In the late 1970s, I was a skinny kid in my early 20s who answered an ad for car sales at the local Ford store. I’m not sure why they took a chance on me but I’m glad they did. The dangling carrot of driving a new car demo and commissioned sales seemed intriguing at the time.
They offered extensive training and I was eager to learn, so I dove in with all my might.
After the initial training was over, we were allowed to greet customers, with close supervision. Following the sales process was mandatory and no short cuts were allowed.
A turnover was expected with no excuses, and we complied. We weren’t allowed to work any numbers at first because our job was to sell the sizzle, not the steak. At the point we landed a customer on a car, we could only go as far as turning them over to the floor manager for negotiation.
This was exciting stuff!
I hit the floor with two weeks left in that first month and delivered 10 cars! I was stoked and determined to learn more. But my ego and overconfidence soon got the best of me.
One thing our managers kept drilling into us was to follow the sales process step by step. Part of that was learning to control the urge of talking too much. Chief of these was the effect silence played during negotiations. Alas, speaking out of turn was an itch I couldn’t scratch enough, and it started showing.
I was soon losing more customers than closing by over talking and at the wrong time interrupting the customer’s time to think and decide.
As I read online comments in social media, I wonder if some F&I managers have fallen into this trap. It’s easy to do. Because we’re so familiar with the products, we offer that gushing forth. One more bit of information seems the right thing to do, so we let it fly.
Sometimes we reason that a silent customer doesn’t have enough information, so we keep piling on more in an effort to quickly close and get that printer going.
Let me tell you that silence can be golden in an F&I office. But you’d never know it by the way some folk approach the profession.
You see, customers are just like you and me. They want the right information to decide what works best for them. Nervously prattling on after explaining a product’s benefits will most always be noticed by a customer.
This is not to say you won’t close customers if you’re talking too much. Consider this: A-type customers will close themselves no matter the situation, and Bs require just a few questions answered.
But it’s the challenging C-types who demand professionalism and careful word usage. They’re looking for a reason as to why they should buy. Too much chatter at the wrong time, and you can quickly lose their interest.
Most trainers will agree a simple introductory presentation of the menu is the right way to go. It helps set the stage for further conversation about the products. This should only take a couple of minutes. Next thing is to allow the customer an opportunity to consider what’s been offered, while remaining quiet.
With this presentation, you’ve just upended their world a bit. Explaining the limited factory warranty and the need for both a vehicle service contract and gap insurance is a sobering moment. Those expensive low-profile wheels are no matchagainst curbs at the drive thru and replacing a lost or damaged key is no laughing matter.
Whew. Let them breathe a bit while you’re quietly letting it all sink in.
A customer once sat staring down at the menu for several minutes after I’d made the initial presentation. I couldn’t get a read on his personality and was beginning to wonder what he was thinking.
He finally looked up and asked “Is there something else?” I sheepishly replied there wasn’t. He said, “Well then, what do we do now?” I said “Pick the option you want.” He chose the fully protected package and left happy.
Listen, menu presentation isn’t a hard thing to master but learning when to speak and when to zip your lip certainly can be.
There is power in that old adage “He who speaks first loses.” Take a harder look at your habits when sitting with a customer and begin assessing if you’re talking too much or at the wrong times. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Give them time to mentally digest your presentation as to how it applies to their lifestyle, and remember less is more.
Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer, author of this “Real F&I" column, is the lead F&I Manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, GA. He has 30 years F&I experience. He is the founder of a Facebook group, Ethical F&I Managers.