Ever wonder what makes a top F&I producer great? You might think experience, talent or strong desk support are the keys. You might also believe success is dependent on the store’s market or the vehicles it offers for sale. Maybe it’s plain old good luck. While I don’t doubt those factors play a role, they aren’t what separate the elite producers from the rest of the pack.
Last month, I wrote about the importance of adhering to the F&I process and resisting the urge to inject our opinions into the customer’s decision-making process. My main message was that customers don’t care what we think, nor are they impressed with our winning personality. They just want a stress-free car-buying experience.
So, again, what separates the great ones from the rest? Is it fancy word-tracks or a slick menu presentation? Could success be linked to the F&I manager’s wardrobe? Is it an iPad? Could success be the result of the products they offer? Again, these are definitely contributors, but I’m here to tell you the key to success is even simpler than that. It’s something we can all tap into.
It’s called “deliberate practice,” a term that was the focus of a 44-page article published in the July 1993 edition of Psychological Review, a journal dedicated to scientific psychology. The article contends that individuals do not rise to elite status in their field as a result of innate talent, but rather intense practice over a period of years. And that practice includes negotiating motivational and external constrains.
The best example of deliberate practice is little Johnny learning to walk. He’ll probably fall quite a bit and maybe hurt himself before he takes his first real stride. And when walking becomes second nature, he’ll attempt to run, and the process begins all over again. Well, that repetitive activity is how deliberate practice works. So, how does this translate in the F&I office?
Closing deals and observing compliance are just the basics. But to move beyond average status, you’ve got to venture out from where you are. And to do that you have to face your weaknesses before you can formulate a plan to overcome your shortcomings. Yes, you’re going to fall and it’s going to hurt. But that’s what top performers do; they are driven to get up and try again.
So, yeah, the answer to what separates the top performers from the rest is simply practice. I know you’re thinking it can’t possibly be that simple. Well, it is, but let me tell you why.
First, it takes a lot of humility to admit we need help in an area and even more courage to isolate those deficiencies and deal with them. No one knows our flaws better than we do. And once isolated, we can begin defining what causes us to pause when we face those difficult closing situations. This is when it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on our shortcomings.
Famous boxing trainer and manager Cus D’Amato once said this to a young Mike Tyson: “Discipline is doing what you hate to do, but nonetheless doing it like you love it.” See, most of us hate to face our weaknesses because it reminds us we aren’t where we should be professionally. But when we do, we can start mentally roleplaying potential solutions to our problems. Then we can test what we’ve practiced on our customers. But the greatest part of all that is we’re sharpening our skills while building our confidence. And before we know it, our numbers and penetrations start to rise.
The best time to self-analyze is the moment the customer exits your office, when the details are still fresh in your mind. So use that time to examine what went wrong and what went right. You may even want to start a log of the difficult situations you face. If your store video records customer interactions, note the deals you struggled with and ask if you can review the recordings.
But when it comes time to analyze your problem or critique your video, you need to be honest with yourself. That means not blaming the customer or the sales staff for your failures.
By the way, if you’re interested in taking a look at the article I previously referenced, it’s titled, “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.” One of its many revelations is that some violinists are better than others simply because they practice nearly three times as much as the rest. Like D’Amato said, discipline is doing the things you hate. Good luck and keep closing.