Wrench sales are a-turnin'

Screwdrivers, wrenches and ratchets are no small sale. In fact, they make up a technician's fundamental arsenal — much like an artist's brushes or a chef's knives.

Screwdrivers, wrenches and ratchets are no small sale. In fact, they make up a technician's fundamental arsenal — much like an artist's brushes or a chef's knives.
And while the cost of hand tools can be significantly smaller than, say, leak detection equipment, power tools and toolboxes, they are usually purchased more often and in greater bulk.

Here's what shop owners and technicians had to say about how they purchase their hand tools, and what you as a distributor can do to win their business.

Lending a wrench

Brian Symons, a technician at Bonfe's Auto Service & Body Repair in St. Paul, Minn., likes to try before he buys. Sometimes he gets his inspiration from a neighboring bay.

"I buy a lot of sockets and wrenches, and usually purchase once a month," said Symons. "It kind of depends. If I come across something that I've needed to borrow from a coworker a couple times, more than twice, then I write myself a note to buy it. If I don't think I'd ever use it again I wouldn't even think about buying it."

Technician Jimmy Bielarz of Chicago's Nortown Automotive also adheres to the borrow/buy philosophy.

"If I get a car in where I need to borrow a tool from somebody, and I borrow it more than two times, I buy it. That means that I'm definitely using it," said Bielarz.
And distributors shouldn't back away from the seasoned vet who seems to have everything.

"I've been in this profession for about 35 years or more, and I almost have everything out there, especially when it comes to hand tools," said Dan Walker, owner of Dan's Auto Center in Oakhurst, Calif. "But if there's a specialty tool that can really do a super job, and make my job easier and faster and more profitable, I'd be really interested."

Any tool that makes their job a little less harried qualifies as a good purchase.

Like Walker, Bielarz is particularly in the market for any kind of specialty tools, ratcheting wrenches, hard-to-reach area tools and anything special that will accommodate today's range of vehicles.

"We use a lot of specialty tools [in our shop], mostly for Asian, European and domestic cars," said Bielarz "Anything to make the job easier, more accurate. If you don't have special tools, you can't get the job done."

Judging a tool by its cover

As with many tools in a technician's toolbox, it's true some techs will consistently buy the same brand of hand tools. But they say that's not the most important thing.

Walker said that when it comes to buying his hand tools, for the most part he's brand-loyal. But he added, "What also really means a lot to me is the way a piece of equipment looks. It may seem unusual, but I've seen some equipment that looks kind of hokey … and it may be the world's best equipment. I've also seen tools that look good but don't work well. But if it looks good it will grab my attention.

"Part of the reason for this is that some of our equipment sits right out here in our shop, and can usually be seen from the waiting area." said Walker. "And if it looks like a cheap piece of equipment, customers notice that. I like a good-looking piece of equipment, as well as the quality and offerings it has."

Get their feet on the truck

What's the best way to initiate hand tool sales?

Successful mobile distributors carry lots of tools on their truck and are always ready to field questions about what they carry. The key is: don't wait for them to come to you. Show them what you can offer by carrying in tools and flyers — they'll appreciate the extra effort.
"When [distributors] come in, they give us flyers and we look at the flyers, and they let us know well, 'This one's on special,' etc.," said Bielarz. "Flyers, bulletins, emails … things like that."

Also valuable is a distributor's knowledge about "special sockets, or something very particular to certain vehicle models," said Bielarz. "It helps if he generally knows which one to get, what's going to help you."
After techs know what's available, it's time to get them to the show floor.

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