A primary key to your F&I success is your ability to make a connection with your customers. Finding this common ground is easy for some and a real challenge for others. Many industry educators rely upon scripts to teach rapport-building skills. I choose to rely upon principles. When we learn principles and take ownership of them we internalize the concepts and have the ability to apply them in most situations.

Principle #1: Project Yourself Through Your Greeting

Think about all the ways you glean information about your customers. The credit application, trade appraisal, deal worksheet and sales representative's comments all help you know how to negotiate with each of your customers. What does the customer have at their disposal to learn about you?

Building rapport begins at the sales representative's desk. Your prompt arrival, your genuine smile, your firm handshake, your eye contact and your introduction all communicate that you are someone your customer can count on to understand and meet their needs.

Principle #2: Listen to Relate

People usually like talking about themselves. When you encourage them to share information you are well on the way to gaining their trust.

If you listen well, they will tell you how to tailor your presentation so that it will be easy for them to do business with you.

Principle #3: Mirror Your Message

Most people like doing business with people like themselves. If your customer likes sports, you should like sports but a little bit less than the customer does. If they like gardening, you should do a little gardening, but not quite as well as your customer. You get the idea. Reflecting the customer's interests creates common ground and paves the way for successful negotiations.

On the other hand, I recently saw and F&I manager wearing a presidential Rolex at work. What message does this send to his customers? Could they believe he is making too much money at their expense? While there is a time and place for jewels, I am not sure the dealership is the right space to display such extravagance — especially when your customers are considering payments in the $500-%1,200 range.

Principle #4: Engage with Your Environment

Your office can also help you gain accord with your customer. While it needs to be neither large nor new, your office should be clean, neat and organized for your presentation. People do not like dealing with someone who appears unprepared and is constantly looking for something they misplaced.

Treat your customers as if they were visiting you in your home. When your office environment makes your customer feel comfortable, they will relax enough to share their wants, concerns, and fears.

Principle #5: Connect Your Customer's Choices

The F&I process is a process of choice. And all of the choices belong to the customers. Since friends like doing business with friends, the choices your customers make will correlate to your success in learning and applying the principles of building rapport.

The more connections you make with your customer, the better prepared you will be to practice your FORM — the next step in the F&I process.

Jan Kelly is president of Kelly Enterprises. She is a sales trainer and consultant, convention speaker and frequent contributor to industry publications. For information about training opportunities telephone (800) 336-4275 or contact Kelly Enterprises at www.JLKelly.com.