Whether your store sells 30 cars a month or 30 cars a day, an effective internet sales structure can help you boost traffic and desk more deals. To implement a system that delivers sustainable results, you should begin by assessing your dealership’s culture and defining objectives based on available resources. With the necessary budget, full support of your management team and proper people in place, you increase the likelihood of success. If not, you risk antagonizing your employees and customers — and driving business to your competitors.

Just as there are thousands of dealerships across the United States, there is no one-size-fits-all internet sales structure. Case in point: business development centers (BDC). While there currently is a lot of media attention surrounding them, and many dealers credit BDCs with improved performance, other dealers describe them as either a bad fit or too expensive. Fortunately, there are several options that can help you drive more sales by standardizing and consistently utilizing your sales processes.

Existing Floor Sales

With 80 percent of car buyers now going online to research their next purchase, responding appropriately to internet inquiries can drive incremental business at your store. If you’re new to advertising your inventory on the web or aren’t ready to commit to a full-fledged internet department, working with your existing salespeople is a logical place to begin. Assign a manager at your store to receive these emails and quote requests and distribute them to a member of the floor sales team who will then contact the prospect and work the deal.

Internet Sales Manager

Another approach: Some stores rely on a dedicated internet sales manager to work with online customers from the initial point of contact to the time of sale. This individual can be reallocated from your existing sales force or hired as an addition to your staff. As we discussed in this month’s DealerADvantage LIVE webinar, the right person for this job excels at following up with customers, communicating with the management team and maintaining rapport with the floor salespeople.

Internet Department

Just as you have defined used- and new-car departments, you might want to add an internet department with one or more internet salespeople led by an internet sales manager. Together, they would manage every aspect of online sales, from working with prospects to scheduling appointments, demonstrating the vehicle and making the sale.

Business Development Center

With a BDC, all internet inquiries are managed by people whose sole focus is on setting the appointment. Once they confirm a time for the prospect to visit the store, BDC employees turn over the sale to the internet sales manager or an individual in the internet department. Dealers typically operate their BDC from a separate area of their store or from a separate location so that workers can concentrate on responding quickly to customer requests for information. Some dealers work with an outside vendor that provides the equipment (e.g., web-enabled computers and telephone lines) and skilled agents needed to work with prospects.

Keep in mind: Successful BDC employees are people who can quickly build rapport with car buyers and encourage them to take the next step toward a purchase. They do not try to sell the car, though they may be called upon to confirm whether the car the shopper is considering is currently in inventory or, for example, has specific passenger or towing capacity. Rather, they leave the sale to the sales team and will not negotiate price or offer estimates for trade-ins.

Ultimately, any of these various approaches could help you win additional business and drive the revenue growth you want. Once you’ve identified which structure best utilizes your sales staff’s talents and expertise and aligns with how your customers like to do business, you’re well on you way to a successful venture. The secret, if there is one, is to identify the sales processes that generate the most closes and then to consistently apply them in this context, time and time again.

Additional Resources

During a recent DealerADvantage LIVE webinar, we discussed BDCs and how to determine if implementing one is the best solution for your store. The session also examined pitfalls to avoid in establishing a BDC and the processes you’ll want to put into place to track results and ensure ongoing sales success. On a similar topic, this month’s session focused on tactics new ISMs can use to be successful in their roles.