By Myril Shaw
Simple, measurable, achievable, reasonable and time-based goals. They are absolutely a requirement for driving F&I Success. However, as important and necessary as they are, they are also not sufficient.
True F&I success is only possible with a comprehensive and robust F&I process.
This process starts long before the customer is introduced to the Finance Manager (or, as we suggest, the Delivery Coordinator.)
The F&I Process begins when your customer makes first contact with your dealership. Whether that contact is a drive-by, a print ad, online, TV, radio or otherwise, that first contact must advertise that competitive financing is available at your store. Failure to make this abundantly clear from the outset leaves open the very real possibility that the first thing your customer will do is begin to shop financing. Once they know that they can have the convenience of one-stop shopping, you have taken a big step in the F&I process.
The next step starts before your customer has taken a walk around of even a single unit, and is critical to ensuring an outstanding customer experience. With the use of simple, web-based "Get Pre-Qualified" applications, and allowing the customer to "Shop By Payment," this ensures they are shopping for what they can actually afford, and also locks them into your store.
When you begin the F&I Process by advertising financing and then "hook" the customer with a great experience, the F&I process is well underway.
As the customer starts to look at inventory, on-line or in-store, continue to advertise your finance capabilities and always present your units in terms of payment and not price. All you need to do is to use consistent and reasonable terms and rates to set the payment. Salespeople should be trained to always talk about payments.
Protective products should be visible by brochures or examples. It is not necessary for your sales team to try and sell these products. If asked, they should tell stories about how other people have benefitted from the products.
For example, when asked about the interior/exterior protection plan after seeing a fake cup of spilled coffee on the carpet in a unit, the story goes something like this. "One of our customers saved a lot of money, and maybe his marriage, when he hooked that vinyl seat with a monster fish-hook. It ripped the seat. Because he had the protection, he got it repaired like new at no cost. It was great for him."
When asked about prices on protective products, your team should be trained to say that the delivery coordinator can go over that in detail.
The next step is 100% turn-over; that is 100% of your customers see the delivery coordinator (finance manager) 100% of the time no matter what. No checks or cash on the sales floor. "I'm paying cash" still sees the delivery coordinator. This gives you the opportunity to convert cash buyers and to present all the relevant protective products 100% of the time (this is important not just for the profit potential but also to protect against potentially liability for presenting warranties and other products to some customers and not others).
Once the customer is with the delivery coordinator, they must follow the key F&I principles:
First, do no harm – never lose a sale
Be aggressive but graceful in retreat
You never get more than what you ask for the first time
Always present the finance results in terms of payment
"Congratulations, you have been approved for a payment of $288.00 per month for 180 months and that includes your engine warranty, interior/exterior protection and GAP."
When this process is followed every time with every customer, you'll begin achieving your F&I goals and targets and will be well on the road to F&I success!
Myril Shaw is the COO of Dealer Profit Services and a member of the 2020 Boating Industry Top 100 Leadership Alliance.