Give a fish or teach them how to fish?

March 11, 2014
As educators, we provide customers (and ourselves) a long-term benefit.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Most of us are familiar with and understand this simple proverb. It means wisdom that provides ongoing sustenance has more value than a one-time gift that bears no further use. I thought of it after reviewing my notes from the tool dealer trade shows over the past several months. In perusing through all the notes I took about new tools, training seminars and comments from dealers and vendors on the trade show floors, this proverb stuck out in my mind.

While every business is about sales, technology is making automotive tools more about knowledge and communication.

From my notes with dealers and tool manufacturers at the recent trade shows, I relived the excitement of the dealer from the Midwest who found a universal press support from Mueller-Kueps with three points of contact that is adjustable to fit irregularly shaped objects. I also recalled the wonder of the dealer from the Northeast who discovered the Grey Pneumatic drive-reducing adapter set that reduces the socket size. I re-experienced the impressive turnout of dealers at the various seminars on the latest diagnostic tablets. I also recalled seminars on a more environmentally friendly refrigerant, more powerful air ratchets and much more.

Dealers who attended these shows unanimously found great value in them.

Exhibitor needs differ

The exhibitors also gained great benefits from the shows, although for them the shows are a bit more challenging. When I ask manufacturers about shows, the response is usually more varied because the objectives are more diverse.

For manufacturers, the shows present an opportunity to display and sell tools. They are also forums to educate dealers in seminars during the shows. For manufacturers, shows are an opportunity to learn from customers what issues need to be addressed. And they are an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships.

When asked about shows, a manufacturer's first comment is usually about the show floor traffic. This year, they generally felt good about the shows. Attendance has been improving since the recession began, and this year, several shows set new attendance records.

Hence, dealers and manufacturers alike were inspired by the recent shows.

A unique insight

One of the most enlightening insights came from a manufacturer of body shop tools.

Dan Maloney, Jr., North American sales and marketing manager for H&S Auto Shot, told me that for him there's no such thing as a bad dealer show. He said every show gives him a chance to instruct dealers how to sell new tools such as his company's Stud Buddy to grip studs and pull pins.

Maloney reasons that if dealers are better prepared to sell his company's tools, the more they will sell. For him, a chance to increase dealer selling capabilities presents a value that goes well beyond the sales he makes at the show.

In reflecting on Maloney's comment, I realized the same thing holds true for dealers. The better a dealer understands the way a tool works and the better he or she can communicate this to customers, the more tools they will sell.

An automotive repair tool is not a commodity. Unlike products sold for one-time use, a repair tool is for ongoing use. To sell a repair tool, a dealer must understand how it provides ongoing benefits for a customer.

Tool and equipment dealers gain the most benefit from trade shows when they learn not only what new products are available, but how these products benefit their customers. And, as tool technology evolves, dealers need to spend more time learning how products work and how to educate customers.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

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