Though Mac Tools Master Distributor Joe Poulin is based in Portland, Maine, his influence on the company's brand spans the states through his work as a mentor for new distributors and as an instructor in company training pieces. Joe is a high energy guy, as almost anybody needs to be to...
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Don't give it away
Another of Joe's keys to the business is to use your head when evaluating new things, whether it be a new stop, new tech or new promo.
"I have to go where there's money," Joe explained. "I can't go to where they're good people but they can only afford $10 a week. … This is an expensive truck, and I go to the best customers.
"If I'm going to ride around in this truck and carry this inventory, I need people who can pay for it."
That means some stops, like those with higher turnover or less experienced techs, may get missed. When he started and was working with less inventory on a smaller truck, "I was wanting to deal with everybody. And there's nothing wrong with that, but you've got to deal with the people who can afford to pay you," Joe said.
Joe tells new distributors during mentoring, "I want you to figure out what your truck is worth, and I want you to figure out what your inventory is worth. And when a guy hands you $10, I want you to divide that into how many $10 bills it's going to be [to pay for your truck and inventory]. That's how you start picking out your customers."
Though sometimes customers may pick you, as when there is turnover at a shop. "I like to see someone leave a shop that doesn't do a lot of business with me, because I get excited for the next guy," Joe said. But there is a risk. Sometimes it may be the people leaving are among your top customers — and that little bit of change could upset a business that doesn't maintain enough balance from tech to tech and shop to shop.
Once he's picked his customers, Joe likes to keep the selling straight-forward with few gimmicks and promos.
"Over the years I've tried a couple different things as far as truck promos and I've talked with people who do different things, and this is how I look at it: We're in the retail business, so is Home Depot and the grocery store, Walgreens, and they all do promos. …
"I come by on a weekly basis, I take care of any needs, and they have my cellphone number and can contact me day or night … it's never shut off, and that has a dollar value to it. I'm taking care of them; I'm bringing them a product that's going to make their job easier.
"I don't want to be known as the guy who's always giving something away," Joe said. "Free is not a word I like any of my customers to use." The industry itself has been driven too far into the free zone, he said.
"I think we need to get away from the customers always thinking they're owed something because they bought something," Joe said. "Does their customer stand at the service desk and say, 'I paid $2,000, I want free mudflaps.' They would look at him like he had four heads."
From the ground up
Joe often adds ridealongs to his busy schedule, as he trains new distributors for Mac. It's his way of ensuring new distributors are getting as much help to succeed as possible.
Joe mentioned he would have a potential new distributor with him the following week, as well as one from the previous week who was in Columbus, Ohio, at the Mac HQ for week-long training/orientation.
His first lesson for a ridealong is The Conversation.
"He has no money on the street, but when he sells that first tool he has to have that Conversation of what he expects. And if he sticks to that, he's gonna take off and skyrocket.
"But if he starts selling and selling and selling and he stops having a conversation," Joe said, "then people are not going to know what he expects anymore." And then come the problems for a distributor, rookie or veteran.
"This whole Mentor program started up here, we now have a Masters program, where they took distributors [with] a good business and they said, 'How about you guys talk to [new distributors] over a 32-week period?'" Joe said they'd talk at least once a week, often more, and the results have been quite strong on both sides of the mentoring relationship.