The Dealer Playbook
The Dealer Playbook

Episode · 1 year ago

Carla Wade: How BDC's Are Bridging The Gap


As dealerships move into a growing online retailing environment, it's more important than ever to have a process that can bridge the gap between online visitors and in-store customers.

Carla Wade, Senior Director of Sales Development at Automotive Mastermind Inc., joins to share her vantage point, and the experience she gained while working as the Business Development Manager at Mercedes-Benz Manhattan. 

BDC reps play an integral role in the online buying process, and assisting customers during critical moments of their buying journey. In this episode, Carla shares some practical ways, BDC reps can think out of the box.

Noteworthy topics from this episode:

2:48 - Why did you choose BDC?

4:18 - What do you recommend dealers focus on when it comes to BDC?

6:14 - What are some key components that are crucial to the day-to-day activities of the BDC?

9:10 - Importance of healthy culture.

11:52 - What tools would you recommend to keep the team connected?

17:55 - Are people likely to adapt to digital retail?

20:38 - What should be considered to make sure the online retail model actually works?

23:00 - How does one actually put themselves in the customer seat? 

Hey gang! Welcome to this episode of the dealer Playbook, a podcast that explores what it takes to create a thriving career right here in the retail auto industry. I'm your host, Michael Cirillo, joined today by my pal carla wade from automotive mastermind. We're going to be discussing how to reimagine the BBC in a customer first era. Look, if there's one thing we understand well in the dealership world, like many businesses were prone to experiencing interdepartmental silos. Perhaps one of the biggest silos, however, to exist is the in store experience versus what the customer perceives it will be like from their online shopping activities, bridging the gap between the dealerships online and in store experience is more crucial than ever, especially with the growing demand of virtual and online retailing. The catalyst for evolution can very well be your business development center or BDC joining us today is Carla wait a 20 year veteran of the car business who is joining us to help re imagine the BDC in a consumer first era carla. I am so excited about this. Thanks so much for joining me on the dealer playbook podcast. Hi Michael, I'm really, really excited to be here today. This is, I mean 20 years in the industry, you've seen some, you've seen some stuff and I'm curious. When did you, I mean, why, why B. D. C. Why is that the kind of the avenue that you chose? What, what's your affinity to be D. C. Well, it, uh, 20 years is being conservative, but I like the way it kind of, you know, masks my actual age. Um, you know, I kind of evolved into BDC quite frankly. Um, you know, I started a little bit lower on the wrong and you know, I've done almost anything there is to do at a dealership besides, you know, kind of P. D. I. And prep the cars for delivery, which of course I know a lot of folks in the industry, you know, kind of get that that kind of grassroots training as well. But I found the BBC to really kind of be my niche and I grew a massive affinity for it as I was running a sales and service BDC together. And really at that time this is like when internet first started to bloom and people were finally kind of shopping for cars online at the kind of the peak of that era kind of opening up. There were so many possibilities there that really excited me with that role. It's surprising to me how many dealerships don't have BBC, especially this day and age, especially when you think about, gosh, the car Vontaze of the world, which really are just really big B. D.

C. S, what could you say? Perhaps to a dealership who has almost a hybrid or quasi Btc? What should they be focusing on? Perhaps in their individuals that they're looking to hire or a structure to really set them down the right path in BDC. Yeah. So that's a great question. Michael. I think a lot of, yeah, it depends on your dealership and how you operate. Right. One of the great things about a BBC is that it can set the tone and create a wonderful experience for your customers. And these days, people are less transactional as they are kind of, you know, looking for that right experience, feeling like they're, they're getting a white glove service. So if you're a smaller dealership where maybe you're a little bit more bespoke, you don't have a lot of inventory. Maybe your niche and your sales reps can handle that inbound lead being taken care of in a very timely fashion. As well as answering the phone, making sure emails are responded to in a timely fashion, then perhaps you don't have that need for BBC. But if you are a tad bit on the larger side, you've got a lot of business turning through month over month. This is the best way to make sure that you're increasing deal of loyalty as well as enhancing that experience for every customer that explores your store. Yeah, I love that. Especially as it pertains to enhancing. I love that that choice of words carla because often we we use terminology. I've observed like fulfilling customer needs or satisfying customer needs. But I love this idea of enhancement because we acknowledge there are already receiving some type of an experience. We're here to make it so much better than they've ever anticipated and that's so crucial. So what are some of the, in the spirit of enhancing a customer's experience? What are some of the key components you would submit are crucial to? I guess the day to day activities of the BBC. Yeah, sure. So I think putting yourself in the consumers seat, right? So how do you like to be taken care of if you submit an email to a business or an organization, how quickly would you like your response to come back? How knowledgeable would you like that person to be on the other end of the phone? Um, you know, how convenient are they making this transaction for you? And, and these are some of the key components where BDC can really help make that difference. Yeah. You talk about how the BBC essentially is a conduit to the showroom floor. What does that look like? You know, I'm thinking about the day to day operations of a dealership. How does the BDC, especially with all of the silos, right? Sales rarely knows what marketing is doing. Marketing kind of has an overall agenda, but maybe F and...

I and and parts and service, they have no clue about any of this stuff. How can the B. D C B. I guess the linchpin or the, the sun by which the solar system revolves? Yeah, so, um so so often, you know, in a dealership it's difficult to kind of create those synergies, right? And instead of looking as your BBC as a separate center or a separate department, make sure that they have the right product knowledge and understand some of the ancillary positions of your over sales rep. Right? So for example, you know, your product very well, you know what inventory you have in stock, right? Um you can guide the customer through potentially the difference between one model versus the next. You have some industry intel. Um So this way they can almost give the customer the very basics of what they need um to help complete their shopping, create a relationship with sales rep and BBC. That is a hand in glove type relationship. There's no competition here, right? Um The BBC should be happy to hand off their customers to a sales rep and a sales rep feel confident that this customer is ready and prepped and armed for what they need to make that purchasing decision. Um I love that, you know, any time we bring up anything to do with culture and a healthy workplace culture. I just perk up I think, you know, especially on the DPB for those listening, it's important that you understand in seven plus years now of producing the show, Over 75% of all guests on the show speak to the importance of a healthy culture. We can't ignore this. How do you, in your experience from your observations? How do you create this hand in glove, as you say, experience in something that has traditionally been viewed as a shark tank? How do we really create that relationship? Yeah. So it's it's get them involved and don't exclude them. So you're having your sales meeting, you're having that monday morning jump start your having that saturday morning meeting before the big weekend sale. Um, get your BDC in that meeting with you so that they understand what's happening at your showroom. They feel an integral member and part of your organization and create those synergies. That knowledge is power and making them feel involved. Makes reps um, a lot more passionate about what they're doing and why they're doing at this. This idea. Back, I think one of my first jobs, as just in the workforce was at best buy now in Canada. It used to be called Future Shop and it was very shark tank. E however, every single morning I remember we had a...

...meeting where they would walk through everything that was going on and those of us who were paying attention excelled. This was commissioned sales. So, back in the day, it was all commission sales. Um it wasn't, you know, no pressure this and that. It was like, you are buying a tv today, pal. Yeah, But you also made really good. I remember I was 17 year old, I was the youngest commission salesperson in Canada. They traditionally didn't hire 17 year olds to do commission sales. Um when I was like, sorry pal, I I am not slinging cds, I don't work in the, like I'm making money and but those of us that paid attention in those meetings, understanding that they were there to make sure everyone was in the loop, We excelled, those that were like, man, whatever. They just sat there in the corner waiting for customers to come from them. They come to them. They had no clue. You know, what was going on and how we were able to stack deals and how we were able to stack products and incentives and and all of those sorts of things. And I see this is very much the case, you know, in dealership world where there's just such a lack of communication. Do you outside of that morning meeting? Are there any other communication methods that you found work really well and just keeping the team connected? Yeah. So that's the relationship between, you know, the BDC and just your showroom floor, right? Your sales reps. Now in my, my old organization, what we had was we had a few reps that were dedicated to either the internet sales and I'm putting up quotation marks here, right? Internet sales and that and that type of thing. And that was those sales reps that really kind of understood the difference between this type of customer versus, you know, the person who walks right in through your showroom door. They understand that that customers potentially already been online and shopping you against many others, right? Kind of arming themselves with information. Have a ton of questions that some may may throw you a curveball. So we had dedicated reps that were ready to receive a message from the BBC that the customer was coming in um, or that they had someone on the phone that was ready to take the sale a little bit further and they were really well in concert with that particular BBC. Red helping smooth that transaction for the customer, which seems almost seamless as if they were talking to the same person or long. And so are they actually going through the some sort of a handoff? And what I mean by that is, I think most consumers, when when somebody picks up the phone, they automatically just assume they're talking to a sales rep. Right? So, so is this actually saying, like, hey, my name is Michael and I work in our, you know, concierge department to make sure...

...that you have all the infant, Like how does that look? Are they making it known that they're in a different department than sales? Mhm. Yeah. So I used to go as far as having my BBC reps greet their inbound customers on the showroom floor and make that intro to the sales rep. That used to go over so incredibly well. Because sometimes, um, customers shop online for so long that they've created a relationship with my BBC rep, right? They've become someone that they, they kind of trust and look to for information. So having that personal hand off when it's possible, right, allows that person to feel like they're entrusting me in Michael's hands. I must be in good hands and you've already transferred a lot of that information that you've gotten from your customer to the sales rat. So therefore the customer doesn't feel like they're starting from ground zero all over again with the transaction. Mm I love that. In this, um age of digital retail, the impending doom of closing dealerships all over the world and move the room model or the carbon. What can dealerships, in your opinion, be doing today to fortify perhaps against something like that and or get with the program? Yeah, well thank goodness that cars are still sexy enough, that people do still want to see them in person or potentially give them a little bit of a test drive. But you're right. There is this, um, one component that we cannot avoid, right? And that is the Covid kind of really opened the doors to this right, where we were kind of forced to go the digital route where leaning on, you know, uh, data and analytics and creating platforms or being flexible with our model to allow customers to feel safe and have options when it comes to their, their buying, um, needs by opening up digital retailing. So I can tell you that like, you know, 80% of dealers currently have adapted to some kind of creative delivery method out of out of the pandemic and that's not going to go away, right? So of people that we've actually um surveyed as well, about 65% of people said that they purchase their vehicles completely online, digital retailing and all, and they'd like to do so again. So even though we may go back to a sense of normalcy very soon, um, this new digital retailing age may be something that will stick around for some time. Car Vonna and those folks are creating a convenience and that's what customers are looking for. Something that meets their needs. I can come in store and Shopify like I can have the car delivered to me and while I shop online if I like. So being flexible is really going to allow you to stay ahead of the game and make sure that you're...

...delivering again, going back to those experiences that your consumers looking for. Yeah, I love how each and every one of your sentiments is create something. You can do this too just because they're doing it doesn't mean you have to just sit here and mope and wine and cry that somebody else has figured out perhaps a better way you can do it too. Um, I often look at dealerships and I go, man, you have everything you need to pull off a model like this. And I think that's why we advocate so much for dealers taking control. Stop stop spending so much energy worrying about the room or the car Vonna of the world and start taking a lot of this in your control. But let me ask you this, should we, you know, it's easy to listen to a podcast or go to a conference where the subject matter leaders pontificate over the data and things of that nature. And what happens often is we think in terms of absolute oh man, this is absolutely the way that it is everywhere in the world, everyone is doing it this way. How much of this should we be factoring into the context of our individual markets? And what I mean by that is, you know, they're small town usa I feel like just has a different, a little bit of a different heartbeat than some of the metropolitan areas, our people as likely to adapt to digital retailing as quickly in some of those smaller markets. What is your your viewpoint on that? Yeah. And and that's like how we opened up the podcast today, right, when we're talking about why doesn't every dealership have a BBC? It really depends on your demographic, um you know, the needs of your customer and, and it's not a one size fits all solution. So though in some of our smaller markets, it may be easier or more pleasing for a customer to go into the dealership and have that one on one experience? Um It may not, they may, you know, it may not feel like they're competing for time as much as they would, where you've got a showroom that's filled with customers and you could be waiting around for hours and hours just to either be addressed or to get your transaction completed. Um, so you absolutely have to prepare for the model that's best for you, but if a customer would have turned around and ask you for that, you know that digital experience, are you equipped and are you ready to be able to do so? Could you stand to lose them to a competitor if you don't adapt? So I would say having at least arming yourself with the knowledge or preparing yourself with the ability to be able to do so if needed um, would be really important even if it's not a regular occurrence. Yeah, I love that. I think,...

...gosh, there's so much information out there. Being able to apply it to the context of your circumstances I think is just such brilliant advice Carla. Um, let me ask you this kind of as we wind down the conversation here a little bit, what do I say? I'm a BDC rep or say I'm, I'm the listener, I'm a dealer and I've got a B D. C. And I'm hearing this conversation and I see what's happening and I'm one of the 80% that have some sort of creative delivery. I guess what I'm asking is traditionally our industry kinda latches onto buzz topics or buzzwords or, you know, right now, obviously it's all digital retail and often it's, it's easy for us to assume that all we need is the tool, the tool will lasso the sun, the moon and the stars for us, we know that that's not the case. You said something, you triggered this thought process for me, which is prepared for a model that's best for us or, you know, whoever is listening, what do we need to be considering process wise to make sure that an online retail model actually works and that we're not just putting all of our faith in a tool. Yeah, absolutely. So, um, uh, for me, the auto industry is still about relationships, right? And relationship building is where you begin, um, to cultivate some of your best uh, loyalty practices. Right? So just the attention to details, you can have a process put in place, um, with very little as long as you, uh, you know, stand by the times that people are being responded to the information that you're arming your reps to be able to provide to your customers, allowing them the bandwidth to be flexible, Right? If a customer says they don't want to come in, but they want to test drive your car, they don't feel safe. Can you take the car to their home and allow them to test drive it in their area, right? Um, and show them some of those, you know, safe practices that you're doing in your dealership. Is there maybe a video walk around with your iphone, right? That you can show them the ins and outs of the vehicle. So you give them a deeper dive without them having to leave their home or come into your dealership straight away. There are little things that we can do that our resources, we have a readily available to all of us right now that can help you enhance that process. Think outside the box, right? And again, putting yourself in that consumer seat, knowing or thinking about how you would like to be handled in that situation, can be the jump start to creating any well thought through process. I love it. I know you have a hard stop. I have one...

...more question for you to that effect. Um, putting yourself in the customer's seat. This is going to sound like a crazy dumb question, but it's one that I've been asked. I don't think it's actually a dumb question. I think it's, you know, just our heads are in the trenches so much in our business that sometimes it can be difficult to anticipate the customer seat. What should I be thinking about? How does one put themselves in the customer seat? Actually, what do they need to ask themselves to do so appropriately? Yeah, don't be afraid to ask questions. Right. Um, I run a sales team today and uh, we do a lot of cold calling, which is not, it's not fun and it's not easy, but the best way to get a conversation going or to keep someone on the phone or to dig deeper is to Oxfam discovery questions. Right. Um, what is it you're looking for? Why are you looking for this car? Do you have any, you know, alternate if that's not available? Um, what's your time frame look like? What is, uh, you know, what's the usage for the car? Is that businesses it personal? Is it to call around Children? Do you have hobbies? Those types of things? Not only will the customer feel like you actually give a crap about them because you want to know more about them than you are kind of shoving the car in front of them. But it will also help you to understand more about that customers needs than saving you time and making sure you can find that best suited vehicle to, to suit those needs as well. So just, just be curious and asks questions and get your customer involved in the transaction. Awesome carla. This was so much fun. I'm so glad that we were able to catch up and that I was able to take loads of notes from this conversation. I'm a ferocious note taker. I just love taking us. Um, how can those listening get in touch with you? Oh yeah, So we're easy to find. Uh, so automotive mastermind dot com, That's our website. Um, you can get in touch with us then you can request a demonstration if you'd like to see how we do it. We put out a lot of content as well, Michael, that is absolutely free. We have playbooks, we've got recordings from past webinars that we've done on some thought leadership stuff. It's all housed on our website as well and we welcome anyone to come and enjoy any of that content. We've got there to share amazing carla. Thanks so much for joining me on the dealer playbook podcast. Michael, your great, thank you so much for having me. I'm Michel Cirillo and you've been listening to the dealer playbook podcast. If you haven't yet, please click the subscribe button wherever you're listening right now, leave a rating or review and share it with a colleague. If you're ready to make big changes in your life and career and want to connect with positive, nurturing automotive professionals, join my exclusive DPB Pro community on facebook. That's where we share...

...information, ideas and content that isn't shared anywhere else. I can't wait to meet you there. Thanks for listening.

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