I missed my son-in-law’s first attempt at reaching me. But he got through to me on the second attempt. “Marv, would you mind stopping by the dealership I’m working with?” he asked. “It’s been a while since I bought a new car and things are moving pretty fast!”
“Sure thing,” I said. “Need a little moral support, do ya?”
My son-in-law had been shopping around until he finally landed on the car he wanted. He had been at the dealership for hours, and the salesman, sales manager and F&I person were the only ones left at the dealership. When I arrived, I was promptly greeted and introduced to the salesperson. He seemed a bit nervous. Not only did he have another set of eyes looking over the deal, the person doing the looking was a grizzled veteran of the car business.
The paperwork had already been submitted to F&I, so we ambled over to the customer lounge until the F&I manager came out to greet us. We were then escorted to his office and the process began. As the two started talking, I glanced around the office. The desk was cluttered with various forms. There were also various bulletins pinned to the wall next to the manager. On the opposite wall was a table filled with brochures, which the manager occasionally grabbed when a product was being discussed. And though the state docs were preprinted, very little else seemed to have a defined flow.
The manager was very friendly, conducted the usual verifications and began discussing product by occasionally referencing what was displayed on his computer monitor. Several products were discussed before the menu was even presented, which I thought was strange. When it was presented, the four-column menu obviously needed some programming updates, as the correct deal figures were written over a dab of Wite-Out.
The F&I manager’s pitch never progressed past the first column, which contained eight products. Each time my son-in-law asked about a product’s benefits, the manager would immediately offer a price discount. My head was spinning, but I kept quiet because my son-in-law wasn’t questioning the price. Product knowledge was definitely an issue with this F&I manager, but it was clear confidence in what he was selling was another issue. I guess that’s why he was so quick to discount prices.
Personally, I believe my son-in-law would have considered more than the three heavily discounted products he selected from the menu’s first column, but the F&I manager had already eaten up too much of our time with his unprepared presentation. In fact, my son-in-law was interested in a fourth product until the manager misspoke about the coverage. When asked to confirm what he was saying, the manager had to pull out the enrollment form to find the answer. As it turned out, the product didn’t fill my son-in-law’s need.
Though all the legal disclosures were handled pretty well, no updated menu was offered for final approval after the deal was finalized. Several things came to mind as I watched the transaction play out, but here are four major points I came away with:
1. Office Appearance: How well your office is organized and laid out suggests professionalism, so take a hard look at how it looks from a customer’s point of view. Look, most everything we do when we’re with a customer is scrutinized, so it’s important that we examine every facet of our presentation and office to be certain the image we want to project is what the customer sees.
2. Product Knowledge: Knowledge of your products is absolutely necessary for success. You should know them like the back of your hand. And that’s why those glossy brochures are so important. But remember, the best place for product brochures when we’re with a customer is out of sight. So study them and you’ll find you’ll need them less and less as your knowledge increases.
3. Keep It Simple, Stupid: It’s critical you get straight to business by verifying the sales figures and presenting a well-prepared menu. Remember, your customer just spent days or even weeks researching their purchase, so don’t make it even more complicated when he or she reaches your office.
4. Follow the Boy Scout Motto: “Always be prepared” is the Scout motto, and it needs to be your motto in the F&I office. That means having every possible form neatly stored in a folder and ready at a moment’s notice. In fact, there should be nothing else on your desk besides those forms.
Lastly, make sure your customers know they’re the most important person at that moment. Don’t take calls or allow any distractions when working with them. Anything less is amateurish. Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]