Elizabeth Shively is a Sales Representative for Elasto Proxy at company headquarters in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada. A native of Raymond, Maine, she grew up in a small town on Sebago Lake before heading south to earn a four-year engineering degree from North Carolina State University. Some students return home after graduation while others move to familiar cities. For Shively, life after graduation meant choosing a different, and more northerly, path.
While she was in college, Elizabeth Shively met her future husband, a Canadian citizen living in Quebec, where French is the official language. When she moved to Canada, she could neither work nor attend school while her immigration papers were being processed. During these eight months, she immersed herself in elementary-level conversations with friends who spoke only French. Shively had taken some French language courses in college, and that provided a foundation in grammar.
When she was able to work, Shively took a job in a sports store to solidify her French language skills. Then she began looking for engineering positions. When she saw a LinkedIn ad from Elasto Proxy, she used her profile to apply. She was interested in the company’s capabilities, especially since Elasto Proxy specializes in custom fabrication rather than catalog sales. During her interview, she “fell in love” with the company, she says, because of Elasto Proxy’s drive, teamwork, and customer focus.
“As a salesperson, I have to believe in what I’m selling,” Shively explains. “People here are passionate about the products and the quality. That’s the kind of thing I can get behind.” Today, nearly two years after joining Elasto Proxy, she works a sales territory that includes Quebec, parts of Ottawa, and the northeastern United States. Most of her customers speak English, but as many as 40% speak French. When she’s in the Boisbriand office with her co-workers, about 40% of the conversations are in French, too.
French and Engineering
Mastering a new language is challenging, but so is earning a four-year engineering degree. Thanks to her education, however, Elizabeth Shively can appreciate how engineers solve problems and make decisions. “They want to understand how it all fits together,” she says. Part of this process involves answering questions about how the choice of a gasket material can affect an overall product design. Two different types of rubber might both work, but there’s a balance between price and performance.
Many of the engineers that Shively speaks with are used to working with metal. They know they can’t just replace stainless steel with aluminum, but sometimes it’s possible to substitute a more expensive rubber for a less expensive compound. Engineers who work with metal parts may not know that rubber part tolerances are different, too. There’s been a lot of learning for Shively as well. “It’s not always black-and-white as with engineering,” she says. “You have to learn the communication side of things.”
Sometimes, communicating with potential clients can involve being a “punching bag” of sorts – even when the source of an engineer’s frustration is a part or product that’s made by someone else. “We are solutions-focused,” she says, so Elasto Proxy takes the time to understand the problem. Shively has also learned that there are different types of “no’s” in sales situations. “Learn why the ‘no’ is a ‘no’ and if there is a better solution for it,” she advises.
While honing her sales skills, Shively is seeking to build more business for Elasto Proxy in the northeastern U.S. Part of her strategy involves attending tradeshows, including events for the medical device industry. Elasto Proxy is especially strong in mobile equipment and defense, so she’s also interested in pursuing opportunities there. She spends about a day on the road each week, including customer visits, and enjoys sharing what she’s learned about companies with her co-workers.
Elizabeth Shively and International Women’s Day
Ultimately, Elizabeth Shively is much more than a Sales Representative. She’s an important part of Elasto Proxy’s culture, as demonstrated by her leadership in celebrating International Women’s Day. “I have been incredibly lucky to have so many strong, beautiful women in my life,” she said recently in a social media post that celebrates the March 8 event. “I hope to one day be an encouragement to other women to chase their dreams, no matter if others understand them or not.”