Are you thinking of starting a business development center (BDC)? Maybe your current BDC needs to hit the restart button. On the other hand, maybe you are just looking for a couple of ideas to help a productive BDC get better. In any case, a profitable BDC begins with a foundation of people, processes and basic benchmark performance. Building your BDC on such solid ground will ensure a healthy ROI and incremental sales.

The first thing to determine when building a BDC is what exactly you want it to do. Certainly you’ll want it to handle Internet leads and phone ups, but that just plugs a hole, capturing sales that might otherwise be lost. The greatest ROI comes from creating incremental sales by calling back showroom visitors, prospecting, database mining and marketing. Do you want a service BDC as well? Like the sales side, the BDC can capture inbound calls for service appointments and follow up with and market to past customers, creating quality service traffic and increasing business.

Growth works best in phases. As clichéd as it is, the BDC is definitely a crawl-walk-run initiative. One proven strategy is to start with Internet, phone and sold follow-up. Once those processes are in place and performing, add unsold follow-up, prospecting and database marketing. Finally, for the third phase, bring in service department calls, inbound and outbound. Building your team as you go, this path will enable your BDC to be profitable and less vulnerable to market whims and challenges.

The foundation for any size BDC begins with the people, or more accurately, a person. No single decision in building your BDC is as important as choosing the right manager. Your BDC manager (BDM) needs to understand the showroom process, have a positive working relationship with the other managers in the dealership and possess great coaching abilities. I have found the best BDMs are usually car people, but there are some great BDMs who have come from other industries and adapted to the car business.

The BDC representatives, or appointment coordinators, need to be cheerful, customer-service-oriented people. It is a great practice to first interview candidates by phone, since talking on the phone is what they will be doing the most in their role as a BDC rep. Look for good communication skills, computer skills and a positive attitude. Avoid the breadwinner in a household; experience has shown these folks won’t be able to make the kind of money necessary to support their family and will turn over more often than employees who are not the primary source of income for a household.

Plan to pay your appointment-setters an hourly wage with bonuses for kept appointments and an additional bonus when an appointment results in a sale. Your BDM should get a base salary and an override on the production of the appointment-setters. Always work towards right-sizing the workload for your appointment-setters. A good BDC rep can usually manage 125 to 150 Internet leads plus phone ups.

A common mistake for dealers is to burden the BDM with multiple job titles. This is not a good idea. Running a BDC effectively requires a lot of attention to detail, multitasking and managing micro-processes daily. Distractions from these core responsibilities usually lead to poor performance in the BDC and therefore a poor ROI.

Other BDC personnel may include your digital marketing manager or e-commerce manager. Some dealers even have an in-house Webmaster or customer relations manager working from and with the BDC.

Process-wise, as mentioned earlier, start with phone, Internet and sold follow-up. Calculate the number of tasks you want completed daily per rep. Completion of 80 to 100 tasks per person is the high end of what you should expect. This is not telemarketing and speed-dialing. Appointment-setters need to be given time to personalize their responses. Integrate your processes with your CRM or ILM tools and staff accordingly.

You should expect to close 15 percent to 20 percent overall of your phone and Internet leads. A good target is to convert 25 percent to 35 percent of your leads to showroom visitors and maintain a 50- to 70-percent close rate on kept appointments. Sold follow-up should focus on satisfaction, concerns, due-bill fulfillment and the first service appointment.

The car business is performance-based. Measure everything and manage by the numbers. By keeping the individuals performing at benchmark levels, your BDC will perform at benchmark level too. Managing by the numbers means holding your team accountable for achieving the benchmark. Each of your team members may need help with different elements of their jobs. By measuring the process at each point, (lead volume, appointment conversion, kept appointments and close rates), you can take a focused training approach to the team members and experience great results.

These building blocks will set the stage for production. The BDC is a high-maintenance initiative, and building from a solid foundation improves your chance for success. If you need more information on staffing calculations, process and measurement, feel free to contact me. I am always happy to share.

Vol. 8, Issue 10 

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