Working in sales can be intimidating: it requires persistence, energy, and sometimes a thick skin. But Carly Shipley, a Key Account Manager at Continental, advises anyone who’s considering a career in sales to “go for it. It can sound scary, but it’s super rewarding in the end,” she says.
Of course, not all sales jobs are created equal. Shipley is fortunate to work at a company that wholeheartedly trusts its employees, which has allowed her to flourish throughout her career. In addition to having the freedom to make her own decisions, she’s able to schedule her time with flexibility — which is especially helpful for her as a mom of a 2-year-old and 4-month-old.
“No one questions what you’re doing if you’re performing well,” Shipley explains. “It’s a very self-driven culture.”
Shipley recently spoke to Fairygodboss about her favorite aspects of working at Continental, the most unique opportunity she’s had as a sales professional, and her No. 1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs in sales right now.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I joined Continental straight out of college as a field sales representative and have been with the company for nine years. I majored in Professional Sales and Marketing at the University of Toledo and found out about Continental at career fair. I was drawn to the company because of the wide range of products and industries it touches. I also knew there would be lots of opportunity and liked the idea that I wouldn’t be stuck working on one product for my whole career.
My first role was a travel position, which was nice right out of college not having to pay rent! I worked with dealers across the U.S., (I had several months of training, and then got my own territory to manage.)
What does your typical work day look like?
Now, that I am a key account manager, my typical day involves traveling to see customers or conducting customer meetings over Skype. Working with customers is the best part: I don’t do well sitting still and could never work a standard 8-to-5 job.
What’s the best part of working at Continental?
The best part is that I have the freedom to make my own decisions and schedule; in fact, Freedom to Act is a core value of the company.
If I need to go to the doctor or if my daughter is sick, I know I have the flexibility to do so and that no one is judging me for it. There’s a lot of trust here; no one questions what you’re doing if you’re performing well. It’s a very self-driven culture.
I’m also energized by the work itself, and I love seeing how my efforts can positively impact customers. One of the most exciting projects I worked on recently was a project for a customer who was developing a new product. It was a fun project to be a part of from start to finish, and I enjoyed helping them work through their challenges … and they’re now the largest account I have!
What’s the most unique opportunity you’ve received as a sales professional at Continental?
Traveling abroad – my first business trip was just two weeks out of college, and I got to travel to our Corporate Headquarters in Hanover, Germany. It was my first time in Europe. We usually have an annual global sales conference in a different location each year. It’s fun to reconnect with colleagues from all over the world. I’m from a small town in Ohio, so getting that global experience and working with people from different cultures has been really cool.
What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you have for women who travel for work?
Before taking on a job that involves travel, know what the expectations are – and what you should expect yourself. Utilize the tools you have, such as Skype. Now that I have more established customer relationships, I ask myself if I absolutely need to travel or if I can Skype. My husband also travels for work, so we have a shared Google travel calendar which helps us balance work and family life.
What’s something you think most people don’t know about working in sales that you think they should?
People think sales is simple, fun and glamorous, but the highs are very high and lows are low. Rejection is always difficult. You may need a thick skin to handle it.
Being a female in sales can be tough, especially in certain industries. Some customers seem to always question first what you know, and you may have to work harder to prove yourself than your male colleagues do. But use your strengths, listen, be organized, and be confident.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
My jump from field sales to key account manager. It was my first manager role, and I relocated to our tire headquarters in South Carolina for it. I miss living near my family, but I also love living in the Carolinas.
I went through leadership development training to prepare me for the new role; Continental is good at preparing employees for their next steps and really invests in the development of their employees.
What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs in sales right now?
Be confident in yourself and the fact that you can do it. A lot of women don’t see sales as something they can do, but I think women are naturally good salespeople because we listen and are organized. Sales isn’t what most people envision it is. You don’t have to be pushy. You just need to listen to your customers’ needs and provide them with the right information.
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