GAWDA Sales Hall Of Fame

  Jim Barbee Gary Halter  Roza Vilner  
  Tom Bruno Rick Maier  Joe Vincent   
  Ross Bumcrot Anthony McLaughlin  Art B. Waskey  
  Jonathan Dempsey Denny Nelson   Heath Wells   
  Mike Devine Dave Phillips  Eric Wood   
  Heather Ferrand Joe Tavoletto     

On the following pages are stories about Salespeople and Sales Managers who are making a difference in today’s economy. Recommended by Suppliers and Manufacturers, these Sales Superstars epitomize the characteristics of a successful professional. They share what they think makes a top-of-the line Sales Rep, and they offer advice for those just beginning a career in the gases and welding industry.

Ross Bumcrot, Technical Sales Representative at California Tool & Welding Supply Ross Bumcrot
Technical Sales Representative
California Tool & Welding Supply

Be able to prove the value of your product. A salesperson can’t sit there and just talk for the sake of talking. Instead, the successful salesperson demonstrates knowledge and proves the value they have to offer that customer. The welder’s opinion of the salesperson will change dramatically when the salesperson is capable of getting under the hood and proving some sort of technique that can save that customer money. I can weld with the best of them, and that skill helps me identify a problem or change the process or method.

When talking with a customer, we have about five minutes to determine what the customer wants from us and what that customer wants to hear. During that time, we need to be able to explain what we have to offer that addresses the customer’s needs and objectives. We will only be able to disappoint that customer once.

My Advice: Get as much of an education as you can. The more knowledge you can accumulate, whether in the classroom or by reading a book or hands-on experience, the more valuable you become when working with customers.

Heath Wells, Regional Vice President of Sales at Cee Kay Supply 

Heath Wells
Regional Vice President of Sales
Cee Kay Supply
Instead of delivering golf games, the salesperson today needs to deliver real value. The salesperson must either save that customer money or enhance their productivity. A salesperson must be the Master of Customer Needs, an expert on whatever their customer is likely to need.

Practice the rule, “Whatever you promise, you deliver.”

Successful salespeople have an insatiable desire to win the sale. You can’t give up because it’s after 4:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. Hearing the word “no” is a signal to the salesperson to keep trying. Eventually, when he’s tried just about everything, he’s got to be able to walk away and realize that sometimes no means no. 

My Advice: Get in front of as many people as you can, at as many levels as you can. Don’t just go visit that contact that was handed to you. You want to go three levels up and three levels down in each account. 

Roza Vilner, Specialty Gases & Equipment Specialist at Wright Brothers, Inc.Roza Vilner
Specialty Gases & Equipment Specialist
Wright Brothers, Inc.

I love the creative aspect of being in sales. In order to understand our customers’ needs, we must listen 85 percent of the time. I am meticulous about listening. My job is to provide a solution. My competitive advantage is that I can rely on my creativity to develop solutions to my customers’ challenges. As long as I maintain my attitude, do the correct research and follow-up, my sales effort will be successful. Consistency matters.

I participate in local theater as a hobby and have taken acting classes. Many of the principles I’ve learned in acting classes apply to sales.

Successful salespeople have passion for their product, passion for life and passion for people. People buy from people they feel comfortable with. If they don’t feel comfortable, regardless of the technology or the innovation that I offer, they might go to someone else. My customers have to be able to like and trust me. Every morning I wake up and I go for it.

My Advice: Be passionate. Be passionate about your product. If you believe in your product, then you’ll always sell it. Don’t focus on selling product to make commissions. Have fun. And love what you do. 

Mike Devine, Sales Manager at nexAir
Mike Devine
Sales Manager

Successful salespeople base their entire careers on the ability to build relationships. We all have, for the most part, the same access to quality products. The salesperson that can drill down and uncover the customer’s interests and build on common interests before providing quotes and prices is more likely to succeed.

The salesperson has to focus on meeting the customers’ needs, but at the same time not forget that he needs to make a living and that the company also needs to make revenue from the transaction. It has to be a win-win for everybody.

My Advice: Don’t get frustrated. Don’t expect too many big results all at once. It takes a long time to develop those relationships. Find yourself a mentor, someone who has the time to spend with you and who has been there and done that. Spend the time on studying the industry and on learning everything you can about sales.

Tom Bruno, Account Manager at Keen Compressed Gas Company 

Tom Bruno
Account Manager
Keen Compressed Gas Company

It’s important to add some value to the customer’s bottom line. To be successful, a salesperson must understand his customers’ needs and be responsive to them. I understand my customers’ operations and what it is that they focus on to be successful in their markets. I utilize the Internet to do basic research on a particular company, but I also have to have a personal relationship with my customers.

Customers don’t want to have to wait for a quote, and they really don’t want to wait for delivery. Timeliness is the biggest thing in today’s market. By being organized, I can respond in a timely manner to the customer, demonstrating how important their success is to me and to my company.

My Advice: Get to know your customers and their needs and then use all of your company’s resources to meet those needs in the best manner possible.

Art B. Waskey, Vice President, Sales at General Air Service and Supply Company Art B. Waskey
Vice President, Sales
General Air Service and Supply Company

The most important characteristic that all successful salespeople share is a positive mental attitude. Next is a high degree of drive. Successful salespeople get up early in the morning. They have endurance that allows them to work a long day. And they have an ability to establish a trusting relationship with their customers.

The economic downturn required a shift in how salespeople go about selling. We had to move away from focusing on the current customer base and moving toward new opportunities. Salespeople have to ask the questions: “What’s it worth in sales?” “What’s it worth in dollars?” “What’s the next step?” “When can this sale be completed?”

My Advice: I want to know if a salesperson has a passion for sales. I also want to know if the salesperson really believes that he belongs in sales and that involves behavioral style. Generally, the best salespeople are extroverts, capable of influencing others and, while relationships remain important, they are driven by goals.

Denny Nelson, Sales Representative at Oxygen Service Company Denny Nelson
Sales Representative
Oxygen Service Company

I try very hard to put my customers’ needs first. The opportunities I have to meet with my customers are decreasing, because customers have more demands on their time. As their work forces diminish, they are doing more than ever before, and they rely on me to do more than I’ve ever done before. So I consistently look for opportunities to provide more value. I find out what the real issues are and then do my homework so that when I do see my customers, I’m not wasting their time.

You have to want to help other people, and you have to be confident enough to know that you can help them. Either you are a salesperson, or you’re not. It isn’t necessarily about the money. The money is the reward for doing our jobs, but it is all about bringing value and knowledge to our customers.

My Advice: Learn to accept rejection. You will get a lot of it. Don’t stop at your first no. Go back, and go back again and again, until someone tells you not to come back again. You have to respect your customer but never be afraid of them. To be successful, you can’t get discouraged. If you are discouraged, it becomes a “you issue” and not the customer’s issue at all.

Joe Tavoletto, Technical Sales Representative at AGL Welding Supply Company
Joe Tavoletto
Technical Sales Representative
AGL Welding Supply Company

In the face of layoffs and mergers impacting our customers, I’ve maintained the relationships that allow me to continue to do business with my customers at their new companies. I am more of a technical advisor than a salesperson. The rule is never to sell something that is not appropriate. And never oversell.

The Internet enables me to make cold calls warm. I can actually see a company’s lab and even identify the cylinders being used in that lab. Successful salespeople work for their customers. My goal is always to do my best for my customer while maintaining maximum profits for my company.

My Advice: Leave your cell phone in your car. The customer that you visit is your number one priority. Be honest and don’t oversell.

Anthony McLaughlin, Vice President, Sales at ILMO Products CompanyAnthony McLaughlin
Vice President, Sales
ILMO Products Company

Professional salespeople are always focused on helping their customer and forming a truly beneficial and mutual partnership. At the end of the day, it is ALWAYS about relationships. To be successful, a salesperson must have empathy for the customer. They cannot just talk the talk, but they must walk the walk. They have to go the extra mile for their customer. They have to live it. Some salespeople can be taught this; others have it naturally. Others just can’t grasp it, and they don’t make it.

Our work requires that we be aware of liability and warranty issues, as well as environmental issues. We must understand the impact our actions can have on our customers and on our own companies.

My Advice: Be yourself. Be honest. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know or what you’re unsure of. But then go and get that knowledge. There are many resources available to people at any level in our industry.

Gary Halter, Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Indiana Oxygen Gary Halter
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Indiana Oxygen

The customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Successful salespeople take care of their customers by listening to them. They know their products and they follow up on time, every time.

Successful salespeople have a positive attitude. They are team players who have a burning desire to win. They have a hunter personality, motivated by the excitement of winning new business.

My Advice: Be patient. Bring a good attitude to your job every day. Be self-disciplined. And learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can. It’s hard work. It’s persistence. And it’s being honest.

Eric Wood, Regional Sales Manager at O.E. Meyer Company 

Eric Wood
Regional Sales Manager
O.E. Meyer Company

To demonstrate value, we have to work harder. By helping customers manage their assets better or demonstrating more efficient welding techniques, we can help them to weather various economic cycles. The ability to take a hands-on approach to creating solutions with the products that we sell enables salespeople to be a technical arm for our customers to lean on.

Successful salespeople educate their customer, are always truthful with that customer and follow through on what they promise. Those traits, combined with a fear of failure, motivate me to work harder and smarter.

My Advice: Develop strong communication skills paired with technical ability. Be true to your word. Never be afraid to tell a customer that you don’t know the answer to their question. Respond that you will find the answer in a timely manner.


Heather Ferrand, Executive VP of Sales and VP of Specialty Gas at Butler Gas Products Company Heather Ferrand
Executive VP of Sales and VP of Specialty Gas
Butler Gas Products Company

A salesperson’s job is to provide solutions. More than specific products, successful salespeople provide technical advice, whether it’s a process or an opportunity to do more with fewer dollars. We need to know the person who uses the gas, as well as the purchasing people, as well as senior management. We must know their business well so we can come to the customer from all sides of their business. We want to see where they are going in the future, and how our products and the value we have can fit in.

Every business decision I make is based on a philosophy of win-win-win. My customer, my supplier and my company need to experience the win.

My Advice: You have to know your customer. You have to understand your customer’s operations. If you are committed to creating a win-win-win situation and are not easily intimidated, you’re going to win. Tap into the knowledge of the people you work with.

Rick Maier
Sales Manager
Badger Welding Supplies

Sales have become more competitive. Product knowledge sets a successful salesperson apart from the competition. That knowledge, together with people skills, helps to build long-term relationships. Part of what I do is teach, whether I am providing a product or sharing basic information needed to understand how a particular product or technology works.

Ninety percent of success is showing up. The other ten percent is a combination of people skills, product knowledge and a sense of humor. Successful salespeople are able to relate to their customers. There is a science to sales. And having a sense of humor can help the new salesperson overcome the negatives that accompany a day filled with stress and rejection.

My Advice: Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can.

Rick Maier, Sales Manager at Badger Welding Supplies

Dave Phillips, Productivity Specialist at Praxair Distribution Inc.Dave Phillips
Productivity Specialist
Praxair Distribution Inc.

The average distributor sales rep today is probably being asked to handle three to four times as much volume or profit as they did ten years ago. In the old days, we provided our customers with a very basic service on a very personal level. The “milk run,” as it was called, required us to count the number of bottles, grinding wheels and consumables at a customer’s site. We coddled our customers with lunches and fishing trips.

Today’s customer is concerned about productivity costs, which even include the cost of their office supplies, something rarely thought of a decade ago. None of our customers have the head count they used to have. If a salesperson can meet the customer’s need for engineering expertise with a true consultative approach, he becomes free labor and provides that customer with true value. We’ve become part of the company’s team, no longer a supplier.

Successful salespeople are good listeners. We are also good observers. We can walk into a plant and see the processes the customer forgot to mention. We have to be good at information gathering as well as information management, and we better know how to use Excel, PowerPoint, Word and email to communicate with our customers.

My Advice: The ability to demonstrate empathy and integrity is huge. Expect to work hard. If you believe this is an easy job that can be accomplished between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., don’t take the job. The typical salesperson is working 60-80 hours a week.

Joe Vincent
Sales Manager
Earlbeck Gases & Technologies

Salespeople must be proactive as opposed to reactive. It’s important to put more effort into studying prospects and learning as much as we can about them before we even make contact with them. We use the Internet to qualify prospective customers and understand the solutions they are looking for, even before meeting them. Very few calls need to be cold now.

It’s all about attitude and initiative. A successful salesperson has the ability to work well with others and a strong desire, not just a willingness, to learn.

My Advice: Read, read, read, learn, learn, learn. Do the research. Be a gatherer of information. And then store that information for use at a critical time. You have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately.

Joe Vincent, Sales Manager at Earlbeck Gases & Technologies

Jim Barbee, Bulk Gas Sales Manager at Machine & Welding Supply Company Jim Barbee
Bulk Gas Sales Manager
Machine & Welding Supply Company

Customers of today are more educated about products. If we listen, they will tell us what they want. I rely more on my listening skills. Sometimes salespeople can talk too much. It’s my job to work with my suppliers to come up with the best solution for my customer in a timely fashion.

Successful salespeople are aggressive. They know their products. You either have it or you don’t.

My Advice: You have to put the effort into it. Acquire as much of an education as you can. Find a mentor.

Jonathan Dempsey, Regional Manager at National Welding Supply Company, Inc. 

Sales Reps Describe the

Trusts His/Her Sales Force

Good Business Ethics

Strong Technical Knowledge


Lots of Energy

Rides Along to Help

Product Knowledge

Goes to Bat for Us

Believes in His/Her Sales Force


 …and the worst thing sales reps say a sales manager can do to the sales force? Pile on the paperwork!

Jonathan Dempsey
Regional Manager
National Welding Supply Company, Inc.

I sell service, not price. I love the satisfaction of helping a customer save money. Successful salespeople are persistent. Successful salespeople hear “no” and realize that the word is not the customer’s final word. In order to hear “yes,” we often have to hear “no” over and over and over. I go for the no, because it’s the way to get to the yes.

My Advice: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes we have to dig to uncover the customer’s problem. Until you discover the real challenge, you are unable to provide the solution they are seeking.

The Boxcar Millionaire Jeffrey Gitomer's Little  Red Book of Selling The Tipping Point Good To Great Close The Deal Question Your Way To Sales Success
Sales Managers Describe the

Positive Attitude


High Degree of Drive

Works Hard

Team Player


Sense of Humor

Good Product Knowledge

Respects Customers

Follows Through

Desire to Win

Takes Initiative


Communicates Well


Desire to Learn


Technical Ability

Handles People Well


Gases and Welding Distributors Association