Training For Dollars

Knowledge goes right to the bottom line.

Across every industry, the truly successful people are those who never stop learning. The gases and welding industry is certainly no exception. With advances in technology occurring at an ever-increasing pace, it is more important than ever for distributor salespeople to pursue training opportunities. A properly trained employee is a prepared employee.

Perhaps the most effective form of training doesn’t have to be expensive or slick. It can come from relying on a trusted manufacturer partner. Whether on-site or off-site, hands-on or classroom, manufacturer-sponsored training programs are an invaluable resource for gases and welding salespeople. On the following pages you will find several examples of manufacturers and distributors partnering for training and the success it breeds. These Training Success Stories exemplify the true spirit of the distributor/manufacturer partnerships that are at the core of the GAWDA experience.


 

Focusing on Features
We all know the person who has all of the latest gadgets, but no idea how to use them. They’ve got an iPhone but can’t download apps; they’ve got a laptop but can’t connect to Wi-Fi. All of the high-tech equipment in the world doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the know-how to maximize its features. It’s the same with welding equipment. There are some incredibly sophisticated technologies out there that will help end-users create precise, repeatable welds every single time. However, they need to be trained on the proper processes to make it happen.

Jerry Cox

Training from Fronius helped ILMO Outside Sales Representative Jerry Cox sell this welder to a customer who was in need of sensitive welding equipment that required precise welds of thin metal.

Recently, ILMO Products Company (Jacksonville, IL) and Fronius partnered to make sure that this happened. As part of its product training program for salespeople, ILMO invited representatives from Fronius to demonstrate the full capability of its TransPuls Synergic (TPS) series of MIG and TIG welders. “They came in and gave us some classroom training,” says ILMO Outside Sales Representative Jerry Cox, a CWI-certified weld inspector. “Then we went into our welding lab and they did some hands-on training with several different processes. We covered aluminum, stainless steel, mild steel, MIG, TIG, MIG pulse and several other techniques.”

While the ILMO staff was already familiar with most of these techniques, Fronius focused on teaching them the specific advantages that their machines offered. The demonstrations provided by Fronius executives paid off. One demonstration helped Cox a few weeks later when he called on his customer, HL Precision Machine. HL had been contracted to manufacture a very sensitive product that required precise welds of thin metal. Cox knew immediately that the Fronius equipment would be perfect for the project. “The first thing I did was call up our Fronius rep and ask him to visit the customer with me,” says Cox. “We went in and demonstrated the equipment for the customer who was so impressed that they ended up purchasing a TPS MIG unit and a TIG machine.” All told, Cox says that he sold eight to ten units as a result of the training he received from his supplier. He adds, “I was able to immediately diagnose the best solution for the application and then physically demonstrate to the customer why it was the right decision.”

Proof yet again that knowledge truly is power.

 

 

Pooling Knowledge
At Corp Brothers (Providence, RI) product knowledge is always a priority. Earlier this year, the company demonstrated this when it sent a contingent of salespeople for a two-day training session with Western Enterprises. It’s no secret that salespeople don’t like to be taken off the road. You can’t make sales in a classroom. However, as Account Manager Robert Lafleur found out, taking a little time for training can provide a significant return on investment.

The two-day training session was split evenly between classroom time and hands-on lessons focusing on manifold systems for specialty gases, medical gases and standard commercial gases. “It was very in-depth,” says Lafleur. “They took us through the whole plant and showed us how everything is made. They even introduced us to the people on the line who actually put the systems together.” Lafleur and his colleagues were able to get some hands-on experience learning how the complicated systems were assembled and how to adjust pressures and other settings on a completed manifold.

The classroom time was spent largely on explaining the unique features of the manufacturer’s manifolds. Each manifold has specific strengths and uses that were explained in detail. “They have an ultra-high-pressure manifold for specialty gases and a completely different manifold for medical gases,” says Lafleur. “They broke it down and really explained when and why each one should be used.”

Less than a week after the training session, armed with volumes of new information, Lafleur called on a customer at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. The customer was using two cylinders of CO2 to regulate the chemical content of a swimming pool but they were not hooked together so when one was depleted, the other had to be started. Because of the delay, the chemical balance in the water was getting thrown off. With his training fresh in his mind, Lafleur suggested a manifold system that would allow the customer to run four cylinders, two at a time, from one bank. When the first two tanks run dry, it would automatically switch to the full tanks and simultaneously send a visual alarm alerting employees of the empty tanks. The customer loved the idea and signed off on the $9,500 purchase.

It didn’t end there, though. The customer was so happy with the purchase that several other UMass departments have inquired about similar systems, laying the foundation for continued sales success.

To date, the university has purchased an ultra-high-pure (UHP) helium manifold for specialty gases, another type for medical gases, and still another for commercial gases.

 

 

Mutual Appreciation
A successful manufacturer/distributor relationship is one where the distributor feels comfortable enough to bring in its suppliers to work directly with end-users. This collaborative spirit was on display this July in Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Every year, Oxarc (Spokane, WA) holds a “Customer Appreciation Day” open house for its customers. These are big-deal events that are heavily promoted on local radio. On several occasions, a radio station has even been invited to hold a live remote broadcast from an Oxarc location. When putting on these exhibitions, the company depends on assistance from its most trusted suppliers. The Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene events saw participation from about 15 of Oxarc’s suppliers. One of the participating companies, Osborn Inc., took its commitment to the next level and provided hands-on training from an on-site booth. Company executives taught both the visitors and Oxarc’s employees about the safe operation and specific uses for various power and hand brushes.

The focus of Osborn’s customer training was proper brush usage and safe operation. Company representatives Chad Russell, regional sales manager, and Art Varvoutis, business development manager, brought a full line of brushes to show at the Oxarc event. They demonstrated advantages and disadvantages of the brushes and recommended applications for each. They also fielded questions from attendees.

Osborn Regional Sales Manager Chad Russell (left) instructs OXARC HR Manager Barb Christie (right) and Executive Vice President Jana Nelson on the features of the company’s latest wire brushes.

Overall, more than 100 customers received training from Osborn, and according to Oxarc Regional Sales Manager Rick Henson, it was a big help. “It’s a customer appreciation day, but of course we’re trying to build sales at the same time,” he explains. “Having representatives from companies like Osborn on hand to do demonstrations really gives our customers a reason to show up and buy products.”

Between the two events, Henson estimates that 600 customers visited Oxarc. “They’re people we don’t see every day,” he says. “Plus, by having our vendors here to meet with them, we get two sets of eyes on each customer instead of one.” He credits Osborn and the other suppliers with giving customers fresh, new ideas that turned into sales.

To help encourage broad thinking, Oxarc allows its suppliers to sell their entire product line during the event, even SKUs that Oxarc doesn’t traditionally stock. “Oftentimes we’ll find demand for a product that we didn’t know existed. We generally take on several new product SKUs after an event like this,” says Henson.

The events are also a boost for the Oxarc sales team. During slow periods, sales representatives met with the Osborn staff for product training. Then, after the event, they were able to use that knowledge to follow up with customers. “We lined up quite a few end-user calls as a result of these shows,” says Henson, “and thanks to the training we received during the open house, we were able to make the most of the visits.”

That’s not the only way the cash register benefited from the open house. Counter sales skyrocketed during both events. Henson estimates that sales during the shows were five times more than on a typical day.

The numbers don’t lie. When there is a true partnership between a supplier and distributor, and when they put their heads together, the sky can be the limit.

 

 

Virtual Welding, Real Results
When Central Welding Supply (North Lakewood, WA) decided to help out local school Bellingham Technical College with a welding rodeo, the company knew it wanted to bring something special to the table. Fortunately, the company’s supplier partner Lincoln Electric had just the product.

The company had recently introduced its VRTEX 360 Virtual Reality Arc Welding Trainer system, and Central Welding Supply was eager to show it off. “It’s an impressive system,” says Central Welding Supply Sales Manager Marshall Judy. “For the show, we hooked it up to a 42-inch monitor. People could come up, select either a stick electrode welding torch or a wire-feed welding torch, put on the virtual helmet and take their best shot at performing a variety of welding tasks.” When the welding mask is on, the wearer sees the virtual joint and the wire coming out. As they weld, they see real-time results. If they get off track, they see what happened. When the weld is completed, an overall grade is given. “In addition to being a great training tool, it is also quite an interesting introductionn to welding for people who aren’t experienced,” says Judy.

Virtual welding at welding rodeo

Al Spence (right), Central Welding Supply's Lincoln Electric representative, demonstrates virtual welding to welding rodeo attendees. Photo courtesy of Aric Mayer.

Of course, it’s also a complicated machine to demonstrate for an uninitiated distributor salesperson. That’s where Lincoln came in. Al Spence is Central Welding’s Lincoln rep, and he came by the office for some hands-on training. Spence led a four-hour session in which he taught sales representatives how to go out and demonstrate the machine. They learned how to operate the machine, its features, its benefits and the most effective strategies to promote it. “The training provided our staff with a confidence and comfort level with the equipment,” says Judy. “It’s a complicated machine, and the training helped us master making adjustments and setting up modules.” When it came time for the rodeo, Spence took it a step further. He volunteered to come to the event and help the Central Welding Supply staff demonstrate the machine.

As it turned out, the virtual welding demo was the talk of the show. Judy explains, “I was blown away by the variety of people who gave it a try. We were expecting only seasoned welders, but there were students, end-users, faculty members and even children taking turns.” Even the president of the college came by and gave it a shot. He was impressed enough to suggest that the school apply for a green grant. “It was phenomenal exposure for the company and for our industry,” says Judy. Furthermore, it planted seeds that Judy expects to lead to future sales. “There were teachers from other colleges participating in the rodeo,” he explains, “and several of them expressed an interest in having us demonstrate the product at their institution. Without a doubt, some very strong leads were developed.”

Gases and Welding Distributors Association