, especially since it started a warm relationship that, unfortunately, was cut short by his retirement.
The last tool truck I visited was last month. This time the tool man was less than two years into his career, and I was the one with gray hair. I knew exactly which tools I wanted, and I had a credit card, so it was a quick and pleasant transaction. But we met far from my home, so there won’t be a relationship here either. Still, I have no doubt he would take good care of me as a customer. Why?
Every tool distributor I’ve met, from thirty-year veterans to the new guys, has talked about relationships. The company name on the truck says a lot about products, prices and warranty, but that’s only part of the story. Repeat business relies just as much on trust in the distributor. Let’s face it: the product is the product and the price is the price, and quality and value are just the minimum requirements needed to stay in business. In the end, all you really have to sell is service, that personal part of a business where the seller fills the customer’s real need, not just their own pocket.
You already know that, but there are as many different ways to do it as there are professional distributors. That’s why each month we interview a successful tool distributor to tell you how he nurtures his business, deals with changing markets, and uses his mobile store to make a living while truly serving his customers’ needs. Now it’s time to choose the tool man’s tool man.
Next January, Professional Distributor will announce our choice for Mobile Tool Distributor of the Year. This contest is not a search for the highest earnings. We’re looking for an ambassador, someone who projects a positive image of the profession, someone that people inside the industry recognize as a true Professional and that people outside the industry want to do business with.
The contest winner will receive a framed certificate and will also be the subject of Professional Distributor’s April 2012 Distributor Profile cover story.
All professional mobile tool distributors, branded and independent, are eligible to enter this contest, but they must be nominated by another distributor, their District Manager, or by someone else within their company. Contestants cannot nominate themselves. Nominations will be accepted through October 31, 2011.