Capital equipment sales; opportunity calls, but only for professionals

Back in April, contributing editor Phil Sasso posed the question in his “Sales Q&A” article: “Are you getting your fair share of capital equipment sales?” (Read the article at He presented an opportunity that most mobile distributors have but miss out on: to improve their profitability by selling capital equipment.

Lifts, A/C machines, compressors, tire changers and wheel balancers are high-ticket items that mobile distributors can sell to shops. At first glance, it seems like a no brainer, especially when you consider that no other sales channel has the access to aftermarket shops that a mobile distributor has.

Which begs the question: why do so few mobile distributors make the effort to corner this market? A distributor has to sell hundreds of wrenches and screwdrivers to match the profit from a four-post lift.

The simple answer is that the effort required can be intimidating. The only experience some mobile distributors have had is the occasional shop request for a quote, only to have the shop come back the next week and tell the mobile distributor they’re out of the running.

So is it worth the time and trouble to learn about capital equipment? The answer is yes, with qualification. The business has its unique demands. But nothing worth having comes without its price.

Capital equipment is complex and the technology, like other tools, is changing. To sell any product successfully, a salesperson must take the time to learn the intricacies. He must understand also the specific needs of the people using it. One size does not fit all.


A true story about capital equipment

John B. is a long-time mobile dealer who recently sold a lift to one of his shops. I have changed his name, but his story is 100-percent true, and it demonstrates the challenges and opportunities facing mobile distributors.

The owner of a shop he was visiting approached John B. one day and asked him if he could get them a scissor lift he saw advertised. The manufacturer would not sell the lift directly to the shop; the shop had to buy it through an authorized distributor. John B. felt lucky. He hadn’t sold a lift in years, nor had he invested much effort in it. But here was an easy sale. He ordered the lift through his warehouse distributor.

But before John B. could collect his money from the shop, the shop owner told him he didn’t want it because the technicians didn’t like it. The shop owner had not done his homework before making a purchase decision. John B., not wanting to get into a fight with a customer, began asking his other shops if they had use for the lift. In two weeks, he found a buyer.


An opportunity missed?

This situation worked out well for John B. But what if he took it upon himself to learn what capital equipment all of his shops needed? And in the process, educated the shops about their capital equipment options and involved the techs in the effort?

The equipment manufacturers aren’t going out of their way to hold mobile distributors’ hands. Many manufacturers have tried working with mobile distributors, only to become discouraged by the lack of willingness to learn the products, do the paperwork, coordinate training and installations. Manufacturers find it easier to work with contracted salesmen.

Mobile distributors have a unique opportunity in capital equipment sales. No contracted salesperson can get to the number of shops with the frequency of a mobile distributor. Nor can a contracted salesperson, who is lucky to visit all shops in his territory once a quarter, build many close customer relationships.

Nor can they work the decision maker from the “bottom up.” The distributor knows the techs who work with the equipment and oftentimes advise the shops what to buy. Who better to know the techs’ angle than the mobile distributor?

If you do your homework, the shop can’t “shop” you. If you’re informed about your products, you’re the resource. You’re doing the shopping for shops, saving them time and getting them the best deal.

The business is there for your taking.


Customers need to be educated

A lot of mobile dealers say they struggle with low-end products and Internet retailers when it comes to capital equipment. Which begs the question: How is it that such competitors who offer no training or aftermarket support can find a place with such complex, technologically advanced equipment where quality should rule? The market needs to be better educated about capital equipment.

Are you up to the challenge of being a true professional? To get started, go to