Under the Hood is our series of anonymous interviews with the people who make the retail automotive machine work. In this interview, we talk to a manager with a blended role, managing a BDC team and sales teams across multiple locations. His locations are currently by appointment only due to the coronavirus outbreak. He shares his thoughts on how to bring together the BDC and sales departments that have historically been at odds. He sees an opportunity for change during this challenging time.

Anonymous Interviews in Automotive Retail

Look the volume is way down now, but deals are still being done. It is an opportunity to understand the areas that are going to be even more important as we come out of this time. The typical mindset of salespeople is that they don’t need BDC. As a salesperson, I used to think like that, too. Everyone thinks that they’re the Master of the Universe, but there’s a lot out there that they’re missing, if they think like that. Without having that foot traffic in our current situation, the only sales leads they are getting are coming from the BDC. It’s a good time to be humble and appreciate the BDC for their work on the internet and phone calls.

We all have different experiences, I kind of cross between the old school and the new school. People need to understand both, because it’s a vastly different mentality now. Until someone sees something and really understands how it works then they’re not willing to change and listen. We need the skills from both groups.

Typically, BDC people have a different thought process. They’re task oriented. And they are good at it. In some places the only thing that they can do is pass. It depends upon the leader of the BDC to train them and set high expectations to make that pass point as valuable as possible. If you don’t provide training, if you don’t provide the tools for a BDC agent to know what the product is, then you’ll get a glorified receptionist and the BDC will fail as a group.

Same point on the sales side if the owner/operator doesn’t believe in investing growing their salespeople, then the salespeople can get lazy. They can become delivery coordinators, just looking for the path of least resistance.

What’s the secret to bringing the sales and BDC departments together?

Valuing both sides. Each team brings something special, on the sales side they are often working stupid hours. Being available when the customer wants to be taken care of is unfortunately one of the keys to being successful in sales. There are pieces of their floor selling sales skills that are relevant even now to both groups. They are good at generating options and letting all their customers know what most customers are interested in right now. That dedication of time, their flexibility and confidence to help customers fall in love with the options they are looking at – the real closing skills – are even more important now.

On the BDC side, it’s treating the staff seriously, they are not making as much. So how do you show that you value them in other ways? I’ve allowed them to ride-along in the past. That doesn’t make sense right now, but investing in the tools and training that will help them be able to represent the value of each vehicle and be a bit of a hero in answering questions is even more important now. They have to be able to answer questions from home without having to ask anyone. I encourage my people to give the customer a number, just give them a price. I’m a big believer of giving someone a number, now even more than ever because you need to get to the deal as early as you can. Even if it’s the lowest number possible. It’s okay, as customers finalize the deal with the manager or sales team, they will bump themselves up guaranteed.

I’m a big believer in the hybrid BDC/sales team, by having them be part of the same group, valuing what they each bring and showing how they can come together more by stretching into the other guys area as much as they can. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Instead of thinking of it as two different silos, managers have to take the lead and show how to incorporate the two. The manager has to start showing people how things can change and allowing people to do certain things that might have traditionally been a single role. The only way that people will know and understand is by doing. How far is your BDC staff equipped to go? How far are they allowed to go?

Once you are comfortable with your process, map it out and make it official. And instead of saying they’re just a BDC, they just answer a call give full respect. They are my Client Care Center. They help with all the incoming phone calls and the internet requests that we have. And they communicate to me what’s happening with the customer. Okay, so then sales consultants have to start by learning what the barriers are to finalizing the transaction. They have to be great listeners to build the relationship and trust to move to the next step. That relationship will lead to the sales.

These roles have to be merged over time, and at the management level if these groups are being managed by two people, those two people are will have to have blended skill sets. As we cut back staff recently with our sales falling, we’ve kept the few people who can work both sides. It’s a very challenging, but while you can’t have walk ins, it’s the right time to get your process right. You need to answer the questions, connect directly and be there to serve. You can feel it. It’s still a one to one business. It’s a personality-based business. No software is going to sell a car. People sell cars.

What’s one thing that the owner/management team should know, that no one is brave enough to share directly?

This is going to sound strange, but how important video is to communication right now. You need to have the salesperson do a video walk around. You need people that are comfortable and effective communicating through video. That has been a critical way for the salesperson to start to build that relationship and it’s a way that they can go after it now. It’s helping me in talking to the customer and making the customer comfortable to purchase. It doesn’t have to be structured, but the willingness of the individual to directly show the customer everything that they need to know is critical. We can’t be afraid of video.

If you could share directly with the full industry what’s the one thing that everyone should know but no one wants to say?

Don’t limit yourself to your OEM website or even facility. Don’t rely on your OEM. Add what you need to survive. Do video on your own, like I mentioned. I liked your tool that helped your BDC agent get a nice snapshot right up front, things like that. Make it easy for your team to succeed through the people processes you put in place. Deliver where you need to, you will need to go to your customers, so you need to be prepared for that. They aren’t going to show you the way.

What’s the measure of a good salesperson?

To me, it’s someone that’s going to follow up, really take care of customers. But most of all it is someone that people remember. Making a big enough impression that a customer would follow that salesperson to another dealership. If a customer says, I came here and did this because of this guy or lady. To me that is the ultimate compliment. I’m able to bring someone away from another dealership to our store. It’s not just the one sale or the multiple sales, there needs to be an appreciation and knowledge that if someone’s doing the extra stuff they need to create that strong bond. They may not be your number one salesperson, but they are much more stable in delivering sales through all sorts of time. Those are the types of people that we need to hire and keep. If you want to still continue in this business, you’re going to have to do more than just the ordinary, you got to do the extraordinary.

What is excellent for your BDC staff?

Staff who know their used car inventory backwards and forwards, who know what makes this vehicle special. Having a tool that pinpoints those things is key. Get the core information from the customers so that they really understand the vehicle needs of the customer. They don’t need to be a car person, but they need to be able to show how this vehicle is special and how to get the information from the customers. Those are going to be the most important things, helping the customer stay engaged, hitting all the key steps, it’s super important.

Functionally it’s different too. Now I’m desking all the deals in advance, so visits can be incredibly efficient. New procedures are in place keeping everything safe sanitized. Salespeople aren’t going on test drives. Everything is cleaned consistently. Proper distancing is observed. Your sales manager now is to think like your BDC manager. And your BDC manager is going to have to start thinking like a sales manager, but it doesn’t stop there. Everyone needs to move beyond their roles and make sure they are looking out for the customer. It’s not going to matter what your title is. It’s going to matter what your performance is.

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