Projecting a successful image

San Diego-area dealer uses customer knowledge to stay on top during a sliding economy.


San Diego-area dealer uses customer knowledge to stay on top during a sliding economy. It’s no secret that the economy is down. Even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said this is “the type of wrenching financial crisis that comes along only once in a century.” In the east county area of San Diego, Matco Tools distributor Rick Turrietta knows that many of his...


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It’s no secret that the economy is down. Even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said this is “the type of wrenching financial crisis that comes along only once in a century.” In the east county area of San Diego, Matco Tools distributor Rick Turrietta knows that many of his shops are hurting.

In the Lakeside, El Cajon and Santee areas of San Diego County, he can point to several areas where a former good stop is now closed up or a shop that has laid off several techs over the past year.

“You used to be able to fall out of bed in the afternoon and make 10 grand a week,” Rick said. “Now, you have to put in more effort.”

Rick said in this economy a good distributor needs to know his different types of customers. Rick sees different types of customers in the way they buy and, more importantly, pay.

“As a tool guy, just knowing what’s on your customer’s mind, and how they pay is beneficial to you,” Rick said. “If you’ve got a guy that gets paid every two weeks, and it’s easier for him … set him up to pay every two weeks.

“Smart tool guys know when their customer’s get paid, how they get paid” and distributors need to be able to adjust to that, which is part of building loyalty.

“Hopefully you’ve already built in some of the loyalty you need, so they will continue to buy from you and not the competition,” Rick said of the poor economy’s effects on techs buying less. “I’ve found that … if you take care of your techs they’ll take care of you, for the most part.”

One key point to avoiding a lull is to build a good accounts receivable through as many techs as you can, Rick said. You don’t want to get too deep into just a few people. If you spread yourself out among 300-400 guys who each owe you a little bit, “You’ll be able to withstand the slow times a lot easier.”

For Rick, part of building the customer base and required loyalty is getting techs on the truck so you can build the relationship.

“One of the big things to keep bringing guys out to the truck is to make sure you have new things, different things. … Product is a big one, when it comes to bringing guys on the truck.

“You also want to run contests every now and then,” Rick said. “I have one I’ll be starting up next week, where a guy has to fill out a credit application, and gets a free Matco T-shirt. This helps me get some more business out of it, because now the guy may have credit from Matco that he didn’t know he had, or didn’t think he had.”

Other contests Rick runs include a Christmastime raffle based on payments.

“Over a six-week period, starting in the first week of November … whatever their average is, whether it be $25, $50 or $100, they will draw a prize out of one of three boxes. I typically have Christmas gift bags … it could be sunglasses, gloves, a flashlight. Even a jacket or a T-shirt.

“It’s hard for me to reward everyone the same, when you have some customers that are clearly better customers.,” Rick said. Thus the three different levels of rewards in the different boxes.

“I’ve probably spent $3,000, maybe a little more. But, my customer’s love it. They look forward to it every year, and it keeps the business going through the holidays.”

And, of course, he still gives customers a “regular” gift — a calendar and a pocket screwdriver.

HIS ROUTE

Rick splits his time “fairly evenly” between different repair shops, from heavy duty and motorcycle shops to performance shops, body shops and independent repair shops. He has roughly 400 customers that keep him buying about $350,000 every year in tools.

Rick’s been with Matco for six years, following five years at another tool company and previous route sales experience with Arrowhead Springs water delivery. He feels that the water route was a big help in learning the ropes of route-specific sales calls. And it was his time as an “employee distributor” at the other tool company that helped him realize he really liked having a tool route, and gave him the opportunity to learn the business, while not completely at his own expense.

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