The finance and insurance office started out as an excellent position, but over the years has it developed into a clerical position?
When I was a F&I Manager, I was proud of my position, but one day I was disappointed to hear a derogatory comment about being a "clerk." I am writing this article today for the benefit of all F&I Managers, and may they never be tagged "clerk" again.
Although the F&I office did not even exist when I started in the automobile industry, it has changed forever the way automobile dealers sell their accessories and aftermarket products. Even though this office profoundly affected the way we conduct our business, the F&I manager now faces new challenges as a result of "No Dicker Pricing", One Price Shopping, Factory sponsored Leasing, and the promoting of low monthly payments.
The computer assisted the F&I Manager to evolve and it is now helping customers with more downloadable information and specifications than ever before. Combine this with the advertising of low monthly payments, and we become guilty of thinking that they are not interested in any more, because the customer has this amount of information, .
How many times have you “the sales person” turned over a customer to your F&I Manager saying; "the customer doesn't want anything, just print the bill of sale"? You have just done your customer a disservice, and you have also reduced your F&I Manager to the rank of a "clerk."
I have news for you, the customer still wants to touch, feel, smell and drool, - yes drool - over their next new vehicle. They have the information but they still want their investment protected, they still want the presentation and they definitely still want to be sold!
Don't deny your customers the opportunity to enhance their ownership experience. Your F&I Manager reinforces the customer's positive experience by selecting products designed to support their buying decision well into the future.
Unlike clerks, F&I Managers follow a sales process similar to all sales professionals.
For all you F&I Managers reading this article, you are more than a clerk! You are an interviewer, a selection specialist, a professional presenter, an advisor, a salesperson and a manager.
Protect yourself and your customer's rights to the most rewarding ownership experience possible.
Step 1: You must book a sales meeting to demonstrate the features and benefits of the products you sell your salespeople's customers and in particular explain the reason why you offer these products and not other less desirable ones.
Step 2: Sales people generally do not get much praise in their sales meetings and in fact are more likely to hear about how they didn't sell a particular customer, what they did wrong or even scolded for not parking a vehicle properly. Attend ALL sales meetings armed with the business office statistics, be the last speaker and finish on a high note by praising top business office producers and encouraging others.
Step 3: Rather than chastise poor producers out of frustration, hold separate one-on-one meetings to boost rapport. Your poor producers were obviously not paying attention in the sales meetings so repeat the features and benefits presentation on your products.
Step 4: If your dealership has an optional dress down policy, then don't do it. After all, YOU ARE THE FINANCE AND INSURANCE MANAGER, so dress to impress by always wearing a business suit.
Step 5: Since service meetings are typically held with technicians, service advisors, parts people, managers and others, and are generally held only once a month, it is important to immediately request an opportunity to discuss your products at the next scheduled meeting. You must gain the service department support by demonstrating the features and benefits of the products you are selling to their customers and by explaining the reason why you offer these products and not other, less desirable ones.
Step 6: Upon arriving at your dealership each morning, walk through the service department and greet as many employees as possible. As a result of these brief daily encounters, the service personnel will solidly support you and your products.
Step 7: Since people cannot resist treating themselves, make your office as much like a candy store as your surroundings allow. If at all possible, put accessories in your office for demonstration purposes, but if this can't be done, make a picture wall to display your products. You don't want to appear tacky, so mount posters, brochures, etc, in professional looking picture frames.
Step 8: The same thinking applies to bank advertising. Keep calendars, pens, brochures and handouts available for customers. The availability of several financial sources reinforces the customer's acceptance of your process.
Step 10: Like a good manager and unlike a "clerk", keep your desk and surrounding area free of clutter by processing your paper work.
Step 11: The F&I Office is the office of a Manager and must be portrayed as such, so don't eat in your office, keep your computer clean and get a nice shiny piece of glass for the top of your desk.
Step 12: It doesn't matter how many customers you have on the go, you must stay in control. Produce a checklist for every deal folder and use it. An organized manager is respected and depended upon for their knowledge and abilities. Be that manager.
Step 13: Since first impressions can only happen once, train your sales staff to do a professional introduction, as a Finance and Insurance Manager. I preferred a simple, clean introduction, one that was not cluttered with a salesperson's last-ditch attempt to "set up" the customer for me.
Step 14: Either Role-play the following introduction with your sales people in the next sale meeting or practice your existing intro, but in either case make sure you are introduced in the least complicated and most professional manner possible.
"Mr. and Mrs. Customer this is my Finance and Insurance Manager, ___________________. He/She will complete the documentation and registration of your new vehicle. He/She will also be able to go over all of the warranties, vehicle under coatings and everything else you may require for your new vehicle. I’ll see you when the paper work is complete.”
F&I Managers must and are evolving with technology. A clerk produces accurate documentation. The F&I Manager also produces accurate documentation but that is where the similarity ends. The F&I Manager also employs professional techniques to counsel, select, present and sell the benefits and advantages of his/her products.
Experts say new IRS rules are sparking a downward trend in refund amounts, threatening the loss of an annual catalyst for used-car sales.