They say the sky is the limit in the distribution industry and, if that’s the case, MAC Tools mobile distributor Brian Davis is soaring through the clouds.
A member of the MAC family since 1999, Davis started out working at the corporate office for 2-1/2 years before he decided to become a traditional distributor. His eye was initially lured to the MAC clan due to the fact that he received frequent visits from his MAC Tools distributor while working as an auto body painter.
The two crossed paths when Davis ran into the district manager while marketing and selling his custom auto body equipment; they got to talking and the rest was history.
“I absolutely love this type of work. They tell you the sky is the limit, but in this industry it really is. There is always new products out there to be sold,” Davis says. That motivation helped Davis become a MAC President’s Board member for two years and eventually attain the top spot as the MAC Card Salesman of the Year in 2005.
The Biggest Tool In His Tool Bag
MAC Tools introduced a revolving line of credit specifically for technicians to use off of MAC trucks. As a result, traditional truck credit took a backseat, and therefore, a load off of distributor’s shoulders with a new credit card that charges a minimal interest rate and sends monthly statements directly to the customer, eliminating the hassle of weekly collections.
“It’s just an unbelievable asset to my business and my customers,” Davis attests. “It’s a great tool for the customers to have in diversifying their finances. It increases their credit line; they can buy more product from me and have more product in their toolboxes with less of a weekly or monthly payment.”
When a distributor carries his own truck account, he is the bank. A credit card alleviates that section of the business and places the additional strain in the credit company’s hands. A customer, who once bought a tool for $500 on a five-week turn, pays $100 a week. When he buys the same product on the MAC card, he can make $40 monthly payments, making it easier for the customer to budget. “It cuts us out of the loop,” Davis says. “Now someone else carries the note.”
Life before this “Superman” credit program came along was not as simple, and with higher interest rates, the old method was “terrible,” according to Davis. Distributors spent too much of their time collecting payments and keeping payments current than selling new products. “We were baby-sitting. I used to spend 60 percent of my time collecting and 40 percent selling; now it’s 100 percent on selling,” Davis says.
“Now I focus a lot more time on selling product vs. collecting what my customers owe me.“ As a result of the new program, Davis’ business has thrived. The number of sales and customers both increased dramatically. “It was the biggest thing I could bring to my business.”
While Davis does maintain a truck account for his customers—nearly 95 percent of card-holders have a truck account as well—it is primarily used for smaller purchases.
I Don’t Want To Be The Wal-Mart
For Davis, success was a culmination of hard work, determination and exemplary customer service—that and his partnership with the silent salesman.
In Davis’ eyes, success in distribution all boils down to customer service and the little things he can do for his customers. During the summer months, he gives out water and soda, and keeps his truck fresh by constantly rotating stock so his truck doesn’t go stale. “I keep it exciting and new. I want to pull in and attract customers. If they’re going to walk into your truck and see the same thing they saw last week, your truck isn’t an attraction. People want to see new things.” Brian’s truck: the silent salesman.
With an impeccably clean vehicle, Davis takes great pride in having the cleanest, most organized truck that a customer has ever been on. “I’m a meticulous individual,” Brian assures. “If they see how I treat my products and my store, they’d realize I’m going to treat them the same. My customers want to buy from a pro, and I want to be that pro.
“Perception and image is everything in this world; when you personify that perception, you build a relationship that goes deeper than discount pricing because, they may not be getting the lowest possible price when they come to you, but they know they are getting the best service possible.”
“Customer service goes beyond the truck for me; I want to be that first call whenever someone is looking for a tool.” Davis has an extensive network of individuals at MAC at his fingertips waiting to heed any call. “The reason my customers pay a premium price for a product,” Davis says, “is because at the end of the day, the addition they get is me.”
Visiting 25 to 30 shops a day, Davis’ two most important numbers are sales and transactions. If he were to sell several thousands of dollars in a day, he’d prefer to have 30 people buy $100 worth of merchandise rather than have two people spend $1,500. He wants to be diversified and have face time with as many individuals as possible.
A testament to how his business practices are paying off, Davis also maintains one of the highest collections of any distributor in the nation, collecting nearly $50 per customer a week.
A Floating Warehouse
Rather than having one truck with one inventory, Davis has up to nine on any given Friday. Every Friday morning, some local “MAC guys” meet for a 6 a.m. breakfast to bounce ideas off each other, such as “What have you found in the marketplace? What is selling? What isn’t?”
Davis started the weekly meeting as a part of a mentor program. He’s mentored six industry newcomers for MAC this year and thought breakfast would be a great way for the rookies to meet a few of the veterans. The casual meetings slowly evolved into a weekly think tank and inventory swap. “If you need an item for a customer or you want to add something, your inventory just grew seven times. We spend the first 15 to 30 minutes swapping inventory,” Davis says of the warehouses on wheels.
While a member of the President’s Board, Davis had a chance to describe the tight-knit group to industry peers and was told that the situation was truly unique. Nobody else was doing anything like this.
“Camaraderie, team building, learning best business practices, sharing successes; these meetings bring up a wide spectrum of conversations. Everything from skip accounts to collection agencies … it’s very beneficial,” says MAC District Manager Ty Van Driel. “If Davis can breed good distributors around him, it only helps improve his business.”
Full Speed Ahead
“When you work with Brian [Davis], you need to wear your running shoes. From the first stop he already knows what he’s toting and promoting into the shop, and the whole day is non-stop. For his every one step, I have to take three to keep up. He’s just that engaged and efficient in the market,” Van Driel says.
When a distributor deals with four competitive trucks on the street, the question remains: What sets him apart from the competition? Each person sells products for the same vehicle types to the same clientele, and visits on a weekly basis.
How does Davis do it? “I’m relentless in my pursuit to achieve my goals. I service 350 people, and they all expect something from me, so I don’t want to come up short. I’m driven to be one of the best; second place just doesn’t work for me,” Davis says.
“I’m never satisfied with what I did yesterday. I’m driven for tomorrow. I want it to be new every day for me and my customers. I hear all the time about distributors who go out of business and say ‘I couldn’t take it at night; I was too worried about money on the street.’ Because my relationships are so good with my customers, I don’t have to worry about money on the street.”
A Family Affair
Continuing his business with his wife, Allison, in charge of bookkeeping, has been a blessing. “Allison plays an enormous role in my business. I get home and drop off my cash bag, and it’s done by morning. It makes it more of a family-run business,” Davis states. “And as my boys [Luke, 7, Garrett, 4] get older, they help out by stocking and cleaning the truck.“
Davis’ family life hasn’t suffered as a result of his demanding schedule and work ethic: He chooses to work hard early, so he doesn’t have to work into the wee hours of the night. His philosophy? “You have plenty of hours to sleep when you’re dead.”
According to Davis, diagnostic equipment is increasingly more complex. If an independent shop wants to be competitive in the marketplace, it has to be up to speed on technology and understand the new sophisticated equipment.
“Electronics is tomorrow’s tool to sell. Cars are so technologically advanced, and the new schooling for the technician is really wrapped around computer systems. It’s not about replacing parts anymore; it’s about diagnosing elaborate computer and electrical systems,” Davis predicts.
As for the future of the sales industry, Davis says “Today’s businesses are geared more towards customer service … Everybody wants to be wined and dined in a professional way.”
Davis’ professional drive already has him prepped to soar amongst the industry elite. His innovative ideas and contributions to his peers, as well as his role as a mentor to the up-and-coming, ensure that he’ll even have a few MAC wing men alongside him as he reaches the sky.