The worst day of every F&I professional’s life reoccurs every couple of months. I am talking about the day your dealer and general manager return from their latest 20 Group meeting.

Sporting new golf tans and deep frowns, they come storming into the showroom Monday morning and go directly to the dealer’s office. You know what’s coming next. They’ve been locked in a room with 19 other dealers for two days comparing numbers. And well, your dealership was on the right side or the bottom of the sheet in every profit category. Your numbers were all rate profit and your product penetrations were below group average, which means your per-copy average sucked as well.

After four or five hours of number-crunching, everyone hit the golf course and your bosses took 18 holes’ worth of jokes and jabs from the 20 Group moderator and all the dealers on the left side of the ledger. By the time they boarded their flight home, your bosses were steaming. And you can bet your name and the sales manager’s came up.

You have two options: You can grab a cardboard box out of the parts department, pack up and head down to Best Buy to fill out a job application, or you can organize a preemptive defensive maneuver before the next meeting. Let’s assume you choose the latter.

Your first move is to stop externalizing the problem and making excuses to justify your crappy numbers. Are your performance goals set too high? Perhaps, but probably not. Do the other dealers in that 20 Group operate in a market full of “lay-downs” and “mooches”? Possibly, but it’s more likely their customers are just like yours.

Remember, most of my dealership management career was spent in the box at some of the most high-powered dealerships in history. And I hung some big numbers (that’s documented), so I know what drives poor performance and a low closing ratio. It’s the fear of money, and everybody has it.  

Personally, I never delivered a car without fearing the customer would explode when I presented the numbers. After all, the last thing the salesperson said was, “Don’t blow these people out! I really need this deal.”

This phenomenon is closely related to “call reluctance,” a state in which a sales professional is afraid to make the call. In F&I, you convince yourself that your customers don’t want or need your product, are too smart to buy it, can’t afford it or will walk if you try to sell it to them.

The menu was designed to ensure that we present 100% of the products to every customer. We all know that’s a crock of crap. You can easily shortcut the menu presentation or do an “apology” presentation with no enthusiasm or persuasion. In fact, Wayne Gretzky must have been thinking of F&I managers when he said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

In all my seminars, I repeat a “Zieglerism” that I’ve been saying for 25 years: “We don’t have a knowing problem, we have a doing problem.” Most of you are well-trained. Some of you are overtrained. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing what you were taught to do or saying what you were taught to say. More sales are missed because you never really went for it, not because the customer said “No.”

What you need to do is wake up to the fact that your title has the word “manager” in it. That means you have one of the premier positions in the dealership, usually with the highest income potential. You have more skills, more schools and more specialized training than everyone but the service techs. That means you should be a precision closer.

I didn’t start to post the big numbers until I made a decision to become a student of the industry and accepted the fact that I was an F&I manager — not an administrator, not a coordinator. I had a title denoting dignity, authority and respect. I was a highly trained and vital profit center in my dealership.

You’re on your own from here. I can’t tell you how to be a manager, how to carry yourself like a manager or how to possess a manager’s confidence. I can only show you what it looks like. You need to figure out the rest for yourself.

Assuming you are well-trained and know what it takes to achieve the kind of numbers your bosses will be proud to take to their next 20 Group meeting, there’s only one question left: Are you willing to do what you need to do to achieve them?

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. Email him at [email protected]


Jim Ziegler
Jim Ziegler

President and CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim Ziegler ranks among the industry's most recognized and honored trainers, consultants, authors, speakers, and forecasters.

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Jim Ziegler ranks among the industry's most recognized and honored trainers, consultants, authors, speakers, and forecasters.

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