The part of the process most F&I professionals skip is creating interest. Instead, they build little rapport with the customer before jumping right into the sale. This can create a negative impression, intimates a high sales pressure atmosphere and tends to yield less than desired results.
Bottom line, customers should never be made to make a buying decision before they are hungry to hear what you have to say. And the ability to make them hungry is critical to achieving consistent success. So here are 10.5 effective ways to do that every day with every customer:

1. Show Them You Care: Every customer knows we care about something. Problem is they often think we only care about how much money we can make off of them. That’s why your process needs to say you genuinely care about them and their particular needs, starting with the questions you pose, the tone of voice you use and your attentiveness to the information they share. If you want to change the results you are seeing, you must change the customer experience by showing you care. If we miss this step, nothing else really matters.

2. Talk Less, Listen More: People are simply more open to buying when they’re doing most of the talking. And when we listen to a customer and respond with more questions or by repeating what they said back to them, they know we’re listening and that we care about what they shared. Listening also makes us look genuine, a trait they probably rarely see. The truth is, customers want a friend to help them, someone who listens and cares about how they feel. So be a friend by listening more and talking less.

3. Engage Customers in the Process: By getting your customers involved in the process, your chances of moving them from a “No” to a “Yes” increase drastically. For example, when showing customers how much one day in the service department will cost, hand them a calculator and ask them to multiply your labor rate by eight hours. The likelihood of you selling products increases dramatically the moment their fingers touch the buttons.

4. Educate and Inform: Customers will pay for your knowledge and expertise. And the deeper your product knowledge is, the better you can dig into your customers’ objections to show them how your products make sense for their particular situation. So when you tell them their windshield “is an integral part of the structural integrity of your vehicle and a critical part of the overall safety system,” they’ll want to know more. See, F&I pros who provide more information about their products will always achieve a higher level of sales success than others.

5. Be Genuinely Surprised by Their “No”: The only way you can be genuinely surprised when your get a “No” is if you have learned enough about your customer’s situation before you presented your products. Asking great open-ended questions enables you to learn multiple reasons why they need your products. And when they say “No” to one they really need, your line of questioning will allow you to respond with, “Really? Something you said earlier has me confused.” Of course, your customers will want to know what they said. And when you remind them, they’ll find it difficult to disagree with themselves. And it’s better they disagree with themselves than you.

6. Make a Startling Statement: If you are encountering a wall of resistance, say something that startles your customers to get their attention. For F&I pros working in a Honda store, try something like this: “Just so you know, I don’t have a single technician in my service department that can fix this Honda if it breaks.”

Once you have their attention, follow up with this: “We don’t fix anything. We just diagnose the problem to determine what part has failed and we replace not only the failed part, but the entire component grouping. You see, if your gas gauge fails, you will have to replace the entire instrument cluster. That is why a minor repair on a vehicle today is usually a major expense.”

7. Use a Visual Aid: A good way to illustrate to customers how failed parts are replaced vs. repaired is to simply hand them a light bulb. If they are resistant to Road Hazard protection, hand them a rusty nail. Then let them know how much one rusty nail could cost them. That is how you educate customers while engaging them in a level-three presentation that gets more results.

8. Demonstrate Strong Conviction: “Based on the things you told me earlier, this is absolutely critical in your situation” is a much more powerful statement than saying, “I have it on all of my vehicles.” Remember, selling is basically the transference of emotion. So if we want to convince customers that they need our product, we must be convinced it is critical for their situation. And the only way we can convey the urgency of them saying “Yes” is if we learn as much as we can about them before we present our products.

9. Get Third-Party Credibility: J.D. Power and Associates’ annual vehicle dependability and initial quality studies contain loads of great stats to support your service-contract pitch. Let’s start with the 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures the level of problems reported by consumers after three years of ownership. This year’s report showed that increased engine and transmission problems contributed to the first decline in vehicle dependability in more than 15 years.

See, with fuel economy being a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, automakers are doing all they can to reduce fuel consumption. But the changes they are making are coming at a cost, with the increase in problems being most prevalent among vehicles with four-cylinder engines.

Another issue is in-vehicle technology. In fact, of the Top 10 problems showing increases from last year’s study, six were related to engine and transmission problems and three were linked to hands-free technology or navigation systems. In-vehicle technology was also one of the main culprits behind the 3% increase in problems per 100 vehicles recorded in J.D. Power’s 2014 Initial Quality Study, which examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership.

And this isn’t the first time in-vehicle technology has been the source of problems reported by consumers. Between 2006 and 2012, problems with in-vehicle technology rose 45% in J.D. Power’s annual initial quality study. Despite these dips in reliability, vehicles are more dependable than ever. But studies like these will help your customers understand why a service contract is critical for today’s technology-rich vehicles.  

10. Back Your Statements With Evidence: Show your customers a copy of a recent repair order or the exact cost of an alloy wheel and tire. Not only does this illustrate how expensive a repair can be, it shows you are keenly aware of the vehicle issues your service department deals with on a daily basis. Remember, real-life examples are much more powerful than undocumented stories.

10.5. Tell Them What’s in It for Them: Look, your customer really doesn’t care how many other customers bought your protections. They only care about why they need it. That’s why the five most powerful words for creating interest in any product are, “What this means to you ...”

Folks, we have entered a new world. Customers are more informed and they have ready access to F&I-related information. That means we must create interest in our products before trying to move an objecting customer to buy. Hey, you can’t offer a solution without first diagnosing the customer’s need for it.

Rick McCormick is a national account development manager for Reahard & Associates Inc., an F&I training company providing classes, workshops, in-dealership and online training. E-mail him at [email protected].

About the author
Rick McCormick

Rick McCormick


Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates, which provides customized F&I training for dealerships throughout the U.S. and Canada. He has more than 20 years of auto retail and finance experience. Contact him at [email protected].

View Bio