Distributor Salespeople Have What It Takes To Outperform The Economy

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Welding & Gases Today visited with 18 SuperStar Salespeople. These SuperStars are succeeding regardless of the challenges we all face in this new economy. They are achieving their personal best in a very challenging environment.

They were tough interviews. They weren’t braggarts. They repeatedly stated that they really didn’t do anything that unusual. We were searching for the common denominator and we found it. They all believe that the price of success is much lower than the price of failure. They enjoy winning. They enjoy success. And most of all, they enjoy providing their customers with their absolute best.

While talking with these Sales SuperStars, we uncovered a basic truth that they discovered early in their careers: There is no secret to success. Success comes to those who work hard, are persistent, are honest, are passionate about creating solutions for their customers, who know their product, and who have a burning desire to win. None of this is new. But sometimes we all need to be reminded of the basics.

While there is no magic formula for sales success, we are reminded of some basic tenets that sales managers throughout the country teach each beginning sales person:

  • Salespeople are made, not born.
  • Listening is not the same as hearing.
  • There are no shortcuts to success.
  • You climb the highest by staying on the level.
  • You have to be passionate about the hunt.

These SuperStars have hit the nail on the head. They have given words to their work ethic and their commitment to customer service. Their wisdom is rewarded by the success that comes with knowing that they are giving their best every day. Their companies are benefiting from their efforts, but perhaps the greatest winners of all are their customers. We salute these SuperStars’ achievements, and we salute the professionalism they represent.

To go directly to a Sales SuperStar, click their name below:

Robert Branscum – NLR Welding Supply
Rick Bremer – National Welders Supply Co., Inc.
Joe Carle – Roberts Oxygen Company
Dick Corbin – Welding Engineering Supply Co.
Steve Frakes – Arc Weld Inc.
Ronnie Fuller – Jones Welding & Industrial Supply
Bryan Gajewski – Northern Welding & Supply Co.
Michael Jones – Alliance Gas Products International
Gases & Cryogenics
Peter Keough – Corp Borthers


Jarrod Lipsey – Red Ball Oxygen
Dave Lock – South Park Welding Supplies
Rod London – Vancouver Welding Supply Co.
Erik McKibben – Industrial Source Inc.
Mike Montano – Five Star Gas and Gear
Kip Smythia – Kirk Welding Supply
Phillip Southwick – Gem State Welders Supply
Jack Staveley – Cameron Welding Supply
Larry Steinbach – Terrace Supply Co.


Robert Branscum

Age 27
NLR Welding Supply
North Little Rock, AK
On the job: 3 years
Previous sales experience: None

“I always try to meet a customer’s needs because it’s easy to lose someone’s trust, but very hard to win it back. It’s important to be straightforward and never exaggerate.”

Robert Branscum
My Advice: Be committed to learning as much as you can every day. Find a mentor and learn from him.

Rick Bremer

My Advice: Try to keep things as simple as possible. Start to work early and get out there ahead of the other guy. Be proactive by demonstrating that you deserve your customer’s business.


Rick Bremer

Age 35
National Welders Supply Co. Inc.
Charlotte, NC
On the job: 6 years
Previous sales experience: None

“Prior to becoming an outside salesperson, I worked in a variety of positions at the company, including the warehouse and the rental and repair departments. Now I’m capable of bringing a lot of knowledge to the table, and customers like that. I am proactive, acting as my customers’ partner, providing them with new information regarding various welding procedures, instead of just trying to sell them something.”



SUPERSTAR FACT
GAWDA SuperStar Age Range
25 – 29
30 – 34
35 – 39
40 – 44
45 – 49
50 – 54
55 – 59


Joe Carle

Age 39
Roberts Oxygen Company
Rockville, MD
On the job: 5 years
Previous sales experience: 10 years

“I look people in the eye and I make promises that I know I can keep. My word is everything. If I can’t give my word and keep it, then I really do not have much to offer. I was fortunate to have one of the best teachers in the industry, my father. He taught me the importance of being honest and straightforward. He taught me to make as many sales calls as I can because eventually those prospects may become customers. I treat every prospect, small or large, as a good candidate and won’t rule anybody out, because a person not spending a lot of money for their gases now may be willing to spend more for safety and convenience.”

Joe Carle

My Advice: Be patient. The first year in sales can be very discouraging and you will make many cold calls before people actually call you back. Also, never forget that customers are hard to get and easy to lose.

Dick Corbin

My Advice: Stay on top of technology and new product knowledge. Don’t sit in the office waiting for an order, because those orders aren’t going to come to you by sitting there.


Dick Corbin

Age 55
Welding Engineering Supply Co.
Pritchard, AL
On the job: 30 years
Previous sales experience: 2 years

“I try to give my customers a little more than what they are expecting, and to provide them with more than products. I can’t just visit with customers, I have to walk in with something to sell. I can bring a lot to the table, including engineering solutions, written welding procedures, parts and service. Welding is just a small fraction, about five percent, of the customer’s total job cost. His largest cost is labor. I try to find ways to automate that labor, like taking that arc out of the operator’s hands, thus making him more productive. With more productivity comes more profit. I am a problem-solver, and as a result of solving the problem, I can create increased profits for my customer, my employer and myself. I make sure I know what my customers are doing and how I can integrate my products into their operation.”


SUPERSTAR FACT
Average years in current sales position is 9.8.


Steve Frakes

Age 57
Arc Weld Inc.
Corydon, IN
On the job: 7 years
Previous sales experience: 18 years

“Whether the economy is good or bad, salespeople can still make a good living. You just have to work a little bit harder and add new business. There is still a lot of new business to be had if we look for it.”

My Advice: Be dedicated. You have to crawl before you walk, and success depends on how hard you are willing to work.

Steve Frakes


Ronnie Fuller

My Advice: Be consistent when calling on customers. Remember that your competitor is knocking on the door right behind you.


Ronnie Fuller

Age 52
Jones Welding & Industrial Supply
Albany, GA
On the job: 27 years
Previous sales experience: 6 years

“My job is to show my customers how to function faster and more economically, and I try to figure out what customers need before they even realize they need it. Over the years, I’ve run across almost everything that can be run across, and this knowledge and experience helps. I work hard to meet customers’ every need, and they know they can call me at any time of the day or night. My motto is, ‘The jailhouse is always open.’”


SUPERSTAR FACT

It Takes a Village! Sales SuperStars don’t do it alone. They rely on these team members in their company (listed from most to least number of responses) . . .

  • Order Desk/Front Counter
  • Owner/GM/Store Manager
  • Sales Manager Drivers (“eyes and ears of the company”)
  • Customer Service Reps
  • Accounts Receivable Clerks
  • Operations People (“person who answers phone with the nice voice, dispatcher”)
  • Other Salespeople


Bryan Gajewski

Age 43
Northern Welding & Supply Co.
Wausau, WI
On the job: 20 years
Previous sales experience: none

“I am very competitive. I don’t want to be second, I don’t want to be last. I want to be number one. That’s what motivates me, the quest to be number one. There are four distributors in the region, all in competition with each other and all fighting for the same business. By focusing on product knowledge, I can stay ahead of my competitors. I make a good income from spiffs offered by vendors, so I put together an ‘equipment hit list’ listing all my customers, the equipment they did not have or needed to be replaced, and who would be in the market to buy. About 80% of my sales are coming from this hit list.”

Bryan Gajewski

My Advice: Stay with it. Don’t get depressed if you are rejected or lose an account. It takes time to make things happen.



SUPERSTAR FACT
GAWDA Sales SuperStars range in age from 27 to 57.
The average age of a GAWDA Sales SuperStar is 44 years old.

Michael Jones

My Advice: First, never underestimate the importance of pre-planning your day. Second, do not take “no” personally or as a final answer.


Michael Jones

Age 48
Alliance Gas Products International Gases & Cryogenics
Oakland, CA
On the job: 5 years
Previous sales experience: 22 years

“Once I capture an account, I rarely lose that customer. The ability to provide quality service is the key to success. A salesperson rarely does business with a company as a result of the initial sales call. If I’m able to demonstrate my interest in that customer, I’m more likely to capture future business, especially if their current supplier is dropping the ball.”


SUPERSTAR FACT

Sales SuperStars are HOT because anywhere from 10% to 30% of their sales calls each week are cold calls.



Peter Keough

Age 55
Corp Brothers
Providence, RI
On the job: 12 years
Previous sales experience: 16 years

I ask for the business. Once you’ve asked for the new business, never stop listening. If the new business results in building a sales territory, that’s great; but if it replaces sales dollars that have been lost, you are only spinning your wheels. I also remain alert to who is moving into an empty building. Once a month, I drive around to the different areas of my territory where I know a new business can pop up anytime, and I read the local business publication to learn which companies are moving into the area. Then I try to be as helpful as I can to the new company. I’ve also developed niche businesses by learning everything I can about a particular type of business and then focus on selling that industry.”

Peter Keough

My Advice: Work very hard and understand that you’re not going to be the world’s greatest salesperson overnight, and you have to pay your dues. Everybody spends that period of time sitting in waiting rooms, waiting for someone to talk to them. It takes a while to get to know the players. You must be flexible and you must listen to the customers’ needs.

SUPERSTAR FACT

Five Sales SuperStars are still working for
the company that first hired them to be salespeople, 3 to 20 years ago. They have been on the job for an average of 10.2 years.


Jarrod Lipsey


Jarrod Lipsey

Age 33
Red Ball Oxygen
Shreveport, LA
On the job: 10 years
Previous sales experience: 4 years

“I am fortunate to have worked in various aspects of the business, including equipment repair and application assistance, and I can weld. So I know what to do to take care of a customer, and they know I’m available 24/7, whenever they need me. Taking care of customers like this is rewarded by their loyalty.”

My Advice: Work hard. Stay in front of your customers and focus on identifying how you can help them.

SUPERSTAR FACT

The newest GAWDA Sales SuperStar has been selling for a total of only 3 years. The most experienced has worked in sales for 33 years.



Dave Lock

Age 50
South Park Welding Supplies
Marysville, MI
On the job: 9 years
Previous sales experience: None

I do not consider myself a salesperson. I don’t use high pressure or talk about special prices and deals, nor do I rely on product brochures. I spend time talking with customers and trying to help them.”

My Advice: Never lie to a customer. If you don’t keep your promises, you are history. Don’t tell a customer what they want to hear, tell them what you can do.

Dave Lock


Rod London

My Advice: Never guess at the correct response to a customer’s need. If you are not absolutely sure of a potential solution which will meet the customer’s objective, verify information with at least three sources. Even then, the information may vary, in which case the customer must make the final decision.


Rod London

Age 48
Vancouver Welding Supply Co.
Vancouver, WA
On the job: 8 years
Previous sales experience: 23 years

“I am capable of talking to customers with all levels of knowledge, including operators and engineering staff. I try to listen to the needs of the person working on the floor as well as to the management team’s expectations. One of the first things I do in the morning is walk around and talk to everyone in the office, and I get a lot of information. Our company has a policy that nothing is left standing. We act on things immediately.”



Erik McKibben

Age 35
Industrial Source Inc.
Eugene, OR
On the job: 2 years
Previous sales experience: 1 year

I try to run one day ahead of our delivery trucks. I know which truck and driver is taking the product and what route it is going on. This streamlines the routes for my drivers, because some accounts don’t need to be serviced. The 80/20 rule no longer applies. While 20 active customers once generated the bulk of my business, I now need 80 active customers to generate the same dollar values, so I work a lot of new accounts. I visit one shop each week that I’ve never been to, and I try to fit in three shops a day that aren’t current.”

Erik McKibben

My Advice: Practice your follow-through. If you promise to do something, do it.

Mike Montano

My Advice: Do what you feel is right for the customer and for your company. Never put anyone in a compromising position.


Mike Montano

Age 35
Five Star Gas and Gear
Los Nictos, CA
On the job: 7 years
Previous sales experience: 11 years

“Experience has taught me enough of the various aspects of the business to know what I can and cannot promise a customer. I’ve also worked with other company personnel long enough to know what they can and cannot do. My customers are friends. And I never lose sight of the fact that we are always willing to do more for a friend than a stranger. I try to make two cold calls out of every ten sales calls. It’s important to have the seeds planted in several fields.”


SUPERSTAR FACT

GAWDA Sales SuperStars have been working at their current place of employment from 1 year to 30 years.



Kip Smythia

Age 34
Kirk Welding Supply
Kansas City, MO
On the job: 3 years
Previous sales experience: 13 years

“In this business, my oxygen is no different than my competitor’s and if I don’t want to make price the reason my customers purchase from me, I have to sell myself, my company and my ability to provide them with the service they need. It’s all a matter of not being afraid to go out there and get my hands dirty in order to go the extra mile for my customer.”

Kip Smythia

My Advice: Learn as much as you can about this industry, from the ground up, and if you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. Make sure to follow through on every promise.

SUPERSTAR FACT

Sales SuperStars typically put in a 9 or 10 hour day. Most are in the office at 7:00 a.m. before heading out on the road. Two come in at 6:00 a.m.


Phillip Southwick

My Advice: Know your product. Never act as if you know everything.


Phillip Southwick

Age 37
Gem State Welders Supply
Twin Falls, ID
On the job: 13 years
Previous sales experience: None

I feel as if I work for the customer. I like my customers, and if I can keep them happy, I know my boss will be happy. It’s hard work to spend a little extra time with each customer to provide them with better service, to uncover their true needs, but it is worth it. Remember, too, that salespeople have a lot of knowledge from books and brochures, but typically don’t have the practical knowledge. Most welders think they are the best in the world at what they do, and they are very proud. You can learn a lot from your customers.”


SUPERSTAR FACT

The average total length of time a GAWDA Sales SuperStar has been working in sales is 19 years.



Jack Staveley

Age 54
Cameron Welding Supply
Stanton, CA
On the job: 10 years
Previous sales experience: 14 years

“I believe that all of us can accomplish more between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. than we ever will between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Also, people buy from people they like. The product doesn’t have to be the cheapest in town. I don’t focus on price. If you can win a customer based on price, you will lose that same customer on price.”

Jack Staveley

My Advice: Respond quickly to your customer’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, call someone in your company who does. Take lots of notes and don’t rely on memory.

Larry Steinbach


Larry Steinbach

Age 47
Terrace Supply Co.
Villa Park, IL
On the job: 1 year
Previous sales experience: 19 years

“I rely on a laptop and my palm pilot to stay organized. I adapt as I learn, and in the process I am creating my own database for my territory. Because I keep track of what has taken place on each particular sales call, I am better able to manage my follow-up calls and the relationship itself.”

My Advice: Get out into the field and begin developing relationships. People buy from the people they like and trust.



gases and welding distributors association


Gases and Welding Distributors Association