Automotive Friends- what is your preference? Internet Departments working cradle to the grave, or Internet Departments set up with BDC like setups? Explain your side and why.

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Comment by Doug Davis on August 6, 2013 at 7:09pm

om, my internet department was only a third of the sales staff.  At that store an internet deal was either a sold appointment or the customer asked for one of my ISMs by name.  Our internet marketing efforts generated a great deal of floor traffic.  We had more new car VDPs on AutoTrader than any dealership in DFW.

We didn't purchase leads from any source.  We kept the leads to a maximum of 85 (preferred 75) per ISM so we could do long term follow up.  My ISMs hammered the phones.  I had a board that was updated daily that listed all performance measures.  It was the first stop for the GM that considered us the pulse for the store.  Why would I want or need a BDC?  I want someone to show me how we were missing business.  A BDC should be for business development and not taking leads that the Internet Director develops.  Have them call leads that were market lost or 6 to 10 months old.  We will see what they are worth.

I might be stereotyping BDC people because most that I have seen were 20 somethings with zero sales experience.  Is it fair to compare one to a seasoned salesperson?  If they can't go on the floor, I don't want them.

Comment by Tom Gorham on August 5, 2013 at 11:02am

Doug, it seems your last store only needed a few floor sales staff to handle the overflow from the Internet Deptartment  That's pretty amazing.  But as far as BDC being hourly employees, I don't see why bonuses can't be great incentives to excellence.  I also believe a BDC person should have great product knowledge and awareness of the inventory. Is it possible that you are stereotyping BDC people?

Comment by Adam Ross on August 5, 2013 at 9:32am

Here's the link to the article promised yesterday, just published this morning:

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Elise for her compelling question that inspired me to write this!

Comment by James Bunting on August 5, 2013 at 9:17am

Doug, it looks like you have the best of both worlds. Those are great numbers. I've yet to encounter firsthand the internet department that holds more gross than the floor while doing anything approaching 70% of the total business. Would certainly love to learn more about your process, as, I'm sure, would most of the dealers operating today.

Comment by Doug Davis on August 3, 2013 at 10:10pm

Adam, thanks for the complement.  In every market, you have subpar dealerships, average dealerships and market leaders.  Market leaders are always the exception.  The difference has always been people.  Most of the dealerships are going the BDC route to save money.  They must be using the governmental accounting principles.

We have been at this "internet thing" for over a decade and the majority of dealerships don't have a clue. 

Comment by Adam Ross on August 3, 2013 at 9:54pm

I will be publishing an article on this topic on Monday morning, August 5th on my blog site, Doug, your store is more the exception than the rule, and I commend you on making it work so well. I look forward to your feedback on the article and am enjoying this discussion.

Comment by Doug Davis on August 3, 2013 at 9:32pm


At my last store, we had 12 cradle to grave ISMs.  We represented over 70% of the dealership's sales with an average total gross above the sales floor.  Our response time was under 5 minutes adjusted for operational hours. I don't see how speed was an issue.  We closed over 20% of our leads.  Customers came in and met the person that they had already been talking to.  My guys walked their inventory on a daily basis and could describe a car when a customer called in.  They were excellent salespeople with years of experience and not some phone clerk that would tell a customer anything to get them in the door.  

Explain why you need to add an hourly employee to turn customers over to a salesperson that is going to be paid a commission?  

Business Development Center ...Really?  They are taking the leads that the Internet Director developed.  Show me what they developed, on their own, and I might be interested.  If you have the right Internet Director with an excellent trained group of ISMs, why would you add another layer? 

All I am hearing is train and pay your BDC people well.  Why not try that with your ISMs and your Internet Director? 

Comment by Mr. Natural on August 3, 2013 at 1:59pm

To Tom Hawkins...To give you a direct answer on that:  I have almost zero product knowledge.  I believe that any answer, either on the phone or email runs the risk of what I call building Foundation for Objection.  If you give the customer any information that is not what they want to hear, or identifies that you do not have the exact thing they are looking for, when they hang up, they will assure each other that there is no need to go there.

The dealership is the place to discuss Cars, packages, trim levels and prices...These things discussed on the phone-sooner or later-will become a reason not to come.

I go straight for the appointment: " Mr. Smith, My name is Fred B. Natural, I got an email from Nissan USA, and they are telling me I need to set an appointment for you to come in and Drive an Altima"  This is ver batum without fail the first words out of my mouth.  From there, I try to build trust, and become their friend in the car business.


Comment by Tom Gorham on August 3, 2013 at 1:41pm

James Bunting, you are right on.  In 15 years as an Internet Manager and 13 at the same store, we've tried every type of system, including hybrids.  In the end, the BDC has offered the greatest efficiency, customer service, and results.  And you are right again that to get quality BDC reps, you must pay them well. 

The hand-off is important.  It must be smooth and all the information from the online/BDC experience must be immediately available to the salesperson.  If a customer asks why the BDC person doesn't assist them in the store, the BDC rep tells them, "I am a specialist in assisting people online with their research.  The sales rep is a specialist in assisting people in the store just as the finance manager is specialist in arranging the best finance options for you.  We bring you the best people in their field of expertise to provide you a top-knotch car buying experience".  Oftentimes, all three individuals will be mentioned favorably in customer reviews.

Comment by James Bunting on August 2, 2013 at 8:58am

Doug Davis:

We're an exception. I am in general not a "toot own horn" kind of guy, but in transitioning from the cradle-to-grave format to a BDC, we've more than doubled our closing ratio over the last couple years. A cradle-to-grave internet salesperson tends to cherry pick, and a BDC won't do that if properly managed and held accountable. Plus, a BDC has the advnatage of speed; they're never going to be locked up in the middle of a delivery.

I think the pay issue you mentioned has a lot to do the perception that a BDC is not going to be as competent as a traditional sales force. I am continually suprised by the idea that you can somehow pay a BDC peanuts for difficult and vital work. Decent-paying jobs attract the best people. If you are building a BDC, it is a grave mistake to treat the work being done within the BDC as entry-level (this is also mentioned sidelong by Tom Hawkins.) Anyone remotely close to the internet sales process knows that it requires a huge amount of elbow grease and critical thinking. You ain't gettin' that unless you're paying a middle-class wage.

A well-compensated, well-trained, intelligent, diligent, and experienced BDC person will be of far more value to your organization than your median wage salespeople. They will be bringing in more deals, and their duties will give them a greater breadth of expertise, which is always of value to an organization.

So, in a nutshell, unless your cradle-to-grave individual is truly exceptional, or unless your BDC is mediocre by design, I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that you'll see greater results from a BDC.

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