Have you ever seen “Who’s On First?” Performed by the comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, the skit is considered one of the all-time great comedy acts. If you haven’t, you can find it on YouTube.
In the sketch, Abbott tries to identify the names of the players on a baseball team for Costello, but their names sound more like nonresponsive answers to Costello’s questions. For instance, the first baseman’s name is “Who.” So when Costello asks, “Well then, who’s on first?” Abbot responds with a “Yes.”
The name of the third baseman is “I Don’t Know,” which makes for a great exchange when Costello asks, “Now who’s playing third base?” As we in the F&I business know, there’s nothing funny about a customer entering our offices with a third baseman. It can test even the most grizzled F&I professional.
For those of you who haven’t heard the term, “third baseman” refers to an advisor who accompanies the buyer to help negotiate the sale and finance terms. So you have a buyer who’s afraid of making a bad decision and an advisor who is putting his reputation on the line to ensure the buyer doesn’t. That means the advisor is going to object to the initial offer, no matter how low the price is. If he doesn’t, his advice is unnecessary.
It’s no different than buyers wanting to have the vehicle they want to buy inspected by their mechanic, who will invariably find something wrong with the car. Hey, the dealership’s service department shines brighter than his shop if he doesn’t, and he just can’t stomach that.
Having had some of my worst moments in the box handing a customer and a third baseman, I know it’s easy to become irritated and lose credibility by saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone. And let’s not forget about body language. It can give you away pretty quickly if you’re not careful.
Now, you can keep butting heads with your customers’ advisors and come away empty handed, or you can acknowledge the buyer’s confidence in the advisor and cash in. Let me explain.
See, I address all parties as though they’re the buyer. Eye contact is key. I also make sure my body faces both the buyer and the advisor, and I make sure I make every effort to engage both of them when speaking. In other words, address the advisor’s objection as though he is spending the money. And whatever you do, don’t get into a head-butting contest with the third baseman, because you’ll lose. And when that happens, you also lose the buyer.
Now, the key to unlocking the door is to always remain calm and professional. Anything else confirms their belief that you’re just another car guy trying to hustle them. Now here’s a response I use when facing an advisor’s objection to my vehicle service contract (VSC). Feel free to use it or customize it to your liking.
“I understand the way you feel about the VSC and why you would not buy it. Joe invited you along for support and values your opinion. I think all of us in this room have known someone who experienced a major breakdown and had to rely on others to help out either financially or to hitch a ride until the car got fixed. I’m simply offering a solution to that potential problem. And I think, as Joe’s friend, you wouldn’t want to see him in a situation like that without coverage. Whatever decision you guys make is just fine with me. My job is to make certain you understand what options are available to protect your investment.”
A couple of years ago, I had a father and daughter in my office. He was adamantly opposed to the VSC and kept giving her grief because she realized the peace of mind it offered. I stayed on task and she eventually turned to him and said, “So, am I going come to you when it breaks down? I don’t think so!” Yes, she opted for the VSC and I managed to keep a straight face.
Address everyone who is offering an opinion as though it’s a joint venture and pretty soon the buyer won’t feel so pressured to take the third baseman’s advice. Remember, this is all about posturing. So be sure to acknowledge the advisor’s friendly advice and you’ll be one step closer to convincing the customer that you are just a professional doing your job. Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]