Building a Case for Protection

For those general managers who do not believe that it is important for F&I managers to interview customers, let me point out that the F&I process is critical to any deal. The F&I manager not only discloses all the sales figures to the customer, but is also the last dealership representative to spend a significant amount of time with the customer.

A positive relationship with the customer is essential for both F&I productivity and future business opportunities. People buy from people they like and trust. Sales consultants spend a considerable amount of time to sell themselves, the dealership, and the vehicles. Through interviews, F&I managers show customers how to protect their future repair bills and good credit standing and how to maintain high resale value for their vehicle purchases.

Walk the Talk

The F&I manager has only 20 "prime" minutes from the time a customer walks through the threshold of the F&I office in which to present product solutions, address concerns, and close the sale.

Every word, every effort must be purposeful. There is no time to waste. So start the interview during the walk between the sales work station and the F&I office.

The Interview is All About the Customer

F&I managers, just like their sales colleagues, must learn about the customer's Family, Occupation and Recreation before delivering their Message. Good FORM focuses on customer needs and targets products as solutions to those needs.

Let's consider some typical inquiries for fiber guard products and how to use the information to present product solutions and close the sale.

Who is the primary driver of the new vehicle? It may be a spouse who needs a vehicle to drive the children to sporting events. Do they take other children with them? Do they frequent fast food places? Which is their favorite? Catsup, soda and coffee stains do not increase the resale value of a trade-in. Is there a baby in the crowd? Babies come with bottles of milk, juice, and all kinds of Oops! These customers may value extra cup holders and a fiber guard solution.

What if the customer does not have children and never frequents fast food establishments? What is their favorite restaurant? Do they bring home leftovers? Foil wrapped swans may look fancy, but they can also leak. The memory of the Steak Diane could last long after the calories are burned off. Fiber guard protects resale value and preserves pride of ownership.

Does your customer own a pet? While a dog is certainly a "member of the family" and excellent company, they can be "ruff" on automobile interiors. Fiber guard will protect the seats and carpeting from stains that go with the territory.

F&I producers will have better success when they can relate the use of F&I products and services to their customers' everyday activities. The interview yields these details.

Your Interview IQ

Do a post-play analysis on your last few deals. What happened in the interviews? Did you make every sale? What key points did you miss?

In the F&I office there is a 100 percent closing ratio: Someone sells somebody on every deal. Either you sell the customer or the customer sells you. Nearly every missed sale can be traced to an error or omission in the interview.

The more you know about the customer, the more on target your presentation can be. The interview helps you press the right "buying button", such as Security, Peace of Mind, Affordability, Convenience, Ease of Ownership, and Dependability. We'll work on your Product Presentation in Step 4.

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