By now, it’s an old axiom to say the car business is different. The prior year proved that notion beyond a doubt, and 2009 will be no different — unless we do something about it. It’s time to break the vicious cycle of doing what we have always done and expecting something different to happen. Instead, let’s do something different and expect great things to happen!

Your business development center is a great place to start. Let’s take a look at five ways to kick your BDC into high gear and get a terrific start on 2009.

1. Infuse a sense of urgency. Research has shown that 55 percent of communication is conveyed through body language and 38 percent through voice, inflection and tone. That leaves only 7 percent for the words themselves. But body language isn’t only useful in person. Give your reps headsets, encourage them to stand up when they’re speaking with a customer and tell them to get animated. Even if customers can’t see body language over the phone, they can hear it! Make sure your reps speak with a sense of purpose and urgency.

2. Track everything. Tracking is important to any sales environment, but even more so in your BDC. How else are you going to know where to go in 2009 if you don’t know where you’re at? Track the contact, set, show and sold rates of each lead source individually as well as in combination. Be sure to refer to them daily so you can make changes before minor issues become major problems.

3. Set goals. Set long- and short-term goals. Develop metrics for dials per day, contacts, set appointments, shows and solds. Schedule a weekly, 10-minute meeting to discuss where they are and what they need to do to get back on the right track. To encourage camaraderie, try setting a quarterly goal and associated bonus for the entire BDC team.

4. Hold objection meetings. Every morning, there should be a short meeting or before every shift to talk about objections and to get the day started off on the right foot. Phone skills are all about the rebuttals and they need to be at the forefront of all employees’ minds. Encourage your reps to write down particularly difficult objections as they encounter them, and work through them as a team.

5. Throw some money around. Spiffs are fun, but if you have the same spiffs all the time, they tend to get a bit boring. Once or twice a week, make up new ones on the fly. For starters, try $10 cash for the next rep who sets an appointment for that day. Get creative! I worked with one dealer in Houston who gave a spiff to the rep who encountered the day’s most outrageous e-mail address.

Concentrate on your BDC’s performance and make it a goal to strengthen its individual parts every day. If you can get everything running smoothly with the proper training, script, processes and management in place, this may be the one department that keeps you in business through what promises to be a difficult year.

David Johnson is the national director of dealer development at Portland, Ore.-based Hyperdrive Technologies. He can be reached at

[email protected].