Medford Blake may turn 80 years old on his next birthday, but he has more energy and excitement for his profession than most industry salespeople a third of his age.

“I think once you find your niche or your passion, you can’t wait to come to work in the morning,” says Blake.

Sales is definitely Blake’s passion and he’s been doing it for most of his life, starting as a door-to-door vacuum salesman for Airway Vacuum Cleaner. Since those early days, Blake has done practically everything, from running his own distributorship to selling encyclopedias along the East Coast.

Wanting to settle down in one place for a while, he answered a job posting for an equipment repairman at Baltimore-based United Sanitary in 1986. In addition to servicing vacuums and other equipment, Blake gradually began selling to over-the-counter customers. Eventually this led to outside sales, as clients started asking to deal with Blake exclusively.

“When customers would bring in a machine, they might have other things they would want him to take a look at, and since they were talking with Medford, they felt comfortable with him, so he would go out and see them at their place of business,” explains Beth Riley, president and owner of United Sanitary.

Outside of United Sanitary, Blake is a minister. His spiritual side gives him a calming demeanor that puts his customers at ease. Just by talking to him, they know he is trustworthy and will be loyal to their needs. For example, a client recently requested a discontinued product. Blake has been obsessed in tracking it down, thinking about it seven days a week, determined to find it. It’s this level of service that customers know they will get from Blake and a big reason why customers have stuck by him for more than 20 years.

“I have customers from 1991,” says Blake. “They went from $70 for a repair job to $7,000 a month [in supplies].”

After nearly 30 years with United Sanitary, Blake isn’t ready to stop. Retirement isn’t in his vocabulary and he’ll continue selling until his body says “no.”

“He’s too young to retire,” Riley says with a laugh. “He has a youthful exuberance about him that we all wish we had. He’s ready to face the day, every day, motivated to sell. He’s the most vital 80-year-old that I’ve ever known.”

To Blake, each day presents a new opportunity to solve a problem for his customers.

“We are in the business of solving problems. And our monetary reward is going to be equal to the problems we solve,” he says.

Knowing he will one day hang it up, Blake is currently mentoring a fellow equipment repairman at United Sanitary to follow in his footsteps — to service machines and sell to customers. Not only does this relationship teach and train a new salesperson, but it betters Blake.

“I feel that salesmen are at their best when they have an understudy,” he says. “When you have a new person with you in training, you try to do your best. And we should be at our best at all times.”

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2012 Sales Leader: Scott Franiak, Acme Paper and Supply Co., Inc.