Create an Evidence Manual to Communicate Value to F&I Customers

A few years ago, Linda Richardson of Richardson Communications in Philadelphia wrote a book titled, “Stop Telling, Start Selling.” In the text, she describes the importance of formulating effective questions to guide prospects through decision making in the buying process. You see, the difference between the most effective F&I producers and those who struggle is a function of their communication of value.
There are three primary ways we all take in information: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. In other words, we see, hear and touch to learn. These are the basic elements for communicating with your client. How well do you incorporate all three elements during your product presentations? In order to incorporate all three components into your next menu presentation, create an evidence manual to present your case more effectively.

Your book should be created using a high-quality portfolio binder you can pick up at your local office supply. Think ad agency caliber, not what’s in middle school students’ backpacks. Tabs should be used to separate sections based both on your F&I product mix as well as by manufacturer if you sell more than one brand.

The first section is the brag section for you and your dealership. The emphasis here should be both personal and professional. Allow the customer to see who you are outside the dealership. It is a lot harder for them to be a “jerk customer” when they realize you have more in common than they anticipated. Photographs should provide the visual component needed. The reason a book should be used is because it provides an opportunity to incorporate the “touch factor.” Most people will be reluctant to handle your picture frames, but will gladly look through a book placed in their hands.
The product sections must incorporate facts without spewing propaganda, meaning no glossy brochures for your evidence manual. Many customers see brochures as self-promoting. Instead, provide information from third parties whenever possible. Magazines and Web sites can often be your best sources for content to place in your book

The most important product you offer your buyers is the vehicle service contract. This product kills two birds with one stone. First, it is often your highest profit opportunity, but more importantly, it is the key to keeping the customer happy down the road when something does happen. Nothing is more devastating to customer retention than an angry customer on the service drive who was just informed of the cost of a repair after the initial warranty expired.

Utilizing repair orders (ROs) from the service department’s records is very effective when presenting the value of the VSC. While many of you may be aware of this approach, how many of you have current ROs for each vehicle category you sell ready to show customers?

The next section of your evidence manual should incorporate GAP coverage. There are two ways to plead the case for this product using visual evidence with your customer. First, you can contact the vendor that sells you the product and request copies of checks issued on claims nationwide. The individuals’ names will obviously need to be blanked or blacked out for privacy purposes. The key here is to have dollar amounts (the higher the better) as well as the dates on the copies of the checks. Again, be current; the last 12 to 18 months works best.

Alternatively, if the underwriter is unwilling to provide copies of checks, request a one-page summary report. The report should be on their letterhead and include the date each claim was paid and dollar amounts, as well as the make and model of each vehicle. Again, be sure the makes and models reflect the brands you handle at your location; 15 to 20 entries should get the job done.

For all security anti-theft products – including alarms, starter disable, tracking and recovery systems, etch, etc. – use the stats from your local and state police. If you live in a state with a Bureau of Investigation, they should be able to provide current stolen vehicle reports to educate your customer on how this is more than a perceived threat; it is real.

Life and disability products can be handled similar to the GAP claims explained previously. Either copies of checks or a payout report should be added to this section of your evidence manual.

Tire and wheel insurance should be handled similar to the VSC. Repair orders documenting the cost of repair or replacement of both tires and rims should be provided as part of the explanation for why the coverage is offered.

While your location may offer products not listed here, the above list should give you a good start. You will have a better chance of product acceptance if you stop telling and start selling using the three-pronged approach. Remember: See it. Hear it. Touch it.
Make an evidence manual part of your toolbox today.