F&I has been experiencing a tremendous amount of turbulence in the marketplace. Consumer advocacy groups, agents, vendors, and even certain lenders are challenging the roles and responsibilities of F&I managers. For many dealerships, F&I is on the verge of considerable change! Just last week I got word of yet another large Top 150 dealer group embarking on eliminating the traditional longstanding role of the F&I manager. This begs the question: How can an existing or aspiring F&I manager be successful amidst all this change and controversy?
The answer is simple: get insight! Insight improves your ability to lead, insight improves your ability to negotiate, and insight improves your ability to sell! In short, insight is the one thing that changes everything in F&I. Dictionary.com defines insight as “an understanding of the motivational forces behind one’s actions, thoughts, or behavior.” For too long many F&I managers have operated inside a bubble all their own. F&I managers who aim to thrive in the future must embrace change and strive to learn, lead and leverage what really moves their customers, their lenders, and their team.
Gain Team Insight and Your Influence Will Rise
If you have been an F&I manager for any amount of time at all you’ve likely have had to deal with that salesperson who seems to never follow the process. Missing data in the CRM, lacking a proper turn, and worse yet… setting all the wrong expectations with customers are just a few examples of what tends to happen when salespeople don’t follow a defined path. Maybe you’ve had to deal with that sales manager who is always maxing-out terms and shot-gunning deals before you ever get the chance to work the numbers.
While you can continue to lecture and complain, that won’t fix the problem. There may be power in your title as an F&I manager, but true authority is always earned. Surprisingly, the problem isn’t with salespeople and sales managers knowing what to do. Instead, the problem is with them wanting to do it. Insight gives you the edge, but in order to gain that insight, you must be willing to connect on a personal level. When you take the time to discover what really matters to your teammates, and then you work to help them, they are far more likely to follow your lead and execute with excellence. Proper execution always follows personal engagement!
Gain Lender Insight and Watch Your Approvals and Advances Soar
Have you ever been frustrated with instant turn downs, line 5’s, or gap-only calls? Some F&I managers get so frustrated that they begin to wonder if some lenders even want to buy deals at all. Rest assured all lenders are in business to lend! You may be shocked to learn that the majority of all turn downs are the direct result of poorly structured applications. Meaning the majority of deals turned down were un-approvable before the lender even looked at them. The number one violation has been an advance request that breaches the payment-to-income caps set by each lender. While technology has proven to be an amazing asset, it has also proven to be an apparent stumbling block since technology has caused countless F&I managers to become complacent and neglect the relationship side of the business.
Why is it that two dealerships with similar inventory can get completely different results with the exact same lender? How can a customer get turned down at one dealership, and approved by the same lender at another dealer down the road? The answer is insight. The dealership that is able to get the customer approved had learned exactly how to send the deal over so that it will be considered. They know precisely what additional information will be needed on the call-back to put the deal over the edge and maximize profits. You can gain this invaluable insight by talking to your lenders on a regular basis and asking the right questions.
Gain Customer Insight and Your F&I Product Sales Will Multiply
While purchasing F&I products always seems to make perfect sense to us, it doesn’t always make sense to our customers. Unfortunately, there are many managers that present F&I products to their customers the same way every time. Usually, the service contract is a predictable pitch about fixed expense and peace-of-mind, whereas GAP tends to be a dry pitch about depreciation. This worked fine ten years ago, but the educated customers of today demand personalization. Customers don’t want a verbal brochure. They want someone equipped to explain exactly how their decision will impact their personal lives, and quite frankly you won’t have a clue unless you first gain insight.
A great spot to start is to learn what attracted them to the vehicle in the first place. By asking the right questions you’ll find that they’re purchasing the vehicle to feel independent, to feel responsible, to feel rewarded, and feel secure, or to feel loved. Equipped with this insight, you’ll be able to align your value propositions with the same reasons they bought the vehicle in the first place. Further insight into who and how the vehicle will be used will allow you to bring your products to life by painting stories using their words and examples. Remember, it’s what’s real and personal that is most compelling!
The future of F&I is uncertain. Over a decade ago, as I finished up a morning sales training session I was taken aback when my plain-spoken trainer touted that everything worked some of the time and nothing worked all of the time. Needless to say, I didn’t agree then and I do not agree now! The role of an F&I manager as we know it may change, but a professional with real insight will be successful all of the time!
About the Author
Mike Hirschfield, as CEO of Cornerstone Dealer Development, is on a mission to empower, equip, and exalt sales and finance teams everywhere! Twitter: @FoundationToWin Email: Mike@FoundationToWin.com
Author: Contributing Writer
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