What's wrong with not toting and promoting?

Jan. 24, 2011

Q - What’s the big deal about “toting and promoting”. I’ve got my customers trained. I blow my horn and they come running out to my truck. I’m established. What’s wrong with that?

A - If you were running a Good Humor truck and selling ice cream, I’d say there’s nothing wrong with that strategy. You’d make a buck or so on every sale and put a smile on a kid’s face. 

But you’re a tool dealer. The basic problem with your approach is that while you’re saving a few footsteps you’re losing a lot of chances to create many more new customers by not taking the time to walk into each shop and meet new prospects. 

The right approach

Don’t get me wrong, training your customers to come out to your truck isn’t a bad thing. But it’s not like you’re the Pied Piper or something. Your horn may draw out your current customers; however, few if any new technicians are going to fall into a trance and shuffle out to your truck when they hear you beep. Remember you’re not the only show in town. Chances are other flags or independents are calling on this shop. You want to do everything you can to make friends with their customers and convert them to your customers. You can’t do that by just blowing your horn. You need to walk in and give them a reason to move their business over to you. 

It doesn’t take a math whiz to get how it all works. You need to add new customers faster than you lose current customers or you’ll eventually be out of business. The equation is simple: Sell more stuff to more customers and you’ll make more money. That’s why the most successful dealers are constantly drumming up new customers. If you’re not careful, sometimes it’s your customers these successful dealers are drumming up.

Beeping your horn means you see your truck as a store on wheels. That’s fine. Convenience stores do a fair business. But sales clerks aren’t paid as well as salespeople are. That’s because order taking is easy. Creating sales is where the real money is. And that means being proactive.

And how do you meet the shop owner or manager if all you do is sit in your truck? You might be losing a lot of sales to the other guy who will stop in the office and chat with the guys who make the big shop equipment purchases or might buy consumables or chemicals from you.

I’m not trying to berate you. (Well, maybe a little. But, all in good fun.) I’m not saying you don’t want to get as many techs out to your truck as you can. Of course you do. That’s where 99.9 percent of your inventory is. The 0.1 percent you carry in when you tote and promote isn’t the big deal. The big deal is meeting new technicians and engaging them in tool talk.

Engage the customer

What should you carry out with you when you walk in a shop? New tools? Promotions? Best sellers? Unique items? Overstock? Anything you can carry, according to one dealer.

“It doesn’t matter what you tote in,” says Cornwell dealer Damien DaCosta of Murfreesburo, Tenn. “Yesterday was a perfect example of that. Whatever was laying on the counter from the last stop, that’s what I took in … and I sold almost everything I took in. I took in a temperature gun to a tire shop and sold them. What are they measuring? The temperature of the tire? But, by gosh, he wanted one. It was on sale.”

But you aren’t going to sell anything just because you walk in with that tool in your hands. You need to actively connect with prospects. That may take a little more gumption than you’re used to, but it’s worth it in the long run. When DaCosta first started out in the tool business he was in a shop talking to the shop owner when a dealer from another flag came in and just stood in the corner like a mouse.

“And he stood there for quite a while,” DaCosta said. “I understand people don’t want to be rude and maybe interrupt. I’m going to, but the average guy may not want to. He stood there for quite a long time -- I’m thinking it was maybe 15 minutes. Nobody talked to him. Nobody looked at him. Nobody looked at what he had in-hand. I think he had a sales flyer with him. I’m pretty sure he had a tool in his hand. And he was ignored.”

“Well let me tell you, when I go to a [shop] I’m not ignored,” says DaCosta. “I make sure they know I’m there … It’s not a arrogant thing. It’s just that I’m there for a purpose and that’s to sell tools … And if everybody’s busy and they’re not going to do business with me, then I’m out. I’m going to the next shop … You’ve got to be respectful of what they’re doing. But you need to do what you’re there to do and get on with it. I think that maybe that’s how I got to 315 customers.”

No, that’s not a typo. DaCosta has over 315 customers. Not by sitting in his truck blowing his horn but by aggressively toting and promoting and being a professional sales person.

What’s wrong with that?

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