A recent study showed that the average American eats 2,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating from high school. The study came out long after I was grown, and that’s probably a good thing, because I would’ve skewed the numbers. I ate hundreds of them growing up, practically lived on them during my poor college kid days, and still eat them regularly now. I suggest using the PB&Js as three mnemonic devices to illustrate what the F&I job is, what it isn’t, and how to handle heat.
It doesn’t matter how high the PVR is if those deals are missing paperwork, missing signatures, or can’t get bought
A good sandwich has both peanut butter and jelly and not just one or the other. Well-rounded F&I people understand this and make a full PB&J daily: produce, buy, and juggle. Anyone who says “my job is to sell,” is only partially correct. I’ve known many people who produce high PVRs but who have a stack of deals in the office. It doesn’t matter how high the PVR is if those deals are missing paperwork, missing signatures, or can’t get bought. Until it funds, the store made nothing, so stop bragging about being a good producer. F&I has to produce good numbers, get deals bought, and juggle everything including customers, paperwork, compliance items.
I’ve occasionally had a bad PB&J where the peanut butter was gross, the jelly was an odd flavor, or the sandwich turned to mush from soaking through the bread. Just like there can be bad sandwiches, there can be bad F&I PB&Js with payment packing, bias, and judgment. These bad PB&Js are from people who pack payments, have biases toward some customers, and whose actions generate legal judgments. We should’ve learned in kindergarten as we ate a bunch of PB&Js to play nicely with everyone and treat each other as we want to be treated. The same holds true as F&I adults. Stop trying to take advantage of a customer in a sneaky or biased way. Do your job and do it well. Present the customers with a good menu, use your selling skills, and treat everyone fairly.
I was a nanny to adorable triplets a zillion years ago. One of the boys loved toasted PB&Js, but the other two and I agreed that it wasn’t very good hot. In our industry, we aren’t crazy about handling the occasional heat either.
When upset customers arrive, we need to pull out the hot PB&J recipe: poise, believe, and justify. We need poise so that we don’t immediately get defensive and alienate the customer further. There was an antiperspirant in the 1980s whose tagline was “never let them see you sweat.” No matter how vehement the customer’s tone, we need to stay calm and not let the customer see us sweat. Listening is challenging sometimes, but the customer wants to know we believe they have genuine concerns. A little understanding can solve many problems. The final step is to justify, and that doesn’t mean to be defensive. The actual definition is to prove to be right or reasonable. If we’re calm and logical and can explain ourselves after listening to the customer’s concerns, we’ll succeed.
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.