Showing How It's Done

He's a seasoned F&I guy and he's taken the class before, but Dave Redmond is back at one of Resource Training's menu-selling course. Redmond, a veteran F&I manager at Terry Shaver Pontiac, Highland, IN, returned for a refresher in what he says is an approach that needs fine-tuning because it's such a powerful sales tool. With him were 15 other students for training at the Glenview, IL headquarters

He's a seasoned F&I guy and he's taken the class before, but Dave Redmond is back at one of Resource Training's menu-selling course.

Redmond, a veteran F&I manager at Terry Shaver Pontiac, Highland, IN, returned for a refresher in what he says is “an approach that needs fine-tuning because it's such a powerful sales tool.”

With him were 15 other students for training at the Glenview, IL headquarters of Aon Corp. which owns the Resource groups. Of the 15, only two had already taken the plunge from “step” selling to the menu concept.

The course drills and re-drills students in the how-to of presenting and selling menus of F&I products and services.

“It's more challenging,” says veteran Ron Junge, a Resource Training national instructor, “because we have only five days to change our students' habits from the old-fashioned step-selling to the menu approach.

“The dealers using menu presentations, in which all F&I choices are presented in an efficient uninterrupted way, are reporting not only that the menu increases per-vehicle dollar sales and penetration marks, especially on service contracts, but it's also a customer satisfaction booster.”

The key to becoming an effective menu seller is “repetition and rehearsal,” co-instructor Kevin M. Ward tells the class.

Junge and Ward often watch the students hone their skills in nearby video studios as role-playing teams of presenters and customers. They grade each presentation on details ranging from “listening and courtesy” to “menu presentation” and “displaying concern for the customer's needs.”

Junge, a former salesperson and F&I manager, says, “I'm a menu convert.”

He tells of one graduate who “called me back a month after taking the course, and said that out of 69 presentations, changing to menu, 14 bought the preferred package for about $1,495 a pop.

“That includes all five main ingredients: finance or lease, mechanical repair (not extended warranty), credit life and disability, GAP and maintenance.”

To many students, rolling the package out as a “menu” instead of one step at a time appears burdensome.

Nancy Riedemann, F&I manager of Don Pierson Ford-Lincoln Mercury, Spencer, IA, wonders whether a menu presentation can cover all full-disclosure requirements on prices and benefits in 20-25 minutes.

“After you get used to the idea of itemizing each of the main ingredients continuously, without breaks, it's amazing how it will flow from one customer to another,” replies Junge.

Resource offers four menu presentation, starting with the top-priced preferred plan and going to a value plan, basic plan and finally an economy plan.

Junge says a presenter can get through them all quickly once the process is mastered.

He adds, “Each plan includes mechanical repair. If the customer asks to hear about the less expensive plans, you can state the small price difference for taking a better plan — and the benefits given up that the customer might need at some point, like credit disability or GAP if there's a car that's totaled.”

He says menu selling is customer-friendly. The customer is choosing the menu plan he or she wants, and isn't hassling over which product is really a potential benefit.

Junge adds. “You'll be disclosing price for each optional plan in conformance with all regulations. There'll be no surprises, every option accepted will be initialed as you go along, or turned down, and the results should be better and more smoothly reached than going through step-by-step.”

Junge and Ward emphasize full disclosure, either by item or by package. But the centerpiece of the course is rehearsing in front of cameras, over and over, as to the most efficient way to present the menu.

Participants included Cindy Gilley and Dean Graves, finance managers at two UnitedAuto Group stores, Landers Toyota in Benton, AR, and Toyota of Bedford (OH) near Cleveland, respectively.

Being from a megadealer group which has embraced menu selling (as AutoNation and Sonic Automotive have also done), UAG's Gilley and Graves had added incentive to do well for their videotaped practice session. And they did.

They started with a checklist of customer greeting steps and preliminary questions to ask (such as how many miles are typically driven a year and how long the customer plans to keep the vehicle).

The trainers gave them high grades, but noted a handshake was left out, as was a review on insurance.

“It takes practice to cover all the bases,” says Junge.

Riedemann says she's getting better at presenting the menus and likes that “every product or service is given up front, and no one asks what I'm sliding in anymore. The course is great in focusing on full disclosure.”

Martin Castro, F&I manager at Potamkin Hyundai in South Miami, FL, says menu selling can be like trying “to teach an old dog new tricks.” But after switching to that system, he adds, “Menus are a better way to go.”

Ward says it's “dialogue selling,” involving the customer who is urged to buy a total meal, from soup to dessert. Step selling is a monologue with the F&I manager at the center selling a la carte items, he says.

“Who wouldn't want the whole list of benefits — and their values — if presented in an effective manner by a friendly F&I manager?” he says.

Rob Mancuso, communications director for Aon Warranty Group and a former Illinois dealer, says Resource and Aon's legendary chairman, Pat Ryan, are “sold on menu selling as a dealer profit sustainer in this year's tough vehicle-selling environment.”

Ryan is considered the founder of F&I. In the 1960s, as a one-man sales force, he introduced credit insurance policies to Midwest dealers.

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