Creating a basic structure for your Internet department should be one of the simplest tasks for a dealer. Unfortunately, too many decision-makers at dealerships attempt to get in the way of how an Internet department operates. One primary element to a department’s evolution is determining the hierarchy of power.
In two previous blogs (Preparing To Grow Your Internet Department – Part 1 and Part 2), I’ve detailed the beginning steps to bringing aboard new talent onto your eBusiness team. Allow me to first clarify that I understand many people in our industry are pushing for an open floor. “Divide and distribute all leads to everyone!” they chant. “All customers are Internet customers so all salespeople should handle leads!” To this I say, “Not yet.” Most dealerships didn’t initially hire their entire floor with the expectation for them to handle leads so they likely aren’t the right “breed” for the position. (This can be a later blog rant).
Why I point this out is that MOST dealers still have some form of department. Specific people dedicated to handling (and possibly selling) the Internet leads for the store. So if you’ve decided on a separate department for your Internet opportunities (as most dealerships have), you need your team to understand their power levels.
On the sales floor, the hierarchy is clear.
- Dealer/General Manager
- General Sales Manager
- New and Used Car Managers
- Sales floor
Most Internet departments are likely best off if they function under a structure separate from the sales floor. (Working together is important, but not working for.)
The hierarchy is most ideal if the Sales Management and Sales team doesn’t retain power in the department.
- Dealer/General Manager
- Internet Director/eCommerce Director/Business Development Manager
- Internet Sales Manager
- Business Development Agent/Internet Sales Coordinator/Customer Contact Rep
It is my opinion that no one should be responsible to report to anyone equilaterally. The ISM shouldn’t have to report to the Sales Managers. BDC staff should never have to “explain themselves” to the sales consultants. They are independent entities that work together, side by side. Too many personal agendas get in the way when one with a “sales” and “profit” agenda controls people with an “appointment first” agenda. One sales manager setting pricing or controlling follow-up process to make their own showroom job easier usually creates obstacles for the Internet person focused on bringing in qualified customers in the first place.
When creating your Internet department, make sure to set specific rules regarding the hierarchy in the dealership. This will allow people to focus on their own jobs rather than how someone else should do theirs.