November 2012, F&I and Showroom - Feature
Dina Wilson knows a thing or two about selling F&I products, and not just because she’s the 2012 recipient of the Innovative Aftermarket Systems-sponsored F&Idol contest. A career saleswoman who spent 20 years selling industrial scales to the auto industry, Wilson says each sale comes down to one thing: “If people don’t like me, they’re not going to trust me.”
She builds that trust with direct eye contact and a well-rehearsed pitch that mixes in a few jokes as she reviews the factory warranty and the features of her service contract. That’s what the contest’s eight judges saw when they awarded her the highest score out of this year’s five category winners, giving her top marks for objection handling and flow.
“I have a knack for getting people to feel comfortable,” says Wilson, who walked away with a total cash prize of $3,500 after winning the contest’s service-contract category and the overall award. “A lot of people come into my office, and they know what’s going to happen. So, the key is to not let them become so uptight.”
Wilson lives in the relatively small community of Cumberland, Md., a sliver of a town situated in the southern section of the Appalachian Mountains. That means Wilson and her F&I team have very little room for error, as not a lot goes unnoticed in a town that claims a population of 21,518.
“I don’t want to have to hide when I go to the grocery store,” Wilson says. “That’s the philosophy of the owners of our company, to walk around town with our heads held high and know we haven’t disrespected anyone.”
Wilson serves as F&I director for three of Timbrook Automotive’s five dealerships. Most of those stores are located on Cumberland’s Motor City Drive. Wilson spends her days in the box at the group’s used-car outlet, where the average credit score is 582. But her customers are more than just credit scores; they’re people Wilson sees regularly. “I go to church and see people who I know have bad credit, and they know I’m not going to say anything,” she says, noting that jobs are scarce since many large employers have left town over the years.
That’s why even the group’s new-car stores employ the same process Wilson uses for the credit-challenged clientele at her used-car lot. Producers are trained to never act like they’re above their customers. The goal is to simply make them feel comfortable.
“That 500 score deserves the same respect as that 800 score walking in, and I think that’s what has helped us along the way, just treating people very nicely,” she says. “They may already feel like the scum of the earth, but we make sure they don’t feel that way when they reach our office.”
Wilson, who averages two products per deal, doesn’t personally subscribe to the customer interview, but she does train her F&I producers on the practice. She says she doesn’t do the interview because she can get what she needs by looking at the customers’ trade-in and credit report.
What she does preach is meeting and greeting customers in the showroom. It helps her find common ground with buyers, she says. More importantly, it makes her customers feel more at ease.
“We don’t make it scripted or drill the customer. We keep it conversational,” she explains. “You may go off on a tangent about something you have in common, but while you’re doing that, you’re finding out how long they keep their vehicle, how many miles a year they drive, details for titling purposes and insurance information.”