Can the sales department do the same work as the business development center?  - Illustration by Jesussanz via GettyImages.com

Can the sales department do the same work as the business development center?

Illustration by Jesussanz via GettyImages.com

Ah, the business development center. Over the past couple decades this department has been born again and its role redefined many times over.

As I have chatted with dealers around the country, I have heard some very strong opinions on this topic. Many are actively managing, investing in, and empowering their BDCs. Some have pushed them away.

To choose the correct path for your store, simply ask yourself why you need a BDC in the first place and whether its functions can be performed by other departments.

Read: Heard: Will I Ever Be a GM?

To BDC or Not to BDC

Let’s start with the obvious: Someone has to contact the thousands of customers who were sold but never serviced or serviced but never sold. They had a positive interaction with a salesperson or service manager. You own their data. You don’t want them to spend money with another dealer — or even worse, a disruptor!

BDCs also can be tasked with capturing new business. A mail blast goes out. Your reps follow up with a round of cold calls and set as many appointments as they can.

Both jobs need to get done. Why does the BDC do them?

Dealers who have gotten rid of the BDC typically say it was too expensive, they could not prove the ROI, and the folks they hired for it didn’t dress or act like salespeople.

Dealers who employ entrepreneurial salespeople know some folks have sales skills and are self-driven and well organized. They are able to build and nurture their own databases.

For everyone else, the BDC’s duties will not otherwise be performed. That’s the why.

Dealers who have gotten rid of the BDC typically say it was too expensive, they could not prove the ROI, and the folks they hired for it didn’t dress or act like salespeople. My question to them is simple: How do you know your database is being followed up with now?

If those disbanded BDCs were properly managed, the ROI would be clear, and it wouldn’t matter how your reps dressed. Don’t complain about a lack of accountability. Demand more.

Downturn Insurance

Whether times are good or times are bad, your data is probably your most prized possession. Its accuracy and proper utilization are always of utmost importance to your success, period.

You must follow up and work that database. You must utilize people and technology. You have a duty to yourself as the owner (or a duty to the owner as a manager) to get this job done.

If times get tough, more people will put off buying a car and spend more on service. Someone needs to be calling the folks who are overdue for service and getting them in before Google sends them to a competing dealer or they walk into the no name place down the street.

For all these reasons, you cannot afford not to have a BDC in one form or another. But how you design it is up to you. Get creative!

Come up with a fair, performance-based pay plan. Pay an hourly rate with spiffs for gross on the ROs they generate, the cars that get purchased off the street, and the cars that get sold.

Oh, and one more thought: How many times have you been short a salesperson or two? What better proving ground for the showroom than the BDC?

We all know the BDC’s work needs doing. Before you outsource it to sales, get creative, get committed, and use all the tools available to you to get the job done.

Good luck, and have an incredibly successful end to 2019.

Jason Heard is a 25-year auto retail veteran with extensive sales and sales management experience. Contact him at [email protected]

Read: Heard: Keep Your Superstars. Fire Your Divas.

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