Our question this month comes from “name withheld upon request.” Name withheld laments, “At our dealership, the salespeople take the credit application, the desk pulls the credit bureau, submits the deals, obtains an approval, and quotes the rate and payment before I ever see a customer. They expect customers to be in and out of F&I in 15 minutes. So I go greet the customer, do a brief showroom interview, load the deal, print as many forms as possible, and customize my menu. I then bring the customer to my office and present my products, but I’m having trouble overcoming objections. What do you recommend?”
Name withheld, I can understand why you’re having trouble. When customers say they don’t need a service contract, you’re unable to provide them with reasons why they do. About the only thing you can do is relate multiple benefits and hope one of them happens to collide with a need. That’s a very ineffective and inefficient way of selling.
In the F&I office, the goal is to overcome objections before you get them. That requires asking specific needs-discovery questions for every F&I product you offer. Unfortunately, because of the way things are done at your dealership, you aren’t afforded the time to discover your customers’ needs. My recommendation is to make a list of needs-discovery questions you can ask your customers throughout the F&I process.
You also need to get involved earlier in the transaction. What’s happening is that the “F” in F&I has been taken over by the desk. We see this quite often, especially if there has been a lot of turnover in the F&I office, or the desk manager has been there forever and the F&I manager is new or inexperienced. Whatever the reason, in order for the F&I process to be perceived by customers as adding value to their purchase experience, you need to be actively involved in arranging the financing.
In most dealerships, credit applications are completed prior to the customer being introduced to the F&I manager. At a minimum, however, you should review the credit application with the customer prior to submission to a finance source, as it’s critical you confirm the information on the credit application and in the credit bureau. This will provide you with a clear understanding of the customer’s financial situation prior to submission to a lender.
See, every customer has a story, and you have to hear that story. This will allow you to assist the sales department (and the customer) in structuring a deal that has a better chance of receiving an approval, even if the deal has some negative issues. Properly used during your customer interview, the credit application and credit bureau report can be a source of numerous needs-discovery questions that will help you overcome objections and sell product.
For example, when I confirm the customer’s address is “123 Any Street,” I then ask, “So, do you have room in the garage for the new car? Where will you park it at night? What about during the day?” This can help you sell GAP, environmental protection, or a theft-deterrent product.
When confirming their employment at ABC Corporation, ask, “How far is your commute to work? What route do you take?” Such questions can tee up the sale of tire-and-wheel protection, allowing you to paint a picture of your customer hitting that pothole on I-95.
Finally, you need to stop making customers wait while you load their deal and create the menu. This is prime needs-discovery time that is being wasted. Customize the menu with your customers so they see you’re there to help them take delivery of their vehicle as soon as possible, explain their options, answer their questions, and adjust the products, packages, and coverage based on their wants, needs, and concerns.
In the F&I office, needs-discovery is the foundation on which we must build every sale. Understanding the unique qualities of each customer and their particular circumstances allows you to position your products as a solution to their needs. Only then can you overcome their objections.
Name withheld, thanks for your question. Check out my video response to this question and others by visiting my So Here’s the Deal blog at www.fi-magazine.com. And don’t forget to submit your own video for a chance to get your question answered and a free YETI. As always, it’s a beautiful day to help a customer.
Ron Reahard is president of Reahard & Associates Inc., a training company providing F&I classes, workshops, in-dealership and online training. Got a question or objection for Ron? Use your mobile phone to record a brief video (shot landscape style!) of your question and upload it to go-reahard.com/ask-ron/