In response to a reporter’s question about a hitless streak, Yogi Berra, the oft-quoted New York Yankees legend, once said, “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.” Yes, Berra was known more for his one-liners than his athletic prowess, but you have to wonder if the Hall of Fame catcher just didn’t want to admit he was in a slump. Having suffered through more than a few slumps myself — some so bad I couldn’t give my products away — I’d understand if he did.
Yeah, there’s nothing worse than when your numbers start tanking because customers just “ain’t” buying. We don’t get paid to dress well and sit at our desks; we get paid to produce. So let me start by reminding you of something you probably already know: There’s no magic slump cure. The best thing you can do is recognize when you’re stuck in a downturn and accept it for what it is.
Yes, you can turn to self-help books for answers, call upon friends and colleagues or visit a sales guru, but, in the end, you’ll still be faced with the issue at hand: You’re in a slump, plain and simple.
The truth is, slumps exist between your ears. If you convince yourself that customers aren’t going to buy, then you’re already defeated. My simple advice is to start examining everything you’re doing to be certain you’re not the cause. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you using the menu 100% of the time on every customer, or are you being selective based on whom you think it will work best on?
- Are you adhering to the tried-and-true F&I process flow that you’ve used successfully for years, or are you starting to take shortcuts?
- Are you just going through the drill like a robot or are you making a quality presentation to each customer so they have the information they need to make smart choices?
- Do you have a winning attitude that exudes confidence in who you are and what you do, or do you look like you’re ready for the grave?
Now let’s drill down a little and put an end to this slump once and for all. A slump is defined as “a period during which a person performs slowly, inefficiently or ineffectively, especially a period during which an athlete or team fails to play or score as well as usual.”
The root cause of that slump is usually far less complicated than we think. We usually view a slump as some sort of curse that has descended upon us like a black cloud that has to pass before things clear up.
It typically starts with a slight downturn and then things slowly begin grinding to a halt. And your mind has a terrible way of making you believe it’s going to require a long process to get out of that slump, right?
I was recently talking with an F&I manager who said, “I’m getting slammed with 0% finance deals!” Instead of looking at the opportunity that 0% financing offers for product sales, he was honed in on the loss of reserve.
What you have to remember is the next customer who walks into your office doesn’t know you’re struggling — that’s unless you tell them with your nonverbal communication. I’m talking about body language and posture. No one wants to buy from someone who doesn’t seem energized or excited about his or her work.
Take Minnesota’s G.P. Anderson, the first winner of the F&Idol contest. Every time I see him or talk to him on the phone, he always seems to be enjoying every aspect of his life. Occasionally, I return from lunch and discover a joke he’s left on my office phone. I sometimes replay it just for another laugh, and I never come away from a conversation with him feeling down.
I’m certain G.P. has difficulties with customers and production skids just like you and me — but you’d never know it by talking with him.
The point is that you can talk yourself into believing the reason customers aren’t buying is because of you. That attitude won’t take long to affect your presentation. Next thing you know, you’re taking shortcuts. Sure, there are customers no one can close. Fortunately, they’re in the minority. The vast majority of customers know they need the protection. They just need someone to help them.
The worst thing we can do is start believing that customers aren’t buying because of us. If that is the case, then it’s time to change.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]