Since when do F&I products only benefit certain customers? Moreover, when did the F&I manager become a financial services advisor that personally determined which products are important and which are not? Short of those rare one-off scenarios, I believe that all mainstream F&I products can benefit all customers regardless of how they pay for the vehicle, their credit history, their household income, or their past purchase history. Too many managers waste their time trying to figure out and tailor their presentations to what products they feel their customers need. This may surprise you, but customers do not buy what they need. For example, I guarantee that if you looked back at the last five things you have purchased you would agree that you did not need to buy them. The most effective F&I presentations are unquestionably personalized to each customer, but they are not based on supposed need!
If customers don’t buy what they need, what do they buy?
Have you ever noticed how people in general really seem to struggle with doing what needs to be done? This is especially true in situations where it’s someone else telling them what they need to do! It’s no secret that people know they need to exercise more, but they don’t… people know they need to read more, but they don’t… people know they need to save more, but they don’t. Right now, at this moment I am sure you can think of a couple of things that you know you need to do but haven’t done for whatever reason. It’s a fact, that people don’t do what they need to do, they do what they want to do. This is no different at your dealership! Your customers do not buy what they need, they buy what they want. The vehicle that your customers ultimately choose, is the one they want. It may not be their first choice, but it is their choice. Asking questions like, “How many miles per year do you drive?” and “How long do you plan on owning your new vehicle?” is a complete waste of time (at least, early on). There are far better questions to ask before presenting F&I products to your customers. Your customers buy wants not needs!
What are the important F&I products?
Over the last 15 years, I can’t even tell you how many F&I presentations that I have observed where the F&I manager plainly told their customers something along the lines of “You don’t really need these products here, but I wouldn’t pass up on those ones.” I understand that many of these managers were hoping that such language would demonstrate impartiality, foster some sort of trust and credibility, and in-turn cause their customers to buy. Sometimes they did buy all the recommended products but most times they did not. When all was said and done, I believe these managers missed out on important opportunities to truly serve and sell. Too often F&I managers pigeonhole their products to best fit certain customers when in reality, whether it’s a vehicle service contract, prepaid maintenance plan, guarantee asset protection, credit insurance, or appearance protection; F&I products offer benefits that provide an advantage for all customers, not just the first-time buyers, the budget conscious, or credit-challenged. F&I products don’t just offer financial peace-of-mind, security, and simplified budgeting; F&I products also offer a uniquely superior customer ownership experience for all who purchase them. In short, all F&I products are important!
What makes an F&I product compelling?
Compelling customers to purchase is the primary goal of every F&I product presentation. Sadly, many product sales are blown in the F&I office because the manager didn’t actually compel their customers to buy anything. Some F&I managers assume they have added value because they fully explained the features, facts, and figures associated with their product. On paper, these features, facts, and figures may stand-out, but customers don’t really care. All that matters are how each product impacts their life… literally. It’s all about them! When it’s decision time, what is specific and personal to your customer is compelling, but the rest is just a plain old pitch. Remember, your customers can absolutely like a product and still not be sold or compelled to buy. There are three things you must do if you want to make your F&I products more compelling:
1.) Demonstrate why they should buy them. Top F&I producers don’t rely on the what, instead, they center on the why. Top producers know that everything purchased on this planet is bought to satisfy one or more of the six emotional motives to buy. Are you discovering and aligning your products with them?
2.) Show them how to buy. Top F&I producers know that the decision to buy takes effort, and their customers do not want to think through the process of buying too. Whether it’s increasing their budget, redefining their budget, or finding other ways to pay for F&I products, your customers rely on you to lead the way.
3.) Help them see their purchase. Top F&I producers know their customers don’t buy products, they buy how they envision the products will make them feel. Therefore, top producers ask strategic personal questions, so they can paint clear pictures using their customers’ words and examples. Many managers assume their enthusiasm for a product will transfer to their customer, but it is the customers’ mental picture that reigns supreme. If your customers cannot clearly see a favorable picture of themselves having bought, they will not buy.
I have never met an F&I manager who didn’t want to sell more F&I products. F&I managers have always been some of the most committed and driven-for-growth team members at the dealership.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information and advice given to F&I managers. For years, many F&I trainers have promoted the importance of helping customers by selling them what they think their customers need. I completely disagree! With the exception of rare one-offs, all products are important and valuable, and you should look to sell every applicable product on every deal. The key is to ask the right personal questions, so you can make your products genuinely compelling. What’s personal is compelling, and the rest is just a plain old pitch. It’s not what you think your customers’ need that’s most important, it’s aligning your products with what your customers really want!
Learn more in Mike Hirschfield’s session, “The Missing Value in F&I!” at the Digital Dealer 25 Conference & Expo.
Author: Mike Hirschfield
As CEO of Cornerstone Dealer Development, Mike Hirschfield is on a mission to empower, equip, and exalt sales and finance teams everywhere! Twitter: @FoundationToWin Email: Mike@FoundationToWin.com