By Bob Gower, COO, Traver Connect
It was our Founder and CEO, John Traver’s, innovative leadership that launched the first dealership Business Development Center in 1991, and since then, Traver Connect has been at the forefront of its evolution.
Decades ago, if at all, the BDC existed mostly as a call center, (aka, “the phone room,”) with a small staff of representatives who fielded incoming calls, inquiries and complaints without any specialized training. Dealerships had yet to discover the true value of a BDC and how to utilize them effectively as a complimentary selling machine.
In practice, most dealerships relied on simple spreadsheets or handwritten lists to keep track of client data and interactions, and that’s if any records were kept at all. As you can imagine, these efforts weren’t as organized, complete, or sustainable as today.
The Beginning of the BDC: Training
In the 1980’s, the customer was a secondary part of the sales process. Outdated and often unethical tactics were still the norm; it’s no wonder that customers were far less likely to purchase a vehicle during their first visit. On the dealership floor, sales staff had few conversion tools at their disposal. It was hard to make a consistent living. Turnover was high.
As the Director of Corporate Training for a Midwest Dealer group, John discovered the importance of timing. He realized how the phrasing of a question or the timing of a conversational pause were as important as the words used within a sales transaction. He understood the value of building customer trust. John began to develop a more intuitive sales process that could be easily taught and put into practice. It was the beginning of a more sustainable, appointment-based business model.
As this model grew, the focus shifted from fresh ups to appointment ratio: A.K.A- the only metric that matters. Sales staff learned that conversions were more predictable than ever before, which enabled them to focus on their process instead of running to the door every time a customer walked through it. An improved process also meant an improved dealership culture. Everyone won.
“It’s not the golf club that makes the difference. It’s the swing.” – John Traver
In the 1990’s, John’s popular trainings were in high demand. He began to give full-day educational workshops for Toyota Motor Sales, USA and they became so popular, it turned into a 34-city tour. Over the next 4 years, the popularity of the workshops exploded and this was the beginning of BDC College.
This innovative approach changed the dealership landscape. It facilitated a process for salespeople, the vision for the BDM, the metrics for the dealership, and then- it was time to develop software.
BDCs for a New Millennium: From Forms to Software
“Timing is a big part of success.”
In the year 2000 – everything changed again. Traver took sales training to another level and BD 360 was introduced. This Windows-based software came at exactly the right time- in tandem with the explosion of the internet. Finally, there was a place to record phone leads and additional pieces of the sales puzzle that weren’t being accounted for. ADP took notice and soon purchased the entire company from John, along with the trademarked use of the terms “BDC” and “BDM,” created by Traver.
The era of E-commerce capability was next. Traver built Dynamic Website from scratch and suddenly, three of the largest auto groups in the nation were on board. It wasn’t long before it was again purchased by ADP, becoming the standard platform in dealership e-commerce.
John views the immense progress of BDC training and web-based software as an example of the right products being developed at the right time. Timing is everything.
The Impact of the BDC
The BDC is designed to create an updated sales process where a good portion of business depends on showroom appointments- and when converted, these sales typically gross higher than walk-ins. The result: dealership consistency.
The tenure of the average salesperson has improved and employee career paths have become more defined. With more appointment leads converted, dealers are able to decrease advertising costs. They sell more cars year over year. Nationally, BDCs are growing, moving offsite, and digitizing.
The future of the dealership BDC is bright.