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Mad Marv

The Silent Partner

His Madness offers praise for the advancement of technology in the F&I office but warns that some tools may not be useful to true professionals.

July 6, 2016

A friend noticed me eyeing his Tesla S P90D and offered me a closer look. He led me to the driver’s door and the handle popped out to greet me. As I sat in the captain’s chair and gazed around the interior, my appreciation for the all-electric car’s refinement and sleek, understated design quickly escalated. Even though I wanted to spend more time with it, I politely began to exit.

“No, no, no! You drive while I ride,” my friend demanded.

I tried to refuse, but he wouldn’t hear of it. We took off and, let me tell you, this thing is quick. Even more impressive was the S’s “autopilot” setting, which keeps it in the lane and at a safe distance from other vehicles. It even brakes to avoid collisions. I was amazed. The experience got me thinking about how technology aids us in the F&I office.

Much of the debate over advanced technology in our business revolves around new presentation tools, including showroom kiosks and tablet-based menus. But technology is more often a silent partner, increasing the speed of the processors in our computers, wireless devices, and laser printers, and allowing us to focus on value-driven solutions for our customers. Technology is supposed to help us do our jobs, not do our jobs for us.

That brings us back to the tablet menu, which you won’t find in any of the F&I offices at Langdale Ford. My personal opinion is that they are more useful to F&I managers who view F&I as a job rather than a career. They don’t seek training and they have no real desire to improve, so they would just as soon let this tool do as much of their job as possible.

I recently spoke with a tablet software rep. She told me that most of the stores that adopted tablet menus in her territory increased their per-copy averages by a few hundred dollars. I asked to see the numbers and quickly determined those stores had been languishing below the threshold of what many of us would consider average before they added the devices. Technology saved the day because it forced F&I managers to follow the process they should have been following all along.

Another reason some stores get a boost from tablets is because customers are surprised and dazzled by the tech. Those who aren’t probably already own a similar device. Either way, they get an opportunity to learn about the various products we offer and the many ways they protect their investment. But isn’t that what’s supposed to happen in the F&I office?

I realize that not everyone sitting behind the desk is a superstar. Some are average and others are less than average. If a piece of software or hardware can help keep them on task, give it to them. Just don’t assume it can replace real training or hard-won expertise.

You will never convince me a piece of software can perform better than a skilled, experienced, and well-trained F&I professional. Those who constantly invest in their professional enrichment will increase all areas of productivity without the need for a tablet or any other device. The best F&I managers can execute an effective presentation with a ballpoint pen and a McDonald’s napkin.

Now, some of you may think I wish we were all back in the Stone Age. Not true. I love technology. I just happen to love education and knowledge more. As an employer, you get what you pay for. You can’t replace F&I managers with hybrid salespeople or fancy software and expect equal or better results.

There will always be a personal demand for the latest technology, because people want to be defined by their trappings. I enjoyed the heck out of my Tesla test drive, but I know next year will bring a new edition with an even more advanced autopilot. At some point, we are going to pine for the days when we could get in our cars and actually drive them — that is, unless you never really liked driving and just want your vehicle to take you from Point A to Point B while you eat your breakfast.

My challenge to you is to reevaluate yourself professionally and take a hard look at what you’re doing. Is F&I your job or your career? Technology won’t turn the former into the latter. Good luck and keep closing!

Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at marv.eleazer@bobit.com.

Comments

  1. 1. Mark Virag [ July 08, 2016 @ 12:00PM ]

    Hi Marv, I am usually a fan of F&I technology but I agree with you on the tablet menu. I can see using a tablet in sales and service, but for the menu presentation one ought to be sitting at a desk.

  2. 2. Mad Marv [ July 09, 2016 @ 07:52AM ]

    Plenty of studies show that as much as 93% of human interaction is non-verbal. Voice inflection, posture, eye contact and hand motions all play a part in sending out a message to others. Putting one of these devices in the hands of a hybrid salesperson/manager and expecting comparable results to that of a trained pro is just nonsense.

    Professionals have always known that F&I is a belly-to-belly process.

    I'm amazed that some organizations think they have developed the magic that will finally do away with what they consider the bottleneck of F&I and maybe they have but they're also doing away with the most important profit center in the dealership.

    You can't have it both ways.

  3. 3. Frank Martin [ July 09, 2016 @ 01:14PM ]

    Great article Marv! Thanks

  4. 4. RICHARD CREMO JR [ July 12, 2016 @ 01:59PM ]

    "The best F&I managers can execute an effective presentation with a ballpoint pen and a McDonald’s napkin." LOVE IT MARV. I CAN DRAW A MENU ON MY RIGHT HAND AND HAVE PRICING ON THE LEFT AND STILL CLOSE BACK-END! TABLETS AND DESK SCREENS ARE FOR LAZY PAPER PUSHERS, SOLELY COLLECTING A CHECK.

  5. 5. Stephen Douglass [ July 12, 2016 @ 02:17PM ]

    Excellent article. Every dealer principle should read this and rethink why good people are more important the fancy technology. Thanks Marv!

  6. 6. Dina Wilson [ July 12, 2016 @ 02:56PM ]

    Marv, I love the article. I sometimes get the deer in the headlight look when I mention the menu and pen and paper instead of a tablet. I view my position as a Career and not a job and use whatever I need to in order to get the numbers I want to reach. People are visual and I find that a pen and a napkin is much better than a tablet any day. For service, I agree - they are fine. But for F & I, I believe behind the desk with pen and paper is where I want to be and where I have had my greatest success! Thanks for the article - very well written. I would agree with your challenge to all of us who hold the wonderful job title of F & I Manager/Director to evaluate yourself and see whether you are working a job or a career!

  7. 7. Will Slattery [ July 13, 2016 @ 09:25AM ]

    Great article Marv, it provides great insight into the debate over Technology. Here in Canada we are eons behind our counter parts in the US. As a Sales Performance Coach for F&I and Sales here in Canada and a strong believer in many new ideas and technologies that can assist us in producing better results, I still maintain that it is the sales person that makes the sale happen not the technology that we use, it's still just a TOOL and you have to learn how to operate it.

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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 fi-magazine.com.

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