Nothing’s better than walking into Casa Del Eleazer after a long day at work. I can almost smell the aroma of dinner just thinking about it, with hints of rosemary, garlic and paprika wafting through the air. Add candlelight, a bottle of wine and smooth jazz to the mix and the pressures from the day just melt away.
I consider myself a lucky guy for landing a great woman like Mrs. Marv, who usually greets me after a long day with, “Would you like a beer?” I quickly change into something more comfortable and rejoin her in the kitchen, plopping myself on the barstool to watch her put the final touches on her well-planned meal. Her cooking skills are truly something to marvel at.
As wonderful as all this sounds, Mrs. Marv’s culinary masterpieces don’t happen without some serious planning and preparation. I know because I did some of the cooking when she was still working. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy. Aside from the main entrée, there are the accompanying side dishes and the occasional desert.
Mrs. Marv likes to throw in a personal touch by setting the table either at the bar or in the dining room. What’s funny is she spends hours planning, shopping and prepping the meal, only to see it be consumed in about 20 minutes. Yup, all that hard work just to see it disappear in less time than it took her to purchase all the ingredients. Sounds familiar, right?
Cooking a great meal requires the right amount of ingredients — a quarter cup of this and a pinch or two of that. And Mrs. Marv makes it look so easy. Experience isn’t the only reason she is so good behind the stove; it’s that she follows a consistent process. She’ll tell me anyone who can read a recipe can cook, but I know better.
Consistency is one of the hallmarks of a top-performing F&I department. Yes, there are various ingredients that go into the finished product, but the only way we can achieve the desired results is by mastering our craft. And mastering anything requires repetition and trial and error. Even the most basic functions can be improved upon with a studious eye and a desire to improve. So let’s take a look at a few things you can do to master your craft.
- Housekeeping: Make certain you have the most current forms at your fingertips. That means you need to be organized so you can minimize customers having to resign documents, which, as we all know, hurts customer satisfaction.
- Menu Presentation: Your presentation should have a consistent verbal flow that customers are dazzled by. Bottom line, it should be as easy as riding a bicycle.
- Underwriter Relations: This can be a pain in the neck. But to improve and achieve consistency in your callbacks, you need to supply the underwriter with all the information you can. And don’t do that via text or email. Get on the phone.
- Define and Maintain an Effective F&I Process: Professionals know exactly how their process is going to play out and are always prepared for anything. If you find yourself stumbling when faced with certain situations, then write out a planned process and rehearse it until you get better.
- Professional Development: One of the reasons top producers get better and are more consistent is they constantly seek out ways to improve their skills. They read trade magazines, participate in online forums and take advantage of every training opportunity.
- Staff Training: People can’t know what to do if they’re not trained. So instead of complaining about their poor production, take every opportunity to help them help you.
- Goal Setting and Forecasting: How can you know where you’re going if you don’t have a map? F&I pros who achieve consistent production get better because they set realistic goals and map out the path to get there.
Look, the only way to cut down on those peaks and valleys you experience throughout the month and year is to commit yourself daily to honing your skills. Ever wonder why some F&I managers steadily improve their production? It’s not that they have some special skill for avoiding those potholes on the road to success. In fact, they face plenty of ups and downs throughout the month and year. What separates top performers is they are constantly monitoring their progress and self-analyzing their results. And they’re always seeking out a more efficient way to wring out another product sale or increase their per-copy average by another $20.
While Mrs. Marv may be right, being able to read a recipe doesn’t guarantee a great culinary experience. No, to serve up a great dish takes skill and thoughtful preparation. Good luck and keep closing.