A plethora of resources is available to those who are just starting a career in the F&I department. A Google search for “basic F&I training course” turns up over 450,000 results.
There are also training programs, conferences, webcasts, and seminars for senior-level F&I personnel that focus on improving demonstrated success.
But there’s a group of employees too often overlooked when it comes to career training: high-performing, mid-level F&I managers. Failing to offer professional development opportunities to this group can adversely affect retention and profitability.
Be a Dealership Leader
While entry-level F&I courses teach foundational skills, such as a basic understanding of product types, compliance, and sales processes, advanced courses can help turn managers into effective leaders.
This focus on leadership is critical. Done correctly, it can help F&I personnel learn how to impact and influence others — especially the sales team — to ensure that deals are structured for optimal success.
You should be out on the floor as an ambassador, engaging customers and doing interviews before formal discussions begin.
These leadership skills also play a key role in gaining insight into the F&I customer’s mindset. This can help reduce the total transaction time and result in a more seamless, less stressful experience, which in turn can significantly improve your per-copy average.
A key element is learning how to influence and align with the sales team, and not just on proper deal structure. You should be out on the floor as an ambassador, engaging customers and doing interviews before formal discussions begin.
You need to be able to train and motivate the sales team on processes that influence F&I effectiveness. Daily strategy sessions with sales managers can help turn bank turndowns and conditions into approvals.
Credit and Compliance
Another key element of F&I leadership training is understanding the importance of proper customer credit interviews and effective bank relations. For example, if a bank turns down a deal, undertrained F&I personnel may simply accept it or shape the deal to meet the approval.
Advanced training on the proper customer credit interview and the three “C”s of the consumer credit report — character, capacity, and collateral — an F&I leader can obtain a justification for a particular credit issue and have an intelligent conversation with your bank.
Just as important as leadership is compliance. Ignorance is not a great excuse in a court of law. Having a team of F&I personnel who really understand compliance and how to manage situations legally and ethically is paramount.
Choose Your Class
Key among the variety of factors to consider when choosing your advanced F&I class is the experience of the training provider. Just as important is the format of the training. The best classes have a blended approach that combine electronic learning platforms with hands-on work.
Elearning should focus on cognitive skills related to products and services as well as compliance issues. They can also act as a refresher in the future.
Your trainer must understand key industry issues and trends and how they affect the F&I office.
Hands-on work should focus on applying what was learned online and interacting with peers. Role-playing is a chance to practice real-world scenarios and receive real-time feedback. The use of video is critical. You need to see yourself as the customer sees you.
Finally, your trainer must understand key industry issues and trends and how they affect the F&I office. Technology has dramatically changed the way consumers shop for vehicles. Sales pitches have evolved into needs-discovery interviews.
Ultimately, advanced training for mid-level F&I managers will result in well-structured deals, coordination and alignment between the sales and finance departments, and a better customer experience — all of which play critical roles in supporting your dealership’s long-term objectives.
Dave Worrall is senior director of global training and development for Assurant Global Automotive. Email him at [email protected].