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Did Alan Ram Really Post About Having the Sales Floor Handle Leads Instead of the BDC and Close the Comment Section?

Alan, let me begin by saying that you are one of my favorite trainers and I highly recommend your training to any dealership.  Your training is exceptional. However....the vast majority of salespeople are not effective at handling Internet leads or phone calls. In fact, they are horrible at it. The average turnover of the salesforce in the car business is extraordinarily high and the main reason for this high turnover is the lack of training that new salespeople get.  They are set up to fail from the start. Is it any wonder that when a new salesperson fails over and over in the beginning of their careers that they start to look at other options?  As an industry, we are not even training new salespeople how to sell cars. What makes you think that we are going to do a good job training them how to sell appointments?

I have heard you make your argument several times and while it's compelling and makes perfect sense, it's not based in reality for the majority of dealerships.  Dealerships struggle on a daily basis getting salespeople to follow up with their own customers.  Salespeople don't train, they don't follow up and they don't prospect. They come to work and sit at their desks hoping for an up to walk through the door. When the up does show up, they don't put notes in the CRM and they don't follow up with their SOLD and UNSOLD customers.  This is reality.  Are there dealerships where all of the salespeople are true professionals that would love to handle Internet and phone ups? Of course there are but those are the top 5-10%. I agree that, in theory, every salesperson should be able to handle an up whether it's on the floor, the phone or the computer.  In reality, we just need them to sell cars, train and prospect.  When they start doing those things, we can talk about eliminating the BDC.  Until then, we are going to need specialist who know how to set appointments that show.


EDITOR'S NOTE: In fairness to Alan Ram, I have copied and pasted his original post in the space below... In order to appreciate Mr. Warwick's points, as well as the comments that have followed, it is useful to have Alan's original article in the same page for reference...

TITLE: Is Your BDC The Result of a Failure in Training? 

AUTHOR: Written and posted by Alan Ram

(Article reposted in entirety below)

Here’s a question for you –

Is your BDC the result of a failure in training?


That should have your attention.  If I’ve ever written an article that will be misconstrued, this will be the one! As I’ve talked to dealers over the years, I’ve seen many BDC’s spring up out of knee-jerk frustration. While there are obviously exceptions to the rule, this is something I’ve seen repeated in the industry over the past several years.  A dealer says “we tried training our salespeople, but they’re still terrible at handling phones so we’ve hired three people and all they’re going to do now is handle our inbound sales calls as well as Internet leads.” I have a number of different problems with this thought process and I’m happy to tell you about them:

  1. So you’re telling me that the people that you’ve hired to sell Lexus in Chicago are capable of talking to a customer that walks into the dealership, but for some reason it blows their flipping minds to talk to that same customer on the telephone or communicate via e-mail?  I’m not willing to accept that.
  2. I have trained tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of salespeople and BDC reps over the years. In that period of time, I have found that it takes every minute as long to PROPERLY train a BDC rep as it does a salesperson. The operative word in the previous sentence is “properly”. As a matter of fact, it takes longer to train a BDC rep. Why? Because while the sales staff already knows the product, the BDC staff is starting from scratch. I’ve asked BDC reps specific product questions before and you may as well be asking some of them the gross domestic product of Bolivia. So while you think you’re solving one problem, you’re really creating another. Most of the calls I listen to that are made into BDC’s do not represent an improvement over the sales staff. At most it’s the get the customer’s name and number department while trying to set up an appointment without giving the customer an actual reason to come in. I’m not trying to be harsh here. This is fact. We are creating an unnecessary level of specialization at many dealerships.
  3. In this day and age, where the number one thing I hear when I do dealer 20 group meetings is “expense, expense, expense!”, shouldn’t the number one expense be hiring a second group of people to do the job the first group should have been doing? We’re talking about communicating with customers on the telephone and Internet here! This stuff isn’t quantum physics.  It amazes that the same dealers who throw up in a trash can when they get a $1000 invoice for training have absolutely no problem in adding as much as 20-40k of expense per month in creating a BDC.


Here’s the solution; train your people to do the jobs you hired them to do. 

If I’m hired to sell cars at your dealership, I should be capable of communicating with customers in person, on the telephone, and online. That would be part of being a well-rounded salesperson. Unfortunately, salespeople don’t necessarily arrive on your doorstep well-rounded. It’s your job to train them. The sad fact is that much of what dealers have bought over the years in the name of training, hasn’t been anything close to training at all. Going to the Marriott and listening to myself or anyone else talk for eight hours is as much training as going to a baseball game is training for baseball. You might get educated, but you’re not necessarily going to get trained. 


For something to be considered training, three elements need to be present:

1) Education

2) Simulation

3) Accountability

If any of those three elements is missing, whatever you’re trying to accomplish probably isn’t going to happen.

Now I’m not trying to convince anyone to dismantle their BDC. What I’m telling you to do, is make sure that you’re not replacing one group of people that you didn’t train properly, with another layer of expense that you’re not training properly either.

BDC’s ARE GREAT and provide a wonderful return on investment when you have them doing the right things the right way.  For example, following up unsold customers. 39% of people surveyed say that the reason that they would not come back to a dealership is because they didn’t like the salesperson for whatever reason. Too tall, too short, reminded them of their ex-brother-in-law or smelled like smoke. What this is saying is that your sales staff does not have a shot with 39% of what you think are their be-back opportunities. When the customer doesn’t like the salesperson they won’t tell him or her “we didn’t like you”. What will they say? We’ve decided to hold off or we’re not going to do anything right now. They won’t tell the salesperson, but they will tell someone else. That’s why it is critical that every dealership have someone in ADDITION to salespeople following up on each and every customer that visit’s the store.  That is a great function for your BDC.


Another thing you can do; shift your BDC's focus to your service department.
I have worked with many dealerships that have amazing success in having BDC representatives schedule both repair as well as recommended maintenance. They can actively be following up on recall notices and generating service revenue.  This is a huge opportunity.  Your service advisors are on the drive talking to customers. They’re in the shop checking on vehicles. Call your dealership. Try to get a hold of the service adviser sometime and see how often you get voice-mail or get put on hold for a period of time.


So again, I’m not telling you to dismantle your BDC.

Business Development Centers are great when they are actually developing business. Let’s just make sure you have yours focused on the proper opportunities.

Views: 3459

Tags: Alan Ram, BDC, Dealer BDC, Failure, Proactive Training Solutions, Result, Training


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Comment by Dani Lunsford on May 7, 2016 at 1:27pm

Trying to bring this post back from 2014 ... I am Internet Director of a Toyota dealership, and I totally agree with Alan Ram, we have done just what he suggested and we are doing about 50% of the entire dealerships sales.  We have salespeople answering calls, and working leads, and we have broken every sales record the store has ever done..... we are currently at about 675 new/used a month.

Comment by Mike Warwick on August 18, 2014 at 3:58pm

I'm with you Steve, give me a well trained BDC agent any day for one simple reason, while the salesperson is taking an up or delivering a car, the BDC agent is pounding the phones. Different jobs, different skill sets. Why do we have "A" techs and "B" techs in the service department - better training and more experienced techs get the more difficult jobs that they are better trained to handle.

Comment by Steve Duff on August 18, 2014 at 2:39pm

In regards to this comment: "Dealerships struggle on a daily basis getting salespeople to follow up with their own customers...."

I would change that to simply say "Dealerships struggle on a daily basis getting salespeople." 

Sales people (of any industry) who are face to face with customers, and who are good at closing sales, are generally not very leadable. It's like herding cats.

But in any case, if they are good at closing deals, but maybe not so good at phone work (and some of them are just downright terrible at it), then let them do what they do best. Close car deals.

Let the BDC do the phone and internet work. They are trained specifically for that. And they usually aren't that good at closing deals.

We have F&I people who are good at what they do. Service writers and techs are good at what they do. Office staff are good at what they do.

You can't expect to cross train people to do everything, and I am of the firm opinion with years of phone experience under my belt to know that not just anyone can do it. Any many excellent 25 car sales persons are frightened of the phone. It's just the way it is. It's not an issue of poor leadership (at least probably not in most cases).

Comment by Jerry Thibeau on August 18, 2014 at 7:26am

In regards to this comment: "Dealerships struggle on a daily basis getting salespeople to follow up with their own customers.  Salespeople don't train, they don't follow up and they don't prospect. They come to work and sit at their desks hoping for an up to walk through the door. When the up does show up, they don't put notes in the CRM and they don't follow up with their SOLD and UNSOLD customers.  This is reality." 

That right there is a leadership issue.  I hear it all the time, "I can't get my salespeople to do this or that."  Any manager who uses that excuse should probably not be in a leadership role.  Hold people accountable and set a standard.  Allow people to slack off and it compounds.  Dealerships would not need BDC's if they got salespeople to do the the jobs they were hired for.  Having a managed floor fixes a lot of problems.

Comment by Mike Warwick on July 29, 2014 at 1:46pm

Great stuff Tom!  One of my favorite tools when training is to hand out a blank Road to the Sale to the experienced "pros." I've had people with 9 years experience who can't fill out beyond the Meet and Greet. I don't say a word to the salespeople, I simply look at their managers who insisted that their people were trained.  I absolutely love what you wrote,"The 5 year salesperson with one month of experience, 60 times." That is gold.

Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on July 29, 2014 at 9:36am

Another great ADM debate. Training is the key. Hiring is the key. Pay plans are the key. Leadership (not management) is the key. Continuous improvement is the key. There are so many managers who got promoted because they can close who never made a living depending on follow-up calls.

Sales training is like weight loss or a personal development program - if you have a plan and stick to it, your chance of success is exponentially higher than having no plan. BUT FIND A PLAN. If you are going to have a BDC, do it right. If you are going to train salespeople, TRAIN THEM. If you are going to have a baboon greet people then use closers, train the baboon.

Years back, I pitched a training program for a successful salesperson who retired from the business with a million dollar net worth. Dealerships didn't want to hear of it. 'We do fine in-house'. But sales people are like kids, they have heard their managers (parents) say the same thing 1,000 times, so it is kind of ignored. But when a new face with credibility says the same thing, it may have a better chance of getting through. Now, product training is 20 times more challenging than 20 years ago with the tech in vehicles, but it still comes down to people.  

Did I mention you need to TRAIN? There used to be the adage about 20-year salespeople with 1 year of experience 20 times, the modern paradigm is a 5 year salesperson with ONE MONTH of experience 60 times. In those cases it doesn't matter if they are on the sales floor, BDC, service drive, or lot guy.

Comment by Mike Warwick on July 29, 2014 at 8:00am

Manny hit the nail on the head, there's really no right answer to this question.  The right answer is completely dependent on what will work for the individual dealer based on their strengths or weaknesses. What I see happening is that many dealers are making decisions based on false assumptions about their staff.  Some assume that their managers are able to train effectively while others assume that their sales staff cannot handle phone/Internet leads. There are so many contingencies that need to be examined and accounted for.  You may have a manager who is an exceptional trainer that understands that managing the activities that lead to sales is the function of any great manager but what happens if he leaves?  Does your process fall apart? Each dealership needs to figure out not only what works for them today but also what is sustainable over the long haul.  I appreciate everyone's perspective. This is such a great topic which is why I couldn't understand that Alan didn't open the comment section. As a great trainer, I'm sure Alan feels that he can go into any store and make his process work. My question is, what do you do if you don't have Alan Ram as a trainer? The very success of a dealership can hinge on making the right decision.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 29, 2014 at 5:24am

Manny, Thanks for the reality check...

Yes, every dealership is like a unique organism with its own personality and more importantly its own unique set of resources and constraints. I have seen the "one Size Fits All" approach for BDC installation into 600 dealerships of the same brand... Led the team tasked with executing the completion of the installs over a 3 year period.

In every single case where there were problems, the solution was always to customize the install so that the BDC wouldn't be rejected like a bad organ transplant.  I speak to so many dealers via phone on a daily basis, and there is a lot of pressure to give them prescriptions without a physical examination... So, yeah... You are 100% correct. A 3 day visit needs to happen up front:

  • Day 1 - Dealership HR Assessment and Interviews
  • Day 2 - Facilities and Equipment Assessment - Begin Blueprint
  • Day 3 - Review Recommended Strategy and Tactics - Action Plan Roles and Accountability Assignments

And that is just a start... Hiring, training, reporting systems and management control points. It is no wonder so may people want to just say "Make the sales people do it!"

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 28, 2014 at 10:58pm

In most markets, car dealers can hire exceptionally qualified BDC customer representative for between 50% to 75% of what their sales professionals earn. Working in a call center is a job which will attract far more applicants and qualified candidates than a sales position on the showroom floor. Likewise, the Sales position on the showroom floor is, in my opinion more stressful, requires a greater degree of self-motivation and a higher level of problem solving capabilities.  The reason I bring this up is that one more reason for the existence of a BDC in a car dealership is human resource efficiency...

If you speak with your service manager, you will find that he or she is loathe to allow the dealership's ASE Master Certified Technicians perform routine vehicle maintenance tasks. Why? One of the reasons is simple mathematics, the Master Technician makes more money than the freshman technician who is working his/her way to becoming a Master, which will take several years.  Likewise, in many dealerships the sales BDC serves as a "Farm League" for future sales professionals. While working in the BDC it is not unusual to have an hourly or salary base plus bonus based on appointment shows and sales. 

I will say what I have stated before in a different way... If we are the managers of a dealership sales department and we have sales professionals on the floor who are well trained and highly skilled at selling cars and trucks to the people that visit our dealership, then it is our responsibility to keep those sales professionals busy with customers... Ask your sales people if it is management responsibility to drive traffic to the dealership!

One of the best ways to keep those sales professionals doing what they do best... Selling cars and trucks, is to have a fully staffed, supervised and trained BDC setting appointments with as many people as they can... Because we all know the truth. If a customer sounds like they are not qualified to buy a car, or they owe far more on their trade than what it is worth, or the customer mentions they have a few dings on their credit report,,, There ARE sales professionals who will be dissuaded from REALLY TRYING to get those customers to come into the dealership!

Selling cars and selling appointments are two very different missions...

Dealing with a customer who is there, in person and can see the sparkle of the salesperson's eyes, and the briskness with which he or she goes about the tasks of making sure they get the right car at the right deal is a much different job assignment than getting customers who have either called or sent an inquiry to the dealership to leave the comfort of their homes or the safety of their work places to actually come into the dealership in person... The very fact that this second type of customer has contacted the dealership before coming to the store in person tells us they are different than the 75% of customers who visit dealerships without ever having contacted the store prior to their initial visit, by any means at all.

For over 10 years J. D. Power PIN data and other research studies have shown EACH and EVERY YEAR that among all car buyers, 75% to 81% never contacted the dealership they bought their vehicle from prior to their first visit to the dealership itself.  And that is one more reason why we must have specialists to ensure that every one of those 1 out of 4 car buyers who calls or sends in a lead is handled in a manner which gives us the highest probability of the prospect coming in to the dealership in person.

Comment by Mike Warwick on July 28, 2014 at 8:11pm
So our choices are to fire our managers or get new trainers? I think if I were a trainer, I would agree with you! In all seriousness, how much would it cost to have an outside trainer continuously train 15 salespeople to be proficient in handling all leads? Ballpark figure?

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