Mrs. Marv and I usually spend our mornings enjoying coffee on our back deck while birdwatching. One of the most amazing things about birds is their seasonal awareness. They store food away as winter approaches. Then spring arrives and they begin nesting. When the hatchlings are ready to leave the nest, the parents teach them to survive. It’s a small window. Every day and every act matters.
Our casual hobby reminds me of the various stages salespeople and even some managers are at in their careers. There are salespeople who seem to immediately grasp the concept of following up for long-term residual sales. They send handwritten cards, emails, and text messages. They seem to grow right before our eyes.
Then there are those who halfheartedly approach the profession as a “job.” They will make some effort when management pushes them, but they never quite realize the value of sowing and reaping. They are only interested in lot walk-ups and incoming sales calls.
If we approached F&I the same way, we’d soon be in the unemployment line. Yet we rely on salespeople to bring us opportunities to do our job. We marvel that sales managers aren’t more effective. Well, I can tell you that some of that falls on our shoulders too. It’s incumbent on us to offer as much help as possible.
Here at Langdale, managers are on a weekly rotational training schedule. It’s only a half hour, but it gives our salespeople something to digest and maybe even use to close another sale. Given a half hour with each of your salespeople, how would you spend it?
There are a variety of things you can teach on. Among them is the value our products bring to the customer as well as the dealership.
I’m not talking about teaching salespeople to endorse F&I products. They are not trained in the finer points. But they can engage curious customers. “I’m not an expert on service contracts, but they are available. Our business office will show you options when you meet with them.”
Smart salespeople realize that our products have residual benefits that can positively affect them. Service contracts can bring customers back for repairs by factory-trained techs using OEM parts. Prepaid maintenance guarantees familiarity with your service department and creates upsell opportunities. Both help used-car managers appraise trades and resell those units.
Back when I was a young fellow, we were assigned early-morning rotational duty to work the service lane. Nowadays, the service department automatically texts salespeople when their past customers show up for repairs or maintenance. This is a great opportunity to press the flesh and remind them it will soon be time to find a new car or help their wife, kid or friend do the same.
GAP is another great example. Just today, I helped a salesperson deliver a car to a repeat customer whose one-year-old car was totaled. GAP was paying it off, but her insurance company told her she couldn’t replace it while the claim was pending. I reassured her that wasn’t the case.
She was so happy that she not only picked out a new car for herself, but also one for her daughter — all because she financed at the dealership and bought GAP. Now the salesperson is enjoying two nice commissions, and mother and daughter are out there spreading the good word about Langdale Ford.
When salespeople convey the need to consider dealer financing, they open the door to long-term relationships. Just like the birds who ready themselves for a new brood, smart salespeople are always preparing for that next sale. They invest in the customer they sell today as a future customer.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve entered a fresh deal into the DMS, only to discover the repeat customer bought his or her trade from a currently employed salesperson who wasn’t following up.
Let’s do our part by encouraging our salespeople to push hard for the finance opportunity and execute a strong turnover. Doing so guarantees those customers will likely return and that your sales staff will be ready to direct them back to your office the next time around.
Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].