Dumbledore is a favorite character in the Harry Potter series, and one of his most famous quotes comes from “The Chamber of Secrets”: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Our choices define us, so we need to have the courage to do the right thing.
Remember the good old days when a simple handshake sealed a deal and a handwritten purchase agreement transferred the title? It’s been a long time since those days. Unfortunately for many of us, bad choices from people in our industry have led to heightened restrictions and more regulatory oversight. Now we have multiple documents to sign with various disclosures. What changed? Bad people in our industry lost sight of Dumbledore’s point that just because they could, didn’t mean they should.
Bad Choices are Felonies, not Skills
Unfortunately, we still have bad people in our industry who think their felonies are sales skills.
Just because we can work a calculator to see that the customer’s PTI and DTI won’t be approved without additional income, it doesn’t mean we can give the customer a raise by padding the income when we submit to the finance source. That’s a felony, not a skill.
It doesn’t matter if we’re the best forger since Frank Abagnale from “Catch Me If You Can.” Finding someone in service to get a form signed that we missed isn’t a skill; it’s a felony.
We shouldn’t brag about the five-pounder, when the desk gave us so much leg either by product stuffing or extending the days to first payment that we only had to bump the customer $20. Leg is a deceptive practice which makes it illegal, not a skill.
Spot delivering a vehicle to take a customer out of the market and have them fall in love with the car is not a skill if the contracted rate has no reasonable hope of being approved. All that does is force the customer into accepting terms he didn’t want but feels that now he has to. That kind of yo-yo transaction doesn’t show strong selling skills; it shows weakness and will often generate lawsuits.
So, what do we do when a boss or co-worker gives us a deal that would make us participate in a bad act? It’s not comfortable to push back against a boss or a colleague, but we have to, which takes courage. In “The Sorcerer’s Stone” Dumbledore said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
Relationships are key and communication is essential. Build the kind of relationship with other people at the store so that we can have a conversation that feels like dialogue instead of a finger-pointing rant. Sometimes we can be absolutely right, but how we handle it can make us absolutely wrong.
If the conversation doesn’t change anything, we still have to do the right thing. For example, what do we do if we’re given a deal with leg? Some people prefer we lower the term so that the payment is similar to the quoted payment and so we don’t roll the bus on the sales manager. My preference is to present the actual numbers so the payment is lower than where the customer was closed. Not only is this more honest and transparent, but we’ll also likely gain credibility when we present our products.
Dumbledore might be a fictional character, but he provided great advice to Hogwarts that can be applied to us. Our choices define us, so we need to have the courage to do the right thing.
Lori Church is an experienced F&I manager, a graduate of the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, and director of compliance for Holman Automotive.