National Sales Manager, Specialty Auto Parts / Proform
Diana Gill got into the automotive industry a little bit differently than most other folks. She wasn’t born into it. She didn’t follow in her family’s footsteps. She didn’t even grow up with a passion for cars. Rather, she needed a job and Specialty Auto Parts was the company that offered her one.
“A lot of women in this industry are passionate about vehicles and cars and maybe their dad got them wrenching at a young age or maybe they were in a family business – that wasn’t an advantage for me,” Gill says. “But you learn as you go.”
Diana attended college with the objective of becoming a school teacher. When only part time and substitute teaching positions were available after she graduated, Diana began to look for other options to tie her over until the right teaching job rolled around.
“I wanted something full time,” Gill says. “Specialty Auto Parts was hiring for customer service. I figured I’ll just do this for six months until I can get into teaching full time. It was one of those things where I just stayed. I really liked it. I liked the company. I liked the owner and I moved up.”
Move up she did. Diana has now been with Specialty Auto Parts and Proform for 17 years. She went from customer service to inventory management to purchasing manager, and today she is the company’s national sales manager – a role she assumed four years ago.
“I have a lot of institutional knowledge and we’re a pretty tight knit group,” she says. “We’ve all worked together a long time within our company. Everyone in this industry has a passion for it. They’re born into it and their parents had a company and that’s the path they took to follow in the family business and stuff like that. It was really, really different for me because I didn’t have a passion for automotive. I wasn’t into cars, but I do enjoy the job. I think it’s a perfect fit for me and my personality.
“I’m proud to be a woman in the industry because it is male dominated. I think you definitely need a strong personality and you need to be able to dish it out and you’ve got to take it too. For me personally, it’s been a really good experience.”
Having had the experience of different roles within Specialty Auto Parts has helped Diana truly grasp what the automotive industry is all about, and how large it actually is.
“What helped me was having that institutional knowledge in the office for so many years,” she says. “Listening to my tech guys on the phone about product and even my role in purchasing and knowing what products sell and what don’t sell has helped. When I got the national sales manager role, it was totally different than what I was used to in the office. It’s been a good learning experience and I’ve learned a lot.”
Despite the current pandemic changing many aspects of the industry in 2020, Diana says Specialty Auto Parts has remained busy.
“I think a lot of our end users are staying home and they’ve been working on their hobbies or fixing up their project cars,” she says. “We’ve been really fortunate this year to stay as busy as we have been. We have had a lot of exciting new products come out this year. We’re a Chevrolet, Ford and Mopar licensee. Our newest line has been the Mopar stuff and we’ll be coming out with some more engine building tools as well.”
In all, Proform has 1,000 SKUs across roughly 15 product categories. However, the Coronavirus hasn’t allowed for the usual amount of travel and industry shows for Diana to showcase those products in person.
“One thing I’m looking forward to next year is being back on the road and actually having all-new products to display at shows and in sales training,” Gill says. “People just haven’t been able to see them in person yet.”
Hopefully, that day is sooner than later. We know there will be plenty of pent up demand.
Q: What grade would you have taught?
A: It would have been elementary education.
Q: Favorite Proform part?
A: We have a new product that is a sharp gray valve cover and air cleaner kit for Chevy small blocks. It’s very masculine and looks great.
Q: Favorite place to travel for biz/pleasure?
A: My favorite show to do would be PRI. The engine builders are the crowd that really uses our product. They know all about it. Our engine building tools are really popular at that show. It’s right before the holidays, so it’s kind of like the last hoorah for all of us in the industry to see each other before we go back home for the holidays and then start up the trade show circuit again in January.
For vacation, I’ve been doing the whole Europe thing for the past couple of years. My favorite place has been Venice, Italy. I’m a shopper, so the shopping there is amazing.
Q: Dream car?
A: I’m a BMW girl, but an Audi R8 would be awesome. That’s a cool ride.