Last month I touched on listening to customers more and talking less without your paycheck in mind. I’d like to continue this train of thought a bit more by focusing on the latter. We walk a high wire as F&I managers and usually without a safety net. Hitting employer expectations and managing great CSI scores — all while earning a good living for our efforts — is no small feat.
People in this business often say, “Your pay plan is your job description.” Frankly, I don’t buy this presumption, and I’ll tell you why.
Picture this: You’re faced with a Line Five call allowing enough room for one product. GAP makes the most sense for the customer, but you’re behind in another category. What will you do?
First and foremost, we are hired to produce by selling F&I products using an ethical process. Our dealers depend on us doing it well while remaining in compliance.
Secondly, we should be concerned about building a relationship between the customer and the dealership. Products such as service contracts and prepaid maintenance endear them to our service departments, and the more they visit, the more likely they are to buy again.
Easily said, so keep on reading. When you put your pay plan first, it becomes all about you instead of the customer. And I can assure you customers can sense it. They may still sign up, but they will be guarded the next time.
I get reminded of this when I bear down with too many closing attempts on a resistant customer. They’ll say something like, “Man, you sure are a salesman, aren’t you?” Ugh! I hate being reduced to pushing product while doing my job. That’s when I back off and return to basics by letting them choose. Because we all know they will buy way more than we can ever sell when we just make a quality presentation and get out of the way.
Always remember this: Your month-end commission is a byproduct of your expertise and customer care — not the other way around.
Cause and Effect
The study of cause and effect, while multifaceted, can be applied to F&I with predictable results. This is mostly because of the human condition and the belly-to-belly process that has served F&I pros for so many decades.Here are some essential causes and effects of F&I that will yield marked results over time if adhered to in a consistent, customer-centric manner:
|Speedy deal preparation||Improved CSI|
|Quality menu presentation||Enhanced transparency|
|Expert product knowledge||Customer buys with confidence|
|Meet-and-greet on the sales floor||Resets customer time expectations|
|Ethical behavior||Expanded trust|
Now, I will concede you can’t close everyone, every time. Nobody does. But how much greater will the “effect” be when you take positive action on the “cause”?
Think about the actionable cause you need to demonstrate and the effective results you’re after. When the customer’s wellbeing is foremost on your mind, it’s just a matter of practice to hone your skills with respect to cause. Your only objective is to make their experience a memorable one. You’ll get what you want after you help them get what they want.
Commissioned pay plans blur the lines between the customer's needs and our own. I mean, why do we roll out of bed every morning at the crack of dawn except to earn a living? Do we lie in bed at night, dreaming of ways to improve customer satisfaction and getting another referral? I doubt it. We’re probably a lot more focused on our next family vacation.
I’m an old-schooler. I embrace the ideology of “take care of the company and the company will take care of you.” And the company's best interests are served when the customer is treated well and offered quality protection for their new car in a professional manner — while returning a healthy profit.
Herein lies the rub.
Naturally, pay plans are written with the end result in mind. It’s up to us to bridge the gap between customer needs and dealership profit. This is not an easy task, but if it was, everyone would be doing it. That’s why we got hired. So let’s keep everything in perspective when we sit with a customer to make it the best experience we can, regardless of what’s happening in our world.
Good luck and keep closing.