It is 2017, which means our youngest department is turning twenty! That’s right, as we turn the calendar once again, we recognize two decades of a formal BDC presence in the auto dealership. Now, the BDC department at your store may be a lot younger (or possibly older), but for the sake of this article, we will stick with 1997 as the widely accepted year of adoption in the retail auto industry. For me it was a few years later before I was clued into the “Internet department,” as we called it back then. Before 1997, the reigning lead provider was the fax machine, and the inbound contact sounded something like, “Sales, line one!” We plucked the most-techy salesperson and deemed him “Internet Manager,” and off we went!
Today, BDC exists in many forms in dealerships across the country. Many are appointment-setting backrooms, while others carry out the entire sales processes. Regardless of its incarnation in your store, one thing we know is that BDC has shaped the modern auto retail landscape for customers and dealers. Yet, even after all this, I get a sense that there are a good number of BDCs that don’t look all that different from those early days. I see with my own eyes BDCs that suffer from a lack of growth; BDCs that are outdated and underperforming. I come across good dealers with bad BDCs, and I still hear clichés and old-time rhetoric about its role in the dealership.
“…your BDC manager should be one of your best sales managers.”
So, in 2017, as we celebrate BDC turning twenty, I have identified three critical areas of the BDC to look closely at and measure for success going forward. Hopefully, you aren’t babying your BDC.
- The first area of growth lies in your BDC manager. I am going to say something slightly controversial here, but I trust that many readers here may agree. I truly feel that your BDC manager should be one of your best sales managers. Let me repeat the thought. The person at the helm of your BDC should be as skilled as your best sales manager. Think about it. We know that BDC now accounts for roughly half of your sales traffic, and that number is increasing every year. More buyers this month will come through your BDC than to your sales desk. Don’t you want your top closer in front of the most opportunities? Of course! Now, I’m not advocating dropping your lead manager into the BDC office, rather I am suggesting that your BDM have the same qualities as your top managers. You need a competent sales manager to navigate through this modern marketplace and funnel your prospects to your beautiful brick and mortar. You need someone with the focus to win the day, and the vision to game plan for tomorrow. In short, the qualifications for a BDM should mirror those for your sales manager: the ability to identify a deal, work a deal and T.O. a deal. By the way, if your BDC manager isn’t T.O.-ing phone calls and leads daily, you are carelessly losing business, period. A 100% T.O. policy includes the BDC.
Takeaway: Your BDM should be one of your strongest sales managers.
- The next area to look at is department staffing. BDC is essentially inside sales, and inside sales is a skilled profession. Influencing and motivating a prospect over phone (and email) is a unique challenge, with its own cues, leverage points and goals. You should expect the same salesmanship from your BDC as you expect on your sales floor. Otherwise, you are leaving revenue to chance. I see many dealers place job postings for BDC agents in “customer service” classifieds. Customer service is not sales. I make it very clear to my applicants, BDC is a sales position. The agent is selling themselves, the dealership and the experience. Ask yourself, is my BDC staffed with inside salespeople, or is it staffed with telephone operators with a price list? Once you have sales agents, they should be actively acquiring new phone skills and better ways to engage emailers. It is indeed true, “if you aren’t going forward, you’re going backward,” and your BDM should be constantly teaching and coaching-up your staff.
Takeaway: Your BDC agent is an Inside Sales Specialist. Treat them as such.
- The last growth area is to cleanse your store of any sentiment that BDC represents short deals. It amazes me how many store managers today still jokingly refer to BDC as “Bad Deals Constantly.” Some of this is an old-school attitude we need to shake off, and some of it we actually bring on ourselves. I always remind my agents that yesterday’s walk-ins are today’s emails. Our loyal and fair-minded customers of yester-year have not disappeared; they just have another way of engaging us. Yet, too many agents and managers trick themselves into thinking that behind every email request for pricing is a super-savvy, cold-blooded grinder. This is simply not true. Many studies have shown that price is not the top consideration for buyers. I can report that in my BDC, more than half of our appointment shows come in without any price at all. Does the culture in your store permit the thought that a BDC lead is a “bad deal?” Again, I refer to my first two points. If you have a skilled manager supervising a team of talented agents, you should expect deals that gross. Moreover, I think as an industry we too often steer the customer to price. Do the buttons on your website reference EPRICE? Are your email templates full of best and lowest price chatter? Take a look at your communication and review your processes. Find ways to offer value instead of price.
Takeaway: Your BDC is a legitimate gross-generating machine.
Hopefully, your store scores well, and your BDC has demonstrated significant growth since the early years. However, there is always more opportunity, always more work to do. These takeaways are meant to be a good start, not the end game. So let’s look toward 2017 as the year we grow bigger and better than ever.
Author: Joel Gordon
Joel Gordon is the Business Development Director for Expressway Toyota in Boston, MA. Starting at age 19, Joel has nearly 20 years in the auto industry, and now manages BDC for one of the largest Toyota dealerships in New England.