What's a customer look for in a tool dealer?

Get a refresher on the basics of your business.


Get a refresher on the basics of your business.   I’ve been a tool man for several years. I think I know my business. But I don’t want to fool myself into thinking I know it all. So, tell me something new: What are customers really looking for from a Tool Dealer?   Good question. That’s right up with the big ones like “What’s...


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SERVICE – Sure, you can sell some tools if you pull up to a shop and just invite guys to walk around your truck. But to be really successful, you need to provide excellent customer service. What’s that mean? There are probably as many different definitions of good customer service as there are customers, but the top attribute in the tool business is reliability.

Customers want to buy from someone they can count on. They ask themselves: Will he be here on time next week? What if something goes wrong? Are warranty issues handled promptly? Does he follow through on his promises?

You answer these questions by the way you run your business. It isn’t about your words, it’s about your actions. Get this right and you’ll have loyal customers. Fall short of it and it will be an upward battle. In either case, word will get around. Trust is built over time. So, be consistent, persistent and patient.

RESPECT – Customers like to deal with people they like. But more importantly, customers want to buy from someone they respect – and who respects them. Earning respect is more important than making friends. In an either/or situation, I’d rather deal with someone I respect over someone that tells a good joke. You likely feel the same way.

I once asked a wise businessman about building respect. He said, “Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated.” I stared at him in shock. “Treat them the way they want to be treated.” That made me stop and think.

Some customers want you to chit chat, while others are all business. Some talk about hobbies, others are all about current events or family. Some want to trade harmless jabs. Some don’t. Follow their lead. But under it all, respect them. It will shine through.

EXPERTISE – Customers don’t expect you to know everything about every SKU in your inventory. But they do expect you to have a certain level of expertise. Keeping up-to-date on the most popular new products will help you position yourself as an expert tool consultant.

Many customers will ask your advice. Smart ones will take it.

Recently I realized the importance of taking advice. I had lunch at AAPEX this year with Professional Distributor Editor Jacques Gordon and Managing Editor Erica Schulz. For dessert, Jacques and Erica took the waitress’ recommendations. I didn’t. I chose a graham cracker gelato. Which was just a step up from the olive oil gelato. (Really. They sold oil-flavored ice cream!) They were delighted with the choice the waitress recommended. I was not delighted with mine, but I could only blame myself for not listening.

As a dealer, some customers will take your advice and some won’t. But if they don’t, they can’t blame you if they’re unhappy with their decision.

Speaking of advice, if you’ve ever tried olive oil gelato, let me know. I’m curious what you think.

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