The F&I professionals my firm works with have been telling me quite often lately how successful they’ve been with younger customers using our approach. And, yes, the numbers back their claims. That’s not to say I’m some kind of Millennial whisperer. It’s taken a lot of research and development to get a bead on what moves these younger generations.

See, since my firm undertook its first process development project in the early 1990s — an endeavor that lead to the introduction of the first F&I menu concept — our research and process development program has worked with a revolving group of students pursuing a master’s in business administration. These individuals serve as interns for my firm. And just having their perspectives has had an influence on the approach and techniques we employ when developing our training programs and process.

An added benefit of working closely with these interns is that they have given me insights into what makes them tick. That’s not to say I understand them completely, as this group remains a mystery to us mature generations.

As a matter of fact, even 30-somethings can find this new breed of 20-somethings somewhat puzzling. They are a moving target, at least culturally, and every year we see a new group of buyers come of age, that present a whole new set of challenges.

Too Pitchy
These younger generations are frustrating and perplexing to F&I professionals, especially when they are attempting to upsell them. Millennials are different, and they are immediately put off by anything that smacks of a sales pitch, especially from someone older. But don’t mistake their objection to being upsold as impatience or even flippancy about financial matters.

See, this younger generation isn’t stupid, not by a long shot. In fact, young people today are the most educated in American history. They are knowledgeable and intellectual. They make their own rules, and they like to do business in a different way than the generations that preceded them. The irony, however, is they are still vulnerable in many ways.

Take this 22-year-old woman who serves as an intern for my firm. She’s one of the brightest young ladies we’ve ever had, and she’s being recruited by several major companies. Well, during a scheduling meeting, she innocently asked: Isn’t the Fourth of July supposed to be on a Monday? Then there was this very book-smart young man. He was in the middle of texting his girlfriend when I mentioned I was going to Hawaii. He looked up and asked whether I planned to fly or drive.

So what’s the secret to working with these younger generations? Well, here are four items you need to consider to sharpen your pitch when working with these younger generations:

1. Keep It Simple: One of the insights we’ve gained from our testing — and this is true for buyers of all ages — is that these buyers want a process that’s fast and easy, one that allows them to choose from simple options without having to sit through long and tedious sales pitches.

See, young people are in a hurry and have little patience for longwinded presentations. Their lives revolve around ease and simplicity. They believe that every transaction should be as quick and painless as ordering combo No. 4 at McDonalds. And their decision-making is less about price than simplicity and speed. They don’t know if that No. 4 option costs less than ordering the contents individually, but they don’t care. To them, it is simply a function of expediency.

2. It’s Their Call: By explaining to your younger buyers in a simple and direct way what our products are and, more importantly, what advantages they offer them, you allow them to make a responsible and informed decision. Remember, young people today are told that each one of them is special and unique. And they believe it. So let them know that you respect their judgment and intelligence.

But remember not to talk down to this buying group, and don’t be put off if they appear too casual and unconcerned. And don’t be offended if they’re answering text messages throughout your presentation. They aren’t trying to be disrespectful. In their world, it’s perfectly respectful to text your friends while on a dinner date in a nice restaurant. Always remember that if you seem negative about their behavior, they will react negatively.

3. Be Honest and Transparent: The biggest mistake you can make is to think these younger generations can be fooled. If these young folks sense any deception or attempts to control or manipulate them, they may entertain your efforts to win them over, but you won’t sell them anything. Bottom line, if you lose credibility with this buyer, you’re done. That’s why our approach starts with an honest and open disclosure, one that doesn’t contain any hint of deception.

4. Not Easily Impressed: Don’t assume Gen Y or any of these younger generations will be impressed with some of the high-tech tools available to the F&I office. Yes, they’re tech-savvy, but these generations have also grown up deluged by people trying to sell them something on their cell phones, iPads and laptops. In many ways, they’ve become immune to this high-tech wizardry, and they probably know more about your computer and iPad than you do.

In our recent field testing of various onscreen and mobile presentation devices, we noticed it was very easy for young people to get caught up in all the gadgetry. But what happens is they end up missing the product message, so make sure whatever tech tool you use is simple, to the point and is only operated by you.

Making the Process Work
Although it may seem like these younger buyers march to a different drummer, they will respond to your pitch the same way older generations do if you follow a few basic principles. And as with any modern consumer demographic, the most effective approach to younger buyers is to be open, transparent, honest and easy to understand.

Look, most of today’s younger buyers are responsible consumers. They will choose your products if you give them the chance. And just like the rest of us, they expect to be respected for who they are, which is the largest consumer-spending demographic in the country.
Bottom line, this is the group that will keep us in business for decades to come.

George Angus is the training director for Team One Research and Training, a company specializing in scientific, research-based program development and training. Email him at [email protected]