Snap-on Tool Trucks and Sales Reps

Snap-on Tool Trucks and Sales Reps

Snap-on trucks and Sales Reps might seem to be an odd combination.

snapon Van

At least it did for me until I got a chance to experience this first-hand over the holidays.

I have a friend that manages an auto repair department for a well-known auto dealership. I had stopped by to wish my friend some holiday wishes. A few minutes into my visit, I noticed many of the mechanics walking out the door and walking toward a large white truck with a big red Snap-on logo on the side. Reminded me of the rush in my neighborhood during the summer when the ice cream truck showed up on my street.

I asked my friend what was going on and he explained that every two weeks the Snap-on truck would stop by for his mechanics to check out the tools of their trade. I asked to go out and observe the experience for myself. Mechanics were already inside the back of the truck and there were still several others waiting outside for their chance to enter. I asked those in line what they were expecting to find in the truck.

What I learned was that each mechanic owns their own set of tools. They have been adding to their tool boxes for years, and one guy even had tools that his father had handed down to him. These mechanics and technicians are living the principles that I referred to in my last post when I introduced BYOT or Bring Your Own Tools. The dealership provides state of the art work facilities, maintains them and supplies the shop towels and other consumables. The dealership also supplies some of the high end electronic equipment that is very expensive and only available to a dealership.

What I found very interesting was the excitement, the buzz amongst those waiting in line to get inside. They were talking shop, problems that they were working on or had resolved and what tools they wanted to buy. They enjoyed the bi-weekly visit by the Snap-on driver so that they could learn about new tools, tips for how to use tools in new or more productive ways, and the opportunity to “talk shop” with other professionals. They looked forward to spending their own money on tools that would be theirs for a lifetime, and that would allow them to do their work in more efficient and productive ways. The selection of tools once they were inside the truck was amazing.

View of the inside of a Snap-on van

I started thinking about how this scene plays out in the world I live in of sales teams and sales reps. There were similarities and significant differences.

Similar was the interest and energy when a group of sales people are together at lunch or at a sales convention. Similar in their conversations revolving around the newest thinking in the sales world, current challenges and how each person is approaching those problems. Similar in the deep interest in the tools themselves and how they help the mechanic do their job more enjoyably and more productively.

Strikingly different is that most sales people do not invest in their own tools. There is no toolbox of professional tools that have been accumulated, maintained and used in daily activities. Sales people tend to count on their employer to provide the tools to perform their duties. Sound familiar? Your experience might be different than mine and if so, please comment below and share what you see or do.

Overall, my impression is that sales people do not have their version of a Snap-on truck that drops by on a regular schedule. Generally, they do not own their own specialized tools but instead rely on what their company provides. They are dependent on their employer to set up professional training on the newest strategies, tactics and tools for the profession if they are getting training at all. Many of the experienced sales reps haven’t been to training since their initial on-boarding process, if at all. When they change jobs, all the tools used are left behind when they leave, resulting in having to learn how to use all the new tools being provided by their new employer. Getting up to speed takes extra time and time is money and sales lost.

Here are three questions that I would love to hear from readers on:

  1. Do you invest in your own tools as a sales person? Why or why not?
  2. Would you visit the Sales Tool Truck if one was to stop by every few weeks?
  3. If there was a Sales Tool Truck, what would you hope to find once inside?

I hope you will take some time and answer the questions below in comments. I have ideas flying around but would like to get your input on this before I act.  I hope that you will add your voice to the conversation.

 

Miles Austin
 

Miles Austin is known around the world as "the Web Tools Guy". Leveraging an intense curiosity about how things work and how to improve results, Miles shares his latest web tool discoveries and teaches how to use these web tools to improve business success personally and as a company.

35 comments
MZazeela
MZazeela

Miles - I love the analogy. Sales people as mechanics.

The very best tools ever made are completely useless unless they are used by a skilled craftsman.

I love discovering new tools. I buy and read lots of books on marketing, selling, and human behavior. I would love it if a tool truck showed up bearing the latest and greatest in sales tools. 

I would hope to find new ideas and innovative ways to implement them. So many "new" ideas are simply repackaged versions of ideas that have been around before.


Cheers,
Marc

Image Masking
Image Masking

Great and amazing idea and experience of you about the trucks. You can understand about the tools which you need when. It s best and great.

StevenARosen
StevenARosen

Miles.. Interesting analogy. What does it say about sales people. Mechanics obviously take pride in their tools and ability to get things done. When it comes to technology their are many reps who buy their own gadgets. 

I think the real short fall for sales people is when it comes to investing in their own skills and techniques they wait for their company to provide the tools. Need for a paradigm shift!

Kathy8185
Kathy8185

Great analogy. Great salespeople are always adding tools to their tool box. What a great concept for a sales managers to teach and have expectations for their salespeople - it is your responsibility to add to your tool box. A sales manager could make it a game - What have you done to add something to your tool box? Over time you would see a significant shift with the team

TDunevant
TDunevant

Good post Miles. Building on Mike W's comment, salespeople need to invest in their tools (themselves).  As a trainer who works with about 25 different sales reps every week, I'm always surprised when they ask me to compel their employers to invest in tools for them. Many of the tools they inquire about are subscriptions that they would need to invest in themselves (e.g.: LinkedIn Pro, Blitz Response Tool,etc.)  When I explain that their company would still have to pay per person, they seem defeated.  

It seems to me companies that sell, would LOVE to have a truck come by Friday afternoon to let their reps try out different tools. I know I want that truck to come by MY home office (but I don't think it'd be worth the gas to drive up to Appalachia).  

Tom Rochford
Tom Rochford

Mike, enjoyed the post. It made me think of my years in corp. America. In most cases "tools" for financial people were not provided in the sense of a training class.  Employers would pay for continuing education, nice but in my view (today) it was not enough.  The reason is that what they would pay for was job specific.  An accountant could not be reimbursed for a sales training that was beyond scope of employment - the job.  As a result, it was rare that an employee would pay out-of-pocket for this additional training.

I think this is a mistake by both the company and employee.  First, we are responsible for our own career. We own it and we need to take steps to protect it by buying the right tools.  Second, the employer may well be missing a chance to develop a great new sales person (or something else) because an employee is interested in learning about it. 

One sentence in your piece stuck out - "They are dependent on their employer to set up professional training on the newest strategies, tactics and tools for the profession if they are getting training at all."  As an employee, consultant, or guru - never, ever become dependent on someone else for the success in your career or business.

Great article and though I'm not a mechanic I love looking at tools and understanding what they do.

Thanks, Mike!

TiborShanto
TiborShanto

I think a key factor is how sales people view themselves and what they do. The mechanics see themselves as professionals, their chosen profession, one they likely trained for in school, (they likely paid for that school), proud of their craft, proud of what they do and how they do it. As a result the process and tools become important and part of what they are proud about.

Most sales people are the opposite. Sales was likely not their chosen profession, or they see sales as a stepping point to something “better”. They also don’t sales as a process but rather an art, and their abilities as being god given rather than as a result of applying and honing their craft over time and with evolving tools.

The proof is in the fact that there are sales people who act exactly like the mechanics, I have held public workshops where individual sales people paid from their own pocket to attend because they want to acquire or improve the skills.

There is also the reality that your friend encouraged and supported the behaviour, in many cases today’s sales managers are yesterday’s sales people, and they just pass on their bad habits.

Dan Waldschmidt
Dan Waldschmidt

Brilliant analogy...  Love the concept.  I spend way too much of my money already on tools already, but they make my life easier (more productive)...

Would on jump on a sales tool bus and check out the digs?  It depends on who was driving.  If that's you then I'll take a look --  hoping that like you usually do you showcase brand new awesomeness I have never seen before.

Dan

p.s. Honk before you show up outside, ehhh?

Mike Kunkle
Mike Kunkle

Miles,

Both of my older brothers worked as a mechanics and one owned his own shop for about 15 years. My dad was a Jack of All Trades and did his own auto repairs, too, so Snap-On and Craftsman were household words when I was growing up. (I did not inherit that gene, sadly.)

In terms of the correlation to sales, early in my career, I invested heavily in my own "tools" and education. I started out selling products and services for a small business owner, and there was no real training or education to speak of, although the first one did decent OJT and was a good coach. Even in my first Fortune 100 sales gig, the training was limited and the coaching practically non-existent.

So, I bought books, magazines, audio (remember cassettes, those funny things with tape inside?) and video tapes (VHS in those days). The folks at Nightingale-Conant loved me. I also bought a camcoder about the size of a big cereal box and an audio cassette recorder. I read, listened and watched everything I could get my hands on. Some of it came from the library, because I was young and starting out, so funds were limited, but I bought as much as I could afford, too.

As a musician by education, I also knew the value and discipline of practice, so I audio- and video-taped myself frequently, as I drilled, practiced and rehearsed my questions, presentations, and objection-handling techniques. Twenty years later, my sales approach from those days makes me cringe, but I did get good at what I was doing. I single-handedly outsold an office of 5 others, and when promoted, trained and coached other constantly and increased sales year-over-year by 600%.

I also took The Dale Carnegie Course, at a time when I simply couldn't afford to spend that kind of money on my own, but did anyway, and become a Graduate Assistant Instructor. The guy who enrolled me in that course remains a good friend to this day and is a Sales Enablement leader in his own right, Bill Concevitch. That was the same year that I joined Toastmasters and eventually became a local club President. Invest, drill, practice, rehearse. Daniel Pink would call it "mastery," one of the primary self-motivating factors. It certainly was motivating for me.

Obviously, my investments in tools and myself paid off. Frankly, I can't help but think that they always do. I'd stop by the truck every time. I'd hope it'd include a computer with an Internet connection, with links to all the blogs of sharp, talented writers like you and the others I admire so much in the sales blogosphere today, with links to Amazon and YouTube, for others ways to get to the right content, and Evernote to help organize it all. ;-)

Hope that adds some value, Miles. Stay the course and keep the great insights rolling.

Mike

Mike Weinberg
Mike Weinberg

Brilliant. I love your curiosity and view of the world. Great post. So many insights. Thank you Miles.

I am continually amazed at the lack of self-investment by sales professionals - or, supposed "professionals." Let alone buying their own tools and toys or software, I see too many salespeople who won't even read what's available FREE! They expect to be spoon-fed content or trained, but rarely step out proactively to sharpen their skills or become more effective. Listen, you wouldn't go to a doctor that didn't read medical journals, or fly in a plane with a pilot who hasn't gone to refresher training. So why does a salesperson believe they don't need to continually learn and grow? Silliness.  

Looking forward to all the comments.


CoachLee
CoachLee

Miles - The analogy is right on. Of course if most sales people had their own tools, then how many sales experts, consultants and coaches would be pocket poor?

Creating a tool does take an investment of time and is much like cooking your own dinner or going out to eat.

To answer your 3 questions (guess my High D is showing) I have created my own tools and several of those tools were created in collaboration with someone else. Second, right now I do have my own tool truck that includes visiting blogs like yours and others; using updates regarding specific key words; reading books recommended by others; participating in a couple of mastermind groups. Third, if there was a sales truck, I would like to find the cutting edge tools and maybe even possibility tools, proto-types that had yet to be tested. This way I would like to believe I am ahead of the flow instead of with the flow.l

Great article and thanks for sharing, Leanne Hoagland-Smith

babettetenhaken
babettetenhaken

I love the Snap-On Tool truck!!! This model of customer service delivery is used extensively by many manufacturing suppliers, some even providing permanent parking for their company-specific truck (which sometimes is an 18-wheeler!).

Fact of the matter is that if you don't take the time to invest in yourself, nobody else will. No one "gets" you the way you do, so why leave your professional development in the hands of your boss? As a corporate newbie many years ago, once I decided I was worthy of my own self-investment, things really got going for me. My tool box has and continues to include not only attendance at professional meetings and webinars, but engaging thought leaders in dialogue as well. They've all been where I've been, etc., and are far more open and receptive to conversation than one thinks. No need to be intimidated. Establish that relationship and that dialogue. If I subscribed to/was part of a Sales Tool Truck, I'd be looking for subject-matter expertise on trending across the entire gamut of the business development and business planning continuum, because that complements what I do for a living and helps me stay relevant and timely when serving my customers. Inside that sales tool truck is a line of folks also waiting to improve and learn, just like the folks waiting to get inside the Snap-On truck. To me, it's all about synergy.

Thanks for this great post, Miles. Really got me thinking!

Elinor Stutz
Elinor Stutz

Miles, Excellent post and insight. Early in my career, my toolbox was taking the top male producers out to lunch to ask their secrets for success. Busy eating and drinking, they shared their secrets . Their secrets were more valuable than the formal sales training because it was already proven to work for that company. But the most important lesson. Yes I invested in my career, and the best investment was a 3 month public speaking class through Dale Carnegie. Today I enjoy delivering inspirational keynotes. Investment in training always pays back in big dividends. Being in business translates to a continual investment in self-education. Yes, I would definitely visit a Sales Tool Truck! I would continue to seek the best producing sales secrets that are integrity with my style of selling.

Paul McCord
Paul McCord

Miles, you've identified one of the biggest hindrances to sales people's success--an attitude of being an employee rather than the owner of their own sales business. Sellers, whether they get a W-2 or a 1099, are the owners of their own sales business who have a single client--the company they are currently selling for. They have the freedom to change clients if and when they choose. As the owners of their sales business they are responsible for maintaining and improving the business through investing in education and other tools of the trade. When they choose to negotiate a contract with a new client to sell for, they take all of their skills and tools with them, just as the dealership mechanics take their tools when they choose to lease themselves to a different dealership. And even better is if they've run their sales business well they not only take their skills and tools with them, they also take the relationships and customer's they've built over the years with them too. A lot, if not most, of sales failure and mediocre performance stems from the attitude of being someone's employee rather than recognizing they are the owner of their sales business.

sellingtools
sellingtools

Love the idea of a sales-rep-tool truck. But the fact of the matter is we've all been taught - not to add any "software" or change our computers in any way. That culture is slowly going away as reps are bringing their own devices (smart phones, tablets, etc) and they're discovering "apps" on their own. BYOS (ha! I just made that up - bring your own software) is how many sales managers are now learning about great tools. Reps start selling more, or making more presentations, etc. and the Manager wants to know how he or she is doing it. Unfortunately, there are many great tools-aimed specifically at sales-that reps just can't buy on their own because they require sales ops, marketing, and/or IT's involvement to make them work. 

Karin Bellantoni
Karin Bellantoni

Miles-

I would love a ride along where the sales person gets to defer to experts and brings education, valuable information and how to advice. In my humble opinion Education is the Hottest business development strategy around. Why? Because the sales tool environment has exploded, Sales 3.0 (or f that offends you) has moved faster than any movement since the daytimes:)

When folks cant keep up they "pretend" they already know or disconnect. Regular, consistent education breaks down the walls and helps sellers even know where to begin and what questions to ask. Great post!

scoremoresales
scoremoresales

Miles, I love this post because I'm familiar first-hand with the mentality of mechanics in building their own toolboxes. If a mechanic moves to a different repair facility, he (or she) owns their own stuff - the tools they are very comfortable with. 

I think it is a little more difficult in the B2B sales world because of so many tools, combinations of tools, theories, and strategies. But that is no reason to not start a "BYOT" movement. I fully support it and hope your truck will come to the Boston area!

Robert Terson
Robert Terson

Great post, Miles; I really enjoyed this one!

1. I'm no longer selling per se, but I'm investing in the website tools--Wordpress lessons, video lessons--you've proffered. They're already making a difference for me.

2. Absolutely I would! I pay close attention when one of your emails arrives. Sort of the same thing, isn't it?

3.  Surprises that will go a long way towards making me better at what I'm doing; I love surprises.

Just a thought, but I might start calling those emails the Sales Tool Truck. What do you think?

TDunevant
TDunevant

@Kathy8185 Kathy talking about a tool box reminds me of when I used to carry a plastic tool box full of interesting things to use for networking; one being small hammers to which I would attach my business card and leave at "walk-in cold-calls".  The back of my card would say something like, "Let me hammer out some more business for you...", or something to that effect.

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@TDunevant Terri, I know you are in front of hundreds of sales people every year, probably over a thousand a year now, so you have an excellent understanding of what is "real" in sales teams today. I hope to get some ideas and recommendations from you on how we can get sales pro's to understand Tom's point below about what a bad idea it is to be dependent on someone else for your success.

As for the Friday afternoon truck, we might need to add a Margarita Bar for that visit! That might just be the key. See, you are already giving me ideas!

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@Tom Rochford Tom, you got to the core message when you said "...never, ever become dependent on someone else for the success in your career or business." Thanks for the contribution to the conversation.

MZazeela
MZazeela

@TiborShanto Investing in one's own toolbox is an investment in one's future. I have never worked for a company that was willing to take that initiative. I make my own investments.

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@TiborShanto Appreciate the commentary Tibor as always. I especially like your last point about the significance of support of the activity from the manager. Getting sales managers the training and knowledge to understand the impact they are having on their sales team might provide one of the largest performance levers in increasing overall sales results within a company. Your insight is very helpful on this one-thanks for adding your thoughts.

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@Mike Kunkle Mike, I believe that the reason for your current and past success is of the focus you put on building your career. I would guess that the investments that you made back then are paying off for you in multiple ways even in your current role at Richardson. I particularly related to your reference of your music background and the extreme importance that practice and rehearsal plays in the ultimate performance on stage. Recording either the audio and/or video of my selling activities and those of my sales team when in leadership roles has been enlightening and instructive. I highly recommend it. 

You reminded me of my days of investing in training that I really couldn't afford but scraped the money together somehow, and how much more I valued and studied that information because I knew what I had given up to learn this way.

Thanks for the perspective and the memories you stirred in me with your comments. I'll bet other readers will have the same feelings as I do.

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@Mike Weinberg ..curiosity and view of the world...I never thought of it like that-I like it! 

You always offer straight-talk advice to sales people from a real world seat and that is so very valuable to today's sales professionals. Your book New Sales Simplified ( http://amzn.to/VRSZ0c ) has been in my recommended read since it came out last year. With your help, we might be able to convince sales people and sales leaders serious about their careers to invest in learning and tools with renewed vigor.

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@babettetenhaken As usual your observations have expanded my view on this. Customer service delivery is a critical component in the sales effort. I especially like your recommendation to reach out to those that are teaching and writing about sales that you especially enjoy. I have found that many times those initial contacts have turned into strong relationships with rewards coming back in spades.

Thanks for letting me know what you would be looking for in "the truck"

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@sellingtools Nancy, do you think that the majority of sales web tools today require sales ops, marketing or IT's involvement still? In the past, most of us were issued a laptop fully loaded with the "approved" software but then along came the iPhone and iPad and we didn't wait to get approval any longer. We decided that we were going to use these devices whether they were "approved" or not, thus resulting in the massive move towards the BYOD environment we are now experiencing. Do you think this BYOT can happen in the same way?

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@scoremoresales Lori, now that would be a great way to spend a year, driving the Sales Tool Truck across the country. Now if I can just find a sponsor!  Any RV dealers listening?

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@Robert Terson Thanks Robert, appreciate your thoughts here. One of the additional benefits that I didn't mention in the post is the ability for a "ride along" which is when the Snap-on truck owner brings along an expert for either a specific type of tool or an industy expert that can talk about how they use certain tools to get a job done. Want to join the truck for a "ride along"?

Sales Tool Truck email...I like it!

Mike Weinberg
Mike Weinberg

@milesaustin @Mike Weinberg 

You are too kind Miles. Thanks for the help, support and endorsement of the book. It's been fun to see people incorporating the content into their new biz dev efforts! What a reaction to your post. It appears you've struck a chord with this topic. Looking forward to seeing where this conversation goes and the value you'll provide to your followers.

sellingtools
sellingtools

@milesaustin @sellingtools BYOT can happen and is happening in the same way. There are lots of tools that reps can use on their own volition. But there are others still, that are either too expensive, or that require a coordinated effort. For instance, LinkedIn is a great tool reps can use on their own. Qvidian is a tool that will require multi-constituent involvement because marketing and sales ops will need to populate the system with information. And there are others still, that are hybrids. ToutApp is a good example. Reps can use the tool on their own AND if an entire organization uses it, there are additional benefits.

milesaustin
milesaustin moderator

@sellingtools @milesaustin Now you're talkin'! BYOT can change the environment in a big way. Thanks for all you do in the Smart Selling Tools world! I think it might be time for another sales tools roundtable with you!

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  1. [...] Original article: Snap-on Tool Trucks and Sales Reps [...]

  2. [...] Snap-on trucks and Sales Reps might seem to be an odd combination. At least it did for me until I got a chance to experience this first-hand over the holidays. I have a friend that manages an auto …  [...]

  3. […] topic has been talked about recently through colleague Miles Austin’s post Snap-on Tool Trucks and Sales Reps. Don’t just read the post but read all the comments too. The summary of the discussion is […]