F&I Staff Should Be Up Front

A customer can spend hours with a car salesperson, selecting the right vehicle and such. But the clock starts ticking when the buyer enters the finance & insurance manager's office for a sales presentation of add-on products and services. Studies show the longer a customer is in the F&I office, the lower the customer-satisfaction scores, says Glenn Roberts, an F&I trainer for Universal Underwriters.

A customer can spend hours with a car salesperson, selecting the right vehicle and such. But the clock starts ticking when the buyer enters the finance & insurance manager's office for a sales presentation of add-on products and services.

“Studies show the longer a customer is in the F&I office, the lower the customer-satisfaction scores,” says Glenn Roberts, an F&I trainer for Universal Underwriters.

If 30 minutes in the F&I office is about right before the customer starts clock watching, why spend 5-10 minutes of that time there on introductions and rapport building.

“You're shooting your selling time,” says Roberts.

What's an F&I manager to do? Roberts suggests this:

Meet the customer in the vehicle-sales area, a more relaxed setting. Take care of the preliminaries there, including the asking of qualifying questions, such as: “Who will be the primary driver?” “About how many miles will you drive a year?” “How long do you expect to keep the vehicle?”

Doing that helps in the selling of F&I products when that time comes. If you wait to do everything in the F&I office, it's perceived as a selling situation and “you are using up precious minutes,” says Roberts.

He calls it a front-end F&I system. He stresses keeping it short while initially with the customer at the car salesperson's desk or work station. “Resist the temptation of selling then and there,” says Roberts, a former dealership F&I manager. “You are just gathering information at that point.”

F&I staffers who ask good qualifying questions on the sales floor can use the garnered information to better pitch products suited to that customer's needs. For example, if an inquiring F&I manager learns a customer won't be racking up lots of driving miles, it's better to focus on selling a 5-year/75,000 mile extended service agreement rather than a more expensive 6-year/100,000 package.

“Sometimes there's the temptation to lead off with the more expensive one, but that can turn off a customer,” says Roberts at an F&I Management and Technology conference. “That may be menu-selling, but it's menu-selling for the F&I manager, not the customer.”

He cites these other advantages of a front-end F&I system:

  • Charge backs are reduced because customers clearly know what they are getting.
  • Sales people better understand the F&I process.
  • It's trainable and repeatable.

So, why not go for broke and do all the F&I business outside of the F&I office?

That's taking it too far, says Roberts. Universal Underwriters colleague Richard Costello agrees.

“I knew a dealer who didn't have an F&I ‘office’ because he thought it was the source of all his dealership problems,” says Costello. “So he eliminated it. That's not the most effective way. Putting the customer at ease and full disclosure are most effective. These days, the more you disclose, the more you sell.”

Another Roberts recommendation:

Use a prepared sales video to enhance F&I presentations. It is better than using only printed material.

A marketing video shows, rather than just tells, the benefits of extended service agreements and the like.

A video presentation can boost F&I revenue by $100 per vehicle retailed, says Roberts.

He adds: “The great thing about a video is that it never is hung over on a Saturday morning, never had a fight with its spouse and hasn't had the last 10 customers say, ‘no.’”

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