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Diverse sales background helps newcomer in mobile distribution

Before distributor Craig Wineinger started a Matco Tools franchise in Shreveport, La. (20 miles from the Texas border), he went to mourtuary school to become a funeral director.  "I tell people on the route that I got tired of dead people not talking back to me. I looked for something that was...

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Before distributor Craig Wineinger started a Matco Tools franchise in Shreveport, La. (20 miles from the Texas border), he went to mourtuary school to become a funeral director. 

"I tell people on the route that I got tired of dead people not talking back to me. I looked for something that was more social," says Wineinger, laughing. 

Between his mortuary schooling and before deciding to hit the road as a mobile tool distributor, Wineinger was first introduced to the route business by way of a uniform delivery service. 

After working for a larger corporation, Wineinger decided he wanted to run his own business. "I had always heard if you want to be wealthy, and wanted to be independent, and to work for yourself, (to) look up franchising," says Wineinger. "And I thought it was a neat career."

"I thought, if I can sell uniforms, I know I can sell tools. Uniforms are just an image, and uniforms aren't going to make you any money," says Wineinger. "But tools, those will make you a lot of money."

Wineinger filled out an application and was contacted by Matco Tools to discuss franchising options. After talking with the Matco representative for a few hours one evening, he decided to make the commitment that same night. He's been with Matco Tools now for about a year and a half. 

Learning the business

Because Wineinger's career had previously focused on sales, he had little knowledge of actual tools. Competition in the area has used this as a drawback to his business, but Wineinger doesn't see it that way.

"Well, I've always been that type of person that if you tell me I can't do something, I'm going to show you."

Focused mainly on automotive dealerships, "mom-and-pop" repair shops and some heavy duty equipment, Wineinger has been steadily increasing his customer base. 

Although Wineinger isn't always familiar with tools his customers are asking for, he'll use different strategies to determine what they're looking to buy.

First Wineinger will ask his customer questions to engage him in conversation and determine which tool their looking for. Once he starts talking with the customer, he also uses his "Bible" -- ("I call my tool catalog my bible.") to figure out the specific tool the customer is referring to. He'll also use the Internet to look up information on tools.

"I don't always know what (the tool) looks like, but if I type it in, and see a picture of it, I'll know if I have it on the truck." 

Sales promotions

Wineginer uses different sales promotions to engage his customer base, and encourage more sales.

He has offered a promotion called "Six-pack for an app" which encourages customers to fill out a Matco account application for a free six-pack of soda. 

"It amazes me, because some people don't care – they just want the Coke."

Although many of the customers who apply for credit think they'll be turned down, some still receive approval.

"They already assume they're getting turned down, and then when they realize 'Matco is going to give me credit?' "says Wineinger. "That opens their eyes up to ideas like 'I've always wanted a toolbox' or 'There's some tools that I want to get,' so it increases those sales."

Wineinger has also run what he calls an envelope promotion to encourage sales. The promotion features 100 envelopes, each with a lottery ticket. He offers a grand prize, second prize and third prize to customers. All of the envelopes hang from the ceiling of his truck, and all must be drawn before anyone can open their envelopes and collect their prize. 

"Even if you don't win the grand prize, you still have a chance to win money from the lottery ticket, "says Wineinger. "I had a guy win $400 on a winning lottery ticket. He was just as happy as winning the grand prize."

This campaign encourages customers to purchase more off the truck. 

"If you make a $100 payment, you get to pull an envelope. It's an incentive to (have customers purchase more). If you're buying something for $75, I'll tell them, 'Hey, you just need $25 more to win this plasma TV.' "

The best sales strategy

Wineigner offers his greatest piece of advice, to new and veteran distributors alike: don't go into a shop empty-handed.

"Alot of guys say they don't want to be a salesman. Well, you signed up for a sales job. Even though you might have good relationships (at the shop), you still need to go in there and say “This is what I'm toting and promoting.”

He chooses any four products on his truck. After each stop, Wineinger just refills his bag once he sells any of the tools. 

Wineinger stresses the importance of toting and promoting, and encourages all distributors to carry tools into the shop at every stop. 

"You sign up for a $100K investment, and you're not going to carry tools. It doesn't make sense that you're going to spend all this money and make this investment, and you're not going to do the job."