Internet Department vs. Floor Sales Staff

Recently, Gregg at Park Avenue BMW asked a great question on the DealerRefresh forums:  “Do you protect your Internet Sales Staff from the floor?”  The conversation has been very valuable as it talks about many different scenarios.

How do you structure your Internet Department?

  • Sales agents who handle leads
  • BDC
  • Internet Sales Managers
  • Internet Sales Coordinators
  • Appointment Setters
  • Out-sourced

There are a great number of ways to do it, but before we talk about the nuts and bolts there are quite a few of us who owe our jobs to our traditional sales staff.

The ideal scenario is for a customer, who submits an Internet lead, to work with the same sales agent they are going to buy their car from.  If that’s ideal, why do we even have an “Internet Department”?  You can take a look at an older article about Why We Suck or you can agree with me that for the majority of sales staffs there is a predominate culture of “I’ll wait for a customer to show up before I ever try to generate my own customer.”

Because the majority of sales agents don’t want to answer a ringing phone, don’t want to call a customer back, and certainly don’t want to respond to someone’s Internet quote request we end up with an “Internet Department”.

I have heard all sorts of theories on personalities and even more excuses directly from sales agents themselves, but at the end of the day I have learned I will lose the battle of trying to force a sales staff to “get it”.  So why not play to their strength:  working a customer in person.  It is what they want to do anyway.  You do this by staffing a BDC with appointment setters who are solely there to put customers in front of our sales agents – win win!  And then the Internet folks get to thank their sales agents’ for not wanting to fully do their job because they’ve provided us with a fantastic career!  The loser is the dealer principle.

How do we play to everyone’s strengths and make the dealer principle a winner again?

It is done through CRM.  With a CRM that allows a customer to work with multiple dealership employees you can now create process that plays to each person’s strengths.  The dealership’s CRM architect is a coach with a playbook who is going to write plays for your offensive and defensive lines.  This person knows what motivates both the Internet Department and the traditional sales floor.  This person may even know how to incorporate your special teams into the mix (service, parts, bodyshop).  The goal is to win a customer….for life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a CRM architect is the sniper rifle you shoot your silver bullets through.

Your CRM architect can program your dealership process to make long passes or multiple hand-offs depending on the direction a customer goes.  This person is part of the dealership staff because your process needs to be fluid and ever-evolving.  Of course, this person is going to want a say in how your Internet Department is setup, but I bet this person is going to want something that allows a lot of fluidity and a team effort with your sales floor.  Through this person, all the nuts and bolts come together.

Am I speaking Greek right now?  If so, please let me know because I am more than happy to answer your questions.  This is a very long and big topic that spawns all sorts of considerations.  But, doing CRM right could be the single greatest thing you do for your dealership this year.  And a key element to that is finding a CRM architect who “gets it” and owns it.

My last question:  Do you have a CRM Architect?

P.S.  Bet this isn’t the ending you were expecting when you started reading this article.

About the Author

Alex Snyder

Alex was one of the automotive industry's first eCommerce Directors. Whether it is the latest Internet trend or the oldest selling philosophy, Alex Snyder has a unique approach to the automotive business because of his years of experience. During these years Alex was introduced to Jeff and became a integral part of DealerRefresh. Alex has since moved from the front line of the dealership and is now the Senior Director of Product Design at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.