Going beyond the current BDC model and creating a business development dealership makes all employees accountable for growth in sales and service. Business Development Centers (BDCs) are a great way to grow your dealership’s sales and service business when set up properly.  The trouble is that many I have encountered over the years were designed and launched hastily and have been dismantled as quickly as they were built.  I’ve often said that I’ve witnessed more BDC funerals than births and that is accurate. You’ll want to review this article if you are considering either building one yourself or dismantling one you already have in place.  

Setting the Record Straight – I am a Fan of BDCs

I am a fan of BDCs and have heard from many who say it’s time for them to end.  Why dismantle a BDC when they cover a lot of process failures within the current dealership structure, including poor inbound-call and lead handling by the floor sales team?  They also assist with the missing role of true business development including marketing to customers in equity, declined services, unsold showroom follow-up and on and on.  

business developmentTruth is, it’s time for us to go beyond the current BDC setups and arrange for a model that is more sustainable and helpful for your overall dealership.  Even when a dealership has a well-designed and high-performing BDC in place, there are tons of opportunities left by the wayside. One element that is particularly harmful for dealerships is the atrophy that sets in for the floor sales team.  We have noticed with increasing regularity that the floor sales teams of dealerships with high-performing BDCs tend to cease their own business development efforts. This hinders the opportunity to create repeat and referral sales because of the reliance on the BDC staff to manage post sale follow-up.  In addition, when a customer doesn’t purchase on their first visit we see be-back process breakdowns, as it tends to fall through the cracks. The current BDC setup needs to be adjusted from a dealership center to the overall dealership. 

What is a Business Development Dealership (BDD)?

In simple terms, a BDD is a dealership that has created a culture of business development throughout the entire dealership.  On a daily basis, everyone who walks through the door as an employee is responsible for helping the dealership grow sales and services.  It’s the difference between a dealership where the employees come to “work to work” versus coming to “work to wait” for someone to develop an opportunity environment.  

The condition that exists in many dealerships is the waiting and wishing game where we just waste time hoping someone comes in to buy something instead of proactively generating opportunities.  This has been exacerbated in many instances by the creation of BDCs because many employees simply use the excuse that the BDC is responsible for developing opportunities. You have to decide what is best for your dealership.  I already know which you prefer.

How to Set up Your Business Development Dealership

As is always the case, it starts at the top with senior dealership management.  If the boss buys in, the team will buy in. I hear all the time from senior managers that they are looking for the team to “buy in” before they act on an idea.  The fact is this is the wrong sentiment. The team will never buy in until the boss decides if they buy in. The team may question or wish to improve an idea a boss buys into but if they know the boss is set on it; they will soon buy in also.  So, once the boss buys in, the team just needs to know how to do it.  

  • Develop a CRM Culture

A foundational element to setup your BDD is to create a customer relationship management (CRM) culture at the dealership and track the business activities of your team members.  This seemingly simple concept is an Achilles heel in a lot of strategies because the managers do not actively use the system themselves. If the managers use it daily and teach the team how to effectively use it then great things can happen.  It also takes a lot of time to train the team properly on the CRM so be sure to set aside the time and assign responsibility for training to a high-ranking manager on the team. Create a framework for what the team needs to know and start the teaching.  Most CRM companies provide an excellent online training platform so self-learning is simple. Just make sure your team learns the essentials and test them to ensure they do it your preferred way. Daily CRM checkouts are a vital step to making sure your team completes the agreed upon daily tasks.  Once the CRM culture is established you will have some good momentum to move along the BDD path.  

  • Build Daily Work Habits

Part of what makes a BDC so attractive to dealership management is the fact that they generate a lot of work output because they have created effective daily work habits.  This is not always the case on the showroom floor where it is almost celebrated as an artistic workspace. As a result, a lot of great salespeople do not achieve their full potential because we do not hold them accountable to daily work habits for calls made, emails sent, social media engagement, etc.  In a study of habit building at University College in London, it was determined that it takes 66 times to make something a habit. This study convinces me that most people simply give up before they create good work habits. Great managers can make good employees great by just having them complete their daily habit.

  • Create 52 Weeks of Engagement Messages

If you expect your team to call, email and socialize each day you’ll need to create the messages for them that are consistent with the marketing and promotion actions of the dealership.  Oftentimes when I train at a dealership I find that the sales team would love to do their daily work activities but they just don’t know what to say to prospects and customers.  

The good news is one message a week can be powerful and works with phone, email and social.  In fact, maybe just start small with just 12 monthly messages. A good idea is to use what I used when I was selling cars at the dealership – the “holiday follow-up plan” – January; Happy New Year or Martin Luther King Day; February, Valentine’s Day; March, Happy St. Patrick’s Day; and so on.  Once you have this mapped out think in terms of what you want to have your team communicate on a weekly basis – new arrivals, fresh trade-ins, try our service department, new accessories, etc.

  • Teach Your Team About Their Circles Of Influence

business developmentEach member of your team has established circles of influence.  They just may not realize it. The circles include friends, family, work contacts, neighbors, church or clubs and online social networks.  These circles may overlap a bit but if you asked them to list whom they know and whom they influence I believe your team would be amazed at how large their circles of influence actually are. The key is to encourage them to let their circles know what they do for a living.  Oftentimes we see salespeople frustrated because a friend or neighbor bought from a competitor because they didn’t realize the employee sold cars.  

The social engagement with the circles is very easy, too, and can be accomplished by having your team members join Facebook, Google Plus and then “liking or plus one” posts made by customers.  They can comment (appropriately) and from time to time post a picture of a vehicle or a new story on a product or service. With LinkedIn they can do “endorsements” of their customers for items they know they are good at.  If you are not familiar with this simple action you can set up your LinkedIn account and once you have made connections, check back daily and LinkedIn will prompt you to endorse people. These small and non-controversial social actions will quickly expand the reach of your team.

  • Establish a Productive Work Setting

Most dealerships are hubs of activity and it makes it tough to get much done during peak work hours.  Check your own work setting and make certain it is set up for uninterrupted work time. Perhaps you need an electronic up system so your sales team knows they don’t have to watch the lot.  Perhaps you need a room off the floor where you have work cubicles set up for making calls, sending emails or doing social posts. In any case, eliminate interruptions and provide the right space for your team to be productive.  Additionally, each team member needs to have set times when they can be on a computer to interact with the CRM tool.  

If it is to be…It is up to Me!

Leaders of the dealership – and that is each and every employee – need to remember that if it is to be, it is up to them.  No one can make you the very best. You have to make that call on your own.

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