Ford Dealer Magazine Article
Profiles of Ford Truck sales professionals written by Richard Stewart
for Ford's sales training magazine SalesPro
Jimmy Lyle—Mobile "Call" Office
Keeps Him on Road to High Sales
If Jimmy Lyle isn't the best-organized Ford truck
sales pro in the business, he's one of them. He has
to be. Four days a week he's away from the
dealership, working out of his "call office" in the
back of his Ford Explorer. A cellular phone
maintains the vital communications link with the
dealership. A laptop computer loaded with
TruckForce Tools, a modem, and a portable printer
enable him to spec, quote, and sell a truck on the
spot in a customer's office. The determination to
hit his sales goals at Empire Ford Truck Sales in
Jackson, Miss., keeps him on the move.
A marketing major in college, Jimmy already
knew the principals of selling when he started at
Empire six years ago. He just didn't know much
about trucks. Under the tutelage of the company's
most seasoned truck sales pro, Ed Woods, now
retired, he learned the ropes. Product knowledge
was his first subject. Learning how to organize
his selling efforts—to work smart—was second.
"Ed felt it was important to be well organized.
Since we deal with so many customers, we have
to be able to keep up with the details of every
conversation and every deal," says the 30-year-old.
"Two or three years after a sale, you have to be
able to pull up everything from that old deal, know
what the customer's running and how you can
improve it for him. I write down everything and
file it away."
Contacts Well Planned
Jimmy plans out his entire week on the weekend
and recontacts customers regularly — some
quarterly, some monthly, some every week. "I
break my calls down by customer needs and
expectations," he explains. "Some people like me
to keep them up on new developments. I'll either
call, stop in, or drop them a note once a week.
Other customers don't need you 'til they need
you. Them I call on once a quarter.
"Of course, whenever a customer has a
problem, you have to take care of it right then
and there." Jimmy's customers have his cell
phone number and his home phone number.
"They know they can call me anytime and
I'll do what I can to help out," he says.
"You've got to care about every customer you
sell. If they call you at 8 o'clock at night, you
have to want to take care of their problem, I
Empire, dualed with Freightliner (in a separate
operation with dedicated staffs), is open 24 hours,
seven days a week for parts and service. That's an
important selling point, Jimmy feels. Freightliner
is the Ford store's toughest competition in Class
8 highway tractors, and the rivalry between the
two sales staffs is fierce, Jimmy acknowledges.
Empire has four branches and enjoys a
reputation for service excellence. That extends
to customer service. Like Jimmy, each of the
three other Ford truck salespeople spend most
of their time on the road, calling on customers.
Mobility Helps Sales
"We really push the field sales," Jimmy remarks.
"I don't sell very much in the dealership." He
spends his in-office day on the phone, doing
paperwork, and writing notes to customers.
"I send a lot of notes; they're a good way to let
people know you're thinking about them," he
adds. "When I call on a customer and he's not
there, I'll send a note that says, "Sorry I missed
you. Next time I'll make an appointment." That
helps them remember you."
Mobility is an important key to his sales
success. He carries the data book on the seat
next to him and brochures and other materials
are in a hanging bin in the back of his truck. His
territory extends about 70 miles from the
dealership. Every hour and a half or so, he calls
in to check messages. "The receptionist can
always reach me on the cellular phone, and
I can get back to the dealership in an hour if I
TruckForce Tools gives him all the
information he needs to effectively sell out of
his mobile call office. "The way Ford has
concessions set up now, on a percentage basis,
it makes it more convenient for us; I don't have
to call in for CPA on every deal, so I can
actually quote the truck for the customer right
then and there," he explains. "Our salespeople
are given complete control over their deals."
Referrals Most Valuable
He doesn't hesitate to ask customers for
referrals and, as a result, most of his sales are
by referrals and repeat business. "Anytime I
sell a truck, I ask if there's anybody else in
the area who's looking for trucks. It's great
when you can stop by on a cold call and say
so-and-so down the street told me to say hello.
You've got instant credibility," he observes.
"I'm always looking for prospects. If I see a
truck I don't know, I'll follow it. If I see a
new business, I'll go find out what they're
Jimmy expects to exceed his sales objective
of 115 trucks set for him by management.
Normally that would break down to about
75 F-Series units, 20 9000s, 20 8000s, plus
some used trucks. "I have my own goals,
too. I figure what I think I can do realistically,
then I add 20 trucks to it," he says with a
broad smile. "That's my personal goal." By
the beginning of June he had 82 units ordered
and sold. Last year he met his company
objective, but not his personal goal. This
year? "I'll definitely meet both of them. I'm
trying to commit myself a little more and
Nearly all his sales are retail. "Most of what
I sell is by the ones and twos, so every deal is
important." The F-Series units are primarily
delivery-type vehicles with 24-foot van bodies.
Those go to furniture stores, auto parts stores,
and other retail businesses. In Class 8s, he
sells mostly vocational tractors, LT- and
LTL-9000s for construction and logging. One
particular deal he'd been working on for a
year and a half came through recently — five
F-800s and nine LT-9000s. Hinds County,
the largest in the state, took them on a
"They didn't believe in the [leasing]
philosophy for a while, but I finally talked
them into it," Jimmy recounts. "They saw the
advantages — nothing down and a very low
rate with the municipal lease." The process
of introducing himself, the product, and the
dealership's capabilities and services took a
long time, since there were so many people
to contact. He got to know the spec writer
well and worked with him on the specs,
pointing out Ford product advantages that
would benefit the county. "The only way to
get governmental business is to get in on the
Focusing on Fleets
His new boss, Sales Manager Jack Tullos,
formerly with Cummins and Peterbilt, has a
lot of experience in fleet sales. "He's showing
me how to work with fleet customers and fleet
deals. He even got me to take up golf about
three months ago!" Jimmy adds, laughing.
The new Class 8 Ford products coming out,
especially the lightweight road tractor, has
Jimmy exited. "I've got the worktruck market
in my area; now I need the over-the-road
market. I think we'll have the product to go
after it with."
But will Jimmy's golf game be ready?
SalesPro tracked him down while vacationing
in Florida to ask. "I'm really bad," he admits,
"but I'm improving. I just want to get to the
point where I won't embarrass myself when
I go out with some of these fleet guys."
Ford Heavy Truck SalesPro
Mike Oliver—Up to Class-8
Challenge in Toronto
For Mike Oliver at Sherway Ford Truck Sales
in Toronto, Ontario, the toughest thing about the
heavy truck business is that he likes it so much!
"That's what I tell people who ask why I'm
still putting in 60 and 70 hours a week after
more than 25 years in the business. I just love
what I'm doing so much," says the 53-year-old
heavy truck salespro, "I don't even think about
the long hours." That's especially true now that
Ford has introduced the new AeroMax and
Louisville models, he adds. "With the new
product, I believe we'll be able to get our
Class-8 market share here in Canada back up
around 25 percent again."
Mike spoke with SalesPro a few weeks before
Ford was scheduled to introduce the 1996 models
at the North American Dealer Meeting in
Montreal. He was planning to attend the three-
day conference and was excited about finally
getting some hard information about the new
heavies, especially the new AeroMax highway
Selling primarily to medium and large fleets,
Mike says the LTA-9000 tractor is his bread
and butter product. He was trained as a
mechanic and started out repairing cars at a
Ford dealership. He "gravitated towards selling"
after a friend came in looking for a used car one
day. Mike showed him one he knew to be a
good buy, and told him why.
"I didn't know it at the time, but what I was
doing was giving him a six-position sell," he
remembers. The general manager overheard his
presentation and asked him to join the sales staff.
"I was honest with my first customer, and
that's the way I've worked ever since."
Sells Along the Way to Work
His commute to the dealership from home north
of Toronto takes about 40 minutes, but he
typically spends his mornings making sales calls
along the way. He spends afternoons on the
phone, following up people and looking after
quotes. If I he has a lot of quotes to do, he
starts on them 4:30 or 5 o'clock, then works
through to 7 or so, he relates. It's not uncommon
for him to stay at the dealership until 9 or 10 in
the evening. He prefers to spend the 9-to-5 hours
talking to customers.
Mike works at developing long-term relationships
with customers. He's been dealing with several
fleets for more than 15 years. He invites
customers golfing and skiing and goes to ball
games with them. "You don't have to spend
hundreds of dollars on customers," he says,
"just show them that you enjoy being with them."
A member of the board of directors of the
Toronto Trucking Association and the dealership's
representative on the Private Motor Truck Council,
Mike feels that belonging to trucking organizations
is good for business. A lot of his customers attend
the meetings and social gatherings, and it gives him
and his wife a chance to socialize with them and
their spouses. "A lot of bonding can be done at
those functions," he notes. "It's easier for a truck
buyer to do business with a friend he's known
over the years than to go to a stranger."
But it's important not to take advantage of
friendships with customers by slacking off or
doing less of a job servicing those accounts, he
emphasizes. "I try to treat them all like they're
first-time customers. When they have a problem,
I attend to it right away. "Business is business,
and when we get the business done, we can
go have some fun."
Banks on Good Dealer Support
He feels good dealership support is important
to success in heavy-truck sales. Extended
hours for parts and service are important, he
says, noting that Sherway Ford is open through
the week from 7 a.m. to midnight for parts and
service, and there's talk of a 24-hour operation.
"Our parts department is probably the largest
heavy truck parts operation in Ford of Canada.
They've built a reputation for good support."
Mike doesn't like the idea of going after
another Ford dealer's customers. "That's never
been my idea of a good way to prospect," he
says. "The truck is the same, and if they've been
dealing with a particular account, all you're
going to do is try to sell it at such a low price
that there's no money left in the deal for
anybody. And the other dealer is likely to get
in the last kick at the cat, because he's been
dealing with the customer for years," he
comments. "You're better off looking for
people who are not currently buying Ford
products and try to develop those accounts."
He believes in the Ford product and doesn't
mind saying so. "I've been accused of having
Ford blood running through my veins and
wearing Ford Blue underwear. But
to me, there's no better product out there," he
says. "I think sincerity counts for a lot. Once
people get to know me, they can tell I'm
speaking from the heart," he says.
"You have to believe in the product in order
to do a good job of selling it—just as you have
to believe in yourself and sell yourself as
someone who's more honest, more informed
and who will help a customer out better than
anybody else in the city."
Mike's true love is hockey. He belongs to
a senior hockey league and calls himself a
"very committed, old-time hockey player."
Up until a couple of years ago, he'd play over
100 games a year, at right wing or defense.
"I've played hockey all my life, but never made
it to the NHL. If you saw me play, you'd know
why," he jokes. "But I enjoy the game very
Going After More Class 8
Rebuilding Ford's market share in Class 8 is
now a priority, as Mike sees it. "Ford was the
leader for so long here in Canada, and it got
harder and harder to stay on top. The Number
One team is the one that gets picked on,
whether it's the Toronto Blue Jays or the
Stanley Cup Champion hockey team," he notes.
"And Ford 9000 Series trucks were on top
here for years. With 24 and 25 percent of the
Class 8 market share, and we were the team
Mike feels that the new AeroMax will provide
the competitive edge, to regain that Class-8
market share. He felt the same way in 1969,
he recalls, when he was at the Kentucky Truck
Plant for the L-Series introduction. That was
the year he started selling Fords. This year,
while attending a pilot review session at KTP
in May, he saw the new AeroMax come off
the assembly line.
"It's a fresh, new look for us," he observes.
"The LTA is still a good-looking truck, but I
think customers will like the styling of the new
product even better. It looks great, and it's what
we need to get back what we lost to Freightliner
and some of the others," he says. "That's the
challenge... and I like a challenge. If somebody
says, 'I don't know if we can do this,' that's
when I snap to attention. Let's do it! Let's get
customers in these new Ford trucks."
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