The progression of the F&I menu — or “option disclosure,” as I like to call it — began sometime in the mid-1990s as a way to get F&I professionals to present 100% of their products to 100% of their customers 100% of the time. This became known as the 300% rule, and it remains a pillar of our trade.

Over time, the F&I community bought into the menu process in a big way. They found customers agreeing to purchase products they didn’t believe they would. This advancement in product sales resulted in a significant increase to dealers’ bottom lines as well as enhanced commissions for F&I managers. The menu was here to stay.

Whether in paper or electronic form, the menu has become the standard method for F&I product sales. But in meeting and working with dealers and F&I managers from all over the country, I often discover that many of those who employ the F&I menu process have not recognized its full potential.

It could be they’re afraid to step outside their comfort zone or no one is holding them accountable when they stray from the process. Maybe they like having total control, telling a great story or manipulating their customers. Whatever the reason, those dealers and F&I managers are simply missing many of the possibilities the F&I menu process affords.

With all that in mind, let’s discuss three ways to maximize your menu presentation and try out some new word-tracks to go along with each tip.

1. Tell, Don’t Sell

I realize there are several mechanisms that make up a successful F&I process. But the menu just happens to be one of the most vital when it comes to speeding up the F&I portion of the transaction, producing superior customer satisfaction and escalating revenue.

To harness the full potential of the menu, there are a couple of key elements you need to subscribe to: First and foremost, the menu must be viewed as a disclosure rather than a selling tool. Many F&I managers bank on the menu to sell their products. They place too much emphasis on the benefits and will often zero in on a specific product they feel will work best for the customer.

My concern is they’re forgetting the 300% rule. The menu should be looked at as nothing more than a means to reveal the features of each product or service available to each and every customer each and every time without preconception. Present each product and service with the same energy. Be brief and to the point. Describe the most relevant features of the product or service.

Revealing products and services in a “telling, rather than selling” manner will lower your next customer’s resistance. And you won’t lose their attention, because they will be under less pressure to buy. You don’t want your customers to see you as overly aggressive or trying to lean on them to buy a particular product. Inform them so they can make a decision. Talk to them, not at them. Try this word-track:

“A vehicle service contract will pay for covered mechanical and electrical breakdowns for the next five years or 75,000 miles. There is a small $100 deductible, though the program will provide you with towing, rental car and trip interruption.”

In two short sentences, you have explained the product and terms and demonstrated the value. Allow your smart, informed customers to make smart, informed choices.

2. In Their Own Words

The second key element to unlocking the full potential of the F&I menu is to make your first attempt at a sale based on all the criteria you know — and by that I mean the customer’s criteria, not yours. The only way you can do that is to ask your customer what they like.

When used as a disclosure device, the menu diminishes resistance and places the customer in a better position to make a choice rather than have a product or service pushed on them. After all, it’s only human nature to put up a bit of a fight when pushed. You know your products have great value. Just ask the customer to make a choice:

F&I manager: “Do you have any questions about the options I just shared with you?”

Customer: “No.”

F&I manager: “Which option do you prefer?”

Customer: “None.”

F&I manager: “I understand. These options aren’t for everybody. But I have found the reason customers choose not to enroll in any of the options is because of the way they are grouped or the cost. Which is it for you?”

Customer: “The cost.”

F&I manager: “If cost were not an issue, which two products would you select?” or “If given the opportunity to have one or two products or services at no cost, which one or two would you select?”

Photo courtesy of iStock.

Photo courtesy of iStock. 

Getting your customer to make a selection on a product or service they may be somewhat interested in is the key. You will soon find that making an attempt to sell your customer something they selected — rather than something you selected — is much easier and less stressful.

3. Master the Transition

Some customers know what to expect in the F&I office and some don’t. Many have been warned by friends, family members and other “experts” to decline every product they’re offered. You can’t do anything about bad advice, but you can put every customer at ease by mastering the transition from the showroom to F&I.

I advise the F&I managers I train to meet and greet their customers in their comfort zone. Always invite your customer into your office. Never allow your customers to be dropped off in your office. Once they’re in, your first order of business is to solidify the deal. Congratulate your customer on their purchase. If they’re not sold, they’ll tell you right then and there.

Next, review the details of the deal with your customer prior to printing the paperwork. Ask the customer about their driving habits so you can present and close based on their criteria. Doing so will help you land on the right options and reduce mistakes.

Now you’re ready for the real transition. How do you like to begin your presentation? If you need an opener, try this: “Folks, there are a number of important documents to sign. Let’s start with this one …” or “I want to review the details one more time before I print the final paperwork.”

Then follow up with: “These are the figures you agreed to and I want you to know you can take delivery of the vehicle at these figures. That may not be the best choice, as there are other choices I would like to share with you. May I?”

The essence of these tips is to maintain a friendly, efficient process that keeps you and your customers in the right frame of mind. We are in the business of helping car buyers protect their investments. It’s an important job. Now go out there, meet and greet your next customer and make me proud!

Gerry Gould is director of training for United Development Systems (UDS) and host of F&I and Showroom’s F&I Tip of the Week video series. Email him at [email protected]