There are many reasons customers do not purchase protection products in the finance office. Maybe their objection was too strong to overcome. Maybe the finance source wouldn’t add the back-end product, or maybe the customer’s budget is already overextended. Or maybe the customer selected a low-cost vehicle that, in their mind, doesn’t warrant the purchase of our protections. Those are all great reasons, but, in most cases, the reason consumers opt against purchasing our protections is because they don’t see the value.

See, cost is only a factor when the customer can’t see how the protection benefits his or her vehicle purchase. In fact, value comes into play whenever we’re forced to part with our money. Think about how you make financial decisions. Do you ever purchase something that has no value to you? I doubt it.

The fact is we all perceive value the same way, yet differently at the same time. For instance, not everyone likes the same vehicle and not everyone chooses the same dealership from which to buy, just like people choose different places to live and purchase gas, food and clothing. That’s why asking somebody to purchase based on features and benefits alone doesn’t work; it simply doesn’t provide enough value information to help the customer make a purchase decision.

Price Justification
What customers need is something they can relate to, and that something needs to have impact and it needs to make sense to them. When buying a vehicle, for instance, brand and the actual deal are major considerations. When deciding on an F&I product, customers need to know how they will benefit from that protection. But remember, just because it makes sense to one individual doesn’t mean it will to someone else. So you have to make the product’s impact personal to each individual customer in order to justify the purchase. And if that impact is strong enough, cost won’t be the deciding factor.

That doesn’t mean cost isn’t considered. Before we buy anything, we must first figure out how we’re going to pay for it. Maybe we’ll have to give something up in order to afford the purchase. That doesn’t mean you should recommend that a customer give up smoking, lattes or gym memberships so they can afford a vehicle service contract. That’s the quickest way to offend a customer and possibly lose the sale.

The point is, it’s not about you, it’s about the customer. And as you know, most customers believe we’re only in it for our commission. That’s why the sale begins and ends with the customer’s needs. But conducting a needs analysis shouldn’t be confused with a customer interrogation. In fact, the quickest way to turn a customer off to your pitch is by engaging them with a battery of questions.

Needs Discovery
Discovering your customers’ needs and what is important to them shouldn’t be difficult. Look, if a customer is willing to commit to a vehicle purchase, then there has to be something about that vehicle that has value to him or her. If it was the vehicle’s appearance, performance, safety features or just plain economics, all you have to do is attach those reasons to your products.

So how do you kick off your product presentation? Do you show them the menu, bring out a brochure, or do you just roll right into your pitch and assume the customer is interested? From my experience, the best way to launch into your product presentation is by saying the following: “That’s a great vehicle and we sell many of them. What are some of the features you like?”

What you’re doing with that statement and question is getting customers to talk by having them identify what they like about the vehicle. You then want to follow up by having customers tell you why they think those features are beneficial to them. Then ask them how they came to that conclusion.

If you allow your customers to engage in an enthusiastic conversation, they will provide the details necessary for you to attach your product’s features and benefits to their words and circumstances. Not only that, your transition from fact-finding conversation to product pitch will be much smoother.

Remember, every F&I product you offer, whether it is guaranteed asset protection, vehicle service contracts or appearance packages, is designed to address a customer’s need. But you can’t discover that need if you put them on the defensive. See, your goal when engaging customers is to uncover information that will allow you to say this: “The reason I want to make you aware of this is because earlier we talked about …” Again, the key is to tie the customer’s words to your products. Once you do that, close with an impact statement that makes the purchase personal to the customer so he or she understands why you’re offering it in the first place.

So the next time you go out to meet your customer, don’t ask them how many miles they drive a year or how they intend to use their vehicle. You don’t start conversations with questions like that. Instead, ask them what they like about the vehicle they just purchased and you’ll find that you’ll get the information you need to pose follow-up questions. And if you can attach your customer’s specific circumstances to your pitch, you will increase your chances of closing the sale. Why? Because you made it about them.

John Vecchioni serves as the national sales director for United Car Care Inc., a company he joined 2005 as director of F&I development and national trainer. Email him at [email protected].