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30 Questions You Need To Ask Customers

February 2006, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Ronald J. Reahard - Also by this author

“Today’s buyer doesn’t want to be talked at. They want to be heard.”

— Keven Daley

Socratic Selling

Every successful F&I manager knows that customers prefer talking to listening. In my experience, I can say that the best F&I managers talk the least. When customers talk, you have an opportunity to discover their needs, concerns and/or the problems they need help solving. Customers buy an F&I product not because they understand it, but because they feel you understand them.

The whole idea of needs-based selling is to allow you to show customers how a product will benefit them specifically, versus making a sales pitch. That means you have to discover a need each F&I product will fill, or a problem it will solve, before presenting any products, so there is basis for your discussion. In order to do that, you have to engage customers in a dialogue that will enable you and them to answer that all important question: “Why does this customer need this product?”

The key to needs discovery is to ask open-ended questions, rather than those that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Closed-end questions do not provide you with any new information on which to base your next question, and the conversation quickly deteriorates into an interrogation:

“Did you buy your trade-in new?”


“Has it been a good car?”


“Did you have any problems with it?”


“Have you ever had a breakdown away from home?”


“Do you think you might have a breakdown with this car?”


“Do you want a service contract?”


“Are you sure?”


The customer’s “yes” or “no” response constantly requires you to come up with another question, and the experience becomes an exhausting ordeal for you and the customer.

Open-ended questions, on the other hand, tend to relax customers, and encourage them to expand upon their answers. More importantly, they provide you with the information you’ll need to sell your products. These questions almost always include one of the six magic words when it comes to needs discovery: who, what, when, where, how and why? Customers are able to answer in their own words and ways, and constantly provide new information on which to base your next question. Always remember, the person asking the questions is the one controlling the conversation.

Bringing customers back to the F&I office immediately allows you to spend more time with them, and ask numerous needs-discovery questions as you begin loading their information into the computer and printing documents. However, needs discovery should begin the moment you greet the customer on the showroom floor. The following questions will help you to discover customers’ needs and position your products as a solution to those needs. The idea is not to interrogate customers, but to work these questions into the conversation. This allows you to determine their needs prior to presenting your products on a menu.


  1. 1. Zach [ November 01, 2015 @ 07:19AM ]

    This is you even sell cars?

  2. 2. Dan [ November 04, 2015 @ 03:25PM ]

    What would you do in the event the customer answers any of those questions with "I don't feel comfortable answering that." Or even "That's none of your business."

  3. 3. Pete [ February 05, 2016 @ 07:13AM ]

    This is one of the most offensive articles and questionnaires I have ever read. Ron is clearly terrible at his job. Let's assume that by asking him #19, the answer will be NEVER. And as someone in the Powersports business, your description of ATV's as quadriplegic makers is equally offensive. You should be shut down. Completely.

  4. 4. Freddy [ April 12, 2016 @ 04:39AM ]

    What makes anyone think I, as a customer, would answer these questions? Other than income and my credit score, should I finance, a car dealer F&I manager has no reason to know any of the information sought by these questions. I may allow an F&I manager to ask one of these questions, which I would ignore. If the F&I manager persisted in asking these types of questions, the last thing the manager would see is my back walking to the other dealer.

    I find it amazing people like the author are actually paid to write this type of garbage.

  5. 5. Ron Reahard [ April 13, 2016 @ 10:04PM ]

    Thanks to all for your comments. The purpose of this article was to help F&I people have a conversation with the customer about their options in order to discover why in their case those options might be important vs. making multiple presentations for products the customer has no interest in.

    In addition, every lender has an internal scoring system that takes into multiple factors in addition to the customer's FICO score, including collateral, capital, character, and capacity. For someone with less than perfect credit, an F&I professional must have a clear picture of the customer's financial situation to be their advocate with the lender and obtain the most favorable terms possible. Obviously, not all of these questions would be asked of every customer.

    In my experience, if a customer feels an F&I person is genuinely trying to help them, they are more than happy to have a conversation about their needs. If the customer feels the F&I person is just trying to sell them, they just want to get out of their office as soon as possible. The focus of an F&I professional is on helping customers.

  6. 6. Dan [ April 26, 2016 @ 03:41PM ]


    As a customer, I have frequently wondered why F&I professionals ask about how many miles a year I drive among others in this list of 30 questions. I really do not understand why half the questions listed here are anyone's business.

  7. 7. Eddie [ May 10, 2016 @ 03:41PM ]

    exhausting to read, and imagining myself asking these questions makes me feel like a weasle. Think I'll just smile and get to know them and basically do what ive been doing. most of these questions are unnecessary, and theres an easier way to ask for a down payment. just say, (in between other questions like how much have you financed before and with who, how much did you set aside for a down payment? oh you want zero down? I understand, many people try this method but I dont recommend it. getting someone out of a car that has depreciated below the amount you owe can be difficult and sometimes impossible! you can come up with at least three thousand right? can you trade something like an old car you no longer need?

  8. 8. Mike T [ May 27, 2016 @ 09:42AM ]

    Having read this article, if I were a customer in the finance office being asked these questions I would have been gone long before all 30 questions were asked. This is the reason customers fear the finance office. Just be pleasant and show true concern about their needs, Works most of the time. By the way 21 years as fi manager.

  9. 9. Danny [ June 08, 2016 @ 07:37AM ]

    After reading this article it occurred to me that Ron is living in the 70-80's. I get your point of qualifying questions and some of these are valid if asked in the correct friendly way but, the way questions are not even in tune with the nature of business. Reahard & Associates Inc. appears to be one of those consulting companies that can ruin a relationship with customers and lenders as well as be in violation of privacy laws. I have been a Financial Services Director for over 30 years and have seen a lot of these companies try to pitch me on their so-called good practices and for the most part, they fail or the Business Manager looses their job due to customer complaints.

  10. 10. Dan [ July 28, 2016 @ 09:19AM ]

    Danny I think you are 100% right. Having read a few other of Ron's Articles, I get the feeling that he's pretty out of touch with modern day customers.

    Customers are not dumb. We read the news. Every media outlet out there says "Beware the F&I manager" And for good reason too!

  11. 11. jay [ October 03, 2016 @ 04:12PM ]

    jesus man, do you have any idea what you sound like!? SOME of your questions are okay but the rest will summon the great wall of china to smash down on your desk! That`s way to personal. My wife works as a fni and shes real good... gets fully loaded sales on the daily. Her aproach isnt remotely close to yours.

  12. 12. Steven Jennings [ October 07, 2016 @ 10:49AM ]

    dan, danny,mike and jay. You seem to all be the same person. And I realize that I did not capitalize your names. I really don't know who you are and what your motivation would be to even be on this website, and quite frankly I don't care. However, if you were sitting in my office trying to obtain credit to purchase a $50-100,000 automobile, as a lender I do have a right to ask any of the questions that Ron so eloquently suggests. However, I don't need to worry about that because you obviously already know everything and you need to hide behind your computer screen making yourself seem just plain ignorant, without the ability to even qualify to be sitting in my office. Have a nice life.

  13. 13. GLB [ February 03, 2017 @ 04:10PM ]

    Hey Ron,
    I stumbled on this article. I attended your class in Sept of 2014. I use this technique and IT DOES WORK! I am the top F&I Manager in our dealership which sells 200+ cars a month. Before I attended I had not typed a deal. The guys that work along side with me use the old school abrasive approach with yes and no questions and called me a fool to follow your training. IT DOES NOT WORK! I do not use all of your questions but the few that I do help me help my customers to chose the preferred option. Appreciate your time and training. I doubt any of these guys have been in the F&I chair.
    Remember, Its a GREAT DAY!

  14. 14. Brad Ogden [ April 15, 2017 @ 09:18AM ]

    Ron Reahard,
    I attended your F&I Excellence training seminar in Arizona in 2013 that you conducted your self. I completed your 3 day course within 60 days after becoming an F&I manager here at our MINI store in Michigan. I can attest your training course was very good, particularly the portion pertaining to presenting and selling a vehicle service contract. As a result of your your course I have been recognized as the highest VSC penetrating dealer by our manufacture for the 4th year consecutively. With that said, without reservation I agree with others who have commented above suggesting this approach seems very dated, ineffective, and borderline offensive. I would argue you can safely get away with 3 of these questions before any modern customer that isn't a "get me done" or completely submissive by nature would start building a wall and preparing for battle. I think bombarding a customer with this type of customer interview process causes the opposite effect of the intended consequence. You come off as dis-ingenious. My constructive criticism is to update the customer interview portion of your training curriculum to better reflect the modern car consumer, and car buying process. - Again, I attribute my success in F&I significantly to your course. To this date when I share with co-workers, and friends, my VSC presentation, at it's conclusion they smile and say, how could anyone say no, it makes perfect sense.


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