How we interact with our co-workers and the customers in the F&I office can have a significant impact on our relationships, our effectiveness, the perception of us by others, our outcomes, and our...

How we interact with our co-workers and the customers in the F&I office can have a significant impact on our relationships, our effectiveness, the perception of us by others, our outcomes, and our income.

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As a trainer and coach, I have the opportunity to work with F&I managers that are struggling in their role, not meeting expectations or achieving objectives. These managers have experience and knowledge and have enjoyed success in the past but are falling short in the present.

When coaching these individuals, I like to review their process and then how they o implement their process. This involves asking them to model their discovery techniques and menu disclosure which gives me an idea on how they are communicating and interacting with their customers. If possible, I also like to observe them in real-time interacting with customers.

What I often find, is that in these situations improvement usually comes from subtraction rather than addition. What is often uncovered in this process is that some of the words and phrases along with the voice tone and inflection of the F&I manager in the delivery of their “personal script” are holding them back. In fact, most of the time I ask them take things out their script versus adding anything.

Without knowing it they are using words and phrases that can create resistance, diminish trust and hurt their credibility. By making the F&I manager aware of this and by removing certain words or replacing some words and phrases with ones that can positively influence the interaction can make all the difference. 

An example of this recalls a F&I manager I recently worked with a manager who ended every explanation with the phrase “does that make sense?’ Instead of telling him about this bad habit I decided to let the video of the interaction speak for itself. When I played the video for him, he was shocked. He had no idea how often he used that phrase. I explained that using that phrase had two negative outcomes. First, it conveys doubt by F&I manager on the ability of the customer to comprehend the content of what was just said.  Secondly, it is perceived that he (the F&I manager) is not certain about the credibility of the content he just said. If this is repeated five or six times you come off as condescending destroying your credibility and left wondering why you aren’t connecting with the person in front of you. 

He asked what he could say to confirm understanding instead of “Does that make sense?” I suggested “How does that sound to you?” This change would be asking for the customer’s opinion about the topic, versus if they comprehended the topic. Positive versus negative.

Another classic phrase that I hear in F&I manager’s personal script is “To be honest” … it’s subtle, but do we really want to convey to our customers that we may have not been honest thus far, and now we are? 

Finally, there is a word used by each of us that can really cause some damage in any interaction and that is the word “but”. When we use the word “but” after an acknowledgement or after an affirmation, it can really do some damage.  An example of the negative power of this word when receiving information is when we say something like “I understand what you are telling me, but…” or when sharing information, we say something like “I think it is going well, but…” In both examples the placement of the word “but” signifies to the person hearing it that everything before “but” wasn’t true or genuine, it also puts the person hearing it on the defensive and closes their mind.  Instead, it is suggested to get a more positive response replace the word “but” with “and”.  “I understand what you are telling me, and..” or “I think it is going well, and …” The word “and” acknowledges, the word “but” dismisses.  

To find out if you have a GAP in how you communicate, record yourself interacting with a coworker having them playing the role of the customer. Ask your coworkers if you have something in your personal script like “Does that make sense?” Being aware of the gap is first step in changing how effectively you communicate and can lead to better outcomes, build trust, and better relationships. So, how does that sound to you?

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