For the Unfaithful

Your day is going great! You just delivered a tool to someone who counts on you to have that special item in stock, because in your area, you are the go-to tool guy or gal.

Collections are moving right along.

You finally got that $54.21 from the tech you have been chasing for the last six months - it’s cash only for that dude going forward!

Two stops earlier that special order item that was unreturnable finally found itself a home.

So, feeling pretty good about yourself, you pull into one of “your” shops. Then, BAM, it hits you. The guy you thought was “your” customer just bought a toolbox from someone else. And even worse, he never even asked you for a price.

Our first reaction is shock, closely followed by several phases of hurt. Phase one is that feeling of being kicked in the solar plexus with a pointy boot. That pain will fade quickly, but the hurt to your feelings seems to get more intense with each pump of your heart.

The blood is coming back into your face and that ashen look is being replaced by a dark red color. Phase three is rearing its ugly head - anger. Beware of this one because it can carry with it severe consequences that endure for the rest of your career. How about a large dose of self-loathing thrown in too, mixed with the ever-popular “how could I be so stupid” refrain playing on a loop tape in your head.

My observations here are nothing new, but it would serve all of us well to go over them again. How you handle this scene will most likely dictate how things move forward with that customer, and the shop he is in, starting with that day.

If you need to, walk out of there and head to your truck by yourself. Once inside, let it rip! Scream, pound the steering wheel, break something, throw a tool. You get the idea.

The point here is to vent, but not in front of any witnesses. When you are composed, go back in and face the music with the customer. Remember, the whole shop is watching how you handle this. They know there is a rivalry between tool dealers and they love to see a good flare-up.

Ask the customer what happened and you will hear the usual rationale of, “I got $1,000 more for a trade-in than I had in my box”, or “It was a spur of the moment deal” or “I really liked this particular box”. If he is “your” customer be aware he is watching you ever so closely.

He was anxious to see your reaction, so don’t blow it. The horse might be out of the barn, but you can close the gate and still continue to do significant business with this tech in the future.

If it appears he got a good deal, wish him luck and let him know that you're anxious to help him fill it up. A sense of relief will come over the tech as you did not freak out and now he knows that he can still use your tools to occupy all that new-found space.

A few words here for special circumstances that drive me nuts and push my composure:

  1. I think it is just plain immoral to bury a new tech in a box way beyond his needs. My integrity is important to me and I will not sacrifice it on the altar of the All-Mighty Dollar. I have not made every deal these past 25 years, but my conscience is clear. I operate under the guidelines of the “Golden Rule” and it has served me well. Funny how those dealers who beat me out on some of these deals are long gone from the business!
  2. The other guy just hit one out of the park and you are asked for socket and wrench organizers - whoopee!
  3. You had been trying to sell a box to this customer, but by being a good listener the indicators showed it was not a good time financially, so you backed off out of concern.

When you leave the shop you feel bad. Call another distributor and moan and groan for a few minutes. It serves most folks well. And as I have said before, this is a lonely business, so reach out to your equivalent of a co-worker for some comfort. I feel like a loser when this occurs, but it is a grieving process that we need to go through. Each week it hurts a little less to see that box. Eventually, I move on and learn from my mistakes.

When it comes to most missed sales I partially blame myself. I’m not talking about techs that won’t consider a Matco box or whom I can’t get approved. I’m referring to the good people who respect my products, and me, and want the opportunity to do business.

You know that a box sale starts a re-arrangement of the pecking order in that shop, so buckle down and see if you can make a deal with someone else. Someone will be buying a box soon, so get proactive and seek out the deals.

I'd also recommend changing the boxes being displayed on your truck. This helps answer "what’s new?", and is the perfect introduction to talking about a new box.