There is nothing more unsettling than a contract void of product. After getting five of these customers in a row, it’s easy to begin doubting your abilities. If your next three customers arrive with cashier’s checks, it might be time to get the straitjacket out. First off, calm down! It’s not as bad as you think.

I once went 12 contracts in a row with no product. I survived, and so can you. The big question here is: When does “No” actually mean “NO?” It’s a fair question and one that some F&I producers find difficult to answer.

First, let’s not forget the reason we’re in the F&I office. We are the best of the best! Selling intangible add-ons to someone after he or she just agreed to spend $30,000 requires skill. Customer resistance is a constant.

Many trainers will advise you to quit after the third “No.” While I agree that is practical advice, there is gold to be mined after the third “No.” However, you must tread carefully.

Consider the parallels of the high-wire artist and the F&I producer. The goal of the high-wire artist is to maintain balance while walking along a tensioned wire between two points. For obvious reasons, concentration is key. He or she must change his or her gait from a standard walk on the ground level to one that doesn’t rely on lateral support, as the wire represents his or her sole support and path. All of his or her body weight has a focal point, because even the slightest slip can be disastrous.

Sounds familiar, right? Every single day, we in the F&I office are called upon to do the near impossible with practically nothing to work with other than our ability to walk the wire. Everything we do in the finance office is scrutinized, analyzed and criticized.

The first “No” is usually a defensive posture used by the customer to set the tone of the sale. Having read all the consumer publications available to him, he knows if you are average or better he will have to defend his position a couple more times before you give up.

In most cases, the goal of the customer is not to drag your profit per retail unit down; he just wants to get his car and go! The only way to slow the customer down a bit is by truly getting to know him and his motivation for buying. Remember, he didn’t walk into your showroom with the intent of buying a vehicle service contract, GAP or any other product you’re offering. He came in to buy a vehicle.

It is an exciting time when the customer enters your office, so don’t ruin it with stodgy word-tracks. Find out what his motivation is. Thank him for selecting your dealership. Thank him for allowing you the opportunity to explain his options. Do not assume he wants anything. Discover his needs and execute your most professional, empathetic presentation. Like many of you, I own the products I offer my customers. In addition to broken parts and an evidence manual, I often recount personal experiences on how the product saved me a bundle. 

Now, most of us are familiar with the bell curve as it relates to sales. On one end of the curve, you have obstinate-minded customers that God himself could not close. On the other end of the curve, you find an equal number of customers who buy the platinum menu option every time. What remains are the customers who require spot-on selling skills. And, as we all know, needs assessment is not a 40-question exercise. A skilled F&I practitioner gleans helpful knowledge from applied conversation.

Understanding those customers who make up the middle of the curve and how close they are to the extremes of the other classes is vital to objection handling. Obviously, the closer your customer is to the obstinate-minded end, the deeper you must delve into their buying motives and the lighter you must tread for fear of offending them by pushing too hard. Unfortunately, if you approach these types too aggressively, gross will follow them out the door like a Jack Russell on a leash.

Walking the high-wire is not for the faint of heart and neither is pushing beyond the third “No.”  However, the rewards will mean lots of extra commission at month’s end, as well as a happy dealer.

Marv Eleazer is the finance manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Marv Eleazer
Marv Eleazer

Marv Eleazer

Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at fi-magazine.com.

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Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at fi-magazine.com.

View Bio
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