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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Rick said his time on route sales was much more important to his success than tool knowledge itself.

“A lot of guys get into the business that were wrenchers, wrenched their whole life, and they feel [tool sales] are something they would be good at,” Rick said. “I think what’s more important than knowing tools is knowing how to deal with people, how to interact with them — how to put your customers in a situation where they don’t feel pressured. …

“You’re seeing the same guys week in and week out, and if you’re pressuring them to buy something, or you’re pressuring them to make a payment, eventually you’re going to lose them. Guys love to buy tools, they hate to be sold.

“For me, [customer interaction] is more important than knowing about tools, because I knew very little about tools before I got into the business. … I have no mechanical knowledge whatsoever, other than what I’ve learned on the job.

“If you have the tool knowledge, and the knowledge of how to run a business, and the knowledge of how to deal with people, these are the three things you have to have, or acquire to some degree, to make it work. But, if you don’t know a lot about tools, and guys like you, they’ll still buy from you. They’ll tell you what they want. … A lot of guys, they want you to look at them as the expert,” Rick said.

“It’s just a matter of treating the guys you’re dealing with the same way you would want to be treated.”

One of the things to keep his sales low-pressure is not jumping out of the truck immediately at each stop.
“I’ll give my customers a few minutes — I don’t want to just jump off the truck and jump out. A lot of times, that’s threatening. Give them a few minutes and give them a chance to make their way out.

“And it gives you time where you can wipe down the truck, make a phone call. ... There’s always something you could be doing.”

One thing Rick does to ensure his techs will come out to the truck without having to go in and “round them up” is to keep candy available. “And not the cheap stuff,” he said.

“It’s such a minimal expense, and an easy way to make sure guys are getting on the truck.”

It’s not just candy that Rick feels is important to stay away from the cheaper stuff. He thinks the same of his tools as well, including personal gear — like knives and sunglasses.

“You don’t want to carry cheap knives. The reason being, to me, it’s about perception; if you are carrying cheap anything, you’re perceived as the guy who has cheap tools. If you carry all quality stuff — you might not sell as many, but your perceived image is increased.”

At the very least, he concedes, if you do carry $20 knives, sunglasses or whatever, be sure to offer a top-shelf option as well.
“As long as you have them both, that’s fine.”

One area Rick would like to improve is in toolboxes, but not at the expense of regular tool sales.

“Toolboxes, unfortunately, are not a big part of my business,” Rick said. “I wish they were … every now and then, if you talk it up a little bit and you target the young guys, there are ways you can sell boxes. … The trick is to find the right sized one where you can sell them the tools too.

“You want to stay in their back pocket as long as possible.” And if you can sell them just the right toolbox, not too much, you get the advantage of being able to keep up tool sales with that customer — potentially to the exclusion of your competitors. Once the tech has the toolbox payment with you, he’ll be more likely to buy tools from you to manage just the one account instead of more on the other tool trucks as well.

Before a new customer hears about tools, toolboxes or anything else on Rick’s truck, he’s sure to inform them about the tool side of the repair business and check them out with others in the shop.

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