As we pulled into the driveway at our first stop of the day, Linda noted how much the place had changed since they were here last year. “You stop here once a year?” I ask. “Yep,” says Bill. “We’ll restock his shop supplies for the year.” “Do you have other customers like that...
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Business is good for Bill and Linda right now because it’s good for their customers too. Due to a special tax break last year, a lot of farmers built new shops, and some built their first shop. Linda said “It’s nice to see guys that didn’t have a decent place to work put up a nice shop.”
She described a customer who went from a dirt-floor two-bay garage to a beautiful new building where “they can do it all. You can’t believe the stuff they go through … they’re an all-day stop for us now. I’ll bet 90 percent of what they have in that shop they got from us.” They just built two more, and Linda said she’s really looking forward to stopping there this fall.
When asked if they have any repair shop customers, Bill said they did stop at garages when they first got started, “but it just doesn’t make sense for us.” Linda explained: “Garages would like us to stop, but you have to have a lot of patience, and it’s nickel-and-dime stuff. We just don’t have time to do that.”
Indeed. Their farm customers spend a big part of their annual tool and supply budget all at once, and they pay in full. “And most of them know what we’re selling them is stuff they’ll use.” Bill says, “It breaks my heart to see something we sold last year sitting right where we left it. We enjoy it when they use the hell out of it. It makes you feel good.”
They introduced one tool to their customers that gets used a lot: the Makita cordless impact driver.
“Those impact drivers have made us more friends than anything we’ve sold,” says Linda. Bill explained that after each impact, it releases and lets the bit or socket reset on the fastener. “You don’t strip the screws. That’s how we sold them. We’d give the guy a three-inch screw and have him drive it into a piece of wood with a drill, then drive one in with the impact driver. Every one of them bought the impact driver.”
So Bill and Linda are a team and they sell more than just tools, and their customers are not professional mechanics, and it takes a year to cover their route. But there is one way in which their business is the same as any other tool distributor. Linda says, “You have to really care about who you’re selling to … we just want to provide an excellent service.” Bill says, “You want to give them something you know they’ll get some good out of. When you come back next year and they say ‘I love that thing,’ that’s what makes me happy.”