Mastering the skills needed to perform at the highest level of anything requires time and effort. When was the last time you actually worked on your business rather than just in it?

Day in and day out, F&I managers are asked to handle all of the mechanics of their jobs. The priorities of getting deals bought, securing greater allowances from finance companies, increasing product sales, and increasing PVR seem endless. Of course, all of these activities are part of the job description, but do we take into account that F&I managers need a little batting practice to sharpen their skills?

All too often the store’s energy is exclusively directed at simply doing the job, while very little time is dedicated to thinking about how to do the job better. The idea here is about how to work smarter, not harder.  

The majority of buyers left their home looking for a vehicle, not a parts and service agreement. Acknowledging this reality, the F&I department is reliant on the sales department to secure an interested buyer prior to getting a chance at the plate. If you are to make the most of your at-bats, then studying your stance and swing will go a long way towards improving your batting average, or in this case, meeting your production and income targets. So, let’s look at how to conduct some batting practice for the F&I department.

If your store has more than one F&I manager, this will be simplified. If not, a sales manager will have to pinch-hit. The first thing you should do is establish a baseline for where the department is currently with presentations. This would include the initial menu presentation, as well as handling the most common objections for each product offered.

This exercise can be conducted “live” in a one-on-one role play. To speed up improvement, the use of a small, flip-style video recorder would be a sound investment. For about $150, you can go back, look and listen more closely to the presentation content. Additionally, the video is digital and can be e-mailed to someone for coaching advice. If you would like someone to provide feedback on a video presentation, feel free to send me a link or an attachment. Don’t worry; I won’t turn on the meter.

Once you have reviewed the presentations, it will become easier to identify which areas need the most work. The question you might want to ask yourself is, once you identify a gap or opportunity for improvement, what are your options?

The good news is there are many resources available to help increase an F&I manager’s skill set. Industry magazines and Web sites are very timely sources of information to help advance one’s knowledge about our industry and are valuable resources from which to learn what works for others. Twenty groups are also excellent sources of information and learning.

Seminars, workshops and conventions are also excellent sources of knowledge. When was the last time anyone in your store attended a workshop on F&I topics? One month ago? One year ago? Perhaps never? You should commit to sending your F&I manager to a public program at least once a year.

Many of your F&I vendors offer week-long programs to brush up on presentation skills. These are great opportunities to learn more about the specific products and programs they offer.

The Karrass organization conducts 2 day workshops on negotiations (not just automotive). This course is very well structured with case studies and role play scenarios to hone your negotiations skills.

The important thing is for F&I managers to commit part of their time to practicing their craft. The highest-paid athletes must spend time working on their skills to maintain their competitive edge. Professionals like doctors, accountants and lawyers are required to attend continuing education programs to keep active licenses. It should be no different in your F&I department.

Vol. 6, Issue 10