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Veteran insurance salesman finds great second career in tool distribution

What’s a 34-year veteran insurance salesman doing in the mobile tool distribution business? Applying the sales skills that made him successful selling an intangible product to a tangible one. Garland Dennis, 62, of Deland, Fla., is the first to admit he is not a handyman. If someone had told him five years ago he’d be selling tools to automotive repair shops, he’d think they were joking.

Sixteen years ago, when he was 46, Dennis was looking to slow down a bit, having done well in the insurance business. He sold the insurance agency he had established over the years and continued selling insurance on a part-time basis. In search of new business opportunites, he placed his resume on, the Internet resume site, and soon got a call from a representative of one of the mobile distribution flags.

After this conversation, Dennis asked the owner of the repair shop he uses for his own auto repairs what he could tell him about tool trucks. The shop owner said that he strongly believed there was a need for another tool truck in the market.

Dennis then contacted other mobile tool flags to find out what they could offer him. He ultimately settled on the one that he felt offered the best opportunity.

While he knew little about tools, Dennis wasn’t intimidated. In his view, sales is sales. “If I could sell insurance, I could sell a wrench,” he said. “It’s customer service. Nobody can match my customer service skills.”

The flag organization set him up with about 325 names in the Deland, Fla. area. He drove to the locations and began selling tools. To learn about the tools, he studied the flag’s catalog, both the online and print versions. He asked the technicians to explain the tools. He also relied on his flag’s information department.
While none of the shops knew him, that didn’t faze a man who had enjoyed a successful career built from cold calls.

Some of the shops would not buy from anyone but an established truck, he noted, but there were enough that welcomed the competition.

He recalls one shop where one of the technicians refused to speak to him at first. Then one day, when that tech saw him offering a replacement tool for a tool that Dennis hadn’t sold in the first place, that silent tech promptly handed him a list of tools he wanted.

In his first two years, Dennis claimed he did about $1.25 million in sales.

Dennis had to slow down this January after suffering a foot infection. He has used his downtime to revamp his business. He has left the flag organization he worked for because he wants to sell as an independent. He is in the process of establishing a website for his new company. He plans to use the website to host live training seminars for technicians.

At age 62, Dennis has found a new career – in mobile distribution.