Keep your hardlines moving

A/C recycle machines, air tools, toolboxes, cordless tools, boots, grinding discs, knives, specialty tools, tool carts, welding masks, diecast models — there is a lot on your truck you are trying to move. But is there anything more essential to your day-to-day success than the good old hardlines that dominate your shelves?

Sockets and screwdrivers, wrenches and ratchets are in every toolbox at every stop you go to. The competition is fierce; you need to stay in the forefront with your customers to keep up.

One tech told us that he likes his distributor to keep him informed on new tools coming out. Rather than ask the distributor about something he’s seen in Professional Tool & Equipment News, he’d like the distributor to be ahead of the game and telling him what’s new first.

He likes the distributor to keep in touch with him regularly on new tools and specials, whether it’s in emails, with fliers or anything else.

Bruce Lunsford, an ASE master mechanic and shop consultant, said that he keeps an eye out for hand tools boasting new technology and innovations, while also backing away from anything that appears to be “cheaply made.”

One technician said that he buys new tools based on his co-workers.

• 1. If he borrows a tool more than twice, he will buy it.
• 2. If the other techs have good, or bad, things to say about a distributor, he weighs that heavier than brand preference when buying.

That speaks volumes beyond flags and goes straight into customer service. And with customer service, Lunsford said a distributor who comes up with new and unique programs will do well.

“Most tools do hold their value,” Lunsford said. But as new tools come out with new technology, the tech may consider replacing a still-good hand tool. A forward-thinking distributor can take advantage of that by offering a trade-in program, he said.

“Inventive financing, tool swaps … anything to build the relationship through customer service” will help hardline sales, Lunsford said.

One shop owner cautioned against ever looking down on a smaller hand tool order. Make sure all orders seem worth your time, he said, so that you can be assured of closing the big orders based on your service from the smaller orders.

ADJUST YOUR ROUTE

Another possibility to increase your hardline sales is to go where the need is.

Cornwell dealer Doug Loerts, in the Professional Distributor September 2009 cover story, credited his hardline success to the amount of agriculture shops and votech schools on his route.

If you were looking to increase your motorcycle jack stand sales, you’d increase your powersports stops, right? So to increase your hardlines, why not look to add some techs that still need the basics?

Whether you adjust your approach, your route, or both, keep in mind that hardlines are key to every shop and therefore key to your business.

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