Way back in 1954, Kitty Kallen recorded a popular song titled, “Little Things Mean A Lot.” It was a lovely tune from a lady to her beau about how important the little things are in a relationship. Well, the lesson this song teaches can be applied in the F&I office, because it’s the little things that can really make a difference.
Take an F&I colleague of mine who consistently runs north of $1,100. He had just suffered through a rough month in which his production was basically cut in half. While backtracking to figure out what went wrong, he discovered that his downfall wasn’t the result of any major blunders on his part. No, what got him were the little things.
How many times have you made a presentation, discovered another party was going to be involved in the decision, then learned they were unavailable? Why is the customer even in your office, right? How could the sales department be so blind?
The Bible’s King Solomon once wrote, “There is no new thing under the sun.” Wise words, right? But how do they apply to us in the automotive retail industry?
For starters, have you ever noticed that, no matter how many conferences, workshops and seminars you’ve attended, the message never changes? Yes, the delivery may vary, but not the message. That’s because there are certain steps in the finance process that must be followed to deliver the unit profitably and within the bounds of federal and state regulations. So, why should you ever attend another training session, right?
The answer is simple: There are times in every F&I manager’s career when we need to hear the message again. We’re creatures of habit, right? Think about it: How is it that bad habits are just as easy to pick up as good ones?
In this business, the ability to recognize a bad habit and make a change often separates the successful from the not-so successful. But, as we all know, recognizing when change is needed is easier said than done. That’s because we all have a tendency to stray a little here and a little there from what works, which is usually how bad habits begin to surface. And before you know it, you’re in a slump.
The best way to keep those bad habits at bay is to be active. It’s easy to surf the Web and make personal calls when things are slow, but it’s better to use that time to sharpen your skills. You may even want to see if there are any deals you can rehash with your sales manager. Maybe it’s time to visit the service drive to offer a pep talk about referring vehicle service contract (VSC) prospects. You may even want to dust off that cash menu and do a little fine tuning.
See, the biggest problem with not keeping yourself sharp is you tend to make mistakes when business picks up and you get swamped. Little mistakes, such as forgetting a signature, can be costly. You lose credibility with the customer when you have to reel them back in. Even worse, they may get second thoughts about that service contract they opted for.
Here are some suggestions to help keep you sharp during downtime:
• Get out of your office and investigate what’s going on around you.
• Offer to sit in on deals at the desk and take turnovers.
• Forecast your goals.
• Constantly check what you expect of yourself.
• Become an ally, rather than an adversary, to the sales department.
• Study and become familiar with your local market dynamics.
• Sign up with new lenders that can compete with the local credit unions and banks.
• Make sure your service writers are referring VSC prospects and that you’re spiffing them for doing so.
• Develop a menu option for VSC offerings that work well with cash customers.
• Get involved with online forums where like-minded F&I staffers swap sales ideas.
• Keep your office organized.
• Always be mentally prepared to deal with the next customer.
• Learn how to leave your personal issues at home.
I know what you’re thinking: There’s nothing new here. Well, that’s the point. You have heard it all before, but maybe it’s time you pick up these simple habits again. I can almost guarantee you’ll see amazing results.
Listen, there is only one person you can truly affect, and that’s you. The little things can have a huge impact on your daily success, so make sure you’re paying attention to those small details. The big problems will take of themselves.
Marv Eleazer is the finance manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. E-mail him at [email protected]