When life is, and isn’t, good

March 5, 2010
Staying positive when a customer skips on his payment obligations for tool purchases

It’s Monday morning and as you prepare for your first customers, a great weekend is still fresh on the mind — they seem to go by the fastest. Having a weekend like that really puts a little spring in the step as you greet customers and life is good.

By the time the morning’s iced coffee is half gone, the route is flowing like you are a sales magnet. Each shop seems to bring guys who are asking for an item you showed them two weeks ago, or someone who says, “I am in the middle of this job and, dude, I really hope you have this tool.” Life is good.

You pull into one more shop to grab four techs before the clock chimes twelve. Before you can leave the truck, one of the techs hops aboard and slaps down a Ben Franklin and asks for “that air gun that we have been talking about.” Nice. After the transaction, you run in to catch the others, but upon entering the first bay you lose the spring in your step, you slow down and your shoulders slump.


Many of you don’t need to read anymore to know what just happened — because you have lived it, possibly numerous times. Although we all know it is in the makeup of the industry, it doesn’t ease the pain. The newest guy in the shop that used to work in bay three left on Friday afternoon … along with a fair amount of your product or, more accurately, cash flow because you no longer have possession of that product.

(It all started pretty much the same as with every new tech that shows up on the route: you meet, greet and feel them out for a few weeks. Shortly thereafter transactions become the weekly norm with him, and he buys more and his payments increase (nice), developing into another good customer.)

Was this customer one that sort of gave you that funny gut feeling? You know the one — it’s that “I have seen this before” feeling. After seeing him for a few weeks, your guard drops a little and you decide to take a chance. At first, the sales are kept to lower levels (because of that gut feeling), but as time passed he needed more each week and the payments were adjusted. Maybe even at some point the balance owed outgrew the weekly payments.

Or was this customer one that paid for most tools at the time of purchase? He never really balked at price point because he realized the warranty/service piece. He became the type of customer that received the extra mile of service, and was an all-around good guy that made your day enjoyable.

In either case, the skip affects your mindset to some degree (one obviously more than the other), but it is reality in our world. This scenario changes the rest of the day, or even the rest of the week, depending on how you view things. Naturally walking in and seeing this tech’s box missing is unsettling — it sort of throws an anchor overboard and drags your state of mind down with it. Not so good!


The immediate moments after hearing the news are the most crucial to maintaining a positive outlook. “OK, I have a missing tech that owes me money — what’s my next move?” Open up the customer info tab and place a call to his cell and his home (most everyone has a cellphone, be sure to have that info as well). This call often times will resolve the matter.

If a few days go by with no response, I swing by their house; having a tool truck backing in the driveway definitely gets attention from the tech and the neighbors. There are a host of ways to track down a missing tech; most techs don’t go that far and could be as close as the route next to yours, so be sure to contact other distributors and make them aware.

So how do we minimize the sinking feeling when this happens?

It all started back when they came into your route:
• Did you get every piece of info possible?
• Did you make the tech aware of what is expected each week and what the consequences would be if those obligations were not met?
• Each week when they needed more product, were the payments adjusted?
• Were you firm with them if they started to relax on their payments?

This list shows the tech you are serious about your business, so calling and showing up at their house should come as no surprise and provide results.

Now, remember how you felt during the weekend? Continually ask yourself how you can inject that mood/mindset into each day of the week following the bad news. Proper planning and continued determination allows for a positive outlook; with that you will find that, in fact, life is good!

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