The Times They Are A-Changin’

by | Dec 11, 2023

Guest Blogger, Alan Sipe

Each month, Alan Sipe, a contributing editor for Professional Distributor magazine, writes a sales skill article targeted to the independent business people who own and operate the various branded tool trucks you see parked at automotive repair shops everywhere. 

A few weeks ago, my friend Rick sent me the following email which shocked the heck out of me.

Hi Alan,

I started using the new Microsoft Edge browser which has the ChatGPT AI built into it. It has a “compose” section where you put in what you are interested in and have it write a paragraph or two on the topic. So, I entered “teach people how to sell tools” and here is the output after about 10 seconds:

Do you want to learn how to sell tools like a pro? Do you want to boost your sales and earn more money? Do you want to impress your customers and make them loyal to your brand? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the guide for you!

Selling tools is not just about showing the features and benefits of your products. It’s also about understanding the needs and wants of your customers, building rapport and trust with them, and creating a memorable experience that makes them come back for more.

In this guide, you will learn how to:

  • Identify your target market and their pain points
  • Research and select the best tools for your niche
  • Craft a compelling sales pitch that highlights the value of your tools
  • Demonstrate your tools in action and overcome objections
  • Close the deal and follow up with your customers

By following these steps, you will be able to sell tools like a pro in no time. You will also enjoy your work more and have fun along the way. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your tools and start selling!

For those of you who read this column, this ChatGPT output sounds exactly like the point of all the columns I have written over the last 4-5 years. Let’s break down this guide step-by-step and really dive into how to make that sale because, at the end of the day, you can ask AI for as much help as you want, but if you’re not putting in the hard work with your customers, it won’t matter.  

Identify your target market and their pain points

Pay attention to your customers. Find out what the hard parts or time-consuming tasks of their job are and show them solutions.

For example: “I am told that reaching the fasteners way down deep in a BMW steering column is difficult. I think our 24” Torx screwdriver will help you get down in there quickly and easily.”

Research and select the best tools for your niche

This sounds like simple logic, but just because a tool is on promotion this month is no reason to show a bodywork dolly to an alignment specialist.

Craft a compelling sales pitch that highlights the value of your tools

Feature, advantage, benefit selling is the way a professional salesperson ensures success.

A sales presentation that includes only the features and the advantages is only half a professional presentation and in reality, not the important half. The personal benefit to this individual is why they buy and the key to closing the deal.

An example of only feature and advantage presenting: “The protective steel in these work shoes not only protects your toes but unlike many other protective shoes on the market the steel in these shoes comes way up and protects most of your arch.” 

An example of feature, advantage, and benefit presenting: “This means that when something very heavy falls on your foot these shoes protect your arch as well as your toes, so your chance of a serious foot injury disability is reduced significantly.”

The last bit is the benefit. This is what gets the prospect turned on about your shoes.

Demonstrate your tools in action and overcome objections

Give a complete demonstration showing the features, advantages, and benefits in logical order. A logical order helps you remember where you are in your demonstration when interruptions in your presentation occur. Also, if you present the most important features first you will run out of things to say pretty quickly.

Be prepared for all the likely objections which will probably come up. Build them into your presentation so you are in control.

For example: “There are grinders available with both slower and faster speeds than mine. Our world-famous engineering people researched these grinders and developed a product that will do your job and also give you excellent disk life which I’m sure is what you’re looking for, isn’t it?”

Close the deal and follow up with your customers

I recently was asked to give a “sales skills” seminar in Dallas for an automotive aftermarket distributor with a team of seasoned professional salespeople. Although this team doesn’t drive around in a mobile store like you, they are out there every day calling on customers. Here’s what I told them about my experience as a salesperson and closing the deal: 

I was fortunate that my first real sales job was selling office copiers back when most companies didn’t own a copier. (Yea, yea, I’m old!) Every morning, five days a week, before we hit the road to make our 20 cold calls, we would give a training product demonstration to the entire local sales team. These guys were brutal. The slightest product mistake or, god forbid, a missed closing opportunity brought howls and boos from the others. Believe me, you learn to ask for the order in that environment.

Closing the deal should be the easiest part of your selling day. If you give a great demonstration — feature, advantage, benefit — with lots of trial closing, asking for the actual order should be soft, smooth, and effective.

Now, circling back to the title of this article. It comes from the 1964 Bob Dylan hit, “The Times They Are A-Changing.”

You better believe that your selling world is changing. If my accountant friend can produce this good sales presentation in a few seconds just think of what one of your online or local competitors can whip up with a little technical Chat GPT training.

You need to make your calls, demo greatly, sell hard, close hard, thank your customers for their business every day, and then do it again tomorrow!

Now go sell something. 

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