What’s the Best Internet Sales Structure for My Dealership?


At virtually every dealership 20 group I address, at least one dealer will ask the question I hear most often with respect to internet sales:

“What’s the best internet sales structure for a dealer today: End-to-End; a BDC; or giving the leads to the floor?”

I’ve been asked this question over and over again since 2009; and until about a year ago my answer was always the same: “Any of those will work, provided you and your sales managers support the efforts.” This was true then and it’s true today; but, that’s no longer my advice. No. Today I reply a bit differently.

Today, I simply respond “BDC.”

There’s the BDC and then there’s Everything Else…

While it is still true that any internet sales structure will work, it’s also true that today’s floor sales managers (as was true with yesterday’s floor sales managers) will almost never fully support the internet efforts to the extent their dealership needs to ensure long-term success. That’s a strange phenomenon to me given that these same sales managers’ paychecks rely on the grosses generated from both the floor and the web. (Of course, the minute you try to apply logic to the motivations and machinations of the average desk manager you’ll find yourself lost in a paradoxical struggle you cannot win.)

The realities of the automotive sales desk – the coolest thing on earth to observe when it’s cooking – are that the internet and all who profit from it are still some foreign invader that must be defeated at all costs in most dealerships. Yes, even in today’s connected world, I still meet desk managers who revel in their ability to frustrate and sometimes sabotage the efforts of the internet team.

Pity, though it’s precisely because so few traditional sales managers choose not to embrace anything digital that your best chance of sustained internet sales success rests with a BDC… and only a BDC.

But My End-to-End Internet Team Rocks!

While I often meet great End-to-End internet sales teams (this is where a dedicated group answers email leads and phones, sets the appointments and sells the vehicles), the reality in nearly all of these dealerships is the formation of an unsustainable dichotomy: that is, you have a solid group (the internet team) making great money and experiencing little to no turnover; and you have this other group (the floor team) enjoying fewer and fewer opportunities, lower closing percentages, smaller paychecks and higher turnover.

Great End-to-End teams starve the floor; and as your percent of sales from internet sources grows, so does the split between the Haves (the internet team) and the Have Nots (the floor team) in your dealership. Eventually, your turnover on the floor will become so great that you’ll start tasking a few of your internet sellers to handle floor ups.

Bad idea.

Allowing your successful internet sellers to handle an occasional floor up is a bad idea. Even in a so-called emergency, it’s never proven to be a good practice in the long run, and here’s why: these dual-tasked salespeople quickly begin to dedicate less time to making outbound calls (their most productive activity) and more time to standing around waiting to cherry pick the next up (a wholly unproductive activity). Once you give these salespeople the option of handling ups you lose the ability to properly manage their activities; because, everything (including standing outside with their hands in their pockets) looks like they’re working.

Enter the Hybrid…

The typical dealership answer to an unsustainable End-to-End team is to begin farming out some or all of the internet leads to the floor sales teams. This is called a hybrid internet team by some; and on paper, this is the most fair-minded, efficient and effective method for distributing internet ups.

On paper. Just as Communism looks pretty good to some people on paper, so too does a hybrid internet team.

As you’re likely well aware, our business is not conducted on paper. Rather, we have to deal in the real world and with the realities that come from being a for-profit business. What works on paper almost never works in a dealership sales environment. Not because what we put on paper is poorly designed or even a bad idea, but because the biggest issue facing today’s dealer is a lack of leadership and accountability provided by his or her desk/sales managers.

In other words, it often doesn’t matter what we plan/want to do, the realities of our store will dictate the direction.

For the hybrid team to succeed in the short and long term they need constant oversight, guidance and leadership from their sales managers. Almost never happens. In the absence of this leadership, guidance and oversight, the hybrid team quickly retreats to the safety of never making calls or responding to leads, and you’ll find them all outside simply waiting on the up bus. After all, those are the lowest hanging fruit, right?

Not even close.

The average dealer closes about 2 of 10 traditional ups, yet they close 5 of 10 internet appointments that show. Moreover, I routinely work with dealers who close more than 30% of their inbound sales calls on the same day! Seems to me the lowest hanging fruit are the internet leads and the phone ups, not walk-in traffic.

Enter the Business Development Center

A true Business Development Center – one that is a profit center and not a cost center – has become the dealer’s only chance to sustainably grow his/her internet sales business without starving the floor sales team. In fact, when done correctly, your BDC actually feeds the floor not only internet appointments (that close at 50%+), but also owner marketing appointments (that close at 60%+) and even Be-Back appointments (that close at 67%+).

What’s more is that great BDCs can do all of this without the need for constant oversight, guidance and leadership from the floor managers. While the goal would certainly be to have your BDC and floor teams act in a symbiotic fashion, the truth is that great BDCs can and do act independently of the floor. (Many of the best BDCs I’ve worked with actually succeed in spite of the floor.)

Ready to build a BDC and have them start feeding your floor sales teams? Check out this previous post for The 5 Must Haves for a Successful BDC – this will help you create and maintain a successful BDC that truly becomes a developer of business.

Good selling!