Fairygodboss

Michelle Zerphey, Territory Sales Manager at Continental, has long understood the power of strengthening relationships from a distance — a need many of us are trying to fill today. When she was traveling for work prior to COVID-19, she found a way to make each trip reflective of her strong relationship with her son, Wyatt: she shares them with his stuffed animal, Dino.

“I find time to take a photo with Dino somewhere outside of a conference room or hotel. It’s a great way for me to find beauty in the various cities I visit and to do something that helps me feel connected to Wyatt,” she said. 

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While Zerphey and Dino may be temporarily grounded in Phoenix, where Zerphey and her family live, she’s found other opportunities to connect not only with her family but with her colleagues and clients. 

“It’s important to keep the human connection, especially during tough times,” she said. 

Thankfully, Continental’s “For One Another” approach, one of the company’s core values, has been supportive of her bringing humanity to work since her first day on the job. We spoke to Zerphey about her journey at Continental, how she balances her travel-heavy schedule with her parenting goals, and how she’s adapting in both spheres of life amidst COVID-19. She also shared her best career advice for fellow women in Sales. 

How long have you been with your company? What about it made you first want to join?

I have been with Continental for a little under two years now. When I interviewed for the job, I was three months pregnant but hadn’t shared that with the hiring manager.  When I got my offer, I shared that I was pregnant and their response was, “Congrats — we love babies!” Knowing that I had that support from the start made me excited to join the organization. 

Tell me a little about your role. 

I am a Territory Manager in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California. I sell industrial tires for material handling and off the road applications, which end up in warehouses, distribution centers, quarries, ports, mines, and construction sites. Prior to COVID-19, I was traveling about two to three weeks of the month to visit with prospects and customers.Continental sends me to some pretty interesting and unique places!

What was it like traveling in the first year after your son was born?

It was difficult at first. There weren’t a lot of resources available for women in a similar situation as me. My husband suggested that I take my son Wyatt’s favorite stuffed animal, Dino, on the road with me. As I travel for work, I find time to take a photo with Dino somewhere outside of a conference room or hotel. It’s a great way for me to find beauty in the various cities I visit and to do something that helps me feel connected to Wyatt. For his first birthday, I gave him a photo book with all the photos from mine and Dino’s travels. It’s something he will be able to look back on when he’s a bit older. 

What has been your favorite part of working at Continental?

Continental’s “For One Another” value and our culture really speaks to this. I work for a smaller group and we really are like a family. Though we don’t get a lot of face time, we are very tight knit and stay connected with video conferencing tools and our group chat. It’s definitely my favorite aspect of working at Continental. 

How has your day-to-day changed amidst the COVID-19 crisis? 

I’m obviously not traveling, so I’ve been able to spend more time with my husband and my son, which has been a blessing. And I’ve finally been able to put away my suitcase! 

I am still connecting with my customers often — not only to make sure they have what they need professionally, but to see how they’re doing personally. It’s important to keep the human connection, especially during tough times.

What do you want to share with other moms who travel for work?

It IS possible. You have to have support at work and also at home. Being able to trust whoever is taking care of your child while you’re away is really important to getting comfortable with it. 

What advice do you have for women who are pursuing a career in sales?

Have a thick skin. Business is business — you have to learn not to take things personally. Also, you’re not selling a product nor a company, you’re selling yourself. Customers want to connect with a real person. Being personable and treating others how you want to be treated is key. 

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