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Is Anyone Using Sales Managers to Manage Their BDC?

I am preparing a presentation to our General Managers about our BDC operations and it got me thinking about how BDC's have changed in recent years.  When I started in the car business in 1998, the BDC generally consisted of a couple of reps who were usually the poorest performing salespeople who had to earn their way back on the floor and a BDC Manager who was generally the most tech savvy person in the store a.k.a. the "Computer Guy or Gal." 


When I look at the current makeup of BDC's, I see BDC reps who are excellent appointment setters, have strong phone and email skills but what I don't see are people who have ever sold a car. Most have never been on a test drive, spent an afternoon with a customer only to hear "I'll think about it" and never desked a deal or at least understand how deals are structured.  This system made sense when the Internet Department accounted for 10-15% of the dealership's business but in store's like ours, the Internet Department accounts for 40% of our business and the BDC reps are interacting with thousands of new customers every month.


In my opinion, in store BDC's need to be managed by experienced sales managers who know how to desk deals, handle objections, understand buying signals and in general, add car sales experience to the BDC process.  I don't think we can afford to have this many potential deals being handled by reps who have no practical car sales experience.  The reps are still vital to the process but the person overseeing them can't simply be the best BDC rep who got promoted to BDC Manager. More and more of the Road to the Sale is taking place online and we need to get our managers to interact with these customers earlier in the process.  One of the most common phrases I hear is "Just get 'em in and we'll sell them."  The problem with that thinking is that  the deals are taking place online and over the phone so we need to realize where our customers are making their buying decisions. 


Do you have your sales managers reviewing your Internet leads?  I would like to get feedback from anyone who is having success with this format.

Views: 937

Tags: BDC, Business Development Center, Car Dealer, Management, Sales, Sales Management, operations

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Comment by Craig Polito on May 7, 2012 at 8:29am

Yes, desk a deal,accept an offer, run a lease payment,give a preliminary trade-value.  Credit is an easy issue to over come with out having to run credit. What dealers don't realize, two thirds of their business is coming thru a call center , phones and Internet leads maybe even chat. Why would you not invest in a top dog to run your center. I'm to the point in my career now, I won't install a Call center/BDC for a dealer who will not commit to having a top gun run his call center. The success of the center and my reputation is worth more than just signing a deal for new business.

Comment by Mark Tewart on May 7, 2012 at 8:26am

I would agree with Ralph about the Save-A-Deal function. I am shocked daily by the amount of dealerships that do not do a formal save-a-deal function and operate solely by the seat of their pants as to what is or is not happening in their dealership. It seems to be a common occurrence for sales managers to come in and sit behind a desk and wait for salespeople to being them a deal while they play on the computer or do paperwork. The save-a-deal function should be done every morning with all front end managers including F&I. It will create a more organized and communicative environment that produces sales. My intent is not to rant but I am seeing a greater lack of leadership in dealerships than ever before. I hope it is coincidental or temporary or that I am just mistaken but I don't believe so. 90 percent of BDC's seem to fail int eh first six months as well also from a lack of leadership. All types of processes can work but they must have leadership.

Comment by Jim Canto on May 7, 2012 at 8:24am

I agree there are challenges which vary by dealer. However, if it is true that every customer has some contact with the internet prior to visiting an automobile dealership, then the most digitally integrated, well trained dealerships with the most efficient lead management policies in place should find themselves in a position where they've increased their overall capacity to sell cars (the main point of it all.)

I am confident there are many challenges ahead. However, thinking long-term, I can't see how a dealer can afford not to develop an appetite for full training and integration. Then again, I may be just as stubborn. ;-)

(Respectfully) To Mike Warwick's comment below; "...answer leads, provide quotes, follow up on unsold customers and return calls in addition to selling and delivering vehicles" has been part of job description of every automotive sales job I have interviewed for since the mid 1980's. I know there are differences in consumer behavior, but other than that, the job is still the same; Get their attention, keep their attention, discover their needs, demonstrate value and close the deal. Now, we just have more tools and different avenues to be able to connect with potential buyers. And, no, a lead can not site for 90 minutes any more than a phone up can site for 90 minutes waiting for a call back with info or a lot up can walk the lot for 5 minutes without being greeted. 

At our store, the sales managers are basically the BDC managers as well as desk managers and finance managers. They distribute inbound leads, desk the deals and get them hung. The finance folks write them up and sell additional products. Salespeople take walk-ins, phone-ups and inbound chats, do all the follow up, sales and delivery. The sales managers manage the sale, desk the deal and provide quotes when and where needed and get the deal hung as previously mentioned. I don't know if it's a perfect scenario.. but I believe they are on the proper trajectory. There is no doubt, there are deals that slip away. We're always working to reduce that stat.

Comment by Mike Warwick on May 7, 2012 at 8:12am

Craig and Mike - I agree that there needs to be a manager but my real question is does the BDC Manager need to have the same abilities as a sales manager - should they be able to desk a deal, accept an offer, run lease payments, give a preliminary trade-value, run a customers credit, etc.  I know of many BDC Managers who do a great job but are not able or allowed to do any of these things.  They typically work under the "just get 'em in" management mentality and the reality is that if you can't get a customer the answers they are looking for, they move on.  Yes, the BDC Manager can go to the desk and get these answers but then you run the risk of the customer getting the answer they are looking for from a another dealer while you wait.

Comment by Craig Polito on May 7, 2012 at 7:59am

Ditto on Ralph's comment, when I was referring to BDC I should have said appointment makers not salespeople. I actually call them Customer Relationship Centers CRC.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on May 7, 2012 at 7:37am

Howard - I have (literally) been in hundreds of dealerships with BDC's and was part of a half-million dollar project that researched BDC's and visited the most successful BDC's in America, and I only saw two examples of dealerships with what I would consider "successful" BDC's that relied upon sales people to staff the BDC and do the majority of customer contacts... One was a Toyota dealership in Houston, TX and the other was a Ford dealership in New York.  Most of the BDC's I have ever seen set up around a strategy of sales people having assigned hours each day in the BDC eventually failed in one way or another.  Back in the late 90's Toyota funded and deployed a BDC initiative that relied on a design based on sales people rotating through BDC's on "shifts".  The initiative was such a dismal failure on so many levels that to this day the mention of the term "BDC" brings up gasps of horror at Toyota headquarters in Torrance. 

Comment by Mike Warwick on May 7, 2012 at 7:23am

Hi Jim - thanks for your comments.  I would love if the entire sales staff could be as effective as our BDC reps but I've never found that to be the case. Our BDC reps have specialized training on gathering customer information, setting appointments and follow up.  Obviously, it's a training issue and in a dealer group of any size, you would need to create a complete training infrastructure.  Again, it would be great if it happened, I just don't think many dealers have the appetite to add that kind of expense.

I also think you run into serious issues when you are relying on sales people to answer leads, provide quotes, follow up on unsold customers and return calls in addition to selling and delivering vehicles.  How can a dealership afford to let a lead sit for 90 minutes while someone is doing a delivery or trying to sell a car?

Comment by Michael Del Priore on May 7, 2012 at 7:22am

The Sales Managers usually do not review the leads. I started as a Sales Person, Promoted o Internet Sales because of my past experience on the phones and eventually was managing BDC Departments. I do beleive BDC reps should have better product knowledge and should actually do a walk around and test drive the vehicles they are trying to set appointments for the dealership. Training is important for everyone. BDC Managers, Internet Managers , Sales Managers  and General Sales Managers need to work together towards the ultimate goal of the dealership to sell more vehicles for the dealership. The problem is most Sales Managers feel it is us against them mentality when it comes to the Internet Customer. A dedicated BDC / Internet Manager is absolutely needed for all dealerships to maximize profits and sales for the BDC/Internet Department.

Comment by Craig Polito on May 7, 2012 at 7:19am

A BDC with out a manager in the room that does not have experience in the industry will fail for sure. Don't ever attempt it with out one. If you don't have some one in the room that can make a car deal on the spot when the customer pushes for price/trade value/etc, forget getting the appointment. How ever a service BDC will work with out a service manager as long as you have a team leader.

Comment by Jim Canto on May 7, 2012 at 6:38am

Mike, I have a different view. I do not believe in a separate BDC. I believe, in today's environment; every deal is an internet lead (one way or the other.) Even if the clients are non-technical customers...maybe older generation who do not even own a computer, one of their kids, or friends, or co-workers/retirees, have done some research online and given them advice. The time has come for the entire store to become digitally integrated. Computers on every desk with the sales managers doing what they were trained to do; manage the sales team. 

Then, the "computer guy" can concentrate on digital matters such as SEO and Conversion thereby increasing lead count. After all, in the end, sales is a numbers game.

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