Losing to win

Losing is not something that I’ve ever really become comfortable with. Removing a $10 bill from my pocket to hand over to a customer following a failed bet went against the grain. I lost the a bet from circumstances beyond my control, but under the guidelines set I was unable to back-up what my mouth had put forth. And, as odd as it may sound, there are times that losing is really a win.

Of all of the products that we have available to sell, toolboxes have to rank among the cream of the crop. They give a brand the most visual recognition all while making a statement in any bay at every shop. Delivering a box (after you have given countless presentations of its features and benefits … and yours) seems to put a little extra spring in your step and puff the chest out a little. At times it is the boost needed to get a week turned around.


Sometimes, it’s helpful to shift your target to make your goal. Read any navigation book and you will find the term “aiming off.” This is the practice of intentionally plotting your travel route to the left or right of your target, when obscured, to hit a waypoint that has a direct lead to the target. Aiming off is used in navigation when there is a risk that you may veer off-course by just a few degrees in such a way that you would not know which side of the target you’re on. (No one wants to miss the target completely and travel off into the great unknown.)Several years back, I had a young tech that was new to my route. Over the year and a half that we did business together, I tried numerous times to upsell him into one of our new toolboxes. In each of our conversations he displayed interest in a box, but I was missing subtle clues that kept me from hitting my target. He would say things like “Let me know when you have something used,” or “That is a nice new box and the deal sounds good, but really it is more than I am looking to spend.”

You can’t sell it if you don’t have it. So I changed my target.


I have often said that “I am a patient man — as long as you don’t make me wait.” With all of the discussion about boxes and my inability to come through, I feared that the sale could go to my competition. On my next visit, I decided that I was going to aim off from selling him what I had in stock or was coming in used.

I questioned him and got a description of the ideal toolbox to fit his needs. I asked him for the sale if I could fill his request. He said, “Sure, but how long is it going to take?”

I quickly replied with a bet that I could pull it off within a month or I would pay him $10. He smiled, shaking his head, and we shook hands.

As you can imagine, I started actively scouring my customer base to find his “ideal” toolbox before the 30 days expired so that I wouldn’t lose the bet. It wasn’t long before I located a customer that owned a perfect match. This customer even had been purchasing a lot, and expanding his tool storage was the next move.

We spent time measuring space in the shop along with the right draw configuration. Having a target seemed to help bring everything together; after some number crunching we came to a handshake.

But wait! “Can I get that new box in yellow?”

“Sure — it is a new color for us and it will be releasing in three weeks. Can you wait?” He could. So after getting one customer a new box that fit all his needs, I was able to make good on an ideal toolbox for my original customer — on day 36.

My situation originally missing the subtle clues was not any different than veering off course by a few degrees in the forest where if you miss, you really miss! Aiming off brought me to a backstop which told me my target was near.

Joe Poulin is a mobile tool distributor based in Gray, Maine, for Mac Tools. Contact him at dpoulin2@maine.rr.com.