Still waiting for your opportunity to join the F&I department? A lack of experience or skills could be the reason.  - Photo by XiXinXing via Getty Images

Still waiting for your opportunity to join the F&I department? A lack of experience or skills could be the reason.

Photo by XiXinXing via Getty Images

Many sales professionals aspire to promote to F&I. Not everyone makes it, and many of those who do make it don’t last long. There are a few very good reasons for that. Let’s discuss three.

Reason No. 1: You May Not Be Ready.

Wanting the position of finance manager is not nearly enough. If your answer to any of these questions is not a strong “Yes,” then you are simply not ready.

Have you mastered the art of selling? Can you build useful value and need in a product that the customer cannot see or touch?

Are you experienced, skilled, savvy and comfortable enough to deal with all types of customers? Can you reasonably read people? Listening to what they are and are not saying? Do you pay attention to body language and the relationship couples or families have with each other? Can you find out who the decisionmaker is and establish a balance with all parties concerned?

In two minutes or less, can you meet, professionally greet, and convey a sense of authority to a customer in a way that gives them confidence in your abilities to handle their financing? Can they tell you are experienced and that you will obtain the very best financing available for them?

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Can you present yourself in a professional way, asking all the necessary questions to obtain information for a finance, lease, or cash deal? And are you capable of converting those cash deals into finance?

Can you confidently answer questions concerning all aspects of financing in a knowledgeable, confident way? 

Are you polished and on point with important details? Can you multitask while dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s? Are you good with paperwork, keeping it neat, in order, and with all documents necessary for the customer, the bank, the DMV, and your accounting department?

Do you know how to maximize the profit on the front and back end of a deal? Can you structure your presentation to the bank and customer in the most profitable way?

Are you currently paying attention to all details that will prepare you for the transition from being a salesperson into being a finance manager? 

Do you know the importance of knowing the different programs that each bank has and the importance of having a bank book that you update monthly with current rates, terms, and specials?

Are you capable of establishing a relationship with the buyers and funding departments at the banks, understanding the importance of personal integrity in your dealings with them?

Are you currently paying attention to all details that will prepare you for the transition from being a salesperson into being a finance manager? 

If you want to be a finance manager, your ability to answer each of these questions in the affirmative is of utmost importance.

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Reason No. 2: You Are in the Right Position for Right Now.

If you are a superstar on the sales floor right now, consistently at the very top of the board, and relatively new to the business — maybe only three to five years in — you may be itching to make the jump to F&I and maintain your forward momentum.

Strategically, in my opinion, you should probably stay in sales for at least a few more years. It takes time to master the art and craft of selling and customer relations.

Yes, many sales professionals are given the chance to move into F&I sooner. But it’s not always for the right reasons, and it doesn’t always work out. Those who promote without the requisite experience and know-how are left to try to wing it. That is a recipe for disaster.

Reason No. 3: You Don’t Have the Skills.

Desire, experience, and opportunity still may not be enough to succeed in F&I. If you do not have all of what it takes to hold the extremely important position of finance manager, you will likely be sent back to sales.

Truly successful finance managers are polished and professional. They have the ability to control customers from the beginning and throughout the sales process. They take no customer for granted. They aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions.

They understand each customer’s challenges because they know how to uncover and resolve them. They know if the customer is hungry, grieving a loss, dealing with a divorce, pregnant, or anxious about some part of the transaction. They know these things because they pay attention.

When delays arise, they don’t complain or disappear. They stay with the customer.

Finance managers cater to the customer by keeping their desks and offices — and themselves — neat and orderly. They pull vehicles up to the front, open the door for the customer, and accompany them on their test drive.

When delays arise, they don’t complain or disappear. They stay with the customer, invite them to sit in the car and check out all the new technology. They help them connect their personal devices.

These are the skills and talents exhibited by the very best finance managers in the automobile industry. But that’s not all.

If your paperwork is sloppy, if you minimize the importance of a complete deal jacket, if you do not know how to give a complete recap to the sales desk or finance manager, and if you don’t do your job in a timely manner — understanding how the volume and pace of your work affects your customers and your coworkers — then you are not ready to be a finance manager.

Marva Laws is a 25-year veteran of the auto retail and finance industries who currently serves as business manager for the Maryland-based Ourisman organization. Email her at [email protected]

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