Turning Up The Heat On Hardlines

Dec. 1, 2005
Sales tips for moving more hardlines.

We all know it. The daily use of traditional hand tools, and the many specialized variations of them, are essential to fixing everything from lawnmowers to airplanes. But beyond capitalizing on the ever-present need for the hardline category, there are other steps you can take to ensure sales success.

Although your customer's needs will basically stay the same, it's up to you to show them what new and innovative hardlines are available, and how these tools can produce safer, more efficient and more productive results.

Quality And Value
One key to hardline sales success is a focus on selling quality and value, as opposed to just price. Remember, your customers are professionals. They want a tool that will not only get the job done, but that is dependable and durable.

Also, take steps to go beyond just pushing the "new" factor. Dissect that new tool's features, and sell the hardened stainless steel composition, or special plating for added durability, or that corrosion-resistant finish which is guaranteed not to rust. These features reinforce dependability and a stronger return on your customer's tool investment. If a tool is made in the U.S.A., be sure to mention that as well.

In the 2005/2006 Tool Purchasing Trends Study conducted by AAIA, respondents cited quality as the most important factor driving their past tool purchases. Respondents also indicated that mobile tool distributors were their most frequently used, and preferred supplier of new tools.

These findings seem to point toward a willingness of technicians to pay a premium price when purchasing quality products from their most trusted outlet.

Safety And Innovation
Safety is a growing concern for many technicians. So by offering a variety of tools with features like non-slip handles, ergonomic designs and handles with added comfort grips, you're supplying a safer way to get the job done.

Also, according to the Hand Tool Institute, one of the best ways to keep tool users safe is by discarding damaged or abused tools. So don't be afraid to let your customers know that using a damaged tool can lead to hand fatigue, or even more serious problems that could result from a tool head slipping off the hardware.

As was previously mentioned when looking at tool composition, be sure to sell all the new features. Recent examples in the hardline category include ratcheting wrench and screwdriver heads, multiple, retracting bit screwdrivers, slimmer tool heads, specialty tools for specific services, and new tools with greater accessibility features. The latter of which can be key in keeping pace with tight underhood compartments.

Service And Availability
The saying goes that you can't sell from an empty wagon, so be sure to have enough inventory in the truck and on the shelves, because that sale might not be there the next time you visit. Variety, in terms of breadth and depth of hardline coverage, is also important for sales success.

Additionally, don't forget the many options your customers have when it comes to buying tools. Be ready to help if a problem arises, and let them know you'll be there to provide the necessary customer service when it comes to covering warranties or getting tools fixed.

From Those In The Know
Who better to offer added insight in selling hardlines than those who specialize in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of them. With that in mind, we asked representatives from several of the leading hand tool companies in our industry to provide their thoughts on how to grow sales in this category.

  • "Sell the value of the product, not the price. A cheaper competitor can always be found, but you have to focus on the value of the product." – Jim Leavens, KD Tools/Danaher Tool Group
  • "Do your homework and get to know as much as you can about the product, and your customer's applications. The more you know about the product's quality, warranty coverage, depth of line, and selling versus the competition, the more effective you will be in selling hardlines."
    – Tony Grey, Grey Pneumatic
  • "A tool is a tool is a tool. Good quality with bad support or bad quality tools with good support are not good combinations. You have to sell the company that stands behind the tool, in addition to the qualities of the tool." – Andrew Hwang, Genius Tools
  • "Listen to your customers and offer weekly promotions or product features to drive the impulse sales that drive new business."
    – Cliff Rusnak, S•K Hand Tool

Things To Remember
1. Maintain an understanding of new product information, and constantly share this with your customers, even if they are not looking to buy right now. That way, when it comes time to buy, they'll know where to turn.
2. Be aware of warranty and repair information, and continually fulfill this function of customer service.
3. Keep a variety of hardlines in your inventory. This allows you to offer solutions to a wide range of applications, features and benefits.
4. Allow customers to handle the tools. Once they pick it up, the tool usually sells itself.
5. Display hardlines so they stand out on the truck. This also means keeping them clean and organized.

About the Author

Professional Distributor staff

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