Let’s complete our two-part series on becoming an F&I manager with a quick review of the basic nuts and bolts of the job. And let’s start with a quick explanation on why we have desk managers.
See, before the position was created, dealers transitioned customers from sales to F&I by having sales managers structure deals based on price and trade difference, leaving the F&I manager to quote payments. Some dealers still do. The only problem with that setup is most customers want to know their payment and annual percentage rate (APR) before committing to a purchase. That’s what led to the creation of the desk manager’s role.
Now payments and APR are quoted in sales based on a credit score range. If accepted by the customer, the F&I manager then gets the credit application and takes control of the deal. Now here’s a step-by-step on how the F&I process works:
- Meet and Greet: As soon as you get the deal, review it and then go find the customer in the showroom. Gather any missing data and let the customer know how long until you return to get them. Lastly, instruct the salesperson to get the car ready.
- Submit Deal for Approval: If your desk doesn’t do this, then get it approved and ready to present. Be sure to review the buyer’s order with the customer to make sure he or she has agreed to the price and trade-in offer. If the customer balks at either, excuse yourself to confer with the sales department and correct the issue.
- Present the Menu: Most F&I offices use the menu because it’s a simple and easy way to present your products. Just make sure you use your own words when describing what your products do.
- Print Documents: Once you and the customer have agreed on terms, then the final documents are printed and signed.
- Disclose: Every customer deserves a thorough explanation of every form they’re asked to sign, so make sure you understand each one.
- Regulation Z Compliance: This is one of the most important disclosures you’ll make and the reason why compliance training is so critical. You want to be absolutely certain you do this right.
- T.O. Back to Sales: The final step is to return the customer back to the sales department for delivery. Don’t forget to mention the customer satisfaction survey they’ll receive.
Basic stuff, right? Well, the process I described assumes you’re working with a customer with good credit, trade equity and cash down. But out here in the real world, you’re going to see customers dragging in their worn-out cars they’re upside down on by thousands of dollars in hopes of getting into a $40,000 SUV.
Oh, and they usually don’t have anything to put down. And they have marginal credit and they’re on fixed incomes. It’s these situations where having a keen understanding of lender guidelines by everyone involved in the deal structure is critical.
So where does rapport fit into the process I detailed? Well, from my experience, it doesn’t. With only 20 to 25 minutes to get through our process, I just don’t think there’s time, especially on those busy Saturdays when you’re five customers deep. And as I’ve written before, the clock starts ticking the second the customer agrees to buy. That means time is not on our side.
However, I do think rapport building is important when it comes to lender relations, because your buyer can be a big help when putting together those difficult deals. You need to know your finance sources’ habits, as well as the type of paper they like buying.
Keep in mind that their business model is subject to change without notice, which is why I highly recommend you communicate with your buyers via phone rather than text or email. Hey, it’s far easier for a finance source to say “No” to a text requesting an additional $500 advance for a service contract than it is to say “No” over the phone. And remember, these buyers do have flexibility, so be sure you get your share of exceptions by cultivating that relationship.
As I wrote last month, F&I is the single most rewarding position in the dealership, but it’s not for everyone. It may look easy, but it’s not. Until next month, good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the finance lead at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]