Aaron Bergman has been selling tools and equipment for Matco Tools for seven years in the Bloomington-Normal area of Illinois, following his brother, Kevin, into the business. Kevin has been a Matco distributor in Champaign-Urbana for 18 years. Something about the Bergman brothers works in...
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Aaron Bergman has been selling tools and equipment for Matco Tools for seven years in the Bloomington-Normal area of Illinois, following his brother, Kevin, into the business. Kevin has been a Matco distributor in Champaign-Urbana for 18 years.
Something about the Bergman brothers works in tool sales, as they are a key part of one of Matco's top districts, and have been in the top 10 Matco dealers numerous times. (In fact, Aaron hasn't been out of the top 10 since he started in 2001, finishing fifth, sixth, sixth, third, ninth and eighth.)
Kevin said that he and Aaron had discussed Aaron becoming a tool distributor for two or three years before he made the move from hog farming.
Aaron said he did a ride-along with Kevin for one full week "before I decided to get into it — to see exactly what was going on," Aaron said. "The first year, Kevin helped me get financially in this thing."
Kevin told Aaron, "We'll do whatever it takes to get you in. If you want to work under me as a Distributor Plus, that's fine; if you want to try to go it on your own, that's fine, I'll help you wherever I can.
"And he decided to go it on his own, which worked out.
"He found a good used truck," Kevin said, "and I financed the inventory to fill the truck … and he's done very well."
But the job was far from easy, even with the help from Kevin.
"Even after riding around with him for a whole week and I decided to get into this; it's a whole different game once you get into it. … it's a complex business."
"We've got two different personalities," said Kevin, "but both our businesses work. We both sell our tools.
"There's no one good way to run it. Everybody's got to get into their own comfort zone and he's an awful hard worker, he really busts his butt," Kevin said of Aaron's approach.
As for Kevin's entry into tool sales, he joined Matco after work as a mechanic and service manager.
"I didn't want to be a flat-rate mechanic at 60 years old," Kevin said. He researched other tool companies, but felt Matco was the best fit for him.
"I was determined to be self-employed by the time I was 30, and we actually started business a couple months after my 31st birthday.
"It's not the easiest thing to get into right off," Kevin said. "It takes a few years to get things rolling. Fortunately for me, it all fell together well, and took off pretty good."
Learning to sell
Kevin has an easy manner with the techs in the shop and on his truck, almost laid back. But his approach does work, and has evolved over the past 18 years.
"I've never considered myself a salesman," he said. "If you're looking for a salesman who's going to go out and say anything he has to to make a sale, that's not the way I work. If I can't run the business honestly, then I'm going to have to find a new line of work.
"I treat everybody the same; I price everything the same," Kevin said. "I set up a scene where I don't lie to the guys. I'm honest. … It's a whole lot easier on me to be straight-up with them and do it right. And it pays off."
Kevin has built his territory, which now includes a Distributor Plus franchise, through hard work. He maintains that early success directly related to carrying tools into the shops to interest the techs.
"It was stuck in my hand, I'd be carrying that tote tray when I first got in business. There's no question that's what makes a great business, and once you get established and you're the only dealer in town … the sales just kind of come.
"The first seven or eight years or more that I was in business, I carried that tote in every day with five items to every mechanic, and that's what built my business and that's what made it work," Kevin said. "Absolutely it should be done."
Like Kevin, Aaron also said it's less about technique and more about plain hard work. And support from other distributors, and the customers themselves.