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.

"I love it when they come in and say, 'Hey, we've got a new item available,' " said Walker. He said that when distributors mention they have some other new products, it's enough to get his attention and get him on the truck.

"There's this one tool guy who's recently come back into the profession," said Walker. "He's what I'd call 'old school' in that the way he has his truck set up is immaculate; he has a beautiful rolling piece of art driving down the road and everything's clean, dusted and well-lit in the truck … and it just makes you want to buy."

Quality and warranty

When good quality meets with an admirable warranty, it gives the buyer peace-of-mind.

When looking to spend their money on hand tools, "quality is the first thing, and second is its serviceability," said Walker.

"Usually a guy's word-of-mouth will go further than the name stamped on the side," said Symons. "I'm looking for something that's reliable. Usually the bigger-named companies warranty all their hand tools that are not air tools; they usually warranty them for life. If they break, they'll give you another one."

All of our techs found that bad purchases were usually a result of poor quality — the old adage, "You get what you pay for."

"You don't want to spend money on a piece-of-crap tool that's going to break on you," said Bielarz. "Anything that's got a good name brand, and that's got a good guarantee … that's what we're looking to buy."

Back-up is much more than a warranty. Symons said that his buying decisions were based "sometimes 25 percent on the guy selling you the tools. … If I had a problem with a tool and he took care of it for me, and helped me out in the past, then I'd continue to buy tools from him.

"But if it's somebody that sells tools and doesn't seem like a real nice guy," said Symons, "I'm not going to buy tools from him. Personality counts."

In the know

As a guy who's been in the industry for a while, Walker said these days he finds he doesn't need as many hand tools. This makes him feel bad sometimes when the truck pulls up, but he said he just directs the distributors towards the younger guys in his shop. He appreciates their effort, and especially enjoys when they can tip him off to what's hot in the industry.

A little insider information "does help because it sparks my interest, and it shows that they're up on what's the latest and greatest," said Walker. "Sometimes I'll go to trade shows and I'll see the latest and greatest out there, and I'll go back next week to my tool vendor and say, 'Hey have you heard about so-and-so?' and they'll say,

'No, I haven't heard about that.' …

"I really like the ones who have kept up on what's out there and can actually tell me what's new.

"I have another tool vendor that I really like," said Walker. "He comes in with all different brands of tools … goes way out of his way to get us something. We'll call him up and say, 'Hey, we're interested in this particular tool,' and within a day or so, sometimes within an hour, he'll come back with an estimate … this guy really goes to bat for us."

It pays for distributors to remember, even in seemingly small sales like hand tools, that a grateful customer can become a loyal customer.

"We have other tool vendors that, you know, you give them a really small order … something really small, and it's like their attitude is, 'Shoot, that's not worth my time, I want you to check into that $4,000 piece of equipment.'

"But what happens is the guy who went out of his way for that $12 hand tool is that one that we look to when we want to get that $4,000 equipment."

Now that's a great pay-off.

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