When you sell tools and equipment from a truck, five and sometimes six days a week, the day-to-day grind can sometimes make you forget the importance of building strong relationships. You make the same call every third Monday, you see the same faces every other Wednesday, but each day you’re pushing yourself to make one more stop, sell one more tool, before you call it a day and head home. On the other hand, there may be times when you may want to stop and visit with a technician or a shop owner, but they are just too busy to talk. They want to buy a tool and send you on your way.
A tool fair can help you overcome those types of days. It can provide you with an opportunity to show your shop owners and technicians that you value their friendship, their time and their patronage. It is a good way to cement your relationships and provide another type of customer service.
What You’ll Need:
1. Determine a good, central location for your customers’ convenience.
Many distributors work with a local technical or vo-ed school, and some rent a room at a local hotel. Schools are a nice choice because you can include the local automotive instructor and his students, potentially bringing new technicians into contact with future employers.
2. Set a time that makes sense for you and your customers.
You want to get the most “bang for your buck,” so don’t start it at 8 in the morning. That’s when your customers are most productive. Some distributors find evening hours work best from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Others will run from noon to 7:00 p.m., or 5:00 to 9:30 p.m. You need to know what’s best for your customers and plan from there.
3. Determine what you want to accomplish.
Will your tool fair be strictly for good will and relationship building, or do you want to do some selling as well?
If relationship building is your primary goal, you can take a page out of the franchise playbooks keep it simple, keep it fun, keep it short. Provide plenty of food and refreshments throughout your allotted time. Set up “stations” for food, drinks, games and information. Include activities for your customers’ children. One dealer rents a couple of race simulators and encourages his techs to race against their kids. The winner gets a ball cap or pair of gloves. It’s all fun, and it’s all free to your customers.
If appreciation and selling are your goals, do everything we talked about in the previous paragraph, but include time for training. Host an “Evening with the Experts” and encourage one or more of your suppliers to attend and hold training with your technicians.
In addition to the food, drinks and game stations, have plenty of space available to distribute product information. This can be anything from a computer-generated “Specials for Tonight” to product catalogs and monthly promotional materials from your suppliers. If possible, this is a great time to ask your suppliers to provide some extra tools and equipment to display and sell on-site. It’s a great opportunity to showcase equipment that you usually don’t carry on the truck A/C machines, electronics, shop equipment, fluid exchange equipment, etc.
Either way, you’ll want to “pre-sell” the event. There is nothing worse than a big room filled only with you and some hot dogs! Get some excitement going! Give them a reason to show up. Some distributors offer tool raffles to attendees. Be sure to have plenty of business cards on hand.
4. Get support from your supplier(s).
Use this opportunity to ask for special pricing or dating terms. Ask them to provide samples and giveaway items. Your success means more success for them.
5. Thank your customers sincerely.
Be sure you meet and greet every customer. Whether they buy a little or a lot over a year’s time, they are the lifeblood of your future. Treat them with respect and thank them for their business. People still sell to people. People still buy from people they like.
Make the event one that is fun, memorable and educational. Be sure you understand what you want to accomplish, and then go from there.