MM Podcast Episode 002: Teaching Salespeople to Respect Customers with Troy Harrison (transcript)

This is a transcript of MM Podcast Episode 002: Teaching Salespeople to Respect Customers with Troy Harrison.


Ashley: Welcome to episode 2 of the Motorcar marketing podcast.

In this episode’s main segment I’m gonna be interviewing Troy Harrison .Troy has years  of experience sales at sales management. He offers a wealth of great tips for cars salesmen and their managers. So stay tuned for that.

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A couple of quick notes: any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found  at the blog in the show notes;  I also publish a transcript every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on.

You can find all the podcast show notes at www.motor /podcast. Also if you’d like to get some free video ‘Selling your cars’ on Craig’s list just go to and put in your name and email address  into  the form in the side bar .This guy goes  to all the recent Craig’s list changes and shows you some actual statistics from dealerships who post heavily on Craig’s list both now and late last year before the big changes were rolled out. So if you’re wondering if you should still be posting your car on Craig’s list or wondering how to get more value out of Craig’s list dates definitely check out this free video.

So now let’s get in into the main segment; today I’m interviewing Troy Harrison. Here’s the interview;


Ashley: Welcome Troy to the motocarmarketing podcast Troy. I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Troy: Well thank you. Glad to be here Ashley.

Ashley: So to start out I wonder if you could just give us a quick overview of your career in sales and kind of how you got where you are today.

Troy: Sure. I’ll tell you – looking back sometimes I’m not 100% sure how I got here today. I have been around; my early sales experiences around the car business; – I mean my dad, my grandfather they’ve been involved in car business ever since I was a kid. And my first professional selling job was to fore dealerships in Kansas. I worked there as a salesperson; also sold Dodges and other automobiles for a while.  I was then in a car business for a while and quite frankly I decided I wanted to do something different. So I moved in to more business-to-business sale role; worked in industrial supplies and industrial plastics; became a sales manager; worked for a few different companies as a sales manager; won quit a few awards, both as sales person and a sales manager;

In 2007, excuse me, in 2004 I should say I actually took a look around at what was being said about professional selling and I really felt like there is some things that needed to be said about professional selling, things that I’ve learned from my costumers that weren’t being said. I can see that sales was starting to undergo ‘sea change’ in the way that customers and sales people interacted with each other and there are a lot of new burdens in the way our people needed to interact with customers. So I hanged up my own shingle and started my own company as a sales training and consulting firm, which is now called ‘Troy Harrison and Associates’ located here in Kansas City, but I work nation-wide. I’ve got clients from coast to coast. But in the ten last years I’ve been on my own. I published a book in 2008 called ‘Sell like you mean it ‘which ultimately was nominated for an Axiom Business Book of the Year award, sold nearly 5000 copies nation-wide. So, it’s a fun ride.

Ashley: So when you talk about these..; in 2004 you saw sort of things changing, you’re talking specifically about technology, and how salesman interact with their customers through e-mail and different technologies that were coming up, correct?

Troy: Partially-technology is a piece of it. You see, here’s how I see the salesman profession in terms of the thought development and thought leadership.  It seems like for about last 15 years sales traders and offers have just been pilling insincere tactics on top of insincere tactic and what really happens is we sales people have trade our customers to spot those tactics, to be suspicious of us and quite frankly customers are able to spot so quickly when sales people are putting them in their ‘trick bag’ so to speak.  And that’s given of rise by much more educated and informed customers – the internet is a really big part of it; you know – technology, and e-mail, message boards and all these pieces are big part of that and as a result the way that the sales person has to dialogue with the customer to be effective now days is really a lot different than it was even 10 or 15 years ago. And I see that, I see that nowhere more than in the car business because quite frankly too many sales people are still out there like it’s 1955.

Ashley: So, let’s dive into the actual sales process; and let’s start at the beginning; let’s talk a minute about what I would say our very look warm leads; basically leads that come in through e-mail or online. Maybe you could give some tips to the sales people and maybe to the people that are receiving these sorts of you know, more look warm leads- how should they be handled and kind of what are some good kind of strategies to dealing with these kinds of leads?

Troy: No.1, and my God, I say this too much, but No.1 – when you get the lead, read the entire lead and pay attention to what is being said in that lead; I had an episode and I actually wrote about this in of the magazines dealing marketing – I personally had an episode where I was looking for a very specific automobile and I filled an online lead form with a local dealership that sad that they had one of those automobiles but that it wasn’t quite ready to be displayed on the lot yet. So I send them, filled out a lead and in this I said ‘I’m interested in this particular car’. I even gave them the stock number. I said: ‘I want to know when it is going to be available to be viewed on the lot because I’m a cash buyer.’ You would think that it’s a pretty good lead, wouldn’t you?

Ashley: Absolutely. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Troy: Well, here’s the result – I had 4 calls in the next day and a half, all from different sales people at that dealership none of whom knew which car I was interested. They just said ‘Hey, you’re looking for a car. What kind of car you’re looking at? And, I mean there was just no comprehension that I’ve already selected my car, I knew what I wanted and all I needed to know is information that was going to lead me towards the completion of the deal. And I would tell each one of these sales people exactly what was going on and in few hours later I’d get a call from a completely different sales person that has no knowledge of that. And it’s just insane.

The customer today, if they send a lead form they expect a high degree of professionalism. Most of the time, given the tools that are available to him, customers probably aren’t sending a lead that says ‘Hey, I’m looking for a car. I have no idea what I want. Can you help me?’ What they’re probably doing is saying: ‘Hey, I saw on the internet – you have this, here is what I’m interested in and most of the time when they’re getting a call back because I had I don’t know how many e-mails and other responses from other people who read that article online and agrees with me; they’re getting a call back and the people aren’t paying any attention to what’s written on that lead form. And what happens is not only do you not advance your chance of selling a car you actually hurt yourself. By the forth call I said – ‘I’m not dealing with this yoyos-period.’

Ashley: So let’s take a step and what, you know, on a practical level, what do you recommend that, you know, how to handle this things? Clearly, why their sales is down is things are like that and probably the e-mails coming in and getting disports by four different salesman probably because they don’t want a lead to like slip between the cracks so they just figure –we’ll send in to everyone. Is there some kind of practical solution and maybe even some software or something that you can recommend for dealerships and how to handle this, sort of, you know, ..?

Troy: You’ve already identified the first problem. There’s no professionalism. Professional sales forces and professional marketing forces don’t blast a lead to everybody on the sales for. Professional sales forces put out a lead to one person and they task that one person with following up on a lead in a professional manner. That’s so the customer doesn’t get called multiple times by people and figure out that you’re an idiot. I mean everything that I’m going to tell just falls under the category – be a pro for God sake! When the dealership gets a lead you send that lead to one person and you say – ‘Hey, I need to know what’s going on with this in a couple of hours’ or whatever. Any you’ll follow up on this leads quickly. I mean this leads can stall real, real fast. You know that. And the sales manager ought to be able to say to the sales person – ‘We got a couple of hours. Ok, what’s happening here? When are they coming in?’

You know, the sales person should read the entire lead, get whatever information is requested then call the customer in a professional manner  – ‘I’m following up on this inquire you had about the such and such automobile. It’s ready to go, it’s ready to show and when would you like to come in’ and set up a professional appointment to have them come in and view the automobile. And I can hear the dealers while I’m saying this, saying –‘Well, I don’t know if I can trust anybody to follow up on a lead’. Guess what – if you’ve got a sales person you cannot trust on a lead get rid of him. Get a good sales person. The overall, and I really hate to harp on this, but the overall level of professionalism in car sales, especially considering the price points that you’re selling them at, you know, the high value of the goods that you’re selling are just atrocious. There’s typically more professionalism at the furniture store where somebody is buying a $1000 bedding set.

Ashley: So let’s go down the sales path and talk about phone leads. As I mentioned to you at the top of the call, I have some call tracking software so I’m often time working with dealers, with answering phones and you know, that doing metrics on phone calls. And I notice, you know, a lot of dealerships have really atrocious sales people picking up the phones.  And I wonder if you have some tips for them on that? You know just some basic tips on how to answer a phone call leads because I consider these leads much warmer than you know the average e-mail type of e lead.

Troy: You mean, when someone is calling in?

Ashley: Correct; from the website, from Craig’s list, you know all the traders. They pick up the phone, they’ve taken..; and maybe they’re even calling after an e-mail interaction but the bottom line is – they’ve picked up the phone and dialed a dealership and now the sales person has them on the phone.

Troy: Let me give you the No.1 tip that I can give you to maximize the effect of a sales person picking up the phone and answering –smile. Smile before you answer that phone.  When you smile you sound helpful, you sound enthusiastic, you sound positive. When you don’t smile you sound like you’re just waiting for the bell to ring to get out of work.

So start by smiling and when you pick up the phone greet people in a professional manner. I’d also love dealerships to say – ‘O, it’s a great day at Robert Chevrolet’ or whatever. Again, I think it comes back to having your act together. When customers ask questions they expect answers and this is a big transition; you know when I started out selling the cars one of the things that they trained us on was when the customer calls asking for information we were used to be train not to give them information. We’ve used to be trained just to try to do whatever we could to get them to walk on the door. And again, with the accessibility of information there is nowadays customers aren’t going to go for that.

When people call in asking for information give them the information that they want.  You know-‘I’m calling in for Red 2005 Mustang. Is it still in stock?’ The old school sales person is going to say – ‘Well, I think it might be, won’t you come in and let’s set up a time for you to come in and we’ll see if we can check that out’ whether it’s in stock or not.

Today sales person has to be able to check and say: ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have that one in stock but we do have a blue one and a silver one in’ because if the customer comes in on a false premise then that customer is never going to buy from you.

Ashley: Yeah, sure, sure.

Troy: The focus needs to be less on generating and immediate transaction no matter what the cost, no matter what it takes and transitioning that to form relationships with your customers. And the biggest component that a car sales person can do to build a relationship is to be straight with the customer. Be straight, be informed, and be professional because a lot of times the customers will have the information at their hands.

Ashley: So, now let’s go one step further when the customer shows up on the lot. Do you have some tips there for the salesmen that are greeting the customers coming in?

Troy: OK, first of all – do not attack. I know this is tough. We’ve all probably worked for the dealerships where was, you know, first person who reaches the customer is the person who gets them. And then you had to stay with that customer hanging of their shoulder the entire time they were on otherwise you didn’t get the deal. Again, today’s environment requires more professionalism and quite frankly more courtesy to the customer.

One thing that I’ve learned years ago and it was actually one of my customers that taught me this; I used to greet customers when they came on to the lot, introduce myself, give them the business card and then I would ask them this question: ‘Tell me how you would like to shop for a car?’ What I mean by that is – do you want me to stick with you and assist you as you’re on the lot? Would you like me to just hang back and check on you everyone now and then? And it always worked on 50%-50%. Half customers wanted me to stay there; half of the customers wanted me to stay back. The customers who wanted me to stay back I would say – ‘OK, do me a favor. Here’s my business card. I’ll hang back but in hanging back I want another sales person to attack you.’ And then another sales person approaches you to show them his card. I’ll be here if you need me.

Customers really appreciated that because I was treating them like human beings instead of treating them like a walking wallet and I realize that that is the backwards of what a lot of sales persons are thought to do but you know, here’s the thing – if you look at any survey of car buyers the vast majority of them is going to say that they love the car and that they hate the buying experience – which is stupid. Cars are fun. Buying cars ought to be a lot of fun. And the car dealers have made it so that that is the part that people look forward to the least.

Most dealerships could increase their revenues quite a bit just by creating an enjoyable buying experience because that would mean customers would come and buy and trade more often. That’s what so funny, you know; it just really surprises me that most car dealers haven’t gotten to this yet.

Again, you’ve got to be, I think today’s sales person has to be much more professional and much more respectful of not only getting the customer to buy but understanding the way the customer wants to buy and working with in that.

Ashley: So let’s go one step further and talk about the post-sale process; obviously keeping in line with you being respectful; let’s speak about that – what is respectful as someone who’s bought a car from you, you know, how often you should follow up, you know, what’s the next move to maybe just see how their experience is going with this car and potentially get them in for another car sale down the road?

Troy: Great question. I would recommend follow ups at…; typically follow up a couple of days after the purchase just to make sure that everything works the way it’s supposed to; follow up again in a couple of weeks and then in that follow up you get a little bit more detailed. And if you’re in doubt about how often the customer wants to hear from you ask him!

On a new sale I would follow up probably 2 days, 2 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and a year. And again, those are primarily checking satisfaction but a 3 months, 6 months and a year – now you’ve earned the right to start talking about the other cars they may own, or start understanding their families, understanding, asking for referrals, that kind of things.

Ashley: OK sure, sure. So, let’s take one step back because I know and talk about hiring salesman and training salesman. I know that a lot of my dealerships really struggle with this, a lot of them, especially a small dealership, you know – they may be 5 or 6 employers or so; we’re not talking about a big staff; many of these salesman are fairly low paid, you know, at best, you know, you get someone who’s smart but inexperienced. What do you..; maybe you can give us some tips for how to hire a salesman especially when these dealerships are on a really tight budget?

Troy: OK; Well, I think that this business needs to take a different look at how to hire salespeople. What I mean by that is this: the turnover, the car salespeople is insane. You know, you’ll have dealerships that we’ll experience 200% turnover in a year. I know some of those dealerships. And the problem is that you can’t form any meaningful relationships with your customers when you’re turning people that quickly.

I would recommend particularly, if you are in a market where it’s a little bit tougher to hire salespeople – I think dealerships really need to start looking at getting away from the ancient straight commission model of payment and look at a salary plus commission because quite frankly that’s what the rest of the sales world has moved to. Straight commission is so rare nowadays and B2B selling and it’s getting rarer and rarer in B2C selling and what happens is that salary plus commission gets perceived as a move up or step up in someone’s career.

See, I know a lot of car salespeople starting up selling cars and then in a year or two they’re looking at getting out of the business and stepping up. And if dealers are really serious about salespeople building a career in this business and they should be; you know car sales can be a wonderful, wonderful, fun career. They need to look at pay plans on more long term.

You know, when you advertise for a straight commission position nowadays you lose have of your applicants pool and in all honesty it’s usually the have that you’d like to have because they have options. You know, you don’t want to be perceived as the employer of last resort for somebody who doesn’t have anything else to do. So I think that’s number 1.

Number 2 – no cattle call hiring. Cattle call hiring is ‘well I need one salesperson so I’m going to hire 3 and the strongest one will survive.  Usually, and by the way, straight commission leads to this; usually what ends up happening is strongest one bails out first because he figures out you hadn’t created an opportunity for him to earn for living. And then you’re left with the weaker players that don’t have options. If you need one, hire one. And then put them through a good hiring process. At least  interviews of which one should be a behavioral interview; use a third party assessment tool like a profile sales assessment on them.; you know, do reference checks, due diligence; yeah – it extends the hiring process longer than the one the two day that most dealerships do. But that’s OK if you’re building a more professional sales force that’s time and money that will return itself to you again, and again, and again. And then after you get them hired really train them. Don’t sit them down, listen to tapes, don’t just let them shadow  sales person for a day, really train them with a training program that makes sense and helps them relate to customers, that is customer friendly and that is going to leave everybody walking away from sales transaction thinking – ‘that was a great experience’.

I could literally do a week long program on building a more professional sales force in car business. I’m only hitting the very high, high points here.

Ashley: Sure. Are there some specific materials..?; You talk about, you know, training materials and doing more than just having them shadow a salesman. Are there some specific training materials that you would recommend, some tips for actually setting up a more professional, you know, training program?

Troy: Well, for training, I would not use any of the car sales specific training that is out there. I’ll be very forward about that. I watched a number of them on YouTube, I’ve experienced a number of them, and they’re all using the same 1955 method. And I’ll even make this a little bit commercial for myself; if you want to learn how to train people in a customer friendly manner get a hold of me,  I’m actually looking at developing a program for car sales trainers and I’ve been in 4 car sales training, and I haven’t done it yet. But I’m actually looking at creating some sort of a multimedia course for car salespeople simply because there isn’t anything out there that I’ve found that is really customer friendly.

Ashley: And that’s a good Segway. Let’s talk a minute about Troy Harrison and Associates. Maybe you can just give us a 2 minute elevator pitch for what you offer there.

Troy: Absolutely. You know, the big that I do is I help companies grow their profits through the better use and development of their sales force. Now that means that I train sales people to have quality conversations with customers that not only lead to more deals up front, but they also lead to longer relationships with customers, the kind of relationships that you can bank on where people are coming back to you and using their default source for their next purchase and they’re referring you around because they’d enjoyed the buying experience so much.

I train sales managers to manage and develop their sales forces to that higher level. Sales managers, the course of sales managers are not used that very much and that is their ability to coach, develop and troubleshoot their salespeople.  I teach sales managers how to do that.

I consult with business owners, whether it’s a car dealer or whether it’s a president of a $2 000 000 manufacturing company; on how to build and structure a highly professional sales force that’s going to grow their revenues predictably, consistently, and strongly year over year over year. And I work with them on all of these issues; hiring compensation, management, any issues centered around sales force.

Basically Ashley, anything a client needs to build a more stronger, more powerful, more productive and more profitable sales force I can help him with.

Ashley: Great. I notice people call you ‘Sales Navigator’. Can you tell us why?

Troy: Sure. I actually started adopting that title about a year ago because somebody said to me – ‘ You know, you’re really great at helping sales people navigate this new world of selling. ‘ And I thought that’s a great title because that’s really what I do; you know, it’s like I said – sales has changed so much in the last 10 years because of information and because of internet. And so I look at it like my job is to be their navigator, to be their guide, to be their GPS, to help them move through the pitfalls, changes and quite frankly turbulent waters in today’s sales environment. So that’s why they call me ‘The Sales Navigator’.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny – your whole angle on being respectful to the customer; I come from, sort of the online marketing world and there’s kind of a big movement in that world as well; that customers are just way too sophisticated in this day and age to fall for all this sort of, you know, short term tricks that, you know, used to work back in the old days. So it’s just interesting, it sounds like the sales world, it’s like the direction we’re going.

Troy: Well, it is true. You know, customers are being bombarded by information. Look at…; can you imagine 20 years ago something like being at people fingertips figuring out what is where and all the different cars that they could buy? I mean it’s insane and it’s potentially a great opportunity for dealerships and here’s the thing: just because somebody comes in for one type of car doesn’t mean that they have to leave in that type of car. We’ve all seen that. You know I can certainly remember customers who came in looking for a new Ford Escort 4 door Sedan that drove away in a new Mustang GC because that’s what really turns their crank.

These have got to be used properly, respectfully and professionally to be able to get that customer and give them an opportunity to convert one way or the other.

Ashley: So what’s the best way to get people to contact you if they want to follow up on you?

Troy: Pretty easy. They can look me up at That’s They can call me at 913-645-3603 or they can e-mail me at

Ashley: Perfect, perfect. And I’ll list all that stuff in the show’s notes so that people can easily read that up.  You’ve been very generous with your time, some great nuggets of wisdom so I really do appreciate it.

Troy: Well, thank you. I appreciate the call.


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