Any trainer and every experienced F&I manager will tell you that the one thing you can’t afford to compromise is the process of F&I.
Whether you decide to conduct business in the confines of your office, sit with the customer in the salesperson’s cubicle with an iPad or use an electronic menu, there is a proven F&I process that has an effective starting point and ends with a completed transaction. It begins by confirming the sale of the vehicle and the terms the customer agreed to. Once we’ve done those things, it’s time to make our product presentation.
See, the one constant — at least from what I’ve gathered — is that our award-winning personalities have very little, if anything, to do with what the customer ultimately decides. I write that because there are still some trainers and F&I managers who believe rapport-building is critical to motivating customers to buy. Before you pro-rapport people start throwing darts, consider this: If rapport-building and charming personalities were so important, then why aren’t likeable F&I managers the only ones who find success in this business?
If you’ve been following this column, you know I’m not a fan of the formal interview. One reason is that I can get most of the information I need by reviewing the deal information and talking to the sales department. And I use that information to mentally prepare for whatever objection the customer may lob my way. And in my view, the best approach to overcoming an objection is to make absolutely certain we have the customer’s best interest at heart when we tackle his or her reason for not wanting our product.
Bottom line, it should never be about the pressure you’re under to produce or anything remotely associated with your needs. Customers can smell that desperation, which, again, is why I oppose fact-finding interviews. They know where we’re headed when we ask how they plan to use the vehicle they’re purchasing.
Listen, we all know they need the coverage. I’d bet your customers know it, too. But no matter how much we think they need the products we offer, we absolutely must resist badgering them when they’ve made clear they’re opting out. Hey, I’ll admit I’ve not always followed my advice. In fact, one incident sticks out in my mind. The customer objected based on advice from friends and family and I responded: “Well, are they going to pay for the repairs when this thing breaks down?”
Yeah, that went pretty well.
The key to success in F&I is removing yourself from the equation, because it really doesn’t matter what we think. The customer’s opinion is the only thing that counts and they usually aren’t interested in ours. But that makes our job quite simple. All we need to do is professionally present the customer’s options with a positive and friendly attitude. And we have to be informative while doing so, and provide them with a good explanation of the benefits our products afford them. Then we let them make the decision.
I’ve followed this tactic for some time now, and the results are amazing. There are other variables to this equation, as you are all aware. There are those salespeople who get so emotionally attached to their customers that they believe they know things about them that you need to know. Oftentimes, these tidbits of information are worthless, but sometimes salespeople can be so convincing that you begin to believe them when they say the customer won’t pay a penny more. This is where you need to manage those feelings. I’m not saying you should flush away everything the salesperson tells you, but it does mean you need to act like an editor and pick out those nuggets that might help. The same goes for whatever the customer tells you.
Now, I didn’t write that to bash salespeople. We do rely on their ability to sell the car. I write that because you need to believe in the process, and you need to stick with it. That doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with a little wrinkle from time to time, but the process was put in place because it has been proven to work.
Look, psychology is always at play in F&I, but don’t get caught up in the gamesmanship that goes on. Your customer and even your salespeople aren’t your opponents on the battlefield.
Remember, customers are real people with real needs, and it’s up to us as professionals to offer risk-management products that provide peace of mind in a friendly, non-confrontational manner. And contrary to what we’ve been told, the customer isn’t interested in our opinion. So be the professional your customers expect and provide them with world-class service. Good luck and keep closing!