Industry Person Of The Week-Shelley Ratterman Keeton

Empowering Women in Industry
IPOW Shelley Ratterman Keeton

Industry Person Of The Week-Shelley Ratterman Keeton

Today’s Industry Person of the Week is Shelley Ratterman Keeton. Shelley is a Sales Representative for MUBEA Disc Springs. Here is what she had to share!

Q: How did you get started working in your field?

Shelley: I didn’t realize I had a technical mind until I was proofreading literature at my first job in customer service at a printing company. Part of my job was to review the “proofs” for any errors before we sent them to the customer for their approval before we went to press. I was constantly catching errors in schematics, owners, and technical manuals. That led to being hired as a technical writer for a leading appliance company. While I loved getting “intimate” with the appliances and writing about how they operated I couldn’t help but getting drawn back into the printing/packaging industry. There I also wrote many manuals on specific job functions and all the sectors of that position. This led to training many recent college graduates that made less money than me. Months later that company replaced most of us in our 40’s and up. This lay-off fired me up, therefore I quickly found an Inside Technical Sales position for a manufacturing company to engage my technical side again. The Inside Technical Sales position was supposed to last several years but in 1.5 years I was promoted to Outside Technical Sales. I have been tasked with selling engineered disc springs to a multitude of industries including Actuators, Valves, Power Generation, Machine Tools, Industrial Brakes, Aerospace, and Machinery to name a few.

Q: What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?

Shelley: I love finding new applications for disc springs and building relationships with my customers! I greatly appreciate all my loyal customers, many have become my friends and feel like an extended family. Without my amazing customers, my career wouldn’t be possible. The finest compliment I could ever receive from my customers is a referral. I am most proud of the progress made with growing the company’s market share in various industries. As a woman working in male-oriented industries I have gained many people’s respect and I am known as the disc spring expert within those industries. Often when people call me they are surprised to hear a female voice but then quickly realize I am competent and they entrust me with their requirements.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?

Shelley: Listen and absorb all the technical details, if something is not clear ask questions. Be ready for tough competition! “No” means not right now.

As you contact potential or current customers remember trust is built on 5 components.

  1. Empathy – Find a common ground and associate yourself within it, lead with Empathy as it gets you in the door — the next 4 keep you there.
  2. Reliability – Do what you say and be consistent.
  3. Competency – Display that you know the product! If you don’t have the answer at that time then let them know you will find it and get back with them.
  4. Integrity – ALWAYS be honest, fair and ethical.
  5. Vulnerability – Be authentic – Don’t be what you think they want. Don’t make up answers, if you don’t have the answer at that time then let them know you will find it and get back with them.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

Shelley: When I was in fifth grade my dad was encouraged by his father to leave his technical sales job and go to embalming school, to take over the family funeral home. When dad would bring home his books, models, etc I was very curious and asked him to explain them to me. This in-depth anatomy study ignited a spark in me to be a funeral director and embalmer. However while in college I learned that the other family funeral homes in town didn’t want a female in the business. Therefore I was told to drop my dream and find another path. Therefore I decided on a generic major, Communications and specialized in Printing. My godfather was a partner for a printing company and he discouraged me from working at a printing company. He warned me that printing is a man’s environment and could be very rough on a young lady. He even tried to warn me in a humorous way “Shelley, when you have the options to seal drugs, be a bookie or prostitution, why would you go into printing?”. Despite his warning, I pursued my career in printing, found a position at a local printing company and worked my way up for nearly 8 years. During this time I had to deal with several instances of severe sexual harassment, which lead to the firing of these men. I wouldn’t stand for being disrespected in that way, when all I was trying to do is get my customers’ literature through the plant and out the door in a reasonable amount of time. I made many enemies and also gained the respect of others while standing up for myself and customers. Through these experiences, I also gained respect for myself which has pushed me on through my various positions at other companies where I have been employed. For the last 8 years, I have held a technical sales position, similar to the one my dad had to leave when his parents wanted him to take over the family funeral home. My father is now living vicariously through me as he loved traveling, problem-solving, plant tours, trade shows, sales, and most importantly relationship building with potential and current customers.

THANK YOU, SHELLEY! WE LOOK FORWARD TO KEEPING UP WITH YOU THROUGH THE #PUMPTALK COMMUNITY!
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