Do F&I managers hate objections? It’s safe to say many of them do, but the top F&I performers actually love objections. Why? Because an objection is like a road map: It gives you a way forward.

First things first, if you want to get into the realm of two-plus products per deal, you have to be able to upsell products your customer didn’t choose. You must also be able to upsell products that might not be on your menu, especially if it only has room for five or six products. And before you begin plotting your course, make sure you have a process for handling objections in place, because sitting in front of an objecting customer is no place for shooting from the hip.

The process I teach involves a series of steps aimed at getting you organized and prepared to handle any objection. It starts with you walking out and meeting and greeting the customer to conduct an effective interview. Doing so is crucial to you being able to handle the objections that will follow your pitch.

Find Out What the Objection Is

This might sound pretty basic, but you’d be surprised by how many F&I managers fail to find out exactly why the customer is objecting to a product. The best way to figure that out is to ask a question like: “What is it about the service contract that concerns you?”

The same question can be adapted for any product. Just swap out “service contract” with “appearance protection” and ask away. And once the customer reveals his or her true objection, be sure to acknowledge it. This can be done by simply saying, “I understand,” or “You make a great point.” Let the customer know that you understand his objection and that you’re not disputing it.

Empathize by Restating the Objection

Restating the objection will show the customer you understand where he or she is coming from. Some examples include:

• “It’s hard to justify the cost if you can’t see the value.”

• “Honda does make a quality car.”

• “Sticking to a budget is definitely important.”

Once you’ve restated and clarified the objection, ask the customer one of the following questions:

• “May I ask you a few questions?”

• “May I explain something to you?”

• “There may be some additional facts to take into consideration. May I explain?”

Asking permission puts the customer in control and gives you permission to sell. The exchange should go something like this:

Customer: “It just costs too much.”

F&I manager: “I understand how you feel. It’s hard to justify the cost if you don’t see the value. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”[PAGEBREAK]

Create a Need

Customers won’t buy anything if they don’t feel they need it. More to the point, the customer must feel like they’re taking a risk by not opting for the protection you’re offering. An effective interview should provide all the information you’ll need to get the customer to believe that the value of your products exceeds the cost.

Here are some examples:

• The customer plans to put 15,000 miles per year on the vehicle and keep it for five years. The factory warranty is only for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first, so he or she will be without protection after two and a half years.

• If keeping the vehicle looking showroom new is important to the customer, then not having paint and fabric protection is a risk.

• If the customer has little or no money for a down payment, they are at risk if they don’t have GAP.

Satisfy the Need

Once the need is created, it has to be satisfied. Your job is to convince the customer that the products you offer can eliminate the risks you’ve just described.

To do that, you need to point out the features and benefits of the products you offer. Next, go for a trial close — a low-risk method of gauging how close the customer is to making a purchasing decision. A trial close usually starts with one of several questions:

• “So, can you see how GAP protection can save you money and allow you to purchase another vehicle?”

• “So, which of these two payments would be easier for you to make that month?”

Go for the Close

A close is an assumptive question that assumes the customer is sold on the product. An example would be: “Would you like your payments to be due on the 15th or the 30th?” or “Would you like to pay cash for the appearance protection, or should I include it in your payment?”

Top performers have a toolbox full of these types of closes, because each close deals with a specific objection. If you have a close for every objection that may come up, you will never have to ad-lib, fumble or pause to think about what you’ll say next. So, make sure you continue adding new closes to your personal arsenal.

Will following the process detailed here ensure a sale every time? No, but if you use the process 100 percent of the time, your chances of closing more sales will increase. And don’t assume that the first objection you overcome is the only one keeping your customer from buying your products. If it isn’t, start the process all over again. A good way to transition back to Step 1 is to ask questions such as, “If it’s not the cost, what is it?” or “Is there another reason why you don’t want the service contract?”

Again, stick with the process and don’t fear an objection, because it provides a nice road map you can follow on the road to a sale. Good luck out there!

Don Geroni is an independent F&I trainer who once served as national director of F&I training for AutoNation Inc. E-mail him at [email protected].