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Glynn Rodean

Glynn Rodean President & CEO

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In today's market, many dealerships are leaking money. They are unknowingly minimizing, rather than maximizing, the effectiveness and profitability of their marketing efforts. The source of this leak is a brilliant invention more than 130 years old. It is also the instrument used for endless marketing efforts, oftentimes by some of lowest paid (and least trained) employees in a company. I am referring, of course, to the telephone. The good news is this leak can be repaired.

In recent years, the term BDC has been discussed (or cussed) extensively. Most people understand that BDC is an acronym for a Business Development Center. However, the role and function of a BDC varies by dealership as much as the different models made by manufacturers. BDCs are so underdeveloped in many dealerships that they are often confused with a Customer Service Center. The only thing these two departments have in common is that they both use the telephone.

A customer service department utilizes Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). This position is generally one of an order-taker and is often responsible for fielding complaints. Probably, the CSR you are most familiar with is employed by your cell phone company. The last time I had to endure a call with my cell phone carrier's customer service department, I shared with my CSR that she need not read the script or repeat everything I said. She immediately said; "Ok Mr. Rodean, so what you are saying is you don't want me to repeat everything you say. Is that correct?" I was astonished.

Unfortunately, cell phone company CSCs aren't always different from CSCs in dealerships. Many dealers who rely on CSRs to handle leads and phone ups don't seem to realize if they sound fake, insincere and scripted to us; it probably does to customers as well.

Now, before you believe I have anything against CSRs, please allow me to clarify my position on the subject. CSRs can serve a purposeful role in a dealership. They can improve CSI, make confirmation calls for service appointments and field customer concerns. They are not, however, persuasive in their role and by nature cannot fulfill the job description of a business development representative, or BDR.

The main function of a true BDC is to maximize the effectiveness and profitability of marketing efforts. This is done by well-trained (and managed) BDRs through effective communication skills and rapport-based influence and persuasion. From my experience, the telephone is the "front line" of the car business. First impressions create perception and we all know perception is 99 percent of reality.

In many dealerships, management turnovers prevent lost deals from mishandled customers, but what about the ones who were never called and convinced to come in. A BDC is designed to transmit a sense of ease, comfort, trust, excitement or urgency and should validate the choice to visit the dealership.


Month after month, dealers spend tens of thousands of dollars on leads and TV, radio, direct mail, and Internet advertising. Then, they invest a fraction of that on fielding and follow-up of the calls those efforts generate. It is like having a sales prevention department! It is a frustrating dilemma for dealers. Most are ambitious and willing to spend on marketing yet disheartened by low results. This often leads to trying several different lead sources, advertising systems or companies and ultimately, turnover in personnel. A BDC turns leads into appointments that show and sell, or at the very least, show and tell—tell you what, if anything in your sales, process has room for improvement. The BDC is also responsible for all floor up and phone up follow-up. These efforts are coupled with extensive reporting that clearly define the ROI on each lead and advertising source.

Investing in a BDC ensures consistent communication with your customers. Skilled and prepared professionals make and take your calls. A BDR is not likely (or allowed) to judge who can and can't buy a car or who is and isn't ready to buy a car. Their focus is only on establishing rapport and persuading customers to visit the showroom (or bring them back) to allow the sales department to close more deals.

An effectively managed and accountable BDC has 10 times the scrutiny as any other department and therefore has the potential to outperform every other department. It's a hard concept to visualize for most, but imagine if every sales opportunity on the floor was scrutinized like every call in a well-managed BDC. What if there were ongoing mystery shopping calls, daily one-on-ones with managers, public displays of excellence, constant role playing and ongoing training in your sales department? This type of scrutiny in the BDC causes improvement in not just the BDC, but in the sales and finance department because it often clarifies the pros and cons of any given process.

Fear of expense is the primary objection to a BDC. I can appreciate the concern because there is no cheap way to create, train and manage a quality department. The problem is it tends to be far more expensive NOT to effectively develop the department because if you don't, someone else surely will.

Dealerships that recognize a BDC as a separate department of the dealership with its own individual accountability will excel with the telephone. Dealers who do not recognize it as a separate, accountable department, but try to implement a BDC, are unlikely to succeed in maximizing anything but expense and frustration levels. From my experience, a successful BDC is built on a foundation of commitment, processes and skills-not scripts.

Kim Clouse
Glynn, This is a great point and the single largest reason for lost sales. Far to often General Managers and Dealers just scream, I want a BDC. The most difficult recruiting job in automotive is trying to find qualified individuals for a real BDC and getting them the pay they deserve. KC
Gary Mitchell
Glynn, Interesting article. Thank your for sharing. Question: Due to the economy and other factors, many dealers have had to cut back severely on staff and still keep the same 90 plus hour weeks. While I agree with the theory of BDC's and their importance, trying to employ enough BDC personnel to manage the phone process during peaks and valleys doesn't make pratical sense because of the associated cost involved. Also, you need ongoing management and training. How do you propose paying for this? Thanks, Gary Mitchell
Kim Clouse
Gary, I would like to chime in here. Yes, the economy is bad, and as a friend of mine said "This economy has been bad for 18 months". The facts are, we are still selling cars. The dealerships that have remained open have found ways to sell cars. I personally witness dealerships still throwing 25-40k a month at marketing efforts and most of that money is spent on mediums that are harder to track. If they are harder to track why would we want anyone but a trained BDC professional such as Glynn describes in control of what is happening? Sales people care about now because that is how they get paid, for the now. It is not their fault, we ask them 3 or 4 times a day what they have working. Do we pay them a spiff on leads that they can prove they followed for 90 days? No, we pay them on 90 day old units that should not be in our inventory. I follow a dealer every month that has one of the best BDC Departments anywhere. Their entire staff revolves around the ability of 3 incredible individuals and they sell a lot of cars right in the middle of some very big competetion. Can we really afford not to have specific talent generate results and track everything? Figure out how many cars we miss each month by dropping the ball then trying crisis management. If it is 6 cars and we gross 2k each we could pay them 6k, break even, and keep happy customers. I personally think a BDC done correctly gives a 15-20% sales increase. It is also my opinion that the right people are extremely hard to find and have to be paid well or they leave. Then the problem is dependency on a failed process. Hell, we are all correct and wrong at the same time. The real problem is that sales professionals are growing smaller in number while greeters and catchers are increasing.
Frank McGovern
Wow Gylnn, just wanted to say thank you for the lesson. I've just spent the better part of 4 hrs reading up on all your articles after googling "accountability for car dealerships" after finding this blog by accident. My kids were laughing at me because "Dad's in mission mode" learning all he can about the opposition, yes I said opposition. One daughter suggested I hang a sign on myself tomorrow that reads. "i'm here to buy a car but don't piss me off if you want to sell one" we all laughed. I was impressed with all your articles and i've learned quite a bit bout how the dealership tics, well, how a good dealership should tic. Your ninth paragraph struck a cord with me. "It is like having a sales prevention department!" they spend so much money to get us in, the consumer, they blow it by insulting our intelligence causing not only the trust factor to disintegrate but have us feeling defensive as we flee the premises because we're an educated shopper, thank God for the internet. Nothing worse for business then a customer with a bad taste in their mouth, because they are more then eager to get it out...and that "bad taste" word of mouth will sink you, particularly these days... word of facebook, twitter and the like goes a long way. With the money they spend on advertising, they could give a few cars away and that alone would bring in business. What I'm trying to say is a reputation for giving a TRUE fair deal will bring them in more business than any other source. Especially with the way the economy is today. Its tug of war with the final price. The salesman is pulling for all he can get and won't let go while the consumer is pulling for all he can get and will let go in a heartbeat if he feels he's being cheated or not getting the best deal. Even if such a salesman does make the sale, the consumer still has feelings of being cheated or not given the best deal, the salesman adds insult to injury by proclaiming "now, don't forget to give me five points across the board when the survey people call". Thanks for listening. As much as your articles are sales orientated to the dealership, I would love to read about what you might have to say from the perspective of being a consumer. You do drive, your wife and family do as well, I'm sure... Thanks for listening. Respectfully Franke McGovern

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