By selling the best tools to the right customers and recognizing the need for accessories, your staff can bring in additional revenue that competing salespeople may miss.

Consider this scenario. A facilities manager comes through the door looking for a multimeter. His employer is concerned with testing the company's lighting system and wants the best tool for the job at the best price. He asks the salesperson at the counter which manufacturer would make what he needs. The salesperson shrugs; he is not comfortable with the multimeters and has little experience using them. The customer eventually finds the cheapest tool for the job and leaves.

Now imagine the same scenario with a knowledgeable salesperson. This time the salesperson finds out what kind of testing the customer needs to do and what kind of wiring will be involved. He asks about current and voltage and quickly determines which tool will work most effectively, safely and reliably for the job. This salesperson knows the tools, has used them and can speak with authority. When the customer leaves, he has purchased a higher quality multimeter that will be more effective and last longer. He has also purchased a clamp and a leather carrying case to keep the tool in good shape.

All too often, customers enter a store with only a vague idea of what they need. Cary Caspersen, Pennsylvania territory manager for Gemco Sales Inc., an independent rep based in Pittsburgh, Pa., used to work at a distributor's counter assisting customers with tool selections. “When a customer asked for advice, I'd basically say, ‘Here's the catalog,’” he says, noting that many salespeople feel they know less about the tools than the customers who use them on a regular basis.

Conversely, a salesperson who has used the tools and understands their features can upsell customers and guide them to better tools and accessories. To build this knowledge and sell test equipment more effectively, salespeople should remember a few other important strategies.

Talk to those around you

Effective salespeople know they should gain all the information they can, wherever it's available. Many manufacturers offer training seminars, CDs, videos and application notes on their products. But salespeople need more. They can gain great information from those around them, including other salespeople. Caspersen of Gemco Sales said when he was a distributor salesperson, he would talk with everyone around him about the tools they buy or sell.

Ask customers

Salespeople need to find out what customers do with their tools. A contractor has different needs than a photocopy technician, an engineer or a maintenance worker. The first step with all customers is to talk to them about their needs and how they would use the tools.

Provide demonstrations

Your customers love to work with new tools, and you should take advantage of the demo units that many manufacturers make available. When customers get their hands on these demo units, they are much more apt to buy.

Know the tool's category rating

Do your customers understand the category ratings marked on the meters? Ranging from Category I, for low energy circuits, to Category IV, which covers utility supply panels, the IEC standards are designed for safety. Meters designed to these standards can withstand hazards caused by transients and other dangers. A good salesperson can match the proper measurement tool category rating to the customer's application.

Don't forget the accessories

This is an area often neglected by salespeople. After helping a customer invest in the right tool, salespeople should offer accessories that will make the tool last longer and work more effectively. For instance, a leather carrying case can be an easy sell for contractors. Engineers or others who keep their tools cleaner may be more interested in a nylon case. Don't forget alligator clips, and how they make the job safer for the customer and prevent arc flashes, as well as the current clamps for digital multimeter to measure current.

Understand NFPA 70e

Your customers are becoming more familiar with this standard, which spells out how they can keep their work site safe. Salespeople should be well versed in it as well. Often a customer's decision on what he buys may be based on what you can tell him about NFPA 70e.

By understanding category ratings, industry standards and tool features, you can learn what matters most to customers and boost your profit margin.

The author orchestrates distributor training seminars on electrical test and measurement subjects and tools for Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash.