Ask every manager at your store to write down the complete sales and F&I process. How many different versions might you receive? How well-defined is your sales and F&I process?

Are there written policies and procedure manuals in each F&I office? At the sales tower? If the answer is, “Well … no,” or perhaps, “I think so,” are your processes really defined?

The mark of a well-managed dealership is clarity. Everyone understands what is expected of them, and roles are clearly defined for each position. Checklists and written instructions on how each person executes their job are provided. Standards then help establish a baseline to measure performance.

At this point, you may be coming to the realization that you need some work in this area. Well, you are not alone. Most organizations simply make it up as they go. However, do you really want to be just like everyone else, or do you see this as an opportunity to distance your store from the competition? The good news is that many other dealerships will simply not invest the resources and effort to define their processes.

Documenting processes is the catalyst to create a culture of success in your store. Employees need the reassurance that someone is actually paying attention to how they are performing in their jobs. Measuring against those standards allows you to coach and guide your team to their full potential.

Once the procedures are defined, how will you measure to the baseline? The proof is ultimately in the pudding or, in this case, the deal jackets. When was the last time you gathered up 25 deal jackets and reviewed them with your management team—in the past week, month, or six months? Don’t recall?

These are the things to inspect at minimum. Is there a worksheet in every deal jacket? Is it signed by the customer and sales manager before being sent to the F&I office? If you use a trade form to adjust customer’s trade expectations (which you should), is a signed copy in each of the deal jackets that have a trade involved?

Are the F&I Menu and/or declination forms signed by the customer and F&I manager in every deal jacket? By the way, that means 100 percent. In over 10 years of auditing deal jackets for dealerships large and small, only once have I found 100 percent compliance on menus and declination forms.

Are save-a-deal meetings conducted at each of your stores with all sales and F&I managers (no salespeople, managers only) daily, twice a week, weekly, monthly? Does your management team know how to conduct these meetings, or is it perhaps that there is no defined standard of how and when the meetings are to take place? The cooperation between the sales department and the F&I office will impact the profitability of each opportunity. Do they function as one integrated team, or is it the-all-too common mindset of “us versus them”?

If this sounds like your store, then here is the good news. The first step in addressing the problem is to acknowledge its existence. Unconscious incompetence limits all of us. Sometimes we simply don’t know what we don’t know.

Once you invest the time in implementing a defined written process, it must be monitored. There is an automotive group that made a six-figure investment in developing detailed procedures for each department of their organization, all the way down to how the cars will be prepped for inventory.

The project was completed two years ago. Unfortunately, like many companies the turnover now jeopardizes the investment made in creating the systems. New employees are just not as familiar with the procedures since they weren’t there at implementation and they bring routines from previous employers with them.  You must monitor the investment.

The best way to ensure everyone understands the processes in the sales and F&I departments is to audit the deal jackets and quiz the staff. On a recent visit with a client, it was little surprise that when asked to write down word-for-word the basic menu presentation, many of the F&I managers had a sudden onset of anxiety.

The results validated the need to verify the process. The two managers who consistently finished first and second among the group’s 12-plus producers provided the best and most complete responses. Oh, and yes, the lowest score did correspond to the producer with the lowest gross per vehicle retailed. Go figure.

So if you want to separate your store from the competition, remember people and process will determine your success. It is worth the effort.

Vol. 6, Issue 11