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June 05, 2001 20:30:13
BDC's Are Here to Stay

Forrest Scott
President of Dynamic Marketing Strategies

The age of the Business Development Center has arrived. For quite some time there has been discussion as to whether or not this department is truly necessary. Dealers have continued to expect salespeople to be the ambassadors of the dealership. To prospect, follow-up showroom traffic, eagerly address orphan owners, regularly stay in contact with customers they have sold vehicles to, maintain accurate information on every person they come in contact with, send birthday and anniversary cards or letters and finally, share all of this information with the dealership because they understand the customer actually belongs to the dealership. In theory this should work. Reality is, salespeople rarely do these things. I often hear dealers and managers vent their frustration in this regard. The typical statement is “what's wrong with these salespeople, can't they see it's costing them a fortune by not following up their customers”. My response has always been the same, I respond “do you feel they truly believe follow-up works? Do you feel the dealership has set the right example.” Most dealerships tell salespeople to do these things. Tell them how important it is. However, the salesperson may possibly be following the lead of management. If management truly believed these processes will help closing ratios and average grosses wouldn't they make sure it gets done. One way or another.

With advertising costs skyrocketing, it is more important now than ever before for a dealership to have a Business Development Center. Consider the fact that a dealership delivering 100 units a month typically works 400 up's. It is no secret that 300 of these up's in all likelihood will never hear from the dealership again. What is amazing is that dealers who spend small fortunes hoping to create an awareness of their dealership discard seventy five percent of those people who walk through their doors. I have lost track of how many dealers have vented their frustration regarding poor showroom follow up. Ponder this, if you have 400 up's a month you will see 4800 up's a year, 24,000 up's in five years. If you had a Business Development Center gathering information regarding these people, how many advertising dollars could you save?

Unfortunately, there appears to be much confusion regarding the real mission and what in fact a Business Development Center is. For starters, it's not a phone room. If managed properly the Business Development Center can actually provide extremely valuable information to the vehicle sales departments as well as the service, parts and body shop. Information such as when the customer intends to make his or her next purchase, what their hot buttons are. What didn't they like about the sales process the last time they bought. What influenced them to buy from their last dealer. How many driver's are in the household. How many vehicles. Who in their household will be next to purchase.

The mission of the Business Development Center personnel should be to acquire, maintain and develop relationships with clients of the dealership regardless of their previous purchase decision.

Why is a Business Development Center necessary? Perhaps the single most important reason may be the competitive advantage a dealership gains. Consider the advantage you would have knowing and having in-depth personal information regarding the buying habits of customers and potential customers in your market. For example, suppose your dealership is located in an area where the franchise you carry has a plant or other major facility. It isn't hard to realize the value of knowing as many people as possible who work at that facility. And with a Business Development Center we would also know many of their buying traits. Another example would be for those dealerships that are in states that do not allow the purchase of registration data. States that do not allow the purchase of names based on vehicle registration data create a challenge for dealerships in those states. Those dealers are forced to either mail to their own database, or to mail to generalized guess lists. If a dealership located in a restricted state had a Business Development Center they would be able to build a high quality list of real prospects and owners which, compared to their competition, would certainly give them a significant advantage.

Starting a Business Development Center is not as hard as some may think. Nor is it as expensive. Perhaps the most important aspect is to establish a plan which allows for the development of the department in steps rather than a massive roll out all at once. Since most dealership today have rather expensive in-house computers the need for an additional system can most likely will be avoided.

In future articles we will cover the selection process for the ideal Business Development Center person. We will also cover the entire process necessary to create, manage and control a Business Development Center. Yes it will take work and commitment to create the Business Development Center. However, the dealership of the future that wishes to truly control their market, will do so by having and utilizing the knowledge acquired by their Business Development Center in a dynamically proactive manner.

Forrest Scott is president of Dynamic Marketing Strategies, Inc. He is an internationally know speaker and industry expert in all areas of retail automotive sales. If you would like more information on this subject or would like to speak with him personally please feel free to email him at or call him at Dynamic Marketing Strategies, Inc.





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