The proliferation of aftermarket products and protection plans has created both opportunity and overload. F&I menus have begun to look more like a Grainger or Spiegel catalog with far too many choices, often simply confusing buyers. And we all know that a confused prospect never buys.

So how do you determine which products to offer?

The first step in deciding how the menu should be configured begins with a proper guest interview. Just like a good vehicle selection requires an effective needs analysis by the salesperson, so too does the F&I process. The permission question is the best place to start because it shows respect and consideration before inquiring about someone’s personal credit history and ownership habits about their vehicles. “Would it be alright if I ask you a few questions to complete your paperwork?” seems to work well.

A proper TO from the sales department makes the transition to the interview flow efficiently. Which scenario best describes a salesperson’s TO to F&I in your store:

Scenario A: “Mr. Customer, this is Chris, our paperwork guy. He is going to offer you a bunch of stuff you don’t have to buy if you don’t want to, OK? Here you go, Chris.”

Scenario B: “Mr. Customer, let me introduce you to Chris Ballard. (Salesperson stands next to business manager with hand on their shoulder.) He is going to be handling all of the paperwork necessary to complete the delivery of your new 2012 Camry. Chris is the best here at the dealership, and you’re in good hands. Most of my customers take advantage of the programs Chris has available. I am going to get your car ready while you two finish up. Thanks for your business.”

Your next opportunity for improvement lies in the product mix you are currently working with. First and foremost, if you are not reinsuring your products and receiving some additional back-end monies from the sale of F&I protection packages, please make sure you put that in place this year. You can’t change the past, but you can position yourself well for the future.

An analysis can be as simple as an evaluation based on points. Assign one point to each product sold. If you have a 50-percent finance penetration and an average of 1.5 to 1.6 products sold, you are only selling three products or programs effectively (1.5/.50=3). If your goal is to increase your product penetration to, say, 2.0 then you will need at least four solid products.

In order to be successful selling protection packages in F&I, you will need the support of the sales department. List out all of the products you offer and ask each salesperson and sales manager to rank all of the F&I products from highest to lowest based on their perceived value to the consumer.

Next, take your bottom three to five products and ask everyone (this includes business managers) how many of them have one of those bottom products on their own vehicles or on a family member’s car. The answer will be few to none. Then, check your penetrations on those products. The correlation should be clear. You cannot sell something you do not believe in!

Go back and re-examine your product mix as well as your TO process from the sales department. Reconfigure your menu with the best five to six products that everyone truly believes in, and watch your numbers soar. Sometimes the best strategies to improve are the simplest ones. Just keep looking for the bright spots.

Good luck and good selling.

Vol. 9, Issue 1