Back in my younger years I was asked by the Memphis Apartment Council to put on a class to teach apartment-maintenance people general maintenance and repairs.

And because my primary education dealt with electrical/electronics and HVAC (and I also understood plumbing), I felt qualified to do this. However, I’ve always been a terrible carpenter and suggested they find someone else to teach this portion of the curriculum, which they did (a woodworking teacher at a local high school). Because I was technically in charge of the class, I also attended the carpentry portion. And you know what? I found that my problem wasn’t with knowledge of carpentry, but with not having the right tools!

Yes, tools make all the difference. And being a real man, I love tools (I just never had my own workshop). And believe it or not, it should be the goal of your training and counter people to make your customers aware of any new tools that will make their jobs easier. Consider it a public service!

From the viewpoint of a supply-house owner or manager, tool sales are gravy since they are seldom priced as commodities. And though technicians may be able to buy hand tools as cheaply down at the local builder-supply store, you have access to a better selection of great industry tools that they don’t.

Back when I was a kid, I worked in a Kinney shoe store (remember them?) and learned a lesson that will always stay with me. The company urged the salespeople to push what they called “up fronts” (purses, belts, socks, shoe polish, brushes, etc.), and they kept track of your sales and paid a bonus for selling them.

Of course, this had its downside because some salespeople became too pushy and this hurt business. But those who did it well just suggested what other items customers might need and they explained their advantages. I notice that eBay and Amazon also are pretty good at suggesting other things that you might need when you order from them — I can testify their system works!

What about implementing a similar system in your stores, that is, if you haven’t done so already? I don’t know how you pay your employees, but there is no question that some form of motivation could improve your sales of service tools. The only thing you would need to do is ask your tool reps to put on brief classes for your people so they know what applications the tools have and the advantages and features of the wares they offer.

I’m sure most would be overjoyed to do this, and if it improves sales, they might also be willing to help with the incentives.

As I’ve attended the AHR expos (every one for the past 32 years), I’ve noticed more and much-better service tools becoming available and I’ve wondered how all these manufacturers can find the right market for their products. But here you are and here is your company.

So, am I urging you to push products that people don’t need? No. All I would like to see is a better, more qualified industry of people who are working with the
right tools.