F&I managers are tasked with something no showroom salesperson is expected to do: Sell products customers can neither touch nor see. Sometimes simply explaining the benefits of a product is enough. The customer hears about the added coverage and agrees that it would be more financially logical to purchase a vehicle service contract (VSC) or safeguard the appearance of their vehicle with paint-and-fabric protection.
Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. Sometimes customers need an extra push — something that helps them better conceptualize the need for extra protection. That’s when props come in, as they can make the intangible tangible to an on-the-fence customer. F&I and Showroom asked three F&I pros to tell us which props they use to demonstrate appearance-protection products.
Asim Aslam is a 23-year industry veteran with 10 years of experience in the finance office. He currently works for Gerald Subaru of Naperville (Ill.). One product his dealership has a lot of success with is CalTex’s ResistAll, an exterior and interior protection the store has offered since 2008.
In fact, Gerald Subaru has consistently been the highest-volume seller of the product, according to the dealership’s agency, Midwest Autobahnd. Aslam credits the product’s 25% acceptance rate at his store to two props the agency supplied to his department:
- Spilled Coffee: To a customer, the CalTex ResistAll Mug sitting on Aslam’s desk appears as a spilled cup of coffee. To Aslam, the prop serves as a great conversation starter for selling ResistAll’s fabric protection, as his customers will invariably bring the fake spill to his attention. Aslam says it works especially well because it connects the customer to the product’s real-world application.
- The Carpet and Sharpie: Aslam says this combo prop works well on customers who express doubts about the product’s effectiveness — particularly those who have children in tow. Aslam first treats a carpet sample with the interior protection, then hands his customer (or, if they’re old enough, the customer’s children) a Sharpie. He then encourages the customer to mark up the carpet as much as possible. A typical exchange might go like this:
Aslam: Mr. Customer, you added several types of coverage to your new vehicle, but elected not to take advantage of the ResistAll coverage offered in our preferred column. I’m curious because you said you keep your vehicles for a very long time. In my experience, customers who keep their vehicles a long time usually want to keep it looking nice — inside and out — for a long time, too. Can I ask what concerns you about the ResistAll coverage?
Customer: It’s the additional cost. I also wonder if it really does what you say it does.
Aslam: I understand completely. You are not sure about taking advantage of this coverage because it’s hard to actually know whether it really protects the paint against environmental pollutants and the interior against accidental spills, splatters or other mishaps, as the company claims. Most of my customers take advantage of the coverage once the value of the protection is shown to them, as the value does actually far outweigh the upfront cost. With that in mind, would it be all right if I took just an extra minute to show you how well the ResistAll protects this small piece of carpet?
Aslam: Take this black permanent marker and mark up the carpet as much as you wish. Would you agree that this stain would not easily come out of the interior in your vehicle, and any attempts to remove it might create a much bigger mess than you want to deal with?
Customer: Absolutely. I couldn’t imagine dealing with a Sharpie. Good thing my kids are a lot older now.
Aslam: Well the best part about the ResistAll coverage is that no matter what the stain is, the company guarantees it can be removed. Otherwise, the company will pay to replace, reupholster or repaint your vehicle.
Aslam says the demonstration, when performed correctly, leaves customers in awe. And that’s when he goes for the close: “If the treatment works this well for this small piece of carpet in my office, can you imagine what it will do for the interior of your vehicle, which is subject to the rigorous demands of daily life?”
Dent and Ding
Matt Trudeau is the regional director of F&I for Dent Wizard International Corp. — a company he’s been with since 1997. While he doesn’t necessarily spend his days in the F&I office delivering deals, he does travel to dealerships to teach them how to sell the company’s products. One such product is Ding Shield, a service plan that provides unlimited paintless dent removal and a hail deductible benefit.
Trudeau says a good acceptance rate for such products is between 18% and 22%. That rate usually shoots up on leases and on highline vehicles — about 40% or higher when the product is presented properly and consistently.
“If you aren’t presenting 100% of your offerings 100% of the time, your penetration numbers will drop,” Trudeau says.
The timing of the presentation is also critical, especially on leases. Trudeau says the perfect time to bring up dent and ding or any other type of appearance-protection product is when a lease’s damage allowances are revealed to the customer. Once the customer expresses concern for the cost, Trudeau recommends likening Ding Shield’s benefits to making a health insurance claim.
Here’s an example: “With Ding Shield, you have unlimited health insurance with no copay! You can use it as many times as needed, and you get to avoid looking at any ugly damage throughout your lease term.”
Trudeau then finishes with this: “Imagine getting a dent in two weeks and having to live with it for the next 39 months.”
If the customer agrees to Ding Shield, Trudeau says the customer will usually agree to paint-and-fabric protection as well, and vice versa. In fact, offering the two products together consistently is a good way to increase your per-copy average, he adds.
A New Spin on the F&I Menu
Karen Fisher is a 20-year veteran of the automotive retail industry and currently serves as an F&I manager for Shrewsbury, Mass.-based Wagner Motor Group, a family-owned operation consisting of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Kia franchises. In fact, Fisher says she has spent most of her career at highline dealerships, and what she’s discovered is that most traditional props don’t work for her. So she designed her own.
Fisher created a customized product book containing photos illustrating what the products cover accompanied by marketing copy from the provider, available terms and pricing. For appearance products, for instance, the book contains photos of high-gloss paint on a car with water drop beads to illustrate the group’s Simoniz paint sealant. The demonstration piece has worked so well for her the last five years, Fisher has created books for her fellow F&I managers at the dealer group.
“The books are specifically designed to mimic the listed products in one’s menu presentation,” Fisher says. “It flows as a storybook of options, if you will, and presents to the customer a thorough guide of his or her options.”
Whether the customer accepts or declines, Fisher adds, she at least knows he or she has a “transparent understanding” of the programs. She likens her product books to a dining menu, noting that people are used to walking into a restaurant, sitting down at a table and opening up a menu. They appeal to visual learners like herself, she says, and can be particularly helpful for customers who are hard of hearing or are not native English speakers.
With the help of her “props,” her menu — which she uses to confirm products were disclosed and which were accepted and declined — and a warm sense of humor, Fisher now sells up to 2.75 products per deal with an F&I profit per retail unit (PRU) average of $2,185.
“The key to selling more products per customer is verbally validating and accepting the customer’s initial decision — whether it’s no products, one product or more — then begin processing their documents,” she says. “This level of acceptance puts them at ease. I can literally feel the customer become more at ease, and that’s where the laughter begins.”