On his own, but not alone

Matt Sledge is more than a one-man show in Murfreesboro, Tenn.


Matt Sledge is more than a one-man show in Murfreesboro, Tenn. If you were at the 2008 ISN Tool Expo in June and attended the distributor panel, then you already know a little about Matt Sledge, an independent mobile tool dealer from Murfreesboro, Tenn. Matt was the youngest distributor on that panel, had plenty to say and plenty of energy for the...


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If you were at the 2008 ISN Tool Expo in June and attended the distributor panel, then you already know a little about Matt Sledge, an independent mobile tool dealer from Murfreesboro, Tenn. Matt was the youngest distributor on that panel, had plenty to say and plenty of energy for the early hour of the Saturday panel discussion.

On his daily route, that same energy continues to bubble over when he’s selling to customers. Matt has been a distributor for about seven years, five with one of the brands and now nearly two years on his own.

Well, not really on his own. Whereas many distributors have help from their families from washing the truck to inventory, billing and more, Matt’s wife, Shannon, will actually drive his truck and do his route on days that he is unable to, whether sick, at a tool show, etc.

“I just pull up, and honk the horn,” Shannon said. “I come in like, ‘Toolman’s here!’ They say, ‘Yeah, you’re a lot better looking than the toolman.’ ”

Shannon admits, though, that she concentrates much more on collecting than selling when she’s on the truck.

“I sell, but he’s a better salesman,” Shannon said. “I’m always hardcore [collecting]. I mean, when a guy says, ‘I don’t have any money,’ I say, ‘Are you really going to tell a woman that you don’t have any money?’ ”

Shannon has even done Matt’s route for a full week. A self-described “motorcycle nut” (he previously worked in a motorcycle dealership on the tech, parts and sales sides), he went to Daytona Bike Week in two of his early mobile years, and Shannon ran the route each time.

“The thing about this business, if you don’t run it, nobody’s going to,” Matt said of how lucky he feels to have Shannon helping out. “She’ll run it, maybe five days out of the whole year.”

One of Matt’s keys is consistency, as with any successful distributor, and that’s a big part of the help Shannon offers — being consistent.

“It means something to the guys,” Matt said. “You show up at the same place at the same time on the same day. They’re going to buy from you, because they know you’re going to be there.”

Matt still uses some of the techniques he learned as a branded dealer, saying the “training time” of being with a brand helped, but wasn’t essential. He does feel that a sales background can help more than a tech background on the truck.

“I think I could’ve come out the door and did it straight as an independent, but I don’t think it’s for everybody,” Matt said. He recommends all mobile tool dealers take some sales classes or seminars every year to continue advancing their businesses.

“I said this in the small group at the ISN show, that if any of the guys out there have the opportunity to take a sales class in their business, take as many as you can, because that stuff really does work,” Matt said.

“Sales is a psychological business.”

CONTESTS

Matt runs several contests to keep customers interested. Past events have included raffles and T-shirt giveaways. One recent promotion involved a toolbox giveaway.

“I’ve already made my money on the deal,” Matt said of taking the used toolbox in on a trade. He wasn’t keen on the idea of selling it to somebody and taking two years at $40 a week to be paid off.

“I brainstormed with Joe Knight, my ISN salesman,” Matt said. “I decided I’d just as soon sell 160-180 items that have a $25 markup on them.” Anyone who bought one of the three under-$100 items, an EZ Red clip light, GearWrench four-piece extended screwdriver set, or a 42-piece screwdriver set, received a raffle ticket for the toolbox.

“These things are flying off the shelf. I’m selling two or three items per stop, everywhere I go,” Matt said.

But Matt doesn’t keep contests going all the time.

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