January 9, 2019 / Career Spotlight
Job title and employer
Territory sales manager, Wakefield
What does your job title mean?
As a territory manager, I’m responsible for maintaining relationships with current customers and marketing our products to get new customers.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Where do you live now?
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Where did you complete your training or education?
I did a Business Management certificate when I graduated high school. However, most of what I use today has been learned on the job. Working in different companies and different positions not only gave me exposure to a variety of industries, it gave me exposure to a number of great mentors and a lot of learning.
When I was in high school, I enjoyed…
- Industrial Arts/Shop Programs
- Physical Education/Health
When I was in high school, I was someone who…
- Brought people together
- Liked helping people
- Organized activities for my friends
- Enjoyed working with my hands
- Was motivated by success
- Wanted to be in charge
- Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
- Never wanted to be in the classroom
- Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
- Learned best “by doing”
- Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
- Liked to design or build things
- Engaged in activities such as fishing, berry-picking and hunting.
Describe what you do at work.
As a territory manager, I’m responsible for sales in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. This means I spend a lot of time driving from place to place visiting existing customers and meeting with business owners who I hope will become customers. With existing customers, I make sure the products I’m selling are meeting their needs. If new products are developed, I make sure our customers are aware of the benefits of switching. When you are in sales, it is all about relationships. Sure you have to invest time learning about the products. But you also need to learn about your customers and their needs to make sure you have good relationships.
I also do a lot of promotions and marketing. With existing customers, I may tell them about a new product that will help their business or improve what they can offer their customers. Or it might be more sales focused, like setting up a program to boost sales and reward their top performers for growth and volume increases.
Marketing and promotion are also important for getting new clients. For example, I might set up a meeting with a trucking fleet, an aftermarket parts store, or an automobile dealership to show them the products I’m selling and how their business could benefit from using these products. Or it could be more public focused, like when I am at a car show with my 80-foot display booth. This is where I display, demonstrate and just talk about our products. I also give away samples of our products so people can try them out. This type of promotional work is very important because it helps to make sure your products are known in the marketplace and it demonstrates that your company is part of the marketplace. It allows for one-on-one interaction and helps build those relationships I mentioned before.
Whether I’m on the road, or back at my office, I have to follow up on phone messages, emails, and processing orders from customers. Covering such a wide territory, it means I have to be organized and on top of things. In returning these calls and emails, sometimes I have to answer technical questions related to the type of oil a customer might need. This is where product knowledge, industry knowledge and science are important. I have to be able to talk about the chemical properties of the different oils to explain the differences between my products and those of a competitor. When it comes to product knowledge, the company does extensive lab analysis of our oils to determine things like how they stand up to use and how long they last. I use science skills to explain the graphs of oil breakdown so customers understand why our oil is best.
My first language is French and I use it regularly. Our head office is based in Quebec and we have a large number of French clients in New Brunswick. I work alone most of the time from home office. But I deal with colleagues who work in our warehouse and the people who deliver our products. So it is really like an extended team where we keep in contact to ensure the right products get to customers on time.
What motivates you in your career?
Gaining new customers is incredibly motivating. I like interacting with people so building new and maintaining relationships is what keeps me going. I like to learn and understand my customers’ needs. This builds a partnership with them that helps them grow their business and helps me succeed as well.
Describe your career path.
I’ve always had a passion for cars. But in high school, I never thought I’d be working in a career in the automotive industry. When I graduated everyone was talking about computers, programming, and running a business. So I went to college and got a certificate in business management.
I used my business management skills and operated a kiosk at the mall where I sold calendars. This did make money but it was really a seasonal business. I then started working with a financial company where I specialized in risk management (e.g., if we gave a person or company a loan, would we likely get our money back).
I did this for four years but my position got transferred to Toronto. Having grown up in a smaller place, I really didn’t like living in the big city. When the chance came to take a buy out, I took it and went back to my first love – automobiles. I started working with a small company called Lucas Oil as an independent distributor. I was storing cases of oil in my garage and selling a case at a time out of the back of my truck. The work was hard but the money was good. I had paid off my house by the time I was 25 years old. As their product got more popular, they started distributing out of larger, retail stores. So my job as an independent contractor was finished.
Soon after I got a job with NAPA auto parts as territorial manager. I took care of their independent stores, maintaining inventory, rolling out their programs, and anything else that needed to be done. I worked at this job for six years. Then I took on the role of a manufacturer’s agent where I did sales and marketing for about 30 different product lines for the automotive industry. Two years ago Castrol approached me and offered me the job of territorial manager for the Maritimes. I have all the same customers but now only have one product to promote.
My career is a natural fit for me because I love cars. In my spare time, I’m a drag racer doing about 10 racing events each summer. I race in the quarter-mile event where I can get up over 300 km per hour. Today, I’m among the top five fastest women in Canada.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
Did I mention drag racing? A lot of my free time in the summer is devoted to this sport. But I also build cars – hot rods – too. A ‘65 Mustang fastback was the last one I built. I also enjoy fishing and like to spend time at the lake.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Figure out what you like doing, and do that. I never thought I would have a career in cars because it was a hobby, but you really can do anything you want to do.
My biggest tip is to find the people who are doing the things you want to do and learn from them. My mentors have been invaluable over the years. Regardless of the industry, there are people who are happy to help if you just ask.
From the school side of things, in the automotive industry, you’d never know the amount of math and science needed. Don’t drop those subjects!
Let’s Talk Science is proud to partner with the Automotive Industries Association of Canada to help shed light on the many interesting STEM related careers available in the automotive aftermarket industry. Let’s Talk Science is a national charitable organization focused on engaging youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and outreach to support youth development.