I was called out by a reader of my blog, and rightfully so. All of my writings are always born from a conversation had with another in our industry. I get to chatting, get to thinking, and then get to typing. After a conversation/question posed to me by a dealer owner, I wrote the blog “Is It Time to CTRL ALT DEL Your Internet Department?” In this article, I simply posed the question to get people thinking. And then a blog comment from a reader named Nichole made me realize that I had more work to do.
Nichole intimated that the blog was lacking because I didn’t actually explain what to do if a dealer does decide to dismantle their department. She wanted action items and not philosophical musings. While building (or reinvigorating) Internet departments, Internet dealerships, and BDCs may be what DealerKnows does, it isn’t often what we write about. I won’t give away all of our secrets, but here are 12 essential steps for those dealers that have decided to wipe the slate clean and build a BDC or Internet Department from scratch. (And thank you, Nichole, for the inspiration for the blog.)
1) Don’t start over.
See if you can get your team the training they need, the management they want, the technology they covet, the policies they request, and the support they deserve. If its broken, it can be fixed. If it’s never worked, then that’s another story.
- What does it look like?
- What numbers are they expected to reach?
- How many people, desks, leads, and sales are required to make it work?
- What job responsibilities are they performing?
- In your perfect world, how do the leads flow?
- How quickly are the calls transferred and answered?
- Do you have the pieces in place – beyond human capital – to meet these goals?
And when answering these questions, think specifically from the customer’s perspective. Your map shouldn’t be what’s easiest for your team, but what’s easiest for the customer. You need to educate yourself on best practices before you begin making decisions that will shape the department, especially if this is the second or third time making these same decisions.
3) Write job descriptions.
One of the most important steps possible. You need to look at every angle and determine exactly what tasks you are asking of each person. Leave no responsibilities uncovered.
Job descriptions include:
- Pay plan (choose their preferred end YTD and work the numbers backwards)
- Hierarchy (who they report to and who reports to them)
- All job duties (the most important element of any job description)
- Technology expectations
- And store policies regarding their position.
4) Reevaluate your technology and providers
Unless you’re hiring for a superstar eCommerce Director who will want a say in these areas, this is the time to evaluate your CRM (#1), website provider (#2), lead providers (#3), and software. You don’t need to make a change while no one is at the helm, but you want to know what you’re missing. If you feel there are discrepancies in the performances of your providers or vendors, this can be added to their job descriptions.
5) Use your vendors.
Reach out to your vendors to find the best prospects in your area. Can you steal someone away from another dealer? Vendors are usually being educated on best practices, and they’re also immersed in dealer conversations with potential candidates. So long as their recommendations aren’t only self-serving product placements, use their reps as sounding boards.
6) Interview and Interview
Don’t settle on anyone. Find the best candidate even if it takes you longer than you would like. Phone screen each candidate before scheduling in-store interviews. Don’t mold a person you like into the position if they don’t have the passion for the medium.
7) Have set Interview questions.
We provide our clients 50 different questions to ask potential new hires. Load the lips of your executive management that will be interviewing. Interview over multiple days, bringing them back to earn the position. Never hire on day 1.
Here are two blogs I’ve written on the subject of recruiting and staffing, Preparing to Grow Your Internet Department, Part 1 and Preparing to Grow Your Internet Department, Part 2.
8) Develop an orientation program.
Don’t throw people to the wolves. We recommend at least a week-long orientation program where training, research, technology advisement, and process are instilled from the beginning. And lots of role-play, regardless of their acumen. (We provide our clients steps as to how to properly orientate new Internet sales and BDC hires.) Your vendors should be on-hand to train on their tools as this will dictate the success in the Internet department. Both during the orientation, and as a part of all ongoing trainings, you must always be reinforcing role-playing and utilization of their tools.
9) Rethink your marketing messages, email templates, phone scripts, and word tracks.
Your past team may have failed because they didn’t know how to create a persuasive argument via the written or spoken word. One of our first goals at DealerKnows is to improve the level of communication between dealership and prospects. We want to load their lips and fingertips with the right things to say and send. While we have countless phone scripts and over 100 email templates along with action plans for most scenarios, you need to sit down and methodically create at least two dozen strong email templates. Each should have a different topic that appeals to customers’ many different buying triggers.
10) Monitor metrics and performance from their first day.
You need to know exactly what your store is measuring from their first day as a means to track their growth. Do you have any accountability tools?
Do you know what to look for and how to monitor their progress?
It isn’t just about accepting their reports, but knowing how to access the info yourself and evaluate it the same way regularly.
Are they sending out the email templates you constructed with them?
Are they saying the correct things on the phone?
At DealerKnows, part of our ongoing consulting involves us actively listening to, monitoring, and grading our dealer clients’ Internet teams to ensure they are completing the tasks and meeting the expectations we’ve set for them. We call this TaskTeacher. At the same time you are focused on quality control, accountability, and productivity, you must make sure they are not overwhelmed with the leads or duties you’ve assigned to them. And ensure they have enough opportunities funneling in to be successful in their roles. Managing their department (without an iron fist, but with a guiding hand) will allow them to grow the department as they see fit.
11) Give support and get them help
It takes a lot to speak up to executive management. If you hear your employees asking you to consider new tools, training, or talent, please consider it. My guess is that your sales managers don’t speak up very often with new innovative ideas or progressive strategies to advance the dealership so when an Internet team member has a suggestion, look into it. Provide positive reinforcement when they do.
12) Establish a consistent and evolving marketing mix
You need to always be looking to improve your online presence, increasing your showroom, phone, Internet lead, and chat traffic, and distributing ad dollars where they have the best return. This doesn’t mean you have to seek out shiny objects, but rather research to find each traditional and digital initiative you need to dedicate dollars toward to increase performance, productivity and results.
Training and dealership education has been mentioned in the above steps frequently. This is not a pitch to bring in DealerKnows to make these decisions for you. As a matter of fact, it is almost an anti-pitch. My VP, Bill Playford, is telling me that I shouldn’t give out step-by-step instructions for other would-be/wannabe consultants to simply crib. I’m not worried. The secret sauce of showing dealers continued success isn’t just in the game plan; it’s all in the execution.
While we make our living on executing these steps for dealers, I have high respect for any dealer wanting to wrap their arms around this level of execution and build something great internally. This is an urge for you to educate yourself so you don’t miss any steps, and I wish you success in all of your ongoing efforts. So wipe the slate clean and get started, if that is what you see fit to do.