Which dealership employees should get training in finance and insurance practices?
F&I staffers seem an obvious choice for such instruction. Trainer Pam Barker includes a less obvious candidate: vehicle-sales managers.
“I encourage the sales manager and floor manager to go to F&I training,” she says.
That would help them understand the importance of F&I as a profit center and the benefit of vehicle-sales and F&I operations working together.
Being savvy in both vehicle and F&I sales is “an awesome combination,” Barker says. “Sales and floor managers who undergo F&I training will kick butt when they come back and start working the floor in a coordinated way.”
Barker offers training and hiring tips at a recent F&I Management and Technology conference. The former dealership saleswoman is now a retail-sales trainer for GMAC Educational Services.
She notes how dealership practices have changed and the need for documentation has increased since she began selling cars in Michigan.
“The deal folder was thin when I started in 1976,” she says. “Today, it's the thickness of a manual.”
She urges dealers to make sure staffers understand what is expected of them.
“Presuming they know what you want leads to dissatisfaction on both sides,” Barker says. “Put it in words and writing.”
Today's showroom sales people spend less time selling the product and more time “talking payment and financing,” she laments. “I challenge dealers to put a mini-cam in your showroom and see who talks payment first, the salesperson or the customer.”
Barker stresses the need for training employees, regardless of their tenure.
“I've been in this business 30 years and never a day goes by when I can't learn something new,” she says. “Moreover, things I learned long ago may have been forgotten. So training is always appropriate, whether for a newbie or a veteran.”
She offers pros and cons when it comes to hiring F&I employees, and tells who to avoid.
“If you hire someone who will increase back-end profits by ripping the heads of customers to compensate for declining sales, that generally won't work.”
Such an employee can create a lot of income but “can also close your store,” Barker says. “The legal awareness of the F&I office is huge.”
Hiring someone who is experienced has its benefits but the downside is that person may come with baggage and “you may be hiring someone else's philosophy.”
An inexperienced job candidate is more malleable, but requires a longer learning curve. “You could spend a lot on this person and have nothing in the end,” Barker says.
Hiring from within “offers a better idea of what you have” and tells the organization “there's room for advancement,” Barker says. But make sure the person's qualifications for promotion go beyond mere time spent on the job.