When mobile tool distributor Art Richardson sold his first tire repair insert in 1968, he didn't think he would be an award-winning Cornwell dealer some 38 years later. But then again, why not? In the past, business had been good to him and his dad, Art Richardson Sr. Together they built Richco Auto...
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In his marketing classes at Bryant, Art teaches that the strategy to selling is not just making sales, but staying competitive.
"I've never made a perfect sales presentation," he said. "Not even close. If you want to be humbled every day, this is your game."
The best way to stay in the game, according to Art, is to learn from your mistakes and duplicate successes. "Try to do everything to create a positive perception of you and your products. Ninety percent of my customer criticisms will revolve around paying the bill. I can live with that. Studies show that if you satisfy 92 percent of your customer base, you've done a good job."
Compete with the best
Art was a Division 1 college athlete and loves to compete. But while he respects his competition, he does everything he can to "win". This means he doesn't publicly knock his competition. Instead, he prefers to learn from them.
"You can coexist with them (competitors)," Art said. "Just concentrate on what you do well. It's not the competition that puts you out of business — it's not selling."
Art feels it is in his "best interest to sell Cornwell products because of the service that comes with them afterwards."
Give a little extra
To keep his visits fresh, Art finds ways to add extra incentives with every sale. Sometimes he throws in small-ticket items free with large-ticket items. Lately he has "given away quite a few" windbreakers with $300 purchases. He will also give cash discounts to the great payers.
"We want to encourage them to keep paying well."
His biggest promos to date are his timeshares in Florida and Newport, RI. He offers up two a year and gives the winner flexibility in enjoying these lavish units. To enter, customers spend $100 and their ticket goes into the bag. The first winner spent over $7,000 with Art last year.
Find your perfect balance
And what happens with the unused timeshares? "When I start running on E, I get away. Diane (his wife of 31 years) and I really like Fort Lauderdale. We have three weeks there annually. I come back and I'm fine again."
While he tries to have fun with this career, Art will be the first to admit that some days are tough, with long hours and never-ending to-do lists. He cites repossessions, phone calls, paperwork and the dreaded cleaning job duties that his customers never see.
Art has no retirement plans and a head full of ideas. Give him a call. He'd be happy to be your tool man.
The Small Business Bible USA Today article by Steve Strauss brings up questions for tool distributors about how affective it is to sell tools based on price