F&I is a position in the dealership that provides great opportunities but comes with extremely high expectations and demands. In traditional thinking, the lot attendant might aspire to selling cars someday. While the salesman — who either started a while back or is a new hire — is already thinking, someday I want to be a sales manager. There is always a desk manager who never worked in F&I and wants to grow. What about the F&I pro who might want the opportunity to run a store and serve in a GM position? And finally, there’s the GM who wants to buy in and become a partner or a dealer in the end.
In order to be excellent in this profession, you must be a great listener, who asks all the right questions, and remembers that everyone is a prospect for something we have to offer.
We are all trying to advance ourselves and our careers, which is a good thing. Then there are some people who realize they are better at some things than others. This means, it’s okay to stay in sales or in F&I. This is a good thing. I am not trying to discourage anyone from following their dreams or pursuing their goals. I am, however, encouraging those that think, for instance, F&I is something they want to learn, to take a moment and think hard about the requirements and the skillsets needed to not only perform the tasks and execute the responsibilities of that role, but to perform them at the highest levels of excellence.
The key to greatness in the business office is twofold. The first is being really proficient with paperwork. Filling it out neatly and completely — having an eye for mistakes while still being able to move quickly is paramount. You have to inherently be the person who sweats the details. This is one of the more important qualities to hone as a strategy in the world of F&I for moving up and getting promoted into a manager position within that department.
The second skillset you must possess is the ability to quickly gain common ground, establish trust and credibility, and be viewed as authoritative and consultative while not coming across as arrogant or salesy. This is imperative so you can present and gain acceptance of participation for your products and services. Typically, salespeople are either really good at filling out paperwork, but they can’t sell or close a deal. Or you can’t read their handwriting (when it’s present), but they can outsell the whole floor. It is much rarer to find an individual who possess both qualities and executes at the highest levels. Those are the people, who with the right guidance and proper training and development, can be molded into high revenue producers with great CSI and five-star online reviews.
Salespeople who are just selling cars because it’s a job or they are doing it until something better comes along, need not apply. Those that fear being rejected and have the inability to move forward, definitely can’t stomach the life of an F&I professional. In order to be excellent in this profession, you must be a great listener, who asks all the right questions, and remembers that everyone is a prospect for something we have to offer. The appeal of the warm office on a cold day, waiting for salespeople to bring you closed deals, comes at a price: You have to be the best closer in the store, who can break down a deal, check it for errors, fill in all the blanks, submit and electronically digitize the various components of the deal with all the different portals and logins, and then present the options and contract the deal quickly, effectively, compliantly, and profitably, all at the same time, while remembering to smile.
When you can do this and still keep a positive attitude even when you constantly run into mistakes, you know you might have a chance to make this a career and start your climb.
Justin B Gasman is the financial services director at McCaddon Cadillac Buick GMC, Inc. in Boulder, Colorado.