Whether dealerships should have business development centers, sometimes referred to as call centers, to handle prospects is a hot question in retail circles.
One school holds that BDCs would be unnecessary if managers insisted that salespeople work the phones when not attending walk-in customers. Another school says BDC phone specialists can more quickly and cheaply follow up on leads than salespeople.
Even the factories have entered the fray. General Motors last year required top personnel from its 4,300 dealerships to attend a BDC workshop. GM is also providing incentives to dealerships with good BDC scores.
To hear more, I attended a presentation on BDCs from consultant Tom Stuker of Stuker Training at last month's Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition in Tampa, Fla.
The high-energy session had a sobering message: Stuker contends that 90 percent of BDCs are underperforming.
He said too many BDCs are created without a tight sales process that ensures that customer appointments are pushed to a sales manager who, in turn, assigns the right salesperson to the customer.
Many BDCs, Stuker added, don't have the right staffing. Too many people means that employees may not have enough work.
Too few can mean leads are fumbled. Another problem is that many BDCs don't have a phone specialist who is killer at getting people into the showroom, Stuker said.
More introverted folks might be better suited for Internet leads.
Here's one problem that just shouldn't happen: Some BDC reps don't spend enough time on the phone with prospects. They should be spending at least 40 percent of their time on the phone. If it's less than 30 percent, management needs to intervene.
Which leads to Stuker's biggest complaints: Inattention from top management to the BDC and hiring the wrong BDC manager. General sales managers, Stuker explained, should be penciling deals in the BDC.
And staff should be going on the ride-and-drives like other salespeople to learn about product.
Moreover, the BDC manager should have great phone skills, be able to teach and judge performance on sales, not appointments. As he said: "More retail than detail."