Unlike most of you, I have to check my thoughts and attitude on a regular basis. Yes, even after all these years, I still get the jitters before I get in front of a customer, especially when I hear a salesperson say, “They never buy any of that stuff, so don’t waste your time.”
Statistically, I know my customers will need the protections I offer. But when the sales department tries to direct my actions, the fear of the customer rejecting a $50 or $100 bump in their payment can sometimes be overwhelming.
As I’ve said before, F&I isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a lot more than mastering the rules of the road and the physical demands of long hours. The mark of a true professional is the ability to remain calm, cool and collected under all circumstances. No, I haven’t mastered that, but I am working on it.
Truth is, it’s only natural for us F&I pros to fear rejection, especially when we live and die by our performance numbers. And I guess that’s why product reps and trainers are such big cheerleaders. They’ve walked in our shoes, so they know the internal divisions we face inside the store, and how that’s often the source of the negativity that creeps into our minds.
I’m sure you’ve seen the T-shirts with variations on the “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme. Well, we need a box of them that say “Keep Calm and Let the F&I Manager Handle It,” and we need to hand them out around the dealership to remind people not to lose their minds when a deal comes unhinged. Hey, our job is to tie up all the loose ends, get the car delivered, and add significant profit to the deal while managing good CSI.
Now that I’ve set the stage, I’d like to share a recent encounter I had with two executives from a large insurance agency. They bought two new F-150s for personal use under the company name. They were repeat customers, so I reviewed their previous deals and noticed they hadn’t purchased products before. Naturally, my first thought was they wouldn’t buy anything this time, either.
Their appointments were scheduled for the afternoon, which meant I had time to mentally prepare. Both were in need of GAP and their three-year-old trades were out of the manufacturer’s warranty. So, from a mileage standpoint, they were good candidates for a service contract.
I kept reminding myself that it’s my job to ensure they get a quality presentation, even though they’re experts on risk management, probably have plenty of coverage, and would probably self-insure.
Now, they were originally scheduled to meet with me at different times, but they decided to come together at the last minute. No problem, right? All I had to do was handle one deal after the other. To my surprise, however, they requested that I complete their deals at the same time when they arrived. I was shaken. I mean, if I struck out on the first customer, the chances of me selling the second were slim.
I swallowed my anxiety and got to work. After my first pass through the menu, one of the executives quickly declined GAP. “We’ll just write that on our corporate policy and we’ll be fine,” he said.
I figured he was about to reject the other products when he picked up the menu. He then turned to his partner and said, “But, you know, this maintenance thing and extended coverage caught my eye right away. What do you think?”
I was relieved but also nervous that his business partner would blow the sale. “Sounds great to me,” he said, to my surprise.
“Well, I know it’s more than we decided before we walked in, but I kind of like this whole idea,” said the first executive. They both nodded and quickly signed the menus. Afterward, they thanked me profusely for handling them so professionally, and they left with big smiles on their faces. I wiped the sweat from my brow and let out a huge sigh of relief.
The message here is to never assume the customer isn’t going to buy. Just put your game face on and put forth your best effort. You just never know. Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]