Sage advice from a seasoned salesman

June 5, 2017
Through his nearly four decades of experience, veteran independent distributor Lynn Bazile has honed his selling skills and applied his business acumen to efficiently run a successful mobile tool selling business.

Orlando-based independent distributor Lynn Bazile has always been committed to the task at hand. Enterprising and determined, he has applied his years of professional experience to fine tune the business he runs today.

His foray into the mechanical repair world began some 50 years ago, while serving his country in the U.S. Air Force. With a 15-month tour of duty in Vietnam in beginning in 1965, Bazile was a mechanic, building bombs and rockets, and servicing machine guns on aircraft.

After returning home, he attended trade school in Los Angeles to become a mechanic through the G.I.  Bill. With a mechanical background and a knack for selling, he eventually made his way into sales through the automotive channel with the purchase and management of a used car dealership in northeastern Wisconsin. 

When he no longer wanted to tolerate the bitter cold winters of the Midwest, Bazile took a job with a franchised mobile tool distributor in Florida in 1978. He retired from his franchise route in 1990 and established an independent route that same year. Bazile still runs this route in the Orlando area; he even sees some of the same customers he did when he started selling tools nearly four decades ago.

Since that time, Bazile has honed his business management skills to run an efficient and profitable mobile tool selling business.

Bazile attributes his success to the fact that he has followed three simple rules:

  1. Know how to collect. This means asking for payments every week, and letting the customer decide how much they would like to pay.
  2. Buy smart. Understand the proper inventory, take advantage of promotions when buying from a franchise or warehouse distributor and maintain cash flow.
  3. Know how to run a successful business. Be on time, and stay true to promised commitments such as delivering products.

(Read about Bazile's three keys to being a successful mobile tool distributor.)

Benefits of servicing body shops

Bazile’s customer base is comprised of a good mix of stops, including truck dealerships, independent repair shops, some farms and a number of body shops.

In fact, Bazile says more than 40 percent of his customer base is collision repair businesses. “If I was 10 years younger, I would start a body shop truck and just do body shops. That’d be such a good business.”

Bazile says during his time as a mobile tool distributor, he has seen a shift with collision shops, and has noticed the increased professionalism of these customers.

Collision shop customers tend to work mostly on commission, which can affect weekly payments; but the customer base usually buys and pays more, and they are familiar with the products needed to assist with efficient repairs, according to Bazile. Painters in particular know exactly what they want and will readily order, he says.

“Body shop (technicians) are 100-percent commission,” Bazile says. “Even though they’re on commission, if they can do a job faster, they still get paid ‘X’ amount of dollars for the job. That’s why they buy all these special tools, to work faster.”

It’s important to understand their needs, and the products they’re looking for, says Bazile. “You have to speak their language.” As Bazile has helped service these customers, he has learned the brands of paint guns that sell best (Satajet and Anest Iwata), the different types of paint guns (HVLP – high-volume, low pressure, or RP – reduced pressure) and understands the different paint gun tip sizing (“1.2s are for base (coat). 1.3s are for clear coat,” says Bazile).

In addition to paint equipment, collision repair shops Bazile services ask for products such as welders, dentless paint repair products, bumper repair tools and hot staple guns, clips and vise grips for holding panels.

“The average body man has about 40 or 50 of those vise grips. You wouldn’t believe it.”

For power tools, he sells quite a few die grinders, ratchets, buffers and belt sanders with the appropriate sandpaper pads, along with Dent Fix spotweld drills with bits made for work on high-strength steel.

Bazile has also noticed a transition with collision repair shops, where they are more readily purchasing scan tools for pre- and post-scans of vehicles coming in. For many of his customers, he sells the Launch CRP-123 to handle ABS and SRS system resets – the main systems requiring resets during collision repairs. He also says there has been a shift where some collision shops will also have a hired dedicated diagnostic technician to assist with these aspects of the repair.

Customer service style

Overall, Bazile has a quick-witted and easy-going rapport with customers – especially due to his well-established relationships with technicians and shops owners from servicing the area for decades.

“It’s a really good business,” Bazile says of being a mobile tool distributor. “It’s only for certain people though; you’ve got to be street broken for this business, that’s what I call it. You’ve got deal with some pretty tough people. You can’t get offended very easily or you’ll never make it in this business. They like to try you out. But, I’ve got a good rapport with all my normal customers.”

As a successful independent tool distributor, Bazile says his main challenge is helping customers maintain manageable balances on his truck.

“Keeping their (customer) balances under control is a real challenge. They want to buy. When they get used to buying this stuff here, they just want to buy freely,” says Bazile. “The main aspect of the business is to ask for money. They all know they’ve got to pay; just ask them for the money.”

As an independent, Bazile doesn’t have the same financing options available for customers he once had with his franchise truck. However, he says this hasn’t been an issue due to being long-established and having ample cash flow available.  

Bazile prides himself on his relationships with customers. He has a natural and easy-going approach, where he can joke around with customers, but always gets down to business by asking how much they’d like to pay on their balance. He’ll often facetiously encourage a $100 weekly payment from each customer. Customers respond by offering payment anywhere from $20 to $50, on average; sometimes more.

Bazile says his weekly goal is to sell and collect about $15,000 a week. He’s working to bring down his balance on the street, which is currently around $200,000.

He says since the introduction of the wireless credit card machine, he has been able to more readily take collections as well – both same-day and for future payments. Bazile allows customers to “slow boat” payments, as he calls it. This means he will run the customer’s credit card for the agreed upon amount at a later day or time – typically later in the week. “I’ve probably got at least 100-some guys I don’t see right now, but I run their cards.”

A gathering place

When customers enter the truck, they congregate near Bazile’s desk.

Situated at the truck’s entrance, customers gather here for assistance with a tool for repair, a request for a product or to deliver their payments. Most then continue down the truck aisle after the initial conversation to check out the inventory and, possibly, purchase additional product to add to their tool bills.

Bazile says the service desk is the most important area of his truck. He also stocks additional sale add-ons above his computer and around the front of the truck to encourage last-minute purchases.

With all the activity on his truck, and surrounding his desk in particular, Bazile hardly ever goes into customer shops.

“Some days I don’t even leave the truck. They always come out here. Same time every day,” he says.

As customers make their way past the desk they will find the shelves of Bazile’s 2014 20’ Utilimaster truck completely stocked with product. That’s because Bazile says he wants to ensure he has anything a customer might want.

For the infrequent instances he does not have the product a customer is looking for, or needs to special-order an item, Bazile will oftentimes drop-ship directly to the customer. He says this is both beneficial for the customer because he’s able to deliver the tool right away, and it helps him to not lose the sale.

“I drop ship a lot of stuff right to the customer from ISN,” Bazile says. “I just ship it to him [and] he’ll have it the next day. The sale is automatic. If you say, ‘I’ll bring it to you next week,’ well, as soon as [your competitor] rolls in and he’s got one on his truck, that sale’s gone.”

While he attempts to keep the truck clean and orderly, the stock will inherently move around due to the volume on display. “It’s as organized as it’s going to be. Because I’ve got so many people coming on and by the end of the day it’s sometimes just a mess.”

“It’s not the neatest truck around, but I sell a lot of tools,” he adds. 

Future plans  

At 73 years old, there’s no slowing down for Bazile. He still puts in 12-hour days on a regular basis. 

“I’m trying to cut down so I’m working normal days, not 12 or 13 hours,” says Bazile. “Some days I don’t get five minutes of peace.”

The benefits of being an independent have allowed Bazile to service any customer he chooses – which has been both a benefit and a challenge at times. It means he can follow the good customers to new shops, but it leaves Bazile to service the customers at the old shop, while picking up new customers where his technician now works.

Because of his previous franchise route, he still also services a few agricultural customers outside of the Orlando metro area in Sorrento, Florida. This is the main reason he puts on about 900 miles per week.

“Typically you shouldn’t have to drive that much when you’re independent. The whole secret to being independent is you get a good customer base, and when they move you just cherry pick, and follow them. What happens, and why I’ve had to adjust this territory so many times, [is that] the shop where he used to work, you’ve still got customers. Now the new shop where he goes, you pick up more customers there.”

“I do it because I have so much business, and I try to take care of those guys. It just gets crazy. You’ve got a lot of driving time.”

Bazile has begun an attempt to scale down his customer base and cut down his route. To do this, he is working with two other recently established independents in the area to sell off these accounts for $0.75 on the dollar.

“I have two guys starting, they’re going to take over some of my stops,” says Bazile. He says he assists with the transition, but it can be hard for some customers because he’s been stopping at some shops since he started. “It’s always really touchy. It’s the hardest part of the whole thing.”

As an independent tool distributor, Bazile likes the freedom to make his own decisions for the business. “You’re independent. You go where you want, deal with who you want, buy from who you want. There’s no B.S.”

This is one of the many reasons Bazile has no short-term plans to retire from the business. He continues to employ the same ideals he established early on, as he’s gained knowledge and experience throughout his many years selling tools.

“Ask for money, learn how to buy and run your business properly,” Bazile says. “You do those three things, and you’ll be very, very successful. There’s a lot of money to be made in this business.”

About the Author

Erica Schueller | Editorial Director | Commercial Vehicle Group

Erica Schueller is the Editorial Director of the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group. The commercial vehicle group includes the following brands: American Trucker, Bulk Transporter, Fleet Maintenance, FleetOwner, Refrigerated Transporter, and Trailer/Body Builders brands.

An award-winning journalist, Schueller has reported and written about the vehicle maintenance and repair industry her entire career. She has received accolades for her reporting and editing in the commercial and automotive vehicle fields by the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA), the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), the Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Azbee Awards.

Schueller has received recognition among her publishing industry peers as a recipient of the 2014 Folio Top Women in Media Rising Stars award, acknowledging her accomplishments of digital content management and assistance with improving the print and digital products in the Vehicle Repair Group. She was also named one Women in Trucking’s 2018 Top Women in Transportation to Watch.

She is an active member of a number of industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC),  the Auto Care Association's Young Auto Care Networking Group, GenNext, and Women in Trucking.

In December 2018, Schueller graduated at the top of her class from the Waukesha County Technical College's 10-week professional truck driving program, earning her Class A commercial driver's license (CDL).  

She has worked in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry since 2008.

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