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Mad Marv

No Talent Required

His Madness says the secret to becoming a top F&I performer isn't a mystery. It’s something just about anyone can tap into, and talent isn't required.

December 23, 2013

Ever wonder what makes a top F&I producer great? You might think experience, talent or strong desk support are the keys. You might also believe success is dependent on the store’s market or the vehicles it offers for sale. Maybe it’s plain old good luck. While I don’t doubt those factors play a role, they aren’t what separate the elite producers from the rest of the pack.

Last month, I wrote about the importance of adhering to the F&I process and resisting the urge to inject our opinions into the customer’s decision-making process. My main message was that customers don’t care what we think, nor are they impressed with our winning personality. They just want a stress-free car-buying experience.

So, again, what separates the great ones from the rest? Is it fancy word-tracks or a slick menu presentation? Could success be linked to the F&I manager’s wardrobe? Is it an iPad? Could success be the result of the products they offer? Again, these are definitely contributors, but I’m here to tell you the key to success is even simpler than that. It’s something we can all tap into.

It’s called “deliberate practice,” a term that was the focus of a 44-page article published in the July 1993 edition of Psychological Review, a journal dedicated to scientific psychology. The article contends that individuals do not rise to elite status in their field as a result of innate talent, but rather intense practice over a period of years. And that practice includes negotiating motivational and external constrains. 

The best example of deliberate practice is little Johnny learning to walk. He’ll probably fall quite a bit and maybe hurt himself before he takes his first real stride. And when walking becomes second nature, he’ll attempt to run, and the process begins all over again. Well, that repetitive activity is how deliberate practice works. So, how does this translate in the F&I office?

Closing deals and observing compliance are just the basics. But to move beyond average status, you’ve got to venture out from where you are. And to do that you have to face your weaknesses before you can formulate a plan to overcome your shortcomings. Yes, you’re going to fall and it’s going to hurt. But that’s what top performers do; they are driven to get up and try again.

So, yeah, the answer to what separates the top performers from the rest is simply practice. I know you’re thinking it can’t possibly be that simple. Well, it is, but let me tell you why.

First, it takes a lot of humility to admit we need help in an area and even more courage to isolate those deficiencies and deal with them. No one knows our flaws better than we do. And once isolated, we can begin defining what causes us to pause when we face those difficult closing situations. This is when it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on our shortcomings.

Famous boxing trainer and manager Cus D’Amato once said this to a young Mike Tyson: “Discipline is doing what you hate to do, but nonetheless doing it like you love it.” See, most of us hate to face our weaknesses because it reminds us we aren’t where we should be professionally. But when we do, we can start mentally roleplaying potential solutions to our problems. Then we can test what we’ve practiced on our customers. But the greatest part of all that is we’re sharpening our skills while building our confidence. And before we know it, our numbers and penetrations start to rise.

The best time to self-analyze is the moment the customer exits your office, when the details are still fresh in your mind. So use that time to examine what went wrong and what went right. You may even want to start a log of the difficult situations you face. If your store video records customer interactions, note the deals you struggled with and ask if you can review the recordings.

But when it comes time to analyze your problem or critique your video, you need to be honest with yourself. That means not blaming the customer or the sales staff for your failures.

By the way, if you’re interested in taking a look at the article I previously referenced, it’s titled, “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.” One of its many revelations is that some violinists are better than others simply because they practice nearly three times as much as the rest. Like D’Amato said, discipline is doing the things you hate. Good luck and keep closing.


  1. 1. Will Slattery CSP w/ Dist [ January 03, 2014 @ 08:09AM ]

    Thank you Marv for sharing this valuable insight. As a F&I Trainer and Coach in Canada I am vividly aware of the importance of 'Practice'. I practice constantly in an effort to 'improve my performance' and I encourage participants on my workshops to do the same. My 'moto' has been; 'If you can practice in private to perfect your skill, you can perform in public to improve your performance.'

  2. 2. Dina Wilson [ January 08, 2014 @ 01:47PM ]

    You are so right Marv! Thanks for the article. You know my saying, "Amateurs practice to get it right and Professionals practice so they don't get it wrong." I continually review my deals in my head on the way home at the end of the day thinking about what I did say, what I could've said and what I will say on the next deal. Practice! Practice! Practice! We are professionals!

  3. 3. NIK [ January 18, 2014 @ 12:03AM ]

    "It’s something just about anyone can tap into, and talent isn't required".?? Above statement is very inaccurate, we have seen the guys and gals who thought it was easy to close the deals. The reality is that to be a good and successful F&I one must be talented to close those deals and be able to convert cash deals. Well also these two tasks and insignificant, but what about the other tasks that F&I performs through out the day in and out and sprung surprises Since when F&I is for just any one?? If you don't have the right F&I you are looking for a disaster little fish, sharks are coasting in your shores. A good, energetic, knowledgeable F&I can make the dealership upwards $100,000/M even in a small and medium sized Dealership. When some one says that TALENT is not required, they jus don't k understand the position as F&I or it has been to long since they left the job. I do agree though the experiencing new ideas can channel and help you grow to a better F&I.
    I am a veteran F&I with average $2800/ 0 cancellations, 84% penetration almost 100% cash conversion. I have to admit wasn't over night success but I was a $1800 average in my first year.
    I am offended that to be a F&I one doesn't have to have talent. Looking forward your next good writing.


  4. 4. Randy [ January 21, 2014 @ 08:26AM ]

    Hi Marv

    Love your readings. I work in a GMC Buick Store that leases 80%. What kind of numbers are other stores doing with this lease penetration. Would like your insight how to improve numbers as well.



  5. 5. Mad Marv [ January 21, 2014 @ 10:15AM ]

    Hi Randy! Thanks for following along.

    I'm hearing pretty high lease numbers with certain makes and yours being one of them. We've found good success with Pre Paid Maintenance and Excess Wear. I've heard some stores are doing well with any cosmetic product such as Tire/Wheel and Paint Fabric due to the fact customers are keen on returning their leases in top shape. F&I getting involved as early as possible when a lease prospect has been identified is also key in managing profit.

    Good Luck!

  6. 6. Bill [ February 07, 2014 @ 07:01AM ]

    No Talent Required. While I do agree 100% that it is commitment to improvement through practice that makes anything better, I 100% disagree that no talent is required. Just because I would like to be a professional baseball player and just because I may have the commitment to practice doesn't mean it will ever happen. Talent is often defined synonymously with ability, for anyone to suggest that some innate ability (talent) isn't required to be the best at what they do is naive. I find it hard to imagine that the professionals that wrote “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.” would ever suggest that they don't have some innate talent (ability) in their field. If they would suggest that as has been suggested for our chosen profession they lose credibility. Mad Marv sorry but you've gone Mad...

  7. 7. Randy [ February 07, 2014 @ 07:08AM ]

    Thanks marv.....any solid numbers per car for Buick gmc lease ....would like to compare......would also like to talk to the best in the business that's doing Buick Gmc leases, if you know of someone
    Thanks marv

  8. 8. Mad Marv [ February 07, 2014 @ 08:34AM ]

    Bill & Nik, I know plenty of F&I Managers around the country that had no previous automobile experience and applied themselves through hard work and developed skills that run terrific numbers. My point in this article is that talent is not a requirement to do the job. Someone with focused practice and determination to improve can succeed. Sure, I know some really talented people that walked right in the first day on the job after basic training and excelled. However, there are plenty more that have no innate ability they were born with coming out of training camps all around the country as I write this and will also do well. It's about following a dedicated process designed for success and constantly self analyzing while striving to improve. Your best at a particular store may be better than someone else at that same store under the same conditions. That simply proves you have honed your skills through experience and practice. Thanks for your comments and following along.

  9. 9. Mad Marv [ February 07, 2014 @ 08:37AM ]

    Randy-email me direct

  10. 10. Bubba B [ February 10, 2014 @ 09:22AM ]

    Hi Marv - great article... I remember reading an advertisement for a book on how to "succeed" with women (I'm substituting succeed for a less suggestive word). I remember it stating "get any woman" and you don't need good looks, money, personality, etc. I didn't buy the book. But anyhow - what is your feeling on e-menus? Do you prefer tablet style presentations? Just curious to get the expert's take - thanks!

  11. 11. Mad Marv [ February 10, 2014 @ 10:01AM ]

    Hello again Bubba B!

    I expressed my thoughts about F&I Menus on mobile devices in two previous articles. "Progress or Pipe Dream" in the March '12 issue and "Show Me The Process" in November of '12. "Pipe Dream" dealt with the actual device and concept and the other article addressed the process or lack thereof facing F&I.

    Menu's that integrate with the DMS are probably the best because of the results which are going to be error free and less likely to be manipulated by an unscrupulous F&I manager. Though this type of menu can be used on a dual screen monitor system for the customer to see, most are in print format which I prefer.

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Author Bio

Marv Eleazer

Finance Director

Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at

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