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.

Internet Department Structure

Defining the roles of your Internet Department


Joe Webb

Joe Webb

President and Founder at DealerKnows
Husband and Father
Process leader
Blurring the line between entertainment and education
Joe Webb

4 Responses to An Internet Department Structure

  1. Cathy Nuccio says:

    Good Article Joe!

  2. Good points Joe. Isn’t it weird how government expansion and dealership management are racing to expand? All kidding aside, I agree whole-heartedly that all management must have a clear job description. Even more important, the dealership must define the hierarchy. Typically, there is a verbal agreement on what the internet team is expected to take on. From there, everyone forgets to tell the rest of the store who is in charge of who. This makes things really difficult. Find a way to avoid this without piling too much on your ISM and things just might work.

  3. Very timely and important blog as I am being asked to set-up an “internet department” – more complex than it sounds if it is done right. Re: the hierarchy. Just as Joe says — there must be a proper chain-of-command structure.

    “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.”

    100% Correct.

    I lost my best reps because Sales Managers thought they could tell them what to do and not do …. and these SALES MANAGERS did not even respect my authority when I told them to NOT EVEN SPEAK TO MY REPS !

    They were not in their “vertical.” They could not tell a service tech what to do … its the same thing.

    This subject needs far more than a few paragraphs to define the roles because most cannot even properly define INTERNET SALESMAN … hard to believe but true.

    I will try :

    An internet salesman is NOT a salesman that sells a car that is on the internet — because every car is LISTED on the internet — and every customer is shopping the internet.

    So — does some email make him an internet salesman ? No.

    An INTERNET SALESMAN … (my definition) took the ONLINE MARKETING PRESENTATION of that car to a far higher level than the basic marketing listing all the cars get AND then worked every lead on THAT CAR — from every source – including pro-active contact with ebay auction bidders – and he was the go-to guy when people came in to see it – because he EARNED IT. He did the MARKETING – he did the BDC – he worked with customers — either long-distance or in the store – he arranged travel and shipping if necessary – and WORKED that internet car – and that internet customer from A-TO-Z. He saved the store the expense of a marketing pro and an appointment-setter pro — because he did what they do on that car. He is a true INTERNET SALESMAN. He is to a salesman … what Rambo is to a basic soldier.

    His “INTERNET SALES DIRECTOR” — coached him on everything he needed to do and how to do it : promoting the car / manging the lead / working the deal and making the sale / and the delivery. An army of one.

  4. Joe Webb says:

    “He is a true INTERNET SALESMAN. He is to a salesman what Rambo is to a basic soldier.” Just an excellent analogy, Steve. Love it. Job descriptions, which I’ve written ad nauseum about, definitely play a role, not just in how your staff does their job, but how they are perceived by others as well.

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