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Just One Internet Department Structure

Creating a basic structure for your Internet department should be one of the simplest tasks for a dealer.  Unfortunately, too many decision-makers at dealerships attempt to get in the way of how an Internet department operates.  One primary element to a department’s evolution is determining the hierarchy of power.

In two previous blogs (Preparing To Grow Your Internet Department – Part 1 and Part 2), I’ve detailed the beginning steps to bringing aboard new talent onto your eBusiness team.  Allow me to first clarify that I understand many people in our industry are pushing for an open floor.  “Divide and distribute all leads to everyone!” they chant.  “All customers are Internet customers so all salespeople should handle leads!”  To this I say, “Not yet.”  Most dealerships didn’t initially hire their entire floor with the expectation for them to handle leads so they likely aren’t the right “breed” for the position. (This can be a later blog rant).

Why I point this out is that MOST dealers still have some form of department.  Specific people dedicated to handling (and possibly selling) the Internet leads for the store.  So if you’ve decided on a separate department for your Internet opportunities (as most dealerships have), you need your team to understand their power levels.

On the sales floor, the hierarchy is clear.

  •   Dealer/General Manager
  •   General Sales Manager
  •   New and Used Car Managers
  •   Sales floor

Most Internet departments are likely best off if they function under a structure separate from the sales floor.  (Working together is important, but not working for.)

The hierarchy is most ideal if the Sales Management and Sales team doesn’t retain power in the department.

  •   Dealer/General Manager
  •   Internet Director/eCommerce Director/Business Development Manager
  •   Internet Sales Manager
  •   Business Development Agent/Internet Sales Coordinator/Customer Contact Rep

It is my opinion that no one should be responsible to report to anyone equilaterally.  The ISM shouldn’t have to report to the Sales Managers.  BDC staff should never have to “explain themselves” to the sales consultants.  They are independent entities that work together, side by side.  Too many personal agendas get in the way when one with a “sales” and “profit” agenda controls people with an “appointment first” agenda.  One sales manager setting pricing or controlling follow-up process to make their own showroom job easier usually creates obstacles for the Internet person focused on bringing in qualified customers in the first place.

When creating your Internet department, make sure to set specific rules regarding the hierarchy in the dealership.  This will allow people to focus on their own jobs rather than how someone else should do theirs.


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Tags: Consulting, Dealer Knows, Training, Webb, automotive, dealerknows, dealership, department, hierarchy, internet, More…joe, power, structure


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Comment by Joe Webb on March 19, 2012 at 12:42pm

Ashley - you are on the right track with 100% documentation.  The next step is comparing your proven ROI (as a person and as a department) to the ROI of the rest of the store's non-digital advertising investments.  Also, detail out what your job description is, as well as any other duties that you are responsible for.  Often, a hard-working Internet sales manager does the job of two or more people (if it required the dealership to hire your replacement or start someone else from scratch).  

As always, determining a person's worth to a dealership is a tricky one.  With buy-in from executive management (and understanding of your actual daily duties), your value is much easier to prove.  Keep up with the documentation.  Staying proven, regardless if people believe the data or not, will be the only thing you can fall back on.  (Endless reviews from customers help as well.)

Comment by Ashley Corning on March 19, 2012 at 12:14pm

I would like to ask a questions for comments, this may not be the right place, but as an Internet Manager, I would like to know what other people are doing to "prove their worth" as  a department.  What do you use when increased sales, complete (or as much as possible) tracking of invenstments, top metrics ratings (ie close rate, response times) and overall organization are not enough to show the department is an integral part of the sales process?  In my mind you can stop at #1 increased sales, but that can be attributed to other factors (always if you look hard enough)  Does anyone has suggestions on what else to look at?  thx

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 19, 2012 at 6:18am

Great post Joe.  I think this is a constant problem within most dealerships. Thank you!

Comment by Paulo Simões Filho on March 19, 2012 at 5:43am

As a brazilian dealer starting to structure an independent websales department this blog is very , very useful ...

Comment by Aj Maida on March 18, 2012 at 7:50am

The problem I see in most dealerships is not that this structure is not in place. It is not that the Dealer, GM, GSM, Service and Parts Managers and the Internet Director/eCommerce Director(Insert title here) don't know the structure. It is that the levels below this hierarchy, Sales Manager, Used Car Manager (I see those smiles), Sales Floor, Service Advisers/Writers, Parts people don't know the hierarchy. Sometimes we feel like the owner and others (we have to work together as Joe points out so correctly) will feel that our egos are large and we are full of ourselves. They probably assume that everyone else realizes your place in the hierarchy; after all it was in the company newsletter 3 years ago when you got the job. If you don't feel like this is the case, then it is time to sit down with the dealer and discuss it. This is as important as responding to that lead in under 30 minutes. Plus if he's like my boss he already thinks it. Mine is fond of saying that I "am a legend in his (my) own mind".

Comment by Martin Logsdon on March 18, 2012 at 7:21am

Having entered the 3rd decade of the internet, we would hope that our organization set would be apparent. We must always grow, I guess.

Comment by Roddy W McKenzie on March 17, 2012 at 1:49pm

I like this blog, it really points out an Internet department can be fustrated by other elements in the dealership that does not understand the goals or how the department works.

Comment by Steve Duff on March 17, 2012 at 1:44pm

Great article. It represents the approach we have taken. Not to say that there haven't been attempts to undermine this principle, since our E-Commerce Dept. is still young and therefore in the minds of some, vulnerable (but those attempts were thwarted thank God).

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