|It seems as though many dealers are experiencing the urgency of the industry buzz regarding business development centers (BDC). If it has finally gotten under your skin, the competitive streak in you asks, “Is now the time to start my BDC?” Even if you answered yes, it doesn’t just materialize in your dealership. You have to have the materials to build it first. There are seven basic materials for building a BDC: space, people, hardware (computers and telephones), Internet access, software, call management services, and lead sources. This month we will cover the basics of each except for people, which will be the topic for the next two months.|
As with any building project, you need to determine what you want to build so you know the quantity and quality of materials you need. First, you must determine what type of BDC you want. Do you have multiple rooftops? If you do, will you be operating a single BDC to service all of them? Although, it is theoretically possible to operate more than one BDC to service multiple rooftops, it’s not the most cost effective method. Additionally, operating more than one dealership BDC creates an environment of competitiveness that is counterproductive to overall sales goals. Individual BDCs will focus on a specific location instead of what is best for the entire auto group or “family” operation.
What is the BDC to do? Will they only be setting appointments for inbound calls and leads? Will you have them mine your customer database for additional sales opportunities? Will they be responsible for service appointments, CSI or other duties typically assigned to customer service? Answering these questions will help you start developing a staffing plan.
At this point in your planning you should be considering space to operate. I have seen my share of broom closets that dealers considered to be an adequate BDC! A broom closet will not work! A BDC needs its own space away from and off limits to the sales department. The key to a successful BDC is the ability of its members to set appointments without prejudice. If the sales department is allowed to enter, interact with, or otherwise interfere with the set processes in the BDC, the results of the BDC will suffer.
Once you have a plan in place concerning the above issues, you can move to the practical aspects of operation such as people and equipment. The people part of this equation is an entire subject by itself that we will cover in the next couple of issues. Just know that the most important person to hire is the business development manager (BDM). This person will shape the identity of your department. They will be responsible and held accountable only to you or your general manager. This person will then be assisting with the recruiting, hiring and training process of all other employees hired for your BDC.
Be careful not to empower the wrong person. A BDC, regardless of the best training or consulting money can buy, will always take on the personality of the BDM. Like any managerial role in the car business, the BDM is not a nine-to-five job with a large guarantee. The pay plan of position should be production-based pay similar to that of a GSM.
Before any employees can work, they must have the equipment necessary to perform their jobs efficiently. It starts with a computer. Every business development employee must have access to a computer during his or her entire shift. The power of the computer is directly related to the CRM software you choose. There are many on the market today, so you should spend time carefully evaluating your needs before selecting one.
Dealers often feel they need total control of their customer database, but that choice usually comes with a significant cost. An in-house server-based system will increase your cost in hardware for both the local machines and a powerful server. Additionally, you need to consider who will be responsible for maintaining an in-house system.
I usually recommend a Web-based CRM system to control cost. With a Web-based system, there are several advantages. First, you can purchase local machines with much less power. Second, the program can be accessed from anywhere with Internet access which allows you to monitor production. Third, someone else is responsible for maintenance and upgrades of the software. Finally, if you need assistance with either the software or the process, a trainer can login and determine what, if anything, can be fixed or changed.
An office package of word processing and spreadsheets should also be loaded on the local machines because, regardless of how fantastic the CRM program is, there will be reports you will want to generate or track that can only be done outside of the software.
Regardless of which system you choose, everyone in the BDC must have Internet connectivity. The necessary quality of that connectivity is in proportion to the CRM tool. In this case, a Web-based CRM tool usually requires more power. If you have access to a T1 line, get it. If you have an in-house system, you may be able to operate with a slower connection.
It would be impossible to run a BDC without a reliable telephone system. Voice over IP is probably not reliable enough at this point in time to utilize for your BDC. In addition, every employee in your BDC needs a telephone with a headset. I’ve had dealers roll their eyes at me on this one. However, I can say from experience (I just had back and neck surgery a few months ago) that creating any environment that is conducive to neck injuries is not a good one. Headsets are inexpensive, ranging in price from $100 to $200 each, and will minimize the chance of an expensive worker’s compensation claim.
Call management or some type of tracking is also an essential element of a BDC. A good call management system set up properly with your BDC will increase the accuracy of your record keeping. Every ad source should have a specified phone number for tracking purposes. Additionally, every person in your BDC should have his or her own individual callback number. Individual call back numbers allow your team to leave unique phone number with clients and increases the efficiency when calls are returned because there is no question as to why the customer is calling. My favorite aspect of call management tools is the quality control aspect. Each call can be played back to both identify concerns and validate a job well done.
Last, but certainly not least, is your lead sources. Where will your leads come from? All leads do not have to be purchased, but the most successful dealers do supplement their own lead sources with some quantity of third party leads. Leads could be inquiries from your own Web site or from your own database mining. As a general guideline, each BDR must have enough leads to make 150 dials per day. I didn’t say 150 leads per day; I said 150 dials per day.
If a BDR calls a prospect’s home, work and cell phone in an attempt to reach the prospect, that is three dials. It’s not uncommon to have to call a prospect multiple times before you reach him/her. Within just a few days of making 150 to 200 dials a day, even a new BDR will begin receiving extensive callbacks.
These seven basic materials for building a BDC combined with the proper training, support and accountability will allow your store to set more appointments that show and sell!
Brian Reed will depart F&I Express, the company he co-founded in 2008, four months following its acquisition by Cox Automotive.