Developing relationships with F&I customers pays off with greater satisfaction and more repeat business. 
 - Photo by DjelicS via Getty Images

Developing relationships with F&I customers pays off with greater satisfaction and more repeat business.

Photo by DjelicS via Getty Images

The young salesman stops in my doorway and says, “I’ve got a guy on the phone who wants to buy our Camaro, but he doesn’t have insurance, isn’t sure when his down payment would be available, can’t find his DL, might be buried in his trade, and has no co-signer. Should I tell him to come in or do you think it would be worth all the hassle?”

This is typical in some stores, not really in mine. But we had been experiencing the first- and second-quarter holiday hangover. I wanted to take every swing I could to maximize our month.

No problem, I said. Tell him to bring in what he has and let’s see what we can do to help.

The customer showed up a few days later with a $500 trade-in on which he owed almost $4,000. He filled out the credit application and it turned out he had a score in the high 500s. I called a buddy of mine who happens to be the CEO of a local credit union. I asked him to take a look at the deal.

The structure made sense and, after an interview with the young man, I had an approval in hand. This wasn’t a record-setting deal in terms of dollars and cents. This was a deal that solidified a relationship with a new customer who will forever remember the extra mile I went for him.

Think Past the Transaction

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because this deal had nothing to do with selling the car. It had nothing to do with making money. This was about a young man who needed someone to believe in him. He is now a member of the credit union and is on his way to establishing himself and building a solid financial foundation.

Sometimes, we lose sight of what is really important: creating a relationship. In this overly technologized world in which we live, people become accustomed to the idea of making transactional deals. We should be making relationship deals.

The people you connect with will come back to do business with you because they are buying a piece of you — the experience and the feeling you give them.

Transactional business is purely product-based and not very emotional. It requires very little follow-up after the sale. In transactional mode, the customer is only worried about getting the best price. They fear paying too much or paying more than someone else paid. They only care about the immediate transaction and they are not considering future purchases with your dealership. There is no value built.

Relationship business is an emotional transaction and directly relates to how you feel about me. In relational mode, they are worried about making the best possible choice. They will buy when they feel good about their choice. They think about the future with your store — the right store.

Talk About Your Feelings

Customers in relational mode pay attention to the way they feel. They want an expert they can trust and will continue to come back over and over again. Every transaction has an element of relationship to it, but the goal is to build more of that with every guest we serve.

Develop those relationships with your clients. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and get to know them.

Charisma matters. Authenticity matters. At the end of the day, the people you connect with will come back to do business with you because they aren’t just buying the vehicle you’re selling or the product you’re selling. They are buying a piece of you — the experience and the feeling you give them.

The truth is, all things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win. Our job as F&I professionals is to make things unequal by creating a preference for you, your dealership, and your offerings.

Justin Gasman is an ACE- and AFIP master-certified financial services director at McCaddon Cadillac Buick GMC in Boulder, Colo. Contact him at [email protected]

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