Ashley Skillman Haltom
by Jenny Elig // photography by Angela Jackson
Ashley Skillman Haltom was raised on the southside, and as you might have surmised from her maiden name, she grew up in the car business. Her grandfather, Ray Skillman, founded Ray Skillman Auto Group.
Haltom, who lives in Center Grove, has been married to a Ray of her own — Ray Haltom — for 12 years. Stepson Ray, son Hudson and daughter Hadley round out her immediate family; all are sports enthusiasts, with an emphasis on baseball and cheerleading. “If you’re asking what we do from basically all seasons other than winter, we are at a ball field,” she says.
Haltom started in the auto industry picking up trash on car lots and answering phones. In 2004 she learned how to sell cars, having gleaned bits of knowledge at the dinner table and observing on the lots. Now, Haltom is general manager of Ray Skillman Ford and Southside Hyundai and Ray Skillman Hoosier Ford in Martinsville.
1. What was involved with learning to sell cars?
I would say being in the business or around the business my entire life. There’s a lot of wisdom to get passed down, especially around the dinner table. It was pretty easy to learn. We are a needs business. It’s not just a want. The fun ones are the wants, but it’s about really getting to know someone and their family. This is the second biggest purchase a person will make. It’s fun to be a part of that.
2. Now, not to assume anything, but is car shopping sometimes an intimidating experience for women? Why is that?
Absolutely. I think there’s a stigma around our business, and unfortunately it’s a stigma that we have to deal with every day. There are so many companies that are trying to take the salesperson out of the car-buying process. That is not good for the consumer.
Our job is to meet someone, to learn about them, to learn about their needs. We’re no different than a realtor or someone who sells any other products. Our job is to use our expertise to help show you what’s going to work best for you and your family. It’s not something people do every day. It’s a lot of money, and it’s a big commitment.
One of the things that might make customers a little leery is the fear that a salesperson would do what was best for themselves rather than what’s best for the consumer, and that’s not what we’re about. We have a lot of non-commissioned salespeople. We love this community. We love our customers, and we really work hard to make sure that we’re finding the best fit for them. Ultimately, we stand behind what we sell. In other industries, you sell things and people go away. We want people to be happy with their purchase so they want to come back again and again.
3. What do you love about the car business? What do you love about sales?
In the car business there is something new every day. Anytime you see people come back and they trust you and want to do business with you or they send in a referral, it’s just a positive affirmation that we’re doing something right.
4. What do you love about doing business on the southside?
Just being able to pull into a parking lot at a baseball league or a high school game and see the cars with your stickers on the back of them. It warms your heart because you know that people trust you with a big purchase.
5. OK, what’s your car?
I’m in a 2019 Ford Expedition right now. I love it. I brag on it to everyone.