In the late 1970s Matt Peternel envisioned a future full of high speeds, higher jumps and rounded curves as a professional Motocross dirt bike racer. A shoulder injury would turn dirt bikes into a hobby, but his second career choice would still offer a fair share of ups, downs, sharp turns and the...
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In the late 1970s Matt Peternel envisioned a future full of high speeds, higher jumps and rounded curves as a professional Motocross dirt bike racer. A shoulder injury would turn dirt bikes into a hobby, but his second career choice would still offer a fair share of ups, downs, sharp turns and the rare, but occasional wipe-out.
In 1982 Peternel was working at a Pittsburgh repair shop until his father received an offer to run a Mac Tools distributorship outside of Santa Barbara, CA. For the Peternels it was a package deal. Both made the cross-country move, with the younger Peternel helping his father on the route two or three days a week.
Matt Peternel's father encountered some health issues in 1986, and became a district manager in Bakersfield the following year. The younger Peternel followed, and eventually bought out his father's route. The rest, as they say, is history. Matt Peternel has been a Top 100 dealer for Mac Tools in each of the last 15 years. He's also set sales and collections benchmarks that have elevated him to Master and Platinum Distributor status.
His flame-hooded tool truck navigates a 20-mile radius in and around Bakersfield. One day per week he also works a town about 20 miles away. His 300 weekly customers range from traditional automotive technicians to smog-testing workers, but his two largest customer bases lie in heavy and agricultural equipment repair. This stems from the region's large cotton and almond production.
Getting After It
"The first six to eight months were tough," recalls Matt Peternel. "There were no other Mac dealers in the area, but I kept after it. I was young, self-motivated and aggressive. Plus, I had the benefit of watching and listening to my dad."
It's an interesting contradiction, but Peternel still blends his aggressive nature with an open-minded approach in listening to and observing his customers, as well as other things around the shop. This is how he develops his sales and customer service tactics.
"Customers will tell you what to stock," he explains. "But you can't be afraid to ask questions, and then listen and watch what they're doing. I also like to talk to other distributors in order to stay ahead of the curve and try to understand what products are really moving.
"I'm lucky in that if I don't have something in stock, one of the other three Mac dealers in the area might. Mac is different in that our territories aren't set up geographically – they tend to intertwine. We all communicate and get along and there's a lot of mutual respect between Timmy (Moore), Eddie (Gonzales), Mike (Tamargo) and myself."
Other practices make not having what a customer wants a rare occasion. "I also take a lot of notes and then follow up on that ‘wish' list the next time I'm in the shop," continues Peternel. "I see some of my competition going into the same places I visit, but the biggest difference is that the only thing they're carrying in is a customer roster.
"When I stop, I'm always checking my notes and carrying in the things they mentioned the week before. This not only drives sales, but it also shows that I'm listening to them, and that I care.
"One of the most motivating things I can hear is somebody saying, ‘You're the man', because then I know I've done my job in helping that customer to do his or her job better. I've made them money." He has other ways of reinforcing his commitment to customer service as well.
Peternel's truck is tough to miss. If the flames on the hood don't grab your attention, then the full-length, polished steel tailgate with a red CFL emblem will. The rear of his truck serves as a monument to Mac Tool's "Customers For Life" mantra, which is aimed at demonstrating the commitment the company and its distributors make to the end-user. "CFL is huge when things get a little sideways," states Peternel. "I just pull out that coin and it helps remind me of what the relationship with my customers is all about.