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Special Finance®

A Better Way to Qualify Prospects

July 2009, F&I and Showroom - WebXclusive

by Denny Long

How great would it be if all of your lot traffic wore shirts or hats that displayed their credit score? You would then know immediately which customers needed to be directed to the special finance department for some tender, loving care. You would also be able to easily identify your prime customers, allowing you to negotiate your best deal right from the start, knowing you wouldn’t have to worry about large bank fees eating up your gross.

When I started in the car business, “special finance” wasn’t even a common term. Yes, that was a long time ago. As a matter of fact, I actually had hair back then. What I didn’t have were numerous finance sources available to help anyone with a low credit score or a recent bankruptcy. Those deals were nearly impossible to close, and there was nothing I hated more than to spend hours with a prospect only to find out they had bad credit and the only way we could sell them a vehicle was with the one-payment program. I used to dream of a metal detector-type device that would display each prospect’s credit score when they walked through the door.

Well, it looks like my dream may finally come true. No, I don’t mean my hair will grow back, although that would be nice. I’m talking about a way to determine the creditworthiness of every prospect that arrives on your lot. The old methods of asking qualifying questions and not always getting the right answers will be gone forever.

Let’s imagine the future of automotive retail. Imagine a system where you simply enter the prospect’s name and address and instantly get pre-qualification for automotive financing notification. It could even be as simple as a swipe of your prospect’s driver’s license! Right on the spot, you’ll be able to hand over a certificate of pre-qualification or use that certificate — good only at your dealership — as a final close attempt before they leave the lot. How many dealerships can do that? The customer would look at you and your dealership as the team that makes buying a vehicle easy. It’s a busy Saturday and you’ve got more customers than salespeople. Wouldn’t it be great to know where to focus the attention of your best closers?

What about your incoming Internet and phone leads? We all know that your salespeople are cherry-picking the leads. But can they really pre-qualify a customer by simply looking at a five-liner? Statistics show that as high as 75 percent of Internet leads don’t qualify for the financing available today. To maximize every lead, you need to spend most of your time on the 25 percent that do qualify. If you had that information, don’t you think that your salespeople would focus their efforts on getting those qualified prospects in the door? How many more Internet leads could you close if they instantly received a certificate of pre-qualification that’s only good at your dealership via e-mail?

Now, I don’t want to get you too excited, but what if in addition to knowing these customers and prospects are pre-qualified, you would also have information about their current auto loan? Their estimated interest rate, payment history, and number of payments remaining could all be available.

What a great dream! Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret — it’s not a dream! The future of automotive retailing is coming. A better way to qualify prospects is coming. It’s not exactly the way I imagined it, with the metal detector concept, but in fact Instant Screen is better than I ever could have imagined. It will help you sell cars a little easier and make the screening process a lot more fun. Good luck and good selling!

Denny Long is senior vice president of Dealer Marketing Services. E-mail him at [email protected].

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