Years ago, I took a gig at a store that had an underperforming F&I department. The numbers were in the tank and they essentially had no process, so I began the arduous task of rebuilding things.
It didn’t take long for me to discover they didn’t understand what a “TO” was, because the managers knew little about the progress of their salespeople and what deals they were working. Coming from a store that believed in F&I manager involvement, this sort of apathy kind of knocked me back.
I approached the dealer to discuss the lack of TOs, or turnovers, and the impact it was having — not only on sales, but on F&I performance as well. I was armed with facts and figures that I’d been compiling to show him how much we were losing, but it didn’t seem important to him at the time. He finally looked me square in the face and said, “It’s not my job to force these guys to give you a TO. That’s your job. If you want more TOs, then I suggest you get out of your office and take them yourself.”
You can imagine the look on my face. Not only did this go against my training, his unwillingness to back me up just blew me away. At the very least, I thought he’d have a meeting with the sale staff to instill accountability. I was wrong.
Naturally, I left his office feeling bewildered and more frustrated than ever before. I contemplated finding a new job where F&I would be revered. Not willing to back down from a challenge, I finally decided to take his advice.
But before I tell you what I did, let’s talk a little about the headline of this month’s article.
See, F&I trainer Gerry Gould has used the acronym “GOYA” in his training for years. It stands for “Get off your axle” and get involved in what’s happening. As an experienced F&I manager, I can tell you I’ve been guilty of expecting salespeople to take a number before asking to see the “F&I god,” as F&I trainer Ron Reahard has so comically noted. And if you’re guilty of this childish behavior, then I suggest you check your attitude. It took me a little while — actually, a long while — to humble down, and yet I still work on it every day.
Now back to my story: After I thought about what my dealer said, I decided it was up to me to bring about change. So I started patrolling the sales floor for any missed opportunities. I’d start eyeing the active deals and questioning the sales manager as the deals unfolded, offering to help in any way.
My effort wasn’t well received at first, but I eventually gained their confidence. Turnovers never reached 100%, but they vastly improved — as did F&I numbers.
Turnovers — or lack thereof — are a weekly topic in Ethical F&I Managers, a Facebook group for F&I managers. And I agree with F&I trainer George Angus about logging missed opportunities by translating them into the average back-end gross multiplied by the number of missed TOs. His point is clear: When presented with the facts, most dealers will eventually impose accountability standards to improve TOs.
Beyond that, there isn’t much you can do to effect change aside from getting actively involved in deals as they happen. And that is my message this month.
In a perfect world, salespeople should be following their training by giving you an opportunity every time, but that just doesn’t happen. However, you can improve things by walking the floor or hanging out at the desk where deals are happening, making yourself available to take a turn if needed. At the very least, you’ll be putting the staff on notice that you’re not lazy. Their confidence level in F&I may even improve.
Gerry’s idea reminds me of the old “management by walking around” approach. It still works today. So if you want to see some improvement, get off your axle, get out there where the action is, and bring that energy back with you into your office.
Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].