Fire Your Internet Sales Manager


I know I am going to get a lot of heat on this article, but it has to be said. I have worked with thousands of dealerships over the years and there have been numerous reasons given for mediocrity, and even failure. In the beginning of automotive Internet sales in the late 1990s, it was a novelty and an incremental business, but most dealerships were not able to truly harness it and make it a major profit center. However, over the years and through evolution of the automotive sales industry, and the country as a whole, there has been a lot of change — change in how people are researching, shopping, making decisions and ultimately buying a vehicle. There has even been change inside our industry by dealer principals, GMs and sales consultants. It seems that dealers are getting it. They understand that Internet sales, business development, digital marketing, and social media are all important.


What I am seeing now is a scary pattern emerging. A lot of dealerships are not maximizing on opportunities right in front of them because they do not have the right person in place. The Internet sales manager or BDC director that they have in place is the wrong person for the position, and they are hurting the dealership! Here are some problems I’ve seen at dealerships:

•  A computer geek in the position who is not an automotive professional. There is nothing wrong with being a geek. I have a problem if they have no idea how to sell a car, and don’t have the respect of their team and employees. They can’t motivate and drive the department to success.

•  An IT professional is the head of an Internet sales department or business development center. Just because they are good at fixing computers or understanding technology does not necessarily make them the best choice to run a million-dollar sales department. “Internet sales” is stillsales.

•  Instead of terminating a sales consultant from the showroom floor, they are given a “second chance” running the Internet sales department. I don’t get this one at all. If someone can not be effective on the showroom floor, why would you have that person be the head of a department where 92 percent of Americans go before they ever step foot into your dealership?

•  A sales consultant is promoted from the showroom to running the Internet department. Please understand just because someone can sell a car does not mean they can run a department, let alone an Internet sales or business development department. Just because they can sell cars does not mean they are capable of being a manager or a leader. There are a lot of successful sales consultants who sell 20 or 30 cars per month, but don’t work well with others. They have no concept of interdependence.

•  There is no Internet sales manager/BDC director at all. That is just bad, and again, makes no sense whatsoever. When 92 percent of people are going online, there needs to be major attention to this area.

•  A dealership’s manager also manages the Internet department. I have seen it all, my friends. The dealer principal or general manager takes on the Internet department as an “additional” responsibility instead of having a dedicated manager, or they dump the responsibility of the Internet department onto the GSM or sales manager. This is not a viable solution.


Remember Basic Math

The average dealership in the United States delivers fewer than 100 units per month. But the averagedealership has:

•  A GM or GSM

•  One to two sales managers (new car/used car), or “closers”

•  An F&I manager

•  10 Sales Consultants


If you want your Internet or business development department to deliver units, you are going to need the right Internet manager or BDC director.


Yes, you might need to fire your current Internet sales manager or BDC director. You might have been thinking about doing it for months now but weren’t sure. Let me make it easier for you.

Think of your current Internet sales manager or BDC director:

•  Are they a family member or in a relationship with anyone else in the dealership?

•  Do they have any automotive sales or management experience?

•  Do they have an aversion to the phone?

•  Do they have the ability to take a “TO” from their employees, sales consultants, appointment setters, etc?

•  Do they have the ability or desire to proactively “TO”?

•  Do they have the respect of their team (or the dealership for that matter)?

•  Can they, or do they, lead by example?

•  Do they train their team? Do they know how to train their team?

•  Do they have “one on ones” with their team?

•  Do they know how to project and forecast, and not merely guess and hope?

•  Are they rude and or mean to their team or their customers?

•  Do they have Standard Operating Procedures (S.O.P.s), or do they just “wing it”?

•  Can they desk a deal?


If you are reading this and you are a dealer or GM, do this calculation before you open the showroom tomorrow:


Look at your electronic leads, phone leads and walk-in leads. Say your electronic and phone leads are 70 percent or greater of all leads. Now look at your manager running your Internet or business development department. Are you comfortable with them in charge of 70 percent of your opportunities? If not, make the change today. If you can’t promote that person as your nest general sales manager, you have the wrong person in place.


If you would like a free personalized analysis of your Internet Sales Manager, contact me at the email below with “ISM” as the subject line.


Sean V. Bradley is the founder and CEO of Dealer Synergy, a nationally recognized training and consulting company in the automotive industry. He can be contacted at 866.648.7400, or by e-mail at

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Comment by Sean V. Bradley on May 4, 2012 at 10:19am

@Tarry, I appreciate your comments. I also agree, there are a LOT of vendors that are "Product Evangelists". NOT subject matter experts. There IS a difference between a "vendor" and a "trainer / consultant".

Now to answer your question. I have no idea what makes vendors think they know what they are talking about. However as far as I go... I absolutely know what I am talking about. I have been in the Automotive Internet Sales / Business Development side of our industry for almost 14 years. Over a decade ago, I was selling over 100 units online. And for the last 8 years that I have owned Dealer Synergy I have literally trained over 2,000 Dealer Principals and GMS and worked with thousands of dealerships and their Internet departments. Dealer Synergy has consistantly assisted dealerships in selling more cars, more often, more profitably online. I have learned a lot over the last 14 years. What works, what doesn't... what works bets etc.  And from my experience, a STRONG Sales Manager in and Internet SALES department is more powerful than a department without one.

Comment by Tim Scoutelas on May 4, 2012 at 8:46am
Great post Sean. I don't think there is a dealer out there that would not agree with you. Unfortunately the number of people out there with the skills and abilities you describe are few and far between. Until the auto industry as a whole begins to recognize how people shop for a car today and train and hire people who can accommodate this process you are subject to putting your best option in this position.
That being said, we need to move past just one "Internet Manager". I love it when I drive up to a dealship and see sales consultants sitting on the golf cart waiting for people to drive up and ask to see their inventory. With over 90% of your business coming from the web, everyone in the dealership is an internet sales consultant. Everyone in the dealership is an internet manager.
Comment by Tom Gorham on May 4, 2012 at 8:44am

I think the title of this post was catchy but a bit misleading. It may have been more proactive saying, "How to hire or not hir an Internet Sales Manager..." but  I enjoyed the post just the same. 

Sean, I agree 100% with your list of problems in choosing (or having chosen an IM).  In 14 years being an Internet Manager, I've seen all of those scenarios.  For a time, years ago, I was "allowed" to take sales staff for the Internet Department because they weren't doing very well on the floor.  That seemed to be the prelude for firing them when they didn't do well in my department either.  Nice challenge to overcome.

Your list of desired characteristics is correct but may vary depending on the dealership and duties of the IM.  Many Internet Managers are also Internet Marketing Managers and their duties may not include such things as desking deals even if they know how and can do it.  I've never had an aversion to the phone, but these days, when I pick it up, there's a vendor on the other end. ;-)

BTW, why would a good Internet Sales Manager want to be a GSM?

Comment by John Fuhrman on May 4, 2012 at 8:26am



Spot on!  Unfortunately what you point out is not new or even limited to the Internet/BDC department.  You rquestions for evaluiation should become a criterea for all departments in the dealership.  Sometimes I believe dealers forget the size of what they personally have invested and use the "warm body" approach in filling positions.


Great job.

Comment by Tarry Shebesta on May 4, 2012 at 8:23am


Being in the online automotive business for 23 years (BBS, Compuserve, Internet), let me play a little devil's advocate with you.

What makes a vendor think they are so smart that they have the answers. I have seen a lot of them come and go over the years and most of them fit in this category:

•  An IT professional launches the greatest sales tool for dealers. Just because they are good at fixing computers or understanding technology does not necessarily help them understand how to sell direct-to-the online shopper.

Walk the vendor hall or listen to some of the seminars at Digital Dealer and you know what I'm talking about.

Don't get me wrong, there are some excellent vendors with great products but a lot of it out there is hype. 


Comment by Sean V. Bradley on May 3, 2012 at 7:51pm

Thank you Stan. I  appreciate the Kudos-

Comment by Stan Sher on May 3, 2012 at 5:27pm

Nice job Mr. Bradley :)

Comment by Mitchell Brenner on May 3, 2012 at 4:43pm

And you are an asset to anyone who uses you!

Comment by Sean V. Bradley on May 3, 2012 at 4:31pm

Thank you Nancy-

Comment by Sean V. Bradley on May 3, 2012 at 4:31pm

Not you Mitchell! You are a GREAT Director :)


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