Mark Menozi is in his ninth year as a Matco Tools distributor based in Morris, Ill. The soft-spoken mobile dealer is a former marina employee where he worked as a tech, service writer, salesman or anything else that was needed. He’s translated that broad base of experience into a successful tool sales route.
After nine years, Mark now enjoys the position of tenured tool dealer for his area; in fact, he’s been the longest-serving distributor there for about four years. That kind of stability is paying off. He has long-established relationships everywhere that make week-to-week sales easier for him while also providing a harder time for another distributor to get started.
Mark interacts with about 400 customers a week, averaging 320 active on-the-books customers, and has had gross sales near $700,000 for the past few years. While those numbers belie a successful route, Mark said his first years were average.
Then an off year had him re-evaluate how he was running the business.
“I was always a pretty average distributor, no real struggles in the business … but then in about 2006 I had a down year,” Mark said. Then he realized that “if you have it on the truck, it will sell. That’s the bottom line.”
He changed how he was ordering and stocking the truck, and “then all of a sudden my numbers doubled and I’ve been doing good ever since.”
Mark doesn’t just order more tools — he orders smarter. He takes advantage of pricing or financing specials on items at Tool Expo, district meetings and more.
“Distributors ask about all the tools I’ll order, like from the specials at meetings,” Mark said. “But I tell them, ‘You just have to order the tools and sell them, that’s all you’ve got to do. It turned things around for me.’ ”
“I’m a very low-pressure salesperson. I don’t want guys in the shop to see me as a salesperson,” Mark said. “They know why I’m there and to ask for what they need … I don’t want to push things on them. I know once someone buys something from me and is on the book, they’ll be on the book for a long time.”
Mark said it took some time to get used to being a tool distributor, but “it was good coming into the business knowing a little about tools.”
For Mark, knowing tools is not nearly as important as knowing your customers.
IT’S WHO YOU KNOW
Getting in tune with your customers is the most important part of Mark’s sales.
“You’ve got to get your customers to know you, to like you and to trust you, because if they know you, and they like you — they’ll buy from you,” Mark said.
One of the best benefits of familiarity and trust: “Price will rarely be an issue.”
“A lot of my sales will come from guys who don’t even come out to the truck anymore,” Mark said. “As I’m walking through the shop, they will say, ‘Give me one of these, one of these and one of these,’ and to put it on their account … and they never ask the price.”
This kind of customer trust doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be built slowly, though the method is easy to follow.
“The first thing you have to do is, one, show up,” Mark said. “I have been very consistent showing up at these stops for nine years. I don’t take a day off, unless it is a planned day off.”
Mark said his biggest headache in any given week is if he misses a stop for some reason.
“My customers count on me walking through the door at the same time every week,” Mark said. “Persistence was a key in growing the business; I knew I was doing well when customers started to ask if I ever took a day off.”
And other than the Tool Expo every year, Mark typically only takes about two weeks off the rest of the year.
When he is at Tool Expo, Mark doesn’t spend too much time living like the locals or admiring the scenery: he is working. One of the things he does leading up to expo is to pre-qualify customers who are looking for new toolboxes.
He lets interested customers know that there will be toolbox deals associated with the show and he takes pre-orders from customers that he can get approved for financing.
Mark said the work is definitely worth it. In fact, one of his toolbox sales took place almost completely over the phone while he was at expo. That setup is even set to be featured in a Professional Tool & Equipment News “Big-time Boxes” feature. The box is a 6S rollaway cabinet with top chest, locker and side cabinet.
“There’s good money in toolboxes — I sell quite a few toolboxes.”
In addition to his push at expo time, he has allotted space on his truck to stock three toolboxes. He carries one each of the 4S, 5S and 6S Matco series toolboxes “to show more variety and give everybody the different pricing options.” He keeps the premium 6S series toolbox nearest the front of the truck so all the techs see it, even if they’re just climbing up to make a quick payment and go right back to work.
The best way to increase toolbox sales “is getting one toolbox into a shop; once one person there gets one, they pretty much sell themselves,” Mark said.
“You never know when someone’s going to be ready for a new box. Everybody wants a new box; it’s just a question of being stocked when they are,” said Mark, who aims to sell one toolbox a week.
Beyond tool storage, Mark said his sales are even across the categories. Whether hardlines, diagnostics or power tools, none regularly outsells the other areas. He did add there are some seasonal adjustments (A/C machines are going to start selling better in spring, etc.)
Beyond the seasonal changes and knowing his customers and their wants, he just tries to be a good observer in each shop.
“I try to look around at my stops to see what equipment is getting older, or that they may not have, and suggest something to owners or managers,” he said.
‘THE HARD PART’
Of course, it’s one thing to have high gross sales, yet another completely to keep up on collecting. Mark is quick to admit it.
“Selling is easy — the easiest part; you could sell the whole truck in a week if you wanted to. Collecting is the hard part,” he said.
“I make sure my customers are aware that their $40 or $50 means a lot to me every week, in order for me to keep a stocked truck and give the service that I do,” Mark said.
“I tell them, ‘I’ve got to get paid, just like you. I understand things happen – if you fall behind, get yourself caught up. You’re not not paying Matco — you’re not paying me.’
“For skips, I’ve learned to deal with it. I follow the advice from others to spend my time chasing good money over bad money … it’s just part of the business.”
In fact, the whole business is about concentrating on the positives. Mark said he’s heard some distributors complain they’ve gotten a bad route, for instance.
“There’s no such thing as a ‘good route.’ The right person can sell tools anywhere; the route is what you make it. Just stick with it and it takes time, but it will come around,” Mark said. “I try to make at least one big sale every week.
“A great week is a $20,000 to $30,000 week, and they are out there. I’ve had a few of them.”
The key is to stay out there and keep showing up.