July 2009, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
In dealerships across the country, the doors of many business development centers are closed due to cost cutting. In the average dealership without a BDC or call center, the handling of phone calls is still abominable. In reality, business development is more important today than ever and cutting costs in business development can have devastating effects.
In some cases, manufacturers are putting more pressure on their dealers to focus on business development and follow-up. Suzuki, for example, monitors dealer leads and if dealerships don’t follow up with their leads within a certain timeframe, Suzuki puts those leads into a category called a “jump ball,” to which every surrounding Suzuki dealer has access. Dealers can check the “jump ball” daily to get new Suzuki leads.
If you have an empty BDC, I strongly suggest you cross train your salespeople to perform business development functions—call leads, set appointments, follow up with be-backs, etc. It doesn’t need to be full-scale training, but there has to be some phone skills training for the people answering the phone and making calls. This is especially important if you once had a trained BDC performing both of those functions.
Accountability, one of the primary functions of a business development center, often gets pushed aside when salespeople are in charge of follow-up. That’s why there needs to be at least one unbiased employee serving as a business development manager (BDM) to hold the people following up and working leads accountable. The “down time” mentality is mind-boggling. There’s a database available for salespeople to work to generate sales opportunities.
The person in the BDM role doesn’t need to be a new hire; it can be someone within the store who is respected and has a bit of a drill sergeant attitude. You can’t have a “five-car Charlie” leading the troops in business development. It just won’t work. Having a BDM will prevent salespeople from cherry picking the leads, which only lets your dollars and potential sales fall by the wayside.
One way to help hold your employees accountable is to focus on quality control. A number of companies offer quality control services and will mystery shop your dealership and report the results back to you—positive and negative. I recommend utilizing one that provides the recorded call with an expert solution rather than just criticism. Identified concerns without viable solutions are worthless.
One method I use to see how salespeople are performing is asking customers to call the BDC back to rate the salesperson that greeted them on the lot. Stress the need to get a name or business card. People love to call back and either brag about or tell on somebody. You can find out some interesting things by doing this. For example, at one dealership, a salesperson told a woman who rode the bus to the dealership to take a credit application home, fill it out and then bring it back to the dealership. To encourage customers to call back, tell them the rating and information they provide will be confidential, and you can even provide an incentive, such as a gas card drawing.
One phenomenal dealer I’ve worked with implemented an accountability room in his dealership, which allows managers to monitor follow-up. An accountability room provides one centralized location for salespeople to get off the floor, complete their daily work plans and basically do what really is the core of their job. That is, following up, sending e-mails and letters, and building customer relationships. To do this, they must have the mindset of not wanting to sell one person a car, but wanting to sell everyone they know a car. Salespeople with that discipline and mindset will sell more cars.
An accountability room is also like an insurance policy for the dealer because sales staff turnover creates orphan owners with whom there is no follow-up. I know a lot of CRM products have orphan owner functionality to flag past customers who no longer have a salesperson assigned to follow-up with them, but what good is it if no one monitors and reassigns orphan owners? Unless someone really enforces the process and system the dealer uses to protect his or her leads, the technology is wasted.
Only a fraction of the sales force out there is willing and capable to exceed what your competition is doing. That’s why even a little phone skills training and accountability is extremely important and can make a big difference.
Vol. 6, Issue 6