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BDC in the simplest form simply means Business Development Center. A department that is placed in the center of the business that develops business through lead generation, marketing, CRM Management (sales/service) & Vendor Management. In some cases, the BDC will also handle anything from IT, Job Description Development, & System ADMIN.
If you review industry standards and trends, however, the BDC is still one of the most debated departments. Wherein, in many conversations, a BDC is seen as a “crutch” or a department that is solely in place to do what sales consultants “refuse” to do, which is - hold for it - “develop business” through customer inquiries whether that be on the phone or online.
While there are different camps on the topic of BDC offices - fascinatingly enough the role of a sales consultant largely has not changed. And while the sales consultant role has changed in some dealers (perhaps those that are more progressive) there is still the need to “develop” business whether that is redefining the traditional sales consultant role or hiring a BDC. But make no mistake - a BDC is not about “doing” what a sales consultant “refuses” to do. Instead, it’s about increasing your store's customer base, which in turn increases sales.
Here are some things to consider when discussing what a BDC is and/or Does
Companies Do Have Business Development Offices
It is no secret that major corporations have business development offices that develop business. Handing off “hot leads” to their sales consultants or account executives. Instead of the conversation being about what BDC’s replace, it should be about what they are developing. Namely, you still need sales consultants. However, imagine if you had a department whose sole focus was to bring customers to your store? Creating a pipeline of business from multiple avenues diversifying your revenue streams. Managing everything from chats, marketing, to the mundane CRM Management. Ensuring that the sales consultant is only spending time with customers who are in the store. Ones that are - again - only visiting less than 2 dealers before purchasing a vehicle; or working customers that they have previously sold too. When was the last time you consistently called and managed an equity mining list taking advantage of the OEM's loyalty program, which can produce a positive front-end gross on a new car deal?
Manage incoming Leads & Customer Chats
The age-old argument of the sales consultants are just not good on the phone is a lazy excuse. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But this mindset and trend most likely stems from the fact that for so long in the auto industry sales consultants did not have to spend as much time calling, emailing, texting, sending videos, or speaking with customers before their visiting the store.
The customer had to look through the phone-book select the closest dealer, and they made their journey and purchased. Albeit, this is not offering that selling a car was easy in those days. The days front-grosses on new vehicles were a thing. But things have obviously changed. The customer is not buying just a car. In fact, once the customer has made up their mind on the vehicle s/he is more interested in the story your brand is telling. Asking themselves are they getting a good deal, and are you someone that they want to do business with.
Offering all of those things via email, chat & phone can be very time-consuming. Wherein it takes on average 10-12 touches per lead (with an average of 4 days to close the lead) before they convert to the showroom. If the sales consultant spends their day and is closing 1 to 2 in 4 days - imagine what they can do if they are not focused on converting that customer. Instead, they are solely focused on who is in front of them, and they are selling 3-4 in 4 days. Not to mention closing showroom ups as well. Having a BDC who is able to convert an additional 10% of leads to an appointment (as the average closing rate is 10%) can make a huge difference. Not just in the volume of sales, but the bottom line.
One Less Visit
With the average customer only visiting less than two dealerships before their purchase they are spending much more time online doing their research. And while they might not always reach to the dealer before their visit they are reviewing the information that is available. Information that is needed to be updated in near real time. Everything from inventory photos, custom descriptions, social posts, website content, blogs, employee pages, customer reviews, all of which can tell a positive story. A story that sells your brand. That all can and is in many cases something that your BDC can handle.
You might have an in-house marketing team, BUT how often can they (rightfully so) make a change in real time that can help your business?
You might have an app, too that can tell you about that negative review that needs to be handled immediately, but are you going to spend 20 minutes calling the vendor who handles your social media when you have a BDC rep readily available to manage the situation in real time?
BDC’s Are Not Replacing Sales Consultants
One of the arguments that is quite common is this perception that the BDC is better or are replacing sales consultants. And that is the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, both are two very different roles. And while there is a lot of pushback (trust me, I have been there with some of the sales managers in my dealer experience) a BDC that is effective can make or break a dealer's bottom line. Ensuring that the sales volume is increasing through converting additional traffic.
Sales Consultants can sell the product. And at the end of the day, that is the goal. But getting to that point of being able to “sell the vehicle” takes more than just being a sales consultant. Hence, you have a department that feeds the sales consultants customers to sell vehicles too. Let the BDC handle/manage brand awareness, customer service, and lead conversion into the showroom. Imagine working with a customer whose defenses are lowered because they have already made up their minds believing you are advocating for them.
Instead of the conversation focusing on what is a BDC - the discussion should shift, and focus on what they can and have done to increase business? How has your BDC changed the way you do business at your dealership? Have you had a BDC that has failed miserably?