As many dealerships have learned through experience, simply purchasing third-party leads does not necessarily result in increased Internet sales. Rather, it is the people and processes involved that contribute to a dealership’s success with online leads.

In establishing a business development center (BDC) and overhauling lead management processes, Mike Anderson Chevrolet, located in Merrillville, Ind., has been able to take its Internet sales from between 30 and 40 per month to between 85 and 95 per month, with several months topping the 100-mark.

When Internet Director Sandra Kukolja started at Mike Anderson Chevrolet a little more than three years ago, the dealership’s Internet leads were being overseen by a salesperson who was splitting his time between online leads and the sales floor. The dealership hired another person in addition to Kukolja to handle the online leads, and the two essentially became the Internet department for several months, handling not only those leads but also photography of vehicles for online listings.

Around December 2010, Kukolja said the dealership’s general manager found consultant Sean Bradley and his company, Dealer Synergy, and decided to enlist their help to overhaul the dealership’s Internet lead management processes and institute a BDC. “They actually did all of the prescreening for the employees [and] brought them in. Our HR department interviewed them,” said Kukolja. There were four or five new hires at the time, she recalled, and their first two weeks were spent doing nothing but daily training on things like different types of scripts and how to handle objections.

Today, the department handles all the dealership’s incoming calls and Internet leads, sets sales appointments (but not service appointments), follows up on no-shows and handles the photographing of all new and used vehicles for the website. To ensure the most lead coverage possible each day, part of the BDC representatives start their shifts in the morning and others start in the afternoons and work into the evening; all BDC reps are required to work at least two nights each week.

Kukolja stated that the dealership also hired an additional person about a year ago for the purpose of managing the store’s social media presence. That employee recently began tending to some follow-up duties on unsold showroom customers as well. “We hired her full-time for social media, and then she came to me a few months ago and asked if she could start doing some customer follow-up as well,” said Kukolja, who now prints out a report for this individual every Monday reflecting customers who have visited the dealership but did not buy. She added that although they’ve only been doing this for around three months, it seems to be working out very well.

In June, that individual was able to set 34 appointments from the list?25 of which showed up, with 15 purchasing a vehicle. She mentioned that follow-up on sold customers remains the responsibility of the individual salesperson, while a part-time employee who is not part of the BDC takes care of contacting sales and service customers for CSI follow-up.

Having an established BDC and additional staff in place enabled the dealership to increase the number of leads it purchased. Kukolja said that before the BDC was established, she and the other Internet department employee handled a combined total of about 150 leads. “I average between 500 and 700, depending on the month, now,” she said, and added that the dealership is purchasing leads from about seven or eight sources, including AutoUSA, AutoTrader,, Autobytel, and Craigslist. The rest of their Internet leads come from General Motors Co. and from the dealership’s website.

Kukolja mentioned that since establishing the BDC and taking on leads from more third-party providers, the dealership has been utilizing the services of CallBright. “Because we were starting with all the new providers, we wanted to see what was working and see what wasn’t,” she noted. They have specific phone numbers to track different sources, including a little TV advertising and some print advertising. CallBright has not only helped them weed out the lead sources that were not working well for them but has also proved useful for training since she is able to monitor BDC employees’ performance in handling customer calls. “It’s actually integrated with our customer relationship management (CRM) software ,” she said. “I can actually click from there and listen to all the girls’ calls.”

Mike Anderson Chevrolet
Mike Anderson Chevrolet has built the business development center (BDC) and customer relationship management (CRM) system which is helping them stay on top against their competition. Mike Anderson Chevrolet is located in Merrillville, Indiana.

With the increased lead volume has come an increased focus on accountability and d aily goals for the BDC representatives. Fresh leads are distributed on a round-robin basis among those on duty, and each coordinator is required to make 125 outbound calls per day, whether those are for fresh leads or for follow-up on previously-received leads. “If they do not make the 125, they don’t get [fresh] leads the following day,” she said. Daily reports allow each BDC coordinator to track her own progress and manage her schedule and workload to ensure the individual goal of 125 calls per day is met. Of course, Kukolja also runs regular reports to watch the number of fresh and follow-up calls made, appointments set, confirmations, no-shows and sales; and she holds weekly meetings with the BDC staff to review their numbers.

The BDC connects with roughly 14 percent of the leads they attempt to contact and converts between 13 and 15 total appointments per day. The average show rate on appointments is more than 50 percent, Kukolja stated, and the closing ratio on shown appointments is “usually between 35 and 45 percent, on average.” In June, the BDC set 353 appointments, of which 207 showed up and 102 resulted in sales.

The dealership’s CRM tool Reynolds Power Tool, helps her further monitor the BDC’s activity. “It tracks all phone calls. You click one little button [and] it’ll show you all the calls the girls have made, what times they’ve made them … how long they were on the phone, if an e-mail was sent—everything,” she said. Using a CRM tool that integrates with the dealership management system is extremely beneficial, she mentioned. “Everything [the BDC representatives] put in their system up here for the CRM automatically is in the salesperson’s file when the customer comes in,” she said. “That definitely helps.”

Prompt and consistent follow-up of each lead is also a high priority and one of the aspects of customer relationship management that Kukolja feels is most important. Taking too long to respond to a customer interested in a specific vehicle can be costly. “We could potentially lose a sale because of that,” she stated. The CRM tool helps her combat this problem. “Through our CRM, I have all the specs set up. It’ll notify me if a lead’s been assigned to one of our reps and hasn’t been reached within 15 minutes,” she said.

Kukolja said it is also important to make sure every effort is being made to reach a lead, which means not only calling regularly but trying to reach the customer at different times of the day. Leads are called every day for 30 days or until the BDC coordinator receives a response; after 30 days, leads are called once every two days. She recently encountered a problem with leads being called every day at the same time. In most cases, she said, “They just called in the mornings. They called every single day for a month … We weren’t seeing results.” To address this issue and “make sure that we’re [trying to reach customers] at every possible time throughout the day,” Kukolja said “what I’ve started doing every week is I go through their [leads] and let them know, ‘Hey, your customers that are 45 to 60 days old haven’t been called between 6 and 8 p.m. in a week. Make sure to call those on your next night.’” If the issue has not been addressed after a couple of notices, she said, “I send them an e-mail stating that if customers haven’t been called in a certain amount of time, based on the lead date, they will get assigned to another BDC rep … and it has been working phenomenally. Now, everybody is doing their night calls.”

While the BDC’s performance has been improved by monitoring results and holding staff accountable, Kukolja said the pay plan provides additional incentive for the BDC representatives to improve performance. In addition to a flat weekly amount, BDC reps get an extra $1 for every appointment they set, $15 for every set appointment that shows and $25 for every customer who actually purchases. In addition to that plan, she stated, “A few months ago, to kind of try to motivate them and step it up to the next level, we came up with a little bonus system.” She figures the bonuses by looking at the total number of leads for the month along with the number of appointments set, the number that showed and the number that sold. “If they’re over an average of 45 to 55 percent set-to-show, they earn a little bonus … anywhere from $50 to $300 … Whoever has the best percentage for the month obviously gets the highest bonus. Whoever has the most calls for the month gets a little bonus—different things like that,” she explained. So far, this has been working extremely well. “The last two months we’ve sold over 100 cars each month,” she said. “We’ve sold 100 [in a month] before, several times. However … that’s the first time since we’ve had the BDC that [it] happened back-to-back.”

Training continues to be a priority for the BDC, even more than a year-and-a-half later. The BDC representatives train remotely with the Dealer Synergy team every other week and work on “any issues they’re having—objections, rebuttals, role-playing and so forth. And then [Dealer Synergy] came out a few times within the last year-and-a-half, as well, for some training here at the dealership.” Kukolja added that she is hoping to obtain additional training for the BDC staff to improve their product knowledge. “We know enough to have a quick conversation,” she stated, but added they don’t have a great deal of detailed product information, which she believes could help the BDC representatives do even more to take care of customers and answer their questions.

Vol 9, Issue 9

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Kimberly Long

Kimberly Long

Assistant Editor

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