BDCs (Business Development Centers) have been in our industry for many, many years. However, in my humble opinion, now is the time for us to collectively do something differently. BDCs have tried and failed more times than probably any other process in the car business – but yet, we keep trying.

Insanity: repeating the same thing or process and expecting different results.

Well, I am here to say BDCs have outlived their usefulness. Installing one is just a short-term fix that will leave you frustrated, stagnant, and unable to grow your respective operation long term.

So, why was the BDC even created? It really stems from our inability as an industry to get our salespeople to do their jobs.  Granted, years ago without all the technology we have today, it was maybe more difficult if not impossible to hold people accountable – but can we say that today? Shouldn’t we grow alongside the the new technologies in our world?

One of the first BDCs that I can recall was called Intercept, which was a Pat Ryan company back in the early 90s. The concept was simple: the company would have all the dealership’s sales calls forwarded to their call center where a group of well-trained people would take calls and set the appointments for the dealership.

Unfortunately, this early BDC failed miserably. Even worse, the industry didn’t learn from this earlier failure. If it had, millions, maybe billions, of dollars could have been saved.

Why Did It Fail?

Now, let’s talk about why it failed, and compare it to today’s current BDC climate. First, imagine having to track all of the calls manually without the assistance of the Internet or technologies like our current CRMs; it’s pretty difficult and time consuming. While the manual process is not something that should be an issue today with the aforementioned technology we have, which is another issue altogether (how many dashboards does a dealership need?), do any of these problems seem familiar to you? Friction between the sales teams and the BDC, accountability on the quality of appointments, continuous education, turnover, and overall increasing expenses were all there – and still are.

Sales teams are territorial and why shouldn’t they be? After all this is how they make a living; it doesn’t take too many appointments showing up on vehicles that are no longer at the store and upset customers for the sales teams to lose their patience with the BDC.  Let the infighting begin. BDCs have failed for many different reasons to keep quality-trained individuals answering the phone. Think about it: whom do we generally hire for BDC employment? One semi-seasoned manager with several other young not-so-seasoned individuals that are not committed to a lifestyle generally forced upon them.  What happens when the one seasoned person leaves you?

Lastly, and most importantly, the overall expense can be mind blowing. Think of business logic of implementing a BDC. “Let’s hire someone else to do the work of an employee we already have hired because we can’t get the original person to do it.” Then to make matters worse, keep the compensation of the first person the same while adding additional expense to our cost structure. Starting to sound crazy (and familiar) yet?

“I agree that we cannot continue to add layers of expense in lieu of holding my people accountable,” Says Todd Hacias, Managing Partner of Heritage Volkswagen.

Why should things change?

Well the answer is simple: we either change our processes or the business will change them for us.

If that happens, I can guarantee many of us won’t be too happy with the reality. Does anyone out there believe that True Cars and other buying services were created because customers enjoy the process of buying a car? We work with managers and salespeople every day. Hardly any of them go to work each day saying to themselves: let me see what I can’t sell today or let me see what I can mess up. The teams we work with, while greatly different in nature and execution depending the geographic location and the brand being sold, all have one thing in common: they all want to sell as many cars as possible.  Almost 100% are open to training and to changing their behavior for the better.

I believe that our industry is holding onto a memory and a belief that is dated, antiquated, and just not true anymore in our industry. The world has changed and we have not changed with it.

“Salespeople cannot or do not follow-up with their customers on a consistent basis.”

It’s about time the dealers and managers in the car business start not only managing activities, but also become leaders of people. When was the last time you registered one of your managers into an online management program with a credited higher education system? Every other business in the world with employees has dealt with the people issue and now it’s our turn to accept that if we don’t change, the industry will force us to.  Let’s hire salespeople, train them, and hold them accountable. We have the technology in place to do this, and when done effectively, the bottom line is just that: YOU MAKE MONEY.

About the Author

Chuck McGraw has been in the retail automotive industry for over 30-years, presently serving as the President and CEO of Marcom Technologies. Marcom was the first to pioneer recording-based sales training in the late 80s, and over the past 3-decades, developed proprietary methodologies that increase dealership performance. Marcom leverages a blend of technology and human interaction to drive behavioral changes that increase sales and service.