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Mastering the Three-Point Turn

June 2013, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Gerry Gould

Sales and Internet staffers should inform customers that the F&I manager will be contacting them to gather information needed to complete the paperwork.
Sales and Internet staffers should inform customers that the F&I manager will be contacting them to gather information needed to complete the paperwork.
Most dealers strive to turn over 100 percent of their customers to the F&I department. For the most part, they get it. The one thing that often goes overlooked is the quality of the “TO.” See, to be effective, your sales and finance staff must work together to ensure customers are properly prepared to meet with their F&I manager.

One of the most reliable ways to disappoint a customer is to fail to meet his or her expectations. When the customer says he or she wants to buy the car, the clock starts ticking. And there are a number of questions that go through a customer’s mind once they make that decision. The most prominent is, “When can I begin enjoying my new vehicle?”

All customers want after committing to a purchase is instant gratification. They want to drive now! Old-school wisdom tells us that a car is sold once the customer takes possession, or, as we in the business describe it, “when we see taillights,” or “when the car hits the curb.” One could argue, however, that the sale happens much sooner than that, at least in the eyes of consumers.

Reaching Agreements

My take is consumers believe the sale occurs once they reach three specific agreements. The first agreement is on the vehicle itself. The second agreement is on the price or payment. The third and most significant agreement is when they agree to take delivery, regardless of the date or time.

It really doesn’t matter where they make those three specific decisions. They could be at home, on the Internet, on the phone or at the dealership. What you need to keep in mind is customers are typically in a very positive state of mind once they make that decision to buy. We just have to make sure we don’t do anything to disturb those good feelings.

The quickest way to kill that good mood is to misinform them, or leave them unattended or clueless as to what’s next. If you leave your customers in the dark at any point, they could feel you simply don’t care enough to take immediate action. Bottom line, setting expectations as quickly as possible following the customer’s decision to purchase is an essential component to relieving the tension often associated with the F&I process.

With that in mind, I offer the “Three-Point F&I Introduction.” It starts with the sales consultant endorsing the F&I process. The sales consultant then transfers the trust he or she obtained during the sales process before allowing the F&I manager to set the customer’s expectations for the F&I process.

Before we get to the details, I want you to consider the way folks buy cars today. The days of Mr. and Mrs. Smith heading out to “Automobile Row” to kick some tires and test drive a few cars on their way to making a purchase decision are all but gone. It’s not uncommon today for a vehicle sale to start online before getting more serious over the phone. And if the Internet department or business development center does its job right, we land the customer in the dealership.

So what does that have to do with the three-point F&I introduction? Nothing, if your entire staff already works hand-in-hand to capture the full front- and back-end profit potential of every type of deal, regardless of the traffic source. In my experience, however, not too many dealerships have mastered that collaborative effort.

As for F&I managers, they must meet with the customer as quickly as possible and in an appropriate manner following his or her agreement to purchase. This will provide customers with a better understanding of the F&I manager’s intentions. They’ll also be less anxious and much more receptive to what’s available during the F&I process. If you want to secure more deals and reach the full F&I profit potential on each of them, the three-point F&I introduction is the best way to set the tone for a quality turnover in every selling situation.

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