Brothers keep flatlander techs in tools

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.

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. 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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"I didn't really learn to sell," Aaron said. He considers himself more'service' man than salesman — "giving customers the options and benefits of the tools they ask for. I have been educated in the tool industry by my customers and my brother. The first year I was on the phone constantly with my brother.

"I just put my head down and do the best I can. My goal is to see everybody every week at the same time. Everything will fall in line," he said. "I just go do the best I can and work to take care of everybody.

Aaron admits, though, that his approach wouldn't work for everybody, and he does tweak it himself from time to time.

"Everybody's different; every distributor's different. … I want to learn from other distributors; that's how our district is. It's been the No. 1 district the last couple of years, and we plan to be No. 1 again this year. We feed off each other."

Kevin adds that believing in yourself and your product is also key to sales success.

"In my opinion, the reason that my business has done well, is that there's no doubt in my mind that I can offer more to the customer than what the other guy can. Whether right or wrong is immaterial. … In my mind, I am confident that I can do better than he can. I know that I can give him a better product, I know that I can give him a better price, and I know that I can give him better service.

"Even if I am wrong, it doesn't matter, so long as I believe that, that makes my sales go better, and I think the customers pick up on that, too. That's the reason it's gone well for me."

Adding a truck

Kevin's route has been so successful that he's been able to add a Distributor Plus in his territory. He saw that as he became busier, there were still shops he wasn't getting to, and felt Champaign-Urbana would be better served if he decided which shops went on which Matco routes. So he added a franchise.

"It's actually two separate franchises that I own; it's two completely separate routes. His route could have a distributor in his own truck, just the same as I do, or he could be a Plus like he is," Kevin said.

"He works hard for his money, but I own the truck, I own the inventory, and he works for me."

Finding the right person was important.

"He was a mechanic on my route, and I talked about getting another truck for a long time, because I had more than I could possibly do.

"We got Chris up and running and he's been on fire ever since. … He just loves it.

"If I could find another one of him I'd put another truck on, but chances of that are 20 in a million, finding a guy that strong," Kevin said. "Bottom line is, he works his butt off for me, and that's of course what I need.

"My goal this year is to have Chris in the top 30, which he's well on his way for that, and I'd like to be in the top 200, which I am right now, but I won't be in the top 30."

Big ticket sales

Beyond adding a truck, one place the average distributor can increase revenue is in "larger items," as Aaron calls them — toolboxes and the like that may take more time in the actual sale and delivery than tools, but deliver more margin.

"I sell a lot of tools all the time, this is just like a bonus for me," Aaron said, regarding a large sale of tools and an expandable cart to an up-and-coming tech. "A toolbox sale is like a bonus.

"He's a new guy starting as a mechanic …and now is moving up … I'm just helping him out and doing the best I can, treating him right," Aaron said about the $4,000-plus sale. He's watched the tech move from a car wash employee to a quick lube place to a car dealership's service area.

Aaron estimates toolbox sales make up 25 percent of his business. He also said the sales take time out of a busy day, and some explanations may be needed elsewhere on the route.

"It's a lot of work putting [toolboxes] in and out of the truck. … If I miss somebody from selling a larger item, I [explain that] a customer had a larger purchase, it took a little longer, and I would do the same for you," Aaron said.

Kevin said it can be upsetting to see a big ticket sale go to another truck.

"I get upset … if I see a toolbox show up from a competitor. If I've done my job, I've taken care of that customer and done everything I can to keep him happy, [I feel] I deserve, not necessarily the sale, but I deserve to be at least involved."

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