The prospect of the automotive business development center is appealing, with the promise of an appointment generation machine that will supercharge your sales floor. That said, building and sustaining a successful BDC is a difficult process for every car dealership. The processes that need to be implemented and the staff that need to be hired present unique problems that dealers have to overcome.
My own experience has been meandering. When I first hired my first BDC rep, I had no idea what I was doing, as I had very little guidance on what to look for. Luckily my first hire turned out to be a superstar, but that was just a roll of the dice. As I scaled the BDC to three members, I started to face new difficulties, and at the same time, I found very few resources available to learn from others.
That’s why I started Car Sales Story, to provide a home for automotive training, with an initial focus on automotive BDC training. Recently I’ve expanded into providing online courses, with my first one being “Mastering Your Lease Portfolio.”
Now, in the last 14 months that I’ve built that site, I’ve faced a deluge of the same questions over and over again. This article is designed to address those common questions, as addressed in the recent Refresh Friday.
Question #1: How Should BDC Reps Handle Out-of-State Leads
Out-of-State leads are fantastic opportunities to make profitable car deals. That said, there is generally not an opportunity to set an appointment. Since I recommend paying BDC reps both on appointments set and cars sold, this should not be a problem! The BDC rep should contact the out-of-state lead, discover the needs, and present the opportunity to a sales manager. If the customer becomes a deal, then the BDC representative should be paid on the sale.
Your dealership needs to have a clear out-of-state process. Customers want to understand what it will take to buy a car over state lines, and if your reps are not on the same page as management, the store will lose business.
Out of state business is worth doing. Consider building out a clear out-of-state guidelines document and share it with your team.
You also need to build a process to protect your dealership from fraud, especially when dealing with out-of-state transactions. You should implement background checks and a list of word tracks to look out for. Pattern recognition will help protect your dealership from fraud.
Question #2: How Do You Work in a BDC without a CRM
In reality, if you are working in a BDC without a CRM, you are severely handicapped. Luckily, there are some simple and low-cost CRMs that your dealership can very easily invest in. If they are not willing to spend the small amount of money to get even a basic CRM, then I implore you to seek work elsewhere.
Your CRM is almost as essential as your phone.
Question #3: How to Handle 60+ Day Old Leads That Haven’t Bought Yet?
First question- how do you know if they are still in the market?
Alex mentioned that there are tools that you can use to track if a customer is still in the market. By sending emails with tracked links, you can see when a customer clicks links you send them. If they are still clinking links, they are probably still in the market.
When a customer tells you that they are not interested in a specific period of time (“I’ll be back in the market in 2 months”), make sure to take a little bit off of their estimate. In the case of “back in two months,” I recommend following up in six weeks. The logic is that customers will always give themselves a little cushion of time when setting expectations. If you follow up using their guidance, you will often find out that they had bought a car before you called them back.
If you are in a military town, you will often have exact dates on their deployments. In the same vein of advice, follow up with the customers a few weeks before they get back.
Question #4: Best BDC Pay Plans?
BDC pay plans need to be motivational and sustainable. I recommend paying BDC reps on a tiered structure that includes payment for appointments shown and appointments sold. As the manager, you need to keep an eye on the ratio of shown to sold so that you can make sure there is no funny business.
The sustainability needs to scale with sales. I recommend two ways of building sustainability. First off, I think that the monthly tiers for their shown and sold appointments commissions should shift up over time. BDC reps will naturally learn how to “work” the system, and by slowly increasing their quotas, you will keep them on their toes. If your reps hit their top tier every month, it’s time to make a shift.
Secondly, I recommend charging deals a BDC pack, equal to the average commission per deal paid to the BDC. If you do not build this into your accounting, your BDC will quickly become the first thing to be cut at your dealer in a down market. Sales support staff are hard to protect without building their pay into the car deals.
Question #5: What Should You Do if a Customer Puts in Lead, Then Hangs up Immediately When You Call Them?
Don’t take it personally. You just called them at a bad time. Don’t overanalyze this! Often I will hear salespeople say, “well I called the guy, but he hung up on me, so I marked him lost!” Just because they hung up on you, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you.
Send them a text or an email saying “sorry I interrupted what you were doing, let me know when you can talk” and move on. Try calling the customer again at a different time, or on a different day.
Jeff mentions in the Refresh Friday recording that at his dealer, he sends the customer a custom link that directs the customer to a page where they can see pictures of the car and play around with payments. If the customer is playing around on that site, you know they are still in-market, regardless of if they hung up on you.
Question #6: What if a Customer Wants a Car We Don’t Have in Stock?
If it’s an upcoming car, get an excel sheet going. List the customers that are interested in the model, with phone numbers, so that when the car gets in, you will have a list to call.
If it’s a car that has been discontinued, you need to have alternative cars available. Have word tracks prepped that sell the customer on the reason that they should want the new car.
In the case of a specific car that has been sold, you need to find out what about that car interested the customer in the first place. Once you identify that, work quickly to find a car with the same feature/color that the customer wants.
When it’s a unique used car that is unlikely to be easily replaced, do not let the customer come in before telling them it’s sold. Although this will get the customer in the door, it is a bait and switch tactic that should be avoided.
There is a hidden benefit to this situation. The customer that has been “burned once” by having a car sold out from underneath them will be unlikely to let that happen again. The customer in this situation will be much more likely to make a quick decision when you find a replacement car.
Question #7: How Do I Get the Salespeople to Update Their Appointments?
Your sales team needs to include your BDC fully. Salespeople are lazy in their CRM when they are poorly trained and don’t see the value of their work. If you make sure that your BDC and your sales floor work together closely, you can easily explain the value of having good notes for the BDC to work off of.
I tell salespeople that if they don’t update the CRM, the BDC will not call their people. That’s a heavy price to pay!
Your weekly sales meetings should also include your BDC. The more integral your BDC is to your sales floor, the more likely you will harbor cooperation.
Question #8: Should After-Hours Autoresponder Pretend to be Human
We were in agreement on this one. After normal store hours, when the store is closed, the dealership still receives internet leads. Rather than waiting to respond to those leads until the next morning, most dealers will utilize an auto-responder message that replies directly to the email that sent in the lead.
As far as the messaging, we agreed that the message should be short (2-3 sentences) and simply ask the customer how they would like to be contacted.
Often customers will respond to this email as if a human sent it, which is not a problem. The biggest takeaway is to keep the message short. A long email at 11 pm doesn’t look real.