Innovation Awards: A great conversation starter with customers

June 4, 2013

Selling tools on a truck has many demands. One that most tool sales people agree on is being able to engage customers – in the customer’s shop and on the truck. There are many different ways to engage customers.

The first goal many of you work on is getting a conversation going, be it about business or other matters. The second goal is to get the conversation focused on tools.

The current issue of Professional Distributor offers one of the greatest conversation starters ever presented in the magazine –the annual PTEN Innovation Awards, beginning on page XX. The Innovation Awards recognize the most innovative products introduced in the last year to the automotive aftermarket. For 10 years, PTEN, Professional Distributor’s sister magazine that goes to shops and technicians, has recognized the most innovative tools. 

Customers await the awards 

Every year, shops and technicians look forward to the PTEN Innovation Awards. Technicians want tools that help them get jobs done right the first time in an efficient manner.

The process of gathering nominations, judging the nominees and selecting the winners for the Innovation Awards is a very exciting time for the automotive tool industry. It begins in the spring when nominations are announced and concludes at the fall AAPEX meeting where the winners are honored on the trade show floor.

Tool and equipment manufacturers submit products every year, hoping to win the recognition from PTEN’s panel of judges. The nominations include detailed explanations from manufacturers about product features, along with pictures, and in more than half the cases, videos. The nine judges are veteran technicians and shop owners who bring a “real world” view to evaluating tools.

The judges get busy every spring evaluating the nominations. Product categories include air conditioning, air tools, battery charging/starting, computers and software, diagnostic test equipment, electrical systems, fluid exchange, hand tools, heavy duty, inspection tools, jacks and stands, leak detection, lifts, lighting, power tools, repair information, safety equipment, scan tools, shop equipment, specialty tools, tire and wheel service, tool accessories and tool storage.

Judges are asked to rank the nominees for time savings, task simplification, uniqueness, level of improvement over current tool, and ease of use.

This year, there were 80 nominations, an outstanding number.

Judges relish the task

The judges work tirelessly on these evaluations. PTEN compensates them for their time, but the main reason the judges get involved in this project is their love of tools and the excitement they share finding out how manufacturers are helping them do their jobs better and faster. This much is obvious from the numerous comments the judges make about the tools in the evaluation forms.

Here’s one judge’s comment about new line taps for air conditioning lines: “I see two positive things this tool can do. One is that it would save a tremendous amount of time by repairing this tube end as replacing some of these lines are very costly and hard to replace at times. The other is its simplicity of use.”

A comment on a pneumatic air tool: “This makes it more like an air-powered skill-saw; the line of sight will make it a lot easier to follow a prescribed line, or follow patterns.”

A comment on an impact driver: “This would surely eliminate the use of heat which cuts down on possible safety issues.”

This year, the judges displayed keen interest in ways to address new SAE International standards. There was also a lot of interest in tools to address the emerging field of hybrid vehicles. And as always, a lot of interest was shown in diagnostic tools and repair information sources that can help shops work on more different vehicles.

If you’ve been selling tools for a while, you know that customers are looking to you for ideas about what’s new and exciting. What better way to engage the customers than to let them know which of the products you offer won an Innovation Award?

This issue marks the first time Professional Distributor offers a special section on the Innovation Award winners as they appear in the June PTEN magazine. You now have a great opportunity to talk about the winning tools just as your customers are learning about them in PTEN magazine.

The Innovation Award winners receive special plaques during the annual AAPEX show in Las Vegas. The presentation has become the best attended event during the trade show.

Now is your chance to share the excitement of the Innovation Awards with your customers.

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