Distributor shows provide invaluable forums; don't be left behind!

Customer relationships – we all know it’s the name of our game.

Personal relationships hold the key to success for every layer in tool distribution: from mobile tool distributor to end user, from warehouse distributor to tool truck, and from product manufacturer to warehouse distributor.

As more and better tools are introduced to the market, everyone selling tools – manufacturers, warehouse distributors and tool trucks – has more to learn about the products and more information to pass on to those customers they sell to. Hence, it’s no surprise that trade shows and customer appreciation events continue to grow in number and attract ever increasing attendance. These events give everyone in the trade a chance to share information and form long-lasting relationships to reach common goals.

Flags led the way

The flags began hosting trade shows for mobile distributors years ago. It wasn’t long before the independent warehouse distributors got on board. ISN organized an event that includes a trade show, education sessions and networking opportunities. Two years ago, Nestor Sales LLC began holding an annual show. The ball kept rolling and rolling.

This past October, Philadelphia-based MEDCO, an independent warehouse distributor serving the Northeast, sponsored its first show at the Marriott Philadelphia Downtown. The show featured over 90 exhibitors and drew more than 700 attendees. MEDCO called the show a stunning success, as mobile distributors in attendance found great savings from exhibitor specials and took advantage of the opportunity to see new products, spend quality time with fellow mobile distributors and attend education sessions. Ingersoll Rand gave away a 2013 Ford Mustang while MEDCO gave away a 2012 Ford F150.

The most unique feature of warehouse distributor events, perhaps, is the more intimate nature they offer than the big automotive industry trade shows. At warehouse distributor events, attendees have a chance to get to know suppliers and fellow mobile distributors better. These relationships can last a lifetime and make a big difference in an individual mobile distributor’s success.

A mobile distributor learns the value

Just ask Jonathan Winstel, the subject of this month’s cover story on page 8. In 2010, Winstel’s truck was stolen while he attended the Matco Tools Show in Orlando, Fla. His business was underinsured when the disaster struck. He lost all of his inventory, and his truck was damaged beyond use.

But thanks to the relationships Winstel had developed with fellow mobile distributors and his warehouse distributor supplier, he was able to pull through his misfortune. A fellow mobile distributor lent him a trailer. Matco Tools gave him enough credit to stock the trailer. The financial and moral support was all Winstel needed to recover from his setback.

In the months following the burglary, he hit the road in his borrowed trailer, determined to regain his financial footing. He was rewarded – to a degree that he never expected.

Winstel did $103,725 in sales for the month of March, 2010, his best month ever. He won the district monthly sales award, receiving a certificate which he proudly displays in his new truck. His best month ever – selling from a trailer!

Being underinsured was a costly mistake, and Winstel learned from it. But he also learned the importance of camaraderie – with suppliers, colleagues and customers.

Winstel’s story isn’t over yet. The day may come when someone who lent him a hand will need a favor from him.

Tool industry: unique camaraderie

This camaraderie is one of the key features of the tool industry. While strong relationships play an important role in many industries, the tool industry is unique in the degree to which manufacturers, warehouse distributors and mobile distributors network with one another.

This is why events like trade shows and customer appreciation days are so important. Remember Jonathan Winstel’s story the next time a networking opportunity presents itself.