Have Yourself a Merry Little Tool Truck

Making holiday season sales more jolly

Phil Sasso is the president of Sasso Marketing (www.sassomarketing.com), a technical marketing agency specializing in tools and equipment. Subscribe to his free marketing tips at philsasso.com./blog. Q: I’m a new dealer. I hear holiday season sales can really suck. What can I do from Thanksgiving through New Year’s — other than live off my savings? A: Holiday season sales can really slack off if you aren’t careful about your purchasing and marketing planning. Like any retailer...

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Q: I’m a new dealer. I hear holiday season sales can really suck. What can I do from Thanksgiving through New Year’s — other than live off my savings?

A: Holiday season sales can really slack off if you aren’t careful about your purchasing and marketing planning. Like any retailer, you need to adjust your inventory and promotions to the seasonal changes in your customer’s buying habits.

If you’re proactive, your holiday sales can be no different than any other month, says Mac Tools District Manager Jim Holtz. Or you might even experience your best month yet. Holtz says when he was a dealer, December sales were among his strongest.

Stocking stuffers

Be sure you stock up on your flag or WD’s holiday gift offerings. Your customers may cut back on what they spend on themselves at year end, but they will be spending money on both big and little gifts for family and friends.

“Last year, we sold out of Mac branded slot-car race tracks,” says Holtz. Mac corporate headquarters acted quickly and brought in a fresh inventory of John Force Racing drag race tracks to fill the gap. But if you aren’t quick on the draw, you may find once an item is sold out you’ll be out of luck. So ask your DM and the veteran dealers from your flag what sold well for them in the past. Take their lead and be sure you’re stocking the right stuff.

Many dealers use holiday flyers to push seasonal sales.

One “rogue” dealer tosses his flag’s flyers, favoring a holiday display instead.

Nothing beats seeing and touching an item to sell it, says our rogue. He also creates a sense of urgency by reminding customers there’s only a limited supply of holiday items. If he runs out of something, he won’t get more before Christmas.

Whether you choose flyers, a shelf display or both, the earlier you start promoting your offerings, the better jump you’ll get on your competition.

Outside the (gift) box

An associate told me of a husband-and-wife that teamed up and cleaned up over the holidays. The wife, who sold Avon or Mary Kay, put together little gift bags for the dealer to carry on his truck. Customers bought gifts for the women in their lives, paying cash for each purchase, and the couple cashed in on the yuletide buying spree as they spread a bit of the holiday joy.

Holtz and his wife mailed Christmas letters to his customers’ wives and girlfriends. In the letter, he noted that if the women were looking for gift ideas, his truck would be parked in a popular shoppng mall’s lot on a specific day during specific evening hours. A lot of significant others took him up on his offer — most buying gift certificates.

These last two clever couples didn’t just boost sales, they actually boosted cash flow, too.

Q: What else can I do to turn around the slow Christmas collections season?

A: With more of their money going to holiday gifts, meals and decorations, your customers may have less money jingling in their pockets to make their monthly payment.

If you can turn collections from the drudgery of bill paying into a festive game, you are more likely to maintain your turns and see collections stay constant — or maybe even spike slightly. One veteran dealer says he is most successful holding a drawing every week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The giveaway can be relatively small, say a cooler or a simple jacket, but the payoff can be big.

Drawing in sales

Here’s a fun raffle idea from 24-year Mac veteran Tom Neamon. I’ll call it the Grab Bag Raffle: Get five different prizes. Neamon spends about $1,000 on prizes like PlayStations, stereos or TVs. Inside each of five envelopes, put the name of one prize.

Two weeks before Christmas, start the promotion. Week one, any customer who spends $100 or more (or $20 over their usual payment, or whatever goal you want to set) gets to put their name into that day’s drawing box. On Monday of week two, have the first person on your truck draw a winner from the Monday box. That winner gets to choose a prize envelope and picks the name of the Tuesday winner from that box. The drawing continues each day until the last winner is picked from the Friday box.

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