As a car salesman, John Vecchioni told co-workers in the finance and insurance office, “I don't care what you do, just don't blow my deal.”
His career path has since crossed over to F&I, giving him a better understanding of how both sides work — and can work in harmony. But his original wariness as a salesperson reflects how the two auto dealership departments can clash.
There are typical complaints against each other.
Sales people beef about F&I managers undermining a potential sale by altering proposed monthly payments quoted on the showroom floor or hurting customer satisfaction by hard-selling F&I products such as extended warranties, maintenance programs and wheel-protection plans.
F&I managers gripe about showroom sales personnel failing to introduce their customers to them, setting unreasonable customer expectations and structuring tentative deals that are tough to finance.
“A single goal — winning — is needed as a dealership culture,” says Vecchioni, director-sales and marketing at United Car Care, an F&I product provider. “Anything else is unacceptable.”
The way to get everyone working together “without disturbances” is to focus on sales, “the biggest thing in the dealership whether it is parts, cars, service or F&I products,” he says at a recent F&I Management and Technology Conference.
An F&I manager should show showroom sales people “how you can play a role in their success,” Vecchioni says.
A way to do that is by referring customers to them. He tells how F&I staffers can get those referrals.
“Before you print up documents, ask customers if the car salesperson met their expectations, and, if so, would they have any reservations about referring the sale person to friends and family.”
Vecchioni also recommends asking customers if the dealership could use their name in sending out “non-offensive” referral postcards to people listed as credit-application references.
Car sales people getting such customer referrals, in turn, are more likely to introduce their customers to F&I managers, who then get a crack at selling aftermarket products.
“You need for people to understand how you can play a role in their success and increase their incomes,” Vecchioni says. “Build on the common goal of selling more vehicles. Sale people need to sell cars before F&I people get involved.”
The customer-referral method is preferable to other ways dealerships use to get floor sales people to get the F&I office in on the action, he says. “We ask, beg, threaten and even pay spiffs to try to get sales people to introduce customers to us, and it hasn't really worked.”
Additional tips from him include:
Determine the strengths and weaknesses of every salesperson.
Don't hide in the office. “You need to get involved in meeting customers before they are turned over to F&I.”
Follow a consistent process. “If you aren't doing that, why should the salesperson do it when it comes to F&I introductions?”
F&I managers sometimes must deal with difficult customers. It's part of the job. Treat them respectfully and try to find out what's bothering them, Vecchioni says.
“Sometimes they are mad because a salesperson told them something unrealistic that they are now taking as gospel,” he says. “Sometimes they underwent an unprofessional negotiating process. Sometimes it is just because buying a car can create anxiety; they fear making mistakes that will cost them money.
“Help minimize the anxiety level. Build rapport and share information. Let them know what to expect from you. Familiarize them with how the process works. Don't rush them. They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
The Internet and technology have changed the way consumers shop for cars, but it hasn't fundamentally changed people themselves.
“There really is no big difference between the customer today and the customer of 25 years ago,” Vecchioni says. “They are basically the same. They want to be treated with respect. They want their needs fulfilled and questions answered.”