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Nothing but the Truth

F&I trainer says car buyers will only truly reveal their needs in an environment that rewards honesty. He offers a few trust-building tips designed to get customers to open up.

February 2016, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Rick McCormick - Also by this author

Courtesy of iStockPhoto. 
Courtesy of iStockPhoto. 

I believe the world is full of honest people, and I have met some of the best people on Earth during my years in the F&I office. Most are hardworking, trustworthy and honest. However, during negotiations, many will only tell us part of the truth and at times will tell a lie. So why would any customer feel the need to hide the truth?

The answer may be hard to accept, but it must be said: Customers lie because they do not trust us with the truth. They fear we will manipulate the information they give us and use it against them. Remember that 100% of a customer’s present behavior is based on 100% of his or her past experience. The last time they bought a vehicle, the F&I manager may have exaggerated information or pressured them to buy products they didn’t want or need. They may even have discovered after the fact that they were misled.

Today’s customer feels everyone attempting to sell them something is only concerned with making money at their expense. They can smell commission breath a mile away. The issue is not whether customers are honest or not, the issue is they don’t trust us. Customers, however, are surprisingly open and truthful when they encounter someone who is trying to help them, not sell them.

If the F&I professional is working hard to find ways to make the customer’s ownership experience more enjoyable and less expensive, a more truthful exchange will take place. That’s why we must focus on how we can build trust with every customer — early and often.

Lay the Foundation

The foundation for building trust with every customer is total transparency. Let them see everything. Review the numbers, including any payments and terms discussed on the showroom floor, early in the F&I process to assure the customer that nothing has changed.

One of the main concerns customers have is that we will play with the numbers or change something to our advantage. That’s why I recommend turning your computer monitor when confirming their personal information so they can see the numbers on the same screen you see. I have seen many F&I managers make this a consistent part of their process and experience immediate increases in production levels.

See, trust is built when the principal and interest payment on the menu is disclosed clearly with the assurance that the customer can take delivery of his or her vehicle with nothing added to that payment. From the buyer’s perspective, this is the most uncomfortable part. Our goal is to get customers to relax and keep an open mind as we review their options with them. So be intentional in how you introduce and review the information on the menu.

Your words should also assure customers that you are going to show them everything one more time, explain everything in detail so they feel comfortable and answer any questions they may have. It should never be a memorized word-track. In your own words, tell your customers you are going to disclose all their options and allow them to choose what is best for them.

All the trust you have gained up to this point, however, can be lost in a few seconds if the customer has to ask, “What is my payment without any of these options?” If they have to ask for information that should have been disclosed, there is no trust in the room.

Sharing and Handling Objections

When objections are raised, that simply means the customer doesn’t have all the information he or she needs. Full disclosure can head many objections off at the pass. Here are two guidelines utilized by top performers that enable them to overcome objections more consistently:

  • Share specific and detailed information to help the customer move from “No” to “Yes.” Tell customers about their tires and wheels and show them the printed replacement cost. Simply saying one tire and wheel can cost “around $1,000” creates more questions than answers. Generalized information implies exaggeration and trust is lost.
  • Sharing third-party information does more to build trust than most anything else we can do. Assuring your customers that you are relying on more than just your opinion or viewpoint for information you have shared helps them feel comfortable they are making a good decision.

Consumers today rely heavily on reviews when deciding to choose a professional they need or a product they are considering. They want to know what others think. Use both your words and tangible information to help your customers. Take this statement: “Most financial advisors say use your money on appreciating assets. Use someone else’s money on depreciating assets.” What it does for the customer is demonstrate the value of financing their purchase as opposed to paying cash.

Print out and share the annual AAA Driving Cost report to build value in the service contract. For 2015, it shows the cost to drive a mid-size sedan is 58.5 cents per mile. Under the maintenance expense category, it says, “including labor expenses, replacement part prices and the purchase of an extended warranty policy.” Explain to your customers that AAA‘s only goal is to keep the driving cost of the consumer at the lowest level possible and how the service contract furthers that goal. AAA knows all the money you might save over the next five years by effectively shopping for tires, insurance and the lowest gas prices in the area can be lost with the cost to get the red light on your dash to go away.

Courtesy of iStockPhoto. 
Courtesy of iStockPhoto. 

There is an undeniable link between the level of trust you build with your customers and how open and truthful they will be with you. I have purposely excluded any reference to you being truthful with your customers, because that has always been the right thing to do.

Watching the movie “Liar Liar” is guaranteed to get you laughing. For 24 hours, the main character, lawyer Fletcher Reed (Jim Carrey), could not exaggerate or lie. Imagine if that happened in every F&I office for 24 hours. You would have F&I professionals who are totally trusted, and customers would open up and share the information needed to discover their needs. The results would be great coverage and ownership experiences for your customers and great profits for you. To make this happen, we need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates Inc., an F&I training company providing classes, workshops, in-dealership and online training. Email him at


  1. 1. Will Slattery [ February 08, 2016 @ 06:38AM ]

    Awesome article Rick! It goes without saying that 'honesty and integrity' will go a long way to improve the reputation of the Business Office and Franchise Dealers.

  2. 2. F&I Dude [ February 08, 2016 @ 09:01AM ]

    "Under the maintenance expense category, it says, “including labor expenses, replacement part prices and the purchase of an extended warranty policy.” Explain to your customers that AAA‘s only goal is to keep the driving cost of the consumer at the lowest level possible..." - isn't it against the law to call it an extended warranty? Of all people who should know this - the author of the article??

    Editor: F&I Dude, you are correct that an F&I manager shouldn't refer to a service contract as an extended warranty, as the word "warranty," at least to regulators, means free. As for Rick McCormick, he was simply quoting a statement out of the AAA Driving Cost report, which AAA puts out annually. So Rick is aware of the difference "warranty" and "service contract." Unfortunately, he didn't write the AAA Driving Cost report. Thanks for reading and for checking us. We really do appreciate it.

  3. 3. F&I Dude [ February 09, 2016 @ 10:10AM ]

    Thanks for the clarification - I was kind of just joking around. Shame on AAA!

    Editor: Got it. Thanks for reading.

  4. 4. Rick McCormick [ February 19, 2016 @ 11:23AM ]

    Thanks F&I Dude.Yes, that is a direct quote. The amazing thing is that 20 years ago the rest of the economy was trying to tell us to clean up our act. We have completely turned that around where now we are operating at high levels of compliance and they need to learn a few things from us. Some companies that discuss and even sell what we know as vehicle service agreements continue to call them by non-compliant names. We have become compliance experts in this business and that is an amazing turn of events and a great compliment to professionals like you that have helped make the F&I industry one of the most compliant and professional in our economy. Thanks for your contribution!

  5. 5. Dan [ May 17, 2016 @ 02:12PM ]

    I bought prepaid maintaince on my last vehicle because I was told I'd get free scheduled maintaince for the 1st 36,000 miles. I only got free oil changes for that length of time. The F&I manager lied to my face to line his pockets with my money. I brought the car in for additional services like tire rotations and was stunned to learn I had to pay out of pocket.

    Who is to say it will not happen next time? Because of that experience I have pretty much no faith in the F&I manager or any product he offers. I realize that sooner or later I'll have to talk with him again...but that guy has his work cut out for him.


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