Mobile ToolSales 101

When you look at the traits that have made Glenn Engelmann successful, no single one seems all that unique. He’s consistent in the way he runs his route. Focused on doing what it takes to operate a successful business. Disciplined to properly manage his cash flow and inventory. Energetic in...


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When you look at the traits that have made Glenn Engelmann successful, no single one seems all that unique.

He’s consistent in the way he runs his route. Focused on doing what it takes to operate a successful business. Disciplined to properly manage his cash flow and inventory. Energetic in servicing customers and tracking down product requests. And personal in the attention he gives to every customer, regardless of how long they’ve bought from him or how much they can spend. Individually, none of these attributes may seem that special, but combining and refining them are what have elevated Engelmann's business.

Furthermore, if you review Engelmann’s background, these traits and approaches are not too surprising. His five-year stint in the Air Force, which included 3 months in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, helped reinforce a sense of discipline and focus on the task at hand.

After the Air Force, Engelmann stayed in the state of Washington and ran a towing company, which brought out an appreciation for the independence of running one’s own business. Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Engelmann returned to his roots in Jacksonville, IL.

“When you combine my Air Force background with the fact that I'm a do-it-yourselfer with a love for tools, and that I previously ran my own business, the mobile tool market made a lot of sense for me,” recalls Engelmann.

He continues, “After we moved back to the Midwest, I was working for a company that serviced a number of shops, and sometimes I was there at the same time as the tool dealer. The district manager, Glen Vanderwall, saw something in me and we started to talk about becoming a mobile distributor. That was nine years ago. Matco and this business have been very good for my family and I.”

Consistency: When, Where & How Much

“The biggest thing for me is consistency,” states Engelmann. “I’m there at the same time every week, and I always go around the shop in the same way. So the customers at each stop know my routine and plan accordingly. Not only do the individual techs like this, but shop owners appreciate a toolman that saves time and doesn’t keep their employees wondering when or if their distributor will show.” In addition to keeping the purchasing, payment and customer service processes more efficient, Engelmann’s reliability offers another key benefit.

“Competition is not an issue when you’re consistent and deliver a high level of customer service,” states Engelmann. “When they start talking about my pricing, I just ask them, ‘Did they (the competition) just pull in the parking lot?’ That helps to reiterate what I bring to the table, which is service. If you sell on service, and back it up, the other guy becomes less of an issue.”

Finally, being in the shop on a regular basis leads to a better overall understanding of the customer, their habits and the type of work of they do. So following up on wish lists or offering new products designed for a specific job becomes easier, and results in more sales.

Focus: Attention To Retail

“When I first started,” recalls Engelmann, “my goal was to pay off the business as quickly as possible. It took a lot of hard work, especially in the beginning, but Matco’s support was unbelievable. I give a lot of credit for my success to (Matco president) Tom Willis, (Matco vice president of sales) Tim Gilmore and my current district manager Glen Vanderwall. Jimmy Turner, a fellow Matco dealer in the area, is also a great coach.”

This focus on achieving a goal, as well as the support from those around him, which includes wife Terri and daughter Savanna, helped Engelmann reach number 60 in total sales for Matco his first year in business. He’s been in the top 25 ever since, including a 10th place finish last year.

“I just try to stick to the basics and don’t make things any harder than they are. You don’t have to try and re-invent the wheel every day - just use the one you’ve got as well as you can,” he explains. “And what they say is true. Behind every good man, there’s a better woman. My wife and daughter are involved in the business and help me a great deal.”

Examples of the simple things Engelmann stays focused on include:

  • All of his costs, including gas, vehicle maintenance and even the free candy on his truck. This helps him to gauge everything that’s relative to his profit structure.
  • The placement of new products in areas that are certain to catch people’s attention.
  • The tote n’ promote tactic of taking products into the shop that are on special or were previously discussed.
  • An understanding of his place in a retail environment, which leads to signs all around the truck that help pinpoint new or unique products. He and Savanna also design new fliers to hand out or place on the truck nearly every week.

Another way Engelmann keeps his focus is with time away from the business. “Time off is important,” he explains. “You can’t forget that playing hard is just as important as working hard. It’s really therapeutic for me to get out on the bike or the boat. Sometimes that just means taking care of the truck on Saturday night instead of Saturday morning so I can spend some time on the water with the family.”

Discipline: Keeping The Wagon Full

“I think he was a born salesman and does a great job of balancing cash flow and the responsibility of running his own business,” states Terri Engelmann of her husband. “He’s just so disciplined.”

This discipline leads to an understanding of how to most effectively re-invest in his inventory. In this instance, Engelmann offers the following insight:

  • “When I first started, my goal was to fill the truck, so I’d order two of anything that was requested. This provided one for my inventory, as well as one for the customer.
  • “I think having as full a truck as possible is incredibly important. Not only in taking care of the customer, but because of the negative perceptions a low inventory can create. I hear my customers talk about some of the other mobile dealers who have ‘nothing on the truck’. There’s no reason for them to even make the trip out from the service bay.
  • “I also go through the truck every night and make a list of things I’m missing. If it’s something I need right away, it goes on the emergency product list that I order every night. The other stuff I’ll wait on, and place a stock order once a week. I feel like this offers a way for me to control my cash flow and monitor purchasing, because the guys who can’t pay their tool bills are usually the same ones who don’t take the necessary steps to really manage and analyze what they’re spending and what they’re selling.
  • “If you have the $5 thing, they’ll remember you for the $300 thing, so try to be the toolman who has it all. This is also a great way to separate yourself from the competition. I feel like if I don’t have something, the other guy will.
  • “If you’re not sure what to stock, listen to the customer.
  • “Matco’s exclusive agreements with Oakley sunglasses and Redback boots help me get service managers and paint or detailing guys on the truck.
  • “I also carry three toolboxes in order to provide a wider range of price points and sizes.”

Energy: Fueling Sales Growth

“Being self-employed doesn’t mean you don’t have to go to work. I run pretty hard to see all my customers,” states Engelmann. This translates to piloting his 28’ International around his hometown of Jacksonville, IL one day a week, and making the 40-minute trip east to Springfield the other four days to see his 300 customers.

His stops include various automotive repair shops, as well as heavy-duty truck facilities and a Ryder moving vehicle fleet. Engelmann says he collects regular, weekly payments from about 85 percent of his customer base.

Personal Approach: Every Day Is A Winner

Although the personal touches are most profoundly demonstrated by the products he offers and the wish lists he tracks, Engelmann does a number of things to keep his visits enjoyable for all involved.

“I make an effort to acknowledge every guy in the shop, whether they’re buying from me or not. I want them to know I’m there when or if they do need something. It’s kind of like when Tom (Willis) is on the floor at our Tool Expo. He’s there taking the time to talk with us and demonstrate that we’re all on the same team.”

Engelmann also enjoys holding contests for collections when he’s on vacation. Additionally, he sponsors a five-of-a-kind dice game on the truck and brags about offering the best candy selection of any mobile dealer in the area, including that of his brother Eric. The older Engelmann has been a Matco distributor for five years.

At the end of the day it’s not surprising to hear that Engelmann takes a relatively simple approach to dealing with the ups and downs of the tool business.

“The way I figure, the Lord put me in this business, and it doesn’t seem like he wants to take me out of it, so I just try to not freak out about things. If something went bad at one stop, I have to forget about it and move on to the next.”

And regardless of how that next stop goes, you know that they’ll be expecting Glenn Engelmann to show up at the same time, with a flier to hand them, a tool to show them, and a smile on his face … just like the week before, and the week before that, and the week before that …

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