Too many finance managers let a title and a private office go to their heads. They want sales personnel to come to their Mecca — preferably in a spirit of admiration and awe — with car deals that are perfect.

Some F&I managers tend to be puffed up with feelings of importance. They want sales personnel to remember their place on the totem pole: at the bottom. They feel it is within their rights to verbally berate them and to remain at arm’s length.

It seems these finance managers have forgotten what it was like to sell cars. They have forgotten the freezing winter nights when they would attempt to test drive a car only to learn the battery was dead and needed a jumpstart. They have forgotten those mornings following a snowstorm when they had to clean off cars and shovel the walkway before customers arrived. They have forgotten those scorching afternoons when they had to test drive cars with leather seats that fried their backsides. When dealers promote sales personnel to finance, it is important for them to remember these things.

Practice Mutual Respect

As an F&I manager, you should do whatever you can to help your sales personnel succeed. You have no job without the deals brought to you for closure. Rather than finding fault with the ways in which sales personnel bring about their deals, you should encourage them to bring in deals of every kind, no matter the conditions.

Don’t hesitate to meet with customers, even those with a slow-pay history. You may be able to get the deal approved. When sales personnel see enthusiasm and a willingness to participate in the sale, they will bring more deals to the table.

Sales volume is the name of the game and volume takes teamwork.

Sales personnel work harder when they feel they are valued members of the company. When they experience encouragement and appreciation, they, in turn, care about the success of their F&I managers. When they bring a cash deal to the table, finance managers should immediately take the deal without reprimands. It builds rapport and credibility.

Unfortunately, there are a few too many finance managers who treat sales personnel with disrespect. They insist it isn’t part of their responsibility to cater to them; they should know their place. If they don’t, an F&I manager will be happy to show them the door. They want no questionable credit deals brought into their office without supporting documents, or they will be tossed outside the dealership door. Cash deals will take over an hour for processing. Arrogance in the finance office squashes incentive and pompous egos stifle sales motivation.

Provide Ongoing Training

In the past, sales personnel spent hours in small conference rooms reading brochures on each model line because they were given limited formal training, if any at all. They were often thrown into the pool and left to sink or swim. In too many dealerships across the country today, the same system still applies. Both finance and sales managers complain daily that salespeople are “getting dumber,” or “the talent is nonexistent,” or “they can’t follow directions,” or “they just don’t get it.”

Do these managers provide quality training to ensure that standard procedures are understood and can be executed with skill? The answer is almost always no.

Unless formal, competent and ongoing training of sales personnel has been provided, why should any sales or F&I manager presume they can perform to company standards? It doesn’t make sense. Even one minute of one day spent verbally reproaching sales personnel for not having proper documents in order is self-defeating.

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Instigate an Interview Process

Finance managers who remain in their offices reading newspapers and drinking coffee while waiting for deals to come to them are not team players. As a result, the number and quality of their deals will suffer. Immediate and upward-climbing success will occur with regularity when F&I managers get out on the floor where the action is taking place.

Actions speak louder than words and sales personnel appreciate seeing an animated interest in their customers. Engaging in their conversations with customers, assisting with a sale, patting them on the back, offering sage advice and other support tells them their finance managers aren’t only about themselves.

You should also be engaged in the interview process. This involves greeting customers at the salesperson’s desk prior to delivery.

Many sales and finance managers will fight tooth and nail against the use of an interview process. They argue that the interview takes too long and isn’t necessary. They insist that, if used, it must be conducted in their offices and not out on the floor.

Without the interview process, however, sales personnel are left with impressions that are often inaccurate. Perception is reality. They are left to believe that the average delivery time takes more than two hours. They are left to believe that the customer should be taken directly to the finance office, without notice.

The interview process is one of the most compelling actions finance managers can take to shift sales personnel perceptions regarding delivery time.

Two positives occur when customer interviews take place at the desks of salespeople. First, sales personnel feel a sense of urgency about the deals they are negotiating. Second, their customers’ clocks stop ticking. The heat is off the second finance managers meet the customers. It takes only a few minutes to build rapport and review the transactions for accuracy.

Obviously, with fewer things likely to go wrong, delivery time is cut in half. The sales personnel, customers and dealers are happy.

F&I managers should never underestimate the merit of the dealership’s sales personnel. They should be mindful of and appreciate what they go through to sell a car. Spending only a minute or two with them during each sale offering experience and know-how makes a difference in esprit de corps. It pays to be proactive on the floor. Every finance manager who provides guidance and encourages positive feedback with the sales department will be generously rewarded.

Becky Chernek is president and CEO of Chernek Consulting Inc. dba FYIFI Inc. Chernek has been consulting on menu sales and F&I since 1996 and has been in the auto retail industry since 1985. Visit Chernek Consulting at www.chernekconsulting.com or e-mail [email protected]

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