I’m a bit dumbfounded as to why a modern auto retailer would still use a traditional business development center. 

Think about it. BDCs withhold information to try to secure an appointment. Not because they are nefarious. They just don’t have the answers. 

“Does my daughter qualify for a first-time buyer’s program?”

“How long is that incentive on?”

“What is my trade worth?”

If sales BDCs could answer frequently asked questions such as these, they would be salespeople, not appointment setters.

A bit of history: Sales BDCs came about for a reason. Most dealership’s best salespeople lacked great phone skills. Their primary strength was “eyeball-to-eyeball” selling. They had high energy and great persuasive skills. However, those skills didn’t transfer well when it came to handling incoming calls.

They also typically lacked excellent organizational skills, so their follow-up was iffy.

BDCs were created to augment the sales pro’s skill set. But the market has changed, and today few prospects walk into dealerships without first contacting them in some way.

An estimated 80% of prospects contact a dealership by phone, e-mail, text or chat before coming in. The best salespeople should be their first point of contact – salespeople who will make the best impression, who are great on the phone and have the full product knowledge to handle those leads.    

My advice is to train sales staffers who can handle those first contacts or hire an outside contractor who employs salespeople with ability to handle remote leads.

This group should be well-trained in product knowledge and the ability to signal transparency.

Ideally, over time, the mix of a dealership’s sales department will include at least two-thirds who are highly trained to handle remote leads and make in-person appointments for themselves.

This model is more customer-friendly, results in more sales and lowers cost. This is an empowered sales group typically using a limited negotiations model and desking their own deals.

The best way to create a great process is by starting with the customer in the mind. The better you can fulfill their needs and desires, the more cars you will sell.

If you called a local retail establishment and asked about product availability and pricing, and its answer was, “You need to set an appointment and come down to see us for that information,” would you hop in your car and drive over? I doubt it.

But, that is what some dealers ask valuable prospects to do.

Mark Rikess heads The Rikess Group, a provider of training and lead-handling strategies such as the one discussed in this article. He can be reached at

markrikess@gmail.com and 916-715-8129.