So, who has the best menu? For those of you on the fence about attending our 2010 F&I Conference and Expo, let me give you one reason why you need to be at this year’s event: We’ve asked three well-known trainers, a F&I vet, and two software providers to tackle that very question. Personally, I expect to see some fireworks coming out of this special session.

As you might have seen or read, our conference is scheduled for Sept. 14-15 at the Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino. Before I get into the menu question, I wanted to tell you one more thing about the conference: We’re bringing together the most recognized F&I trainers in the business to lead more than 28 sessions on F&I sales techniques, deal structure and more. And we’re doing this for three reasons:

1. That’s what you said you wanted and what our advisory board has demanded.

2. I know F&I managers are being leaned on more than ever before with those pesky consumer information sites biting into margins these days. Throw on top of that the fact that lender advances are still tight and you can see why F&I profits are so critical.

3. I know training budgets are tight these days, so why not create an event where you can hear from the best in the business? Right?

OK, so back to that menu question. So, what do I think? I think you probably know better if you need data to substantiate a customer’s GAP purchase, a video presentation, multiple payment options, or a biweekly payment option. Heck, the F&I vet sitting on the panel still employs an Excel spreadsheet for his menu. His name is Marv Eleazer and he believes that selling value is more important than having some snazzy menu.

Then there’s the opinion held by Team One Group’s George Angus. His against-the-grain theory is that the good-better-best menu approach — which groups products into Silver, Gold and Platinum options — doesn’t play well with the consumer psyche. He believes a menu that looks like a disclosure form is the best way to go. Hopefully, you can see why I’m excited to have him on the panel.

Ron Martin will also be on the panel to give his two cents. I don’t think I need to tell you who he is. These days, however, the celebrated trainer is focused on his software company, VisionMenu Inc., which offers its own menu line.

Joining him is Jim Maxim Jr. of Maxim Automotive and Patrick DeMarco, president of Ristken Software Services. DeMarco will be able to share what’s going on in eContracting, eRatings, etc. See, that’s another side you need to consider when picking a menu, because there’s a lot going on in the back-end side of the business.

Look, I know a menu is a selling tool. Heck, those stats that say a menu can increase profits per retail unit by $200 to $300 are literally stamped into my brain. But since I’m a former reporter who loves those consumers-getting-gypped stories, I think of the menu as a compliance tool.

In fact, a regulator I talked to from the state of Washington — you know, the state that revealed F&I’s dirty little secrets back in the mid- to late-’90s — said he linked compliance to the use of a menu. And the menu approach he recognized the most was the good-better-best approach. Does that mean that needs to be the standard? I don’t think so, but I do think we need to have that discussion.

The fact is there are no rules guiding how a F&I manager presents products. Sure, there are disclosure rules, but there is nothing in the books that dictates the fashion in which products are presented. Still, I think a discussion on whether the industry needs to standardize the menu is needed, which is why we’re staging this panel. We need to have it and you need to be part of it, so go to our conference Website and register today.

As for the rest of the show, like I said, we’ve turned the conference into a two-day training summit. We’ll have our regular compliance updates — one on the new risk-based pricing rule that goes live Jan. 1, 2011 — but we’re also adding some other topics that are pretty relevant right now.

We’ll have some panels that will speak to today’s digital marketing trends — such as one panel that will include a dealership’s technical operations manager, an Internet manager and two digital marketing consultants. And for you agents out there, we’ve added several workshops specifically geared toward you. Our goal with that is to provide you with the information and material you need to train and better serve your dealer customers.

I’ll be providing some more updates on the show, so stay tuned to this Website.


Gregory Arroyo
Gregory Arroyo

Gregory Arroyo

Gregory Arroyo is the former editorial director of Bobit Business Media's Dealer Group.

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Gregory Arroyo is the former editorial director of Bobit Business Media's Dealer Group.

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