By Myril Shaw
F&I has earned a bad reputation, thanks, largely, to the way it was handled for far too long in the automotive industry. The recreational industry can and should refresh the way people think about F&I.
For purchasers of recreational vehicles – boats, RVs, ATVs, off-road, Powersports – F&I should not, cannot, be a pressure-filled, must do, frankly, uncomfortable experience. Rather, F&I aids in creating and/or sustaining a lifestyle of pleasure.
No one "needs" a boat or an RV. They want one. They want what a boat or RV promises for them – freedom, relaxation, entertainment, and simply a way to breathe freely. F&I facilitates that promise and that dream.
The F in F&I stands for Finance. Financing makes it possible for your customer to afford your great lifestyle product – so the F also stands for Fun. The I for insurance offers all the protective products that ensure all your customer has to worry about is enjoying themselves, comfortable in the knowledge that if anything goes wrong, they are protected. When that happens, I also stands for Inspiration.
Everyone involved with the customer's F&I experience must fully internalize the fact that they are not pushing profit – they are enabling and delivering a lifestyle – they are delivering Fun and Inspiration.
That said, "not pushing profit" does NOT mean not making a profit – it simply means delivering that profit with the lifestyle message and not with the pressure and fear technique that so many are so familiar with.
Why does a customer want to finance? First, financing allows the customer to make the purchase without needing or using liquid cash to do so. It frees them to get what they want and then to do what they want with more disposable dollars.
What about insurance or, in this case, protective products? These are NOT scams or rip-offs. These are simply the products that allow your customer to relax without concern about things that might happen. Warranties, interior/exterior protection, tire and wheel protection, and GAP can all provide assurance and peace of mind.
With all of this, your message to your customers needs to be clear.
Yes, you offer financing and that needs to be advertised early and often so that there is no reason for your customer to seek that elsewhere.
Your messaging also needs to let customers know that be financing through you, they do not simply get F&I, they are getting fun and inspiration. They are getting a lifestyle that you understand.
F&I never needs to mean, "Oh no, not that" ever again. Change your attitude about F&I and watch the profits skyrocket!
Myril Shaw is the COO of Dealer Profit Services and a member of the 2020 Boating Industry Top 100 Leadership Alliance.