As part of my (Rachel) own training, I spent the day riding along with a MAC jobber. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience, and I learned more about sales in that one day than ever before. Mobile jobbers are a unique distribution channel that marketers in the B2T space need to better understand.
Today we have a guest post from Alan Sipe that provides insight into the world of Mobile Jobbers. Alan is President of Toolbox Sales and Consulting and has more than 40 years of experience including Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing for Klein Tools and President of KNIPEX Tools. His insights in selling through various distribution channels and professional contractors are invaluable.
Every Tuesday at about 10 a.m. or Wednesday at 3 p.m. here comes the Cornwell, MAC, Matco, Snap-on or independent mobile jobber representative into your shop.
If they are good at their job, with each visit he or she will be demonstrating the latest and greatest tools for you to purchase. They will also be taking care of your broken tools and delivering your previous orders.
But, how much do you really know about this visitor? What’s their business story? It sure looks easy, walking around showing a bunch of tool nuts (mechanics) cool tools, doesn’t it?
Well, good mobile jobbers make it look easy. But, not surprisingly, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
So, what’s a typical mobile jobber’s day like?
First stop at 7:30 a.m. and last stop at 5 p.m. with 15 -20 stops and 25 phone calls in between. Once back home they must reload the truck with what they sold today, do their financial paperwork, order new and special-order merchandise and all the other fun-filled tasks of owning a small business.
Good jobbers show up at their stops about the same day and time each week, so their customers know when to expect them. They will first distribute monthly sales flyers to technicians, showing which tools are on promotion.
Next, they will collect their money from those with open accounts, and finally, they will deliver previously placed orders and demonstrate new products.
All in all, a good, professional mobile jobber works hard and long—just like his customers—and makes a decent living, just like you.
It’s interesting to note that previously being an automotive technician gives a new mobile jobber a little leg up in the business, since he or she understands a technician’s job.
However, the more important success characteristics are: make the calls, demonstrate the products, ask for the orders, keep promises, make the calls, demonstrate the products, ask for the orders, keep promises, and—just to be sure I am being clear— a successful mobile jobber will make the calls, demonstrate the products, ask for the orders and keep promises.
Let’s look at the mobile jobber’s investment in his or her business.
Start with the truck: $50,000 to $125,000 or more; inventory: $150,000 to $250,000; insurance on the truck and the inventory; health insurance (no company insurance for these people); life insurance; and maintenance on the truck; and, finally, diesel fuel.
Just like your shop expenses, they have a big nut to pay off every month.
We have a mobile jobber near me in Schaumburg, Illinois whose territory is about 4 miles wide and 10 miles long, so his fuel cost is at the low end. At the other extreme, there’s the jobber in Sturgis, South Dakota that I see during the motorcycle rally each year who covers half the state!
Either way, these small business people have a huge investment in their businesses.
Now, let’s say you work in a shop that has more than five technicians, which means you probably get called on by Cornwell, MAC, Matco, Snap-on and maybe an independent or two.
How do you form the best relationships, which in turn will get you the best service and pricing?
I have read that the good, professional technicians will spend $3,500 or more per year on their own tools, electronics and boxes. So, let’s use $3,500 as our example.
If you decide to spread your business across four major jobbers and an independent, you will spend about $700 with each. For $700, you are a nice customer, but far down the list of the big spenders for any of them.
Instead, if you divide your annual spend between just two jobbers, you are important to both at $1,750 or more. Now you are somebody! At that spend, you have a right to ask for a little better pricing and you probably should get it.
The mobile jobber business is just like your business—your jobber needs to be paid. Do you allow projects to leave your shop until you are paid? No! But your mobile jobber does.
When you purchase a $2,000 piece of test gear, he or she will carry the loan—tote the note—on his or her own and allow you to pay over time.
Remember, their lenders need to be paid, so they need to be paid, too.
The absolute worst thing you can do is hide in the restroom or run out the back door when your mobile jobber comes calling. If you can’t pay this week, man-up and tell him… he’ll work it out.
Believe me, if you get labeled a deadbeat, neither he nor the other mobile jobbers who call on you will extend you credit in the future. Then you’ll have a real problem getting tools.
You want to avoid that, of course, not only for your reputation, but because there are a lot of specialty automotive tools that cannot be purchased anywhere but from your mobile jobber. So, look them in the eye and be the type of customer you want to see in your shop.
I am often asked, “When is the best time to buy something?” Certainly, when the product is on promotion.
All the major brands offer new promotions about every four to six weeks, and promotions usually yield excellent pricing. During each of these promotional periods, they will normally offer great selections from all product categories: hand tools, power tools, clothing, etc.
Each spring Matco, MAC and Cornwell have their annual sales meetings, where their jobbers get great pricing and special incentives to buy more inventory. After these shows, your jobber will be heavy on the inventory he bought during those promotions, so his pricing should be better than ever.
Other mobile jobber suppliers have conventions and special buying markets at other times of the year, so watch for their promotions, too.
Here is where you can also save yourself some money: if you trust your jobber (and if you don’t, why are you buying from him or her?), set up an automatic weekly payment by credit card so you never have to worry about having the cash in your pocket on payment day. The benefit? Many jobbers give a small discount for automatic payments.
Another money-saving idea is to pay in full when you make a small purchase. You can usually get a little better price by paying in full.
PROFESSIONAL GIVE & TAKE
There are always points of discussion between shop owners and their mobile jobbers. A big one is, “I can get that tool for less at The Home Depot or on Amazon.”
You are absolutely correct—for some everyday items. A basic pair of vise-grips is available everywhere and is often on sale at discount pricing. But, does Lowe’s deliver right to your shop? Will Amazon give you an immediate replacement for that used vise-grip that you tortured to death? Will any retailer allow you to pay by the week with little or no interest? Will anyone other than a mobile jobber give you a great price on a $10,000 tool storage system because you support them with everyday purchases?
Speaking of torture—will any retailer help you out in any way with that air gun you just crushed with your vehicle lift? No way! Good mobile jobbers will support you if you support them.
Here’s the correct way to look at it— you just installed a new crate engine in a customer’s hot rod. He takes delivery on Friday and everything is perfect. On Monday, the vehicle is towed back to your shop directly from the drag strip with a blown power plant.
Do you fix it for free? Hell no! So, why on earth should your mobile jobber replace that breaker bar you used with a 10-foot cheater and broke it?
There are a lot of great mobile jobbers out there doing a fantastic job every day. The vast majority offer quality tools, fair pricing and excellent service.
So, if your favorite mobile jobber isn’t doing the entire job for you, why is he or she your favorite?
This article originally appeared in The Shop Magazine and is shared with permission.