Contrary to what some think, closing a customer on thousands of dollars in F&I products doesn’t involve hocus pocus or a magic wand. As complicated as it may sound, successfully closing a profitable deal in the box isn’t that hard if we lend an ear of understanding. With the exception of an F-type customer, most can be closed on product.
Have you ever wondered why we have two ears and one mouth? From a business point of view, the answer is painfully obvious: Listen more and talk less. Listening isn’t planning an objection-handling comment. It’s pausing to understand the customer. A quality presentation is vital to success in F&I. Sadly, it’s often driven by our pay plans rather than real concern for customer needs.
Try giving your next customer an opportunity to communicate their needs. Focus on what they’re saying. Resist thinking about how you’re going to counter with fancy word-tracks. Be sincere.
Hey, they already know they need the products you’re offering. Customers are real people with real problems, most of which can be traced to stretching a dollar. Time and time again, customers who won’t budge another nickel on payment for the sales department will bump themselves by $100 or more per month to protect their investments. On face value, this seems to be a little contradictory. But it makes perfect sense to them.
Avoiding costly repairs is one of the reasons they’re trading. And along with the new purchase comes a higher payment and newer, more expensive in-car technology.
Consider this: According to a January 2018 article, BankRate.com reported only 39% of survey respondents said they would be able to cover a $1,000 financial setback with their savings. This is eye-opening when you think about the fact that nearly two-thirds of the population can’t handle a major appliance repair much less having to replace it. It’s a wonder acceptance rates on VSCs aren’t higher!
Look, I’m not a fantastic closer, and I can’t turn you into one. But I am consistent. I relate simple, pragmatic ideas to people I meet. One thing I’ve learned is that most people will close themselves if given the right amount of information applicable to their needs — and if we will button our lip long enough for them to think.
Herein lies the problem for less-than-average F&I people. Presenting a menu with your paycheck in mind instead of addressing their needs is a huge no-no. Back off a bit and give them time to think about what’s being discussed.
Here’s a couple of true stories where the customer closed themselves:
A recent cash customer bought a Bullitt Mustang. He wavered about a four-product package I’d prepared. He thought it was a good value but couldn’t justify another $6,000. I used every reasonable counter, but he finally decided against it.
The customer needed his wife’s signature on the trade title, so he called to let her know. As he was talking, I slid the menu in front of him and suggested he get her opinion. He briefly explained it to her and said, “We’ll talk about it when you get here.”
After she arrived, he showed her the menu and said he didn’t think it was worth it. She sat quietly looking at him until he finally said, “What?” She reminded him they bought coverage on her car and thought it might be a good idea on this one. He sheepishly asked what the total would be and wrote the check.
And then there are times when painting a picture is the preferred route. A Special Forces sniper and his wife visited our dealership to buy an Expedition. After several attempts, he declined the VSC.
I found his work interesting and struck up a conversation as I got out my F&I brushes and pallet. I painted a picture of him and his spotter, in position, heavily camouflaged, ready to take out a high-value target. Then, just as he’s flipping off the safety, his phone rings. She’s broken down on I-75 with the kids in the middle of the South Georgia heat, miles from the nearest town.
He sank back into the chair and kind of looked at her through the corner of his eye as she glared at him with a warm smile, saying nothing. “Oh, heck, put in on there,” he said. “You’re really good at this, aren’t you?” I just smiled and congratulated him on his purchase.
Listen, effective closing techniques aren’t top-secret stuff. They’re usually right in front of you, presenting themselves, by the customer. But if you’re too focused on what you’re going to say instead of paying attention — and listening — then you might miss a golden opportunity.
Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the finance director for Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]