Who should reply to e-leads in my dealership?

Should I have a BDC? Should I have a separate Internet sales department? Should I just have all my salespeople reply to e-leads?

These are currently some of the most asked questions by dealer principals and general managers.

Let’s break down some of the Pros and Cons of each so that you can draw your own conclusions.

Should I have a BDC (Business Development Centre) reply to e-leads?

PROS:

  • The people that are attracted to the position of BDC specialist within the dealership are often younger, energetic, creative and intelligent;
  • BDC specialists are typically tech savvy and embrace change;
  • Because their primary role is to reply to inbound e-leads and sales calls, they are focused and develop a level of competence and expertise;
  • BDC compensation plans are often tied to the number of showroom appointments that show up. Hence, BDC specialists are motivated to convert sales calls and e-leads to showroom appointments;
  • BDC specialists will usually have a higher conversion rate of e-leads to appointment versus a showroom sales consultant (their added expense may be justified); and
  • Many OEMs encourage their dealerships to create a BDC.

CONS:

  • Many dealerships are not large enough to create a BDC, even if it’s just one person;
  • BDCs are “the office upstairs, often “out of sight, out of mind,” poorly trained, poorly managed and relatively ignored compared to other departments;
  • The BDC is an added expense. Some would argue that the dealership is paying two people to sell a single vehicle (BDC specialist and a sales consultant);
  • Many BDC specialists lose sight of the fact that their responsibility is to convert e-leads and sales calls to showroom appointments — a selling function. Many quickly become information-providers only;
  • Conversely, because BDC specialists are usually compensated for generating appointments, they are sometimes too quick to ask for one; pushy or grabby and merely pick the low-hanging fruit without attempting to build a level of rapport and value to the customer;
  • BDC specialists often cannot handle difficult customer requests and must pass the inquiry to a sales consultant or a sales manager thereby creating duplication;

Internet sales consultants are more patient. They will stay in contact and follow-up with an e-lead for a longer period of time than traditional showroom sales consultants.

  • Customers sometimes feel that they are being shuffled around from one person to another. They build rapport with a BDC specialist and based on the relationship, decide to visit the dealership. Once at the dealership, they are passed onto a stranger, the sales consultant;
  • The communication between the BDC and sales consultants is often poor or confusing;
  • BDC specialists often tire of the job more quickly than other dealership positions; and
  • A BDC can create more overhead and bureaucracy (another silo).

Should I have a separate Internet sales department?

A separate Internet sales department consists of sales consultants that respond to e-leads only and do not serve walk-in customers. Once they create a showroom appointment, they sell the vehicle to the customer once at the dealership (first contact to delivery).

PROS:

  • Internet sales consultants WANT to reply to e-leads;
  • Internet sales consultants are often more tech savvy and receptive to industry changes and innovation;
  • Internet sales consultants develop a level of competence and expertise;
  • Internet sales consultants are more patient. They will stay in contact and follow-up with an e-lead for a longer period of time than traditional showroom sales consultants; and
  • Customers like dealing with one person from initial contact to vehicle sale.

CONS:

  • For many dealerships, it is difficult to staff and provide proper coverage for an Internet Sales Department and a Showroom Sales Department;
  • Many dealerships are now receiving more e-leads than customer walk-ins. Traditional showroom sales consultants may feel they have fewer opportunities to sell and earn;
  • Conversely, some dealerships have very few e-leads because they have a poor online presence; a dated website with cookie-cutter content and poorly managed social media platforms. They can’t justify dedicated Internet sales consultants; they would starve; and
  • Two separate sales teams can cause tension within the dealership.

Should I just have ALL my salespeople reply to e-leads?

PROS:

  • It’s simpler;
  • As the online model and e-leads grow, sales consultants that reply to e-leads will be the new norm and the “sales consultant of today and the future.”;
  • It’s easier to staff and more cost effective (if they are able to yield similar or better results than an internet sales department or a BDC);
  • In a time where many dealerships have reduced staff numbers, this allows the remaining or “chosen” sales consultants a better opportunity to sell more vehicles and succeed;
  • Customers like dealing with one person from initial contact to vehicle sale;

The industry continues to diminish the role and responsibilities of the front-line sales consultant.

  • The recruiting and hiring process for new sales consultants will ensure a comfort level with various forms of communication and technology; and
  • The strategies, process and skills of replying to e-leads can be trained (to the willing).

CONS:

  • Some sales consultants don’t like replying to e-leads.
  • Some sales consultants treat e-leads as low priority, lacking urgency, enthusiasm and strategy.
  • Some sales consultants have poor grammar, punctuation and e-mail etiquette, potentially embarrassing the dealership.
  • Some dealerships do not have enough sales consultants to effectively serve both walk-in customers and e-leads.

Whatever your conclusion, consider that e-leads are not a right; they are a privilege.

Over the past three decades, the retail automotive industry has created F&I departments, Portfolio Management departments, Business Development departments, Marketing departments, Social Media departments and more. The industry continues to diminish the role and responsibilities of the front-line sales consultant. The question is three-fold; are we creating all these new departments because sales consultants are not capable (or reliable) with responsibilities such as replying to e-leads? Or, are they capable, but we have not properly trained and motived them? Or, are we keeping and hiring the wrong sales consultants; those that do not possess the attitude and sales skills required to succeed in today’s marketplace?

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