Going Beyond F&I Staff to Sell F&I Products

Auto retailers frequently create siloed business practices by defining boundaries between professionals in sales, service and F&I. But interdepartmental cooperation is crucial to a dealership’s overall success.

Tim Blochowiak

June 15, 2023

4 Min Read
Dealer-Salesman with customer (Adobe Stock)
Sales personnel can parlay customer relationships into F&I sales.

The importance of selling finance and insurance products is at an all-time high. From helping to boost profits and offset floor-planning cost erosion, to solidifying higher customer satisfaction through better protection of investments, F&I is a cornerstone of any retailer’s success.

It’s important to have the F&I product options that best fit your vehicle inventory. F&I products are not one-size-fits-all, so it’s pivotal to have a menu that will address the individual buyers’ needs.

Aside from the products themselves, more retailers are taking a closer look at the process of selling F&I products when customers are closing the transaction – most likely still in the showroom. Yes, online research and digital retailing are growing, but many of today’s final transactions still take place within showrooms.

The online F&I research and selection process is still a work in progress. Either the product options aren’t readily available online, or the pricing is unavailable or inaccurate, which frustrates car shoppers.

Furthermore, experts are confident F&I product sales growth would occur, and F&I time would be preserved, if retailers displayed accurate payment calculations online. In a recent survey, 69% of dealerships said online payment estimator tools provide shoppers with an inaccurate or unrealistic perspective more than half the time. Thus, most F&I consultations and sales still take place at the dealership.

Selling F&I products and vehicle maintenance can be challenging, frequently because of how dealerships are designed and managed. Auto retailers frequently but unintentionally create siloed business practices by defining boundaries between professionals in sales, service and F&I. Since interdepartmental cooperation is crucial to a dealership’s overall success, it’s imperative to promote a cooperative culture and avoid isolating important business segments. Nevertheless, how can well-established dealerships consider a more unified selling framework?

Empowering Sales Staff Is Key to F&I Success  

Establishing a more consistent customer experience between departments is one way more dealers can develop a successful F&I ecosystem. Instead of potentially frustrating customers at the point of purchase, a growing number of dealers are allowing and encouraging salespeople to grow their understanding of F&I products. By communicating the value of auto financing and insurance earlier in the conversation, dealerships can make a stronger case for the value of these supplemental offerings.

In addition to establishing stronger education and value earlier in the sales process, the customer begins to view F&I products in a different light. If the salesperson has built trust with the customer, they can present F&I options as a benefit that can help protect the investment. When a customer is handed off to a different person at the end of the transaction, trust needs to be re-established, and the customer may feel like the additional options are nothing more than a way for the dealer to make a few extra dollars.

Sure, F&I products boost a dealer’s profit per vehicle, and most customers realize this. But when offered and presented by a salesperson who has gained a customer’s trust, the shopper is more inclined to look at it through a different lens.

Training Makes All the Difference

Offering sales personnel many opportunities for training and skill development is one of the best ways to enhance interdepartmental collaboration and position to promote from within. For example, allowing sales representatives to shadow the F&I department can provide a fresh perspective on protection products and enable them to carry over the trust and goodwill they have developed with customers to the later stages of the purchasing process – along with providing sales an additional career path.

On the other hand, giving members of an F&I department a chance to collaborate with sales representatives in person can give them useful time on the sales floor and a more accurate understanding of ” ’today’s consumers and their preferences.

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F&I provider partners also now offer a bevy of in-person and web- or video-based tutorials to help sales staff understand and sharpen their skill sets and knowledge of F&I and protection products. These are critical because they can often cover product details in an elevated way that is sometimes overlooked by simply shadowing an employee at the dealership.

Enabling sales staff also to present F&I products isn’t necessarily a new strategy for auto retailers. However, in this era of profit preservation every little detail may offer a dealer a competitive edge.

Tim Blochowiak (pictured, above left) is the vice president of dealer sales for Protective Asset Protection.

About the Author(s)

Tim Blochowiak

Tim Blochowiak is vice president of Client Wealth for Protective Asset Protection.

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