Fine-tuning F&I approaches helps capture revenue

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By Tim Hennagir

Dealers share day-to-day strategies for improving income

Dealers continually need to invest time, energy, and resources in their F&I departments. Doing so successfully can capture huge opportunities for income and pave the way for overall financial improvement.

Refining strategies for incorporating finance and insurance products into the overall business and sales mix can follow a variety of approaches. Some dealers elect to install new software platforms as one means of accomplishing this goal.

For example, in 2017, Hagadone Marine Group in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, purchased and installed Dealertrack, a cloud-based solution designed to create a smoother, faster, more customer-driven F&I process. 

As part of the new platform, the dealership also acquired more lenders for financing, explained President Craig Brosenne.

Also during 2017, Hagadone unveiled a massive capital improvement: A brand new $7.5 million mega marine center, designed to help streamline every part of the dealership’s operations.

The dealership also built an entirely new title, registration, and back end sales closing process at the beginning of 2017. This new process uses Google Suite to accomplish more work, more efficiently and with less error.

As a result, the department now provides customers with a variety of financing options. In addition, the dealership can now finance on the weekends and evenings, where financing was previously limited to Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Strong’s Marine in Mattituck, N.Y. significantly strengthened its market presence and client serving capability by implementing a carefully considered strategic staffing plan that included the creation of a new F&I administrator position.

“Our metrics include F&I as a percent of sales,” said Paul Silansky, the dealership’s director of strategy & process. “We have developed a culture of expecting our clients to finance at least a portion of their purchase, and request them to do so even if they have means to pay for product outright as many of our clientele can do.”

Silansky said Strong’s discusses earning a compounded return on a customer’s investment. The dealership makes it a point to note that interest is tax deductible if a vessel meets certain criteria and a customer doesn’t already own a second home.

“Every boat owner who purchases from Strong’s Marine, whether new product or pre-enjoyed, is offered an extended warranty if available,” Silansky added. As more manufacturers recognize the peace-of-mind value clients place on a boat’s warranty, the more new boats are delivered with longer engine warranties and even extended accessory warranties being written to coincide with engine coverage.

Each year, Parks Marina in Okoboji, Iowa, makes many improvements, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the customer experience while increasing profitability.

“We hired a finance manager several years ago and have since added three other individuals who support the F&I process,” said CFO Darren Anderson. “As a practice, every customer meets with one of the members of our finance team.”

According to Anderson, this strategy works, and the dealership can document the results to its bottom line. 

“At times, our finance person will even close the sale, freeing the sales person to focus on additional sales,” he added. “Our emphasis on F&I and our investment in training and staffing has led to significant improvement and greater profitability.”

Seattle Boat Company Vice President James Baker said his dealership makes sure to introduce F&I products and services “softly” during sales presentations as part of the sales process for all boat sales. Seattle Boat Co.’s F&I team, aptly named “Delivery Coordinators,” introduces available products and services to 100 percent of customers who place a unit deposit. 

The Boat Shop in Tafton, Pa., uses F&I in its day to day sales as a means to help its customers. 

“We offer it to all prospects during the sales presentation, upon making the sale, and at the time of closing,” said President, Roy Finney Jr. “We have been utilizing a local vendor , which offers very competitive rates and terms. A local bank is our best profit center as they offer great returns on each deal.”

Since the downturn, Finney said The Boat Shop has spent more time negotiating bank terms, which has helped increase profit.

The F&I department plays a major role in the way Moorseville, North Carolina-based Charlotte Ski Boats structures its overall sales model. 

“We price our boats off our net invoice, taking into account standard lending advances,” said Vice President Mitch O’Hara, Jr. “Our pricing model is based upon 125 percent net invoice plus a minimum 10 percent to 20 percent down payment by the customer to fit within our lender’s credit policy guidelines.”

Charlotte Ski Boats also focuses on providing extremely competitive back end warranty options. This not only provides the customer with a quality service product, but also affords us increased revenue to structure the deal if needed on the front end.

Skier’s Marine Vice President Chad Tyler said a third party handles F&I for his dealership, which makes it easy for staff to continue working deals. 

“We know that all the legal requirements are handled appropriately,” he said. “It also takes the negotiating of the interest rates and terms out of the equation.”  

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