Many dealership finance and insurance managers fail to realize one of the best selling systems is right under their noses, says veteran F&I sales trainer Glenn Roberts.
“There is a marvelous selling system in dealerships for selling cars, but most dealerships don't apply it to F&I,” says Roberts, brand and training executive for Zurich Direct Underwriters.
It's the proven step-selling system used in dealerships throughout the U.S. It is characterized by the sequential actions of greeting the customer, asking qualifying questions, giving a product demonstration, up-selling and finally closing.
Virtually every dealership's new- and used-car department uses a variation of it.
“It's simple, repeatable and disciplined,” Roberts says. “The more disciplined the process, the more likely the outcome. When it's not followed, sales and gross go down.”
Step selling is perfect for F&I too, yet when it comes to that, “the process used is often the one the F&I manager brought over from another store,” Roberts says.
That leaves plenty of room for improvements.
Left to their own devices, some staffers focus on favorite F&I products, while ignoring others, says Roberts at an F&I Management and Technology conference.
“If 30% of customers are buying vehicle service contracts, what are the other 70% buying?” he says. “Often, the answer is nothing.”
Typically, F&I sales people are in their offices when they first meet customers brought in by showroom salespersons who have just made a vehicle sale.
Roberts says a better way is for the F&I personnel to meet customers in the vehicle sales area to take care of preliminaries before the F&I sales presentation.
That front-end approach allows the F&I manager to meet and greet early, as well as to ask qualifying questions (i.e. “About how many miles will you drive a year?”) in order to get information for a better presentation of products that fit the customer's needs.
“Some F&I people spend a lot of time selling the wrong products to a customer,” Roberts says. “If a customer is only going to keep a car for a few years, there is no sense in trying to sell him or her a high-mileage extended-warranty plan.
“With the front-end way, you only show what benefits that particular customer,” he says. “You know what those are because of the questions you asked them on the sales floor. Resist the temptation to start selling there. Save the sales presentation for the F&I office.”
Roberts says other benefits of the front-end approach include:
- Less time in the F&I office. Too much time there irks customers. “Sixty minutes in an F&I office is just too long.”
- Higher customer-satisfaction scores, largely because the process is sped up.
- The ability to qualify on a multitude of products.
- It is trainable and repeatable.
- It offers “one F&I culture for the entire organization.”
Roberts recommends developing word tracks so that vehicle sales people properly turn over customers to F&I managers.
He also suggests developing a set of qualifying questions (“that's not hard”) and using a sales video to enhance presentations. (“It makes it more consistent and easier to sell intangible F&I products.”)
Finally, formalize the F&I step-selling process by putting it in a written manual of dealership standards and practices, he says. “Everyone will buy into: ‘We're going to sell F&I the same way we sell cars.’”
RouteOne Part of School's Curriculum
The Automotive Dealership Institute, based in Arizona, now includes RouteOne LLC's online credit-application management system as part of a core curriculum for students in ADI's finance and insurance management program.
Students will learn about RouteOne's web-based services, including its single point of access to captive and non-captive finance sources, credit bureau access and integration with more than 35 service providers. Those include credit bureau providers and leads providers.
“More then 21,000 dealers are using RouteOne to send credit applications and receive decision information on a daily basis,” says ADI CEO Alan Algan. “We want to be sure our students are well educated on the most up-to-date products.”
RouteOne CEO Mike Jurecki says, “The fact that ADI has included RouteOne as a permanent fixture within their F&I management course shows the school's commitment to providing their students information on the most critically important F&I tools available today.“
DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, Ford Motor Credit Co., GMAC, and Toyota Financial Services created Route One in 2002 to streamline credit applications for auto dealers and their customers.