Selling from the top down

Don't ignore the front offices on your route.

Don't ignore the front offices on your route. Stepping onto Phoenix-based distributor John Ozenich’s Mac Tools tool truck, one thing becomes immediately obvious – he knows what he’s doing. Everywhere you look on his truck, he’s got award plaques on display. Within 10 months, John became a Master Distributor and hit the Gold sales...

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“I’ve never had any real professional sales training, but you get a feel for how people act and react,” John said. “Of course, I know the names of all the tools. … I think that’s really helped me out.

“But selling’s easy,” he said. “I can almost stand here and do nothing. Guys will come in and see what they want to buy.”

Of course, selling is only half the job.

“Collections can be a bitch,” John said.

He emphasized that the majority of customers are not a problem. “I take care of these guys, they take care of me,” he said. In fact, his loss percentage has normally been around 1 percent, though more recently it has crept up near 3 percent of the business.

“You have to worry about the guys that get fired, or laid off these days,” John said. This is another area where it is good to stay in regular contact with the front office, for advance notice occasionally on coming personnel changes.

With recently fired/laid off techs, John said it’s important to stay loose in working with the customer.

“Personalities mean a lot in this business,” John said. “Time’s are a little leaner than they used to be. Any edge you can get helps out.”

When it comes to getting an edge, John advised that now is not the time to ratchet up your collections on customers, despite the pinch you may be feeling. Avoid phrases like, “This isn’t enough, I need $30 instead of $20.” But if someone is willing to drive their future earnings away for a little bit more right now, John is “perfectly willing to take on those customers.”

John even adjusted the starting time of his route to accommodate the collections side of the business; he starts later (around 9 a.m.) and works later (between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.) than many distributors. His first concern was that showing up first thing is frowned on by foremen who may have just made the day’s assignments and then “here’s the tool guy.” The other is about more general timing.

“Really, the bottom line is, after you sell tools, you’re in a way a bill collector. A lot of guys don’t want to see the bill collector early in the morning,” just after getting to work, John said. “It takes time for them to get their day going.”

There’s also an overall benefit to John’s business in starting later — fuel savings.

“It’s easier on the traffic too. I used to do that early morning thing … I was getting jammed up in traffic half the time,” John said. “This is clear sailing in and out of the city.”


Though Phoenix is, of course, a major metropolitan area, the majority of John’s route is heavy-duty shops, above 70 percent. He feels this ratio was a benefit to his business as the economy has slowed.

“Trucks are still running. It’s faring better than automotive repair, where they’re waiting for someone to come and need work done,” John said. “With a fleet shop, they have to constantly make repairs and do maintenance on all the equipment. They’re running all the time.

“And if I need any new shops, these days I look for heavier equipment.”

John said that having a few heavy-duty shops in the beginning grew by word-of-mouth. “Guys from other shops would come up and say, ‘Hey, we understand that you’re a good guy and you’ve got the bigger tools on your truck. Can you stop by?’ It kind of grew from there on the heavy.

“These guys know each other at the shops,” John said. “They know who the good guys are; they know who the bad guys are. It’s good to be a good guy. They’ll tell their friends.”

A critical part of being a “good guy” for John is warranty issues. Don’t give the customers any “hassles or B.S.” You want customers to know you care about their jobs. “You want customers to say, ‘Hey, buy from this guy because if it breaks he’ll fix it on the spot. He’ll warranty it on the spot. … I built most of my business on that principle.

“I try to do as much of the tool repair as I can on the truck. Whether it’s an impact, the valve in an air hammer, what have you,” John said. “My feeling is, if you can do the tool repair, guys notice that stuff. ‘Hey, your friendly competitor wants to send this thing away for a month, but you did it right on the spot.’ I think that helps.”

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