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Done Deal

Lines Drawn

The idea behind the menu seems simple enough. Use it and you can sell more products. Well, evidently, how you use it has come into question. The editor weighs in.

October 7, 2011

A battle is brewing over F&I menus, and lines are being drawn in the sand. No longer is the debate over whether it should be used; it’s about how it should be used. But be warned: You’d better surround yourself by like-minded people before offering your opinion.

Menu providers won’t even get into this debate. Instead, they’ll talk about how their menu will blend with whatever method you subscribe to. Even trainers are careful when offering their opinion. I guess I’m amazed at how the tool that was supposed to make us better at what we do has become such a flashpoint for our industry.

The current debate centers around what form the menu should take. If you’re from the George Angus school, you view the menu as more of a disclosure form: The less you make it look like a sales tool, the more successful you’ll be.

Then there are those who believe the menu should take the “good-better-best” approach. They think that three- or four-column menus are the best way to get through more products in a shorter amount of time. That makes sense to me, but so does Angus’ theory.

Then there is what seems to be a new wrinkle on an old method of selling. Some refer to it as a hybrid approach to selling, and two of this year’s F&I Pacesetters seem to be employing it.

In this scenario, products are disclosed early and often. The hope is that the customer will mentally commit to purchasing before the menu is even shown. And when it does appear, products are displayed in one customized package. Now, I want to make it clear that I’m not referring to payment packing, where the customer is unaware of what they’re buying or for how much. I’m merely referring to how the menu is formatted.

I also want to make it clear that there is no trickery involved. The method merely calls for the producer to list each product in one column before he or she says to the customer, “Do you remember when I told you about how GAP protects you?” or “Remember when I explained the benefits of our tire-and-wheel protection?” That’s when the F&I manager moves to a step-sell approach — that old method of selling that seems to be making a comeback.

I know we were led to believe that the menu would eliminate the step-sell approach, but evidently it hasn’t. Some insiders, including an executive for a major F&I provider, now prefer the aformentioned hybrid approach over all others. But doesn’t that relegate the menu to nothing more than a disclosure tool?

When I judged our F&Idol contest, I noticed that not one contestant brought out the menu. Now, I understand that we asked participants to record themselves selling and overcoming objections for one product, but the menu was nowhere to be seen.

What I did see were those mats  F&I managers use to disclose the factory warranty coverage. F&I managers would start by disclosing what’s covered and for how long before jumping into their service-contract pitch. I know, we got what we asked for. But for all of those stats we published about how the menu can drive up sales, it was still surprising to me that it never appeared in any of those videos.

I guess I’m wondering if we should even refer to the menu as a selling tool. I mean, several of this year’s F&I Pacesetters seemed more focused on the menu as a compliance and accountability tool. Heck, even the Pacesetter who described his F&I selling process as “menuless” uses the menu to ensure proper disclosure and compliance. 

So, where do you stand? Personally, I think the best menu is the one that works for your operation. Now, I’m no trainer. I’m just a guy who watched about 35 videos for our F&Idol contest and can tell you who I would buy from. I’ll tell you who that is next month, when we profile the 2011 F&Idol winner.

Comments

  1. 1. David Larrieu [ October 09, 2011 @ 02:50PM ]

    I completely agree with the hybrid selling. I made my adjustment about a year and a half ago and haven't looked back since. Since the beginning of this year I have run an average of 60% ESC and $1500 pvr at a KIA store never the less. Yet when the F&I outside specialist comes in I get nothing but grief for not using the Menu. He tells me that it's almost impossible to upsell without it yet my power rating is a yearly average of 130!?!

  2. 2. Jim Maxim [ October 11, 2011 @ 11:53AM ]

    Hi Greg - Just a quick thought on your comments. The F&I Idol contest asked for the best product presentation in each category... quite different than having to present 5 or 6 products on a busy Saturday while you have 5 customers waiting to come into the office. I suspect that if you asked these same folks to give the best 5 product line-up presentation that they could within three minutes... 100% of these folks would be using a menu!

    Jim

    Thanks, Jim. And you're right, we got what we asked for. If you have any thoughts on how we can improve the contest, please e-mail me some suggestions. I thought the contest was a great success, but we can still improve it.

  3. 3. C Holley [ October 13, 2011 @ 01:44PM ]

    Persistence always wins out resistence!....100% of the product presented to 100% of the people 100% of the time!....period.

  4. 4. Jay S [ October 24, 2011 @ 04:06PM ]

    The 100/100/100 is abit narrow minded to me. An upsell approach helps you get the prospects attention by focusing on a product he or she sees value in, then upselling. Something noone has brought up is the use of the menu in upselling... I use the menu to help me upsell.... After my client has made his choice I use the mene to help me go back and bring up the products he/she declined and the menu reminds he or she that its only another "$8.00 a month for Tire & Wheel

  5. 5. Mike Vanella [ October 24, 2011 @ 08:21PM ]

    I am pretty new and have went to the George angus training and a few others, this question is a bit off the subject but I currently work of the good, best better menu... Most common question is do I have to choose one my answer is no I'm here only to inform not make decisions and most of the time gap is a given and on most new cars the Chemical is fairly easy to get but I am getting stuck on upselling and pitching on warranty I a

    Only running on avg 30% warranty and would really like to get in the 50% ... any advice would much appriciated.

    Thanks, Mike V

    Hey Mike, the F&I Forum is a great resource for information on just about everything F&I-related. We have tons of active members (many of which are seasoned F&I pros) and they're all happy to answer any questions you might have. It's definitely worth checking out.

  6. 6. Pete Clarkin [ October 27, 2011 @ 01:49PM ]

    I learned how to menu sell with the Ethos group while working at a car dealership in PA. It was effective, but I was the only F&I manager and we were selling 10-12 cars a day. Almost no time to deliver an effective presentation. There I was left with step selling and minimal menu selling.

    Now I'm at a motorcycle dealership. Plenty of time to menu (and i just recently introduced the 4-square), and it's been easy money so far. I use the disclosure/waiver as a selling tool. I've been able to flip several customers once they see the waiver.

  7. 7. Adam A [ October 27, 2011 @ 06:24PM ]

    Having over twenty years in the business, I have seen the complete evolution of the F and I menu system. While I had moved out of F & I several years ago, I have recently relocated and gone back to finance. I am forced to use a menu with eleven products shown as available with disclosure required on all. This menu belongs in Orlando...in Fantasyland. To say this overwhelms any customer is an understatement. In addition, it does a huge disservice to the customer as they invariably tune out, missing the value of the few products that are really needed. Nice that credit insurance died its slow death, but to replace it with seven new products is ridiculous.

  8. 8. Mike Lipis [ October 29, 2011 @ 01:36PM ]

    Very interesting comments. We are currently looking into a different menu system and would like to have some feedback on different tecniques

  9. 9. Chris Bell [ November 02, 2011 @ 07:35AM ]

    It is very interesting to see all the opinions. I use a decline form and show the products as "a la carte" I have about 6 items on my menu plus a half pay pitch at the very end. I agree totally about overwhelming the customer with too many choices. Personally, we sell mostly ESC, tire and wheel and gap and some half pay.

    Unfortunately, some customers have been schooled about what and what not to buy.

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