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Is Your Menu Working You or Are You Working The Menu?

AutoNation USA, the #1 publicly owned retailer, opened it’s doors as a mega “one pricing” pre-owned operation in 1997. It built elaborate showrooms; county records show one was 218,000 square feet. The showrooms included a café, a playroom, and an aftermarket display platform.


Kiosks with computers were placed throughout the store enabling consumers to efficiently check out in-stock inventory or to submit a loan application. Customers were greeted at these kiosks by F&I personnel, which meant that all deliveries were made out on the floor. The finance office was used strictly for printing documents.


Most importantly, AutoNation was the principal leader of full disclosure selling in finance—a transparent, upfront sales philosophy. Using this philosophy as its key initiative has served them well. In a recent 2013 article posted by Bernie Woodall in Reuters, AutoNation’s earnings beat Wall Street estimates. Michael Jackson reported that he expects “U.S. industry new vehicles sales to reach the mid-15 million range in 2013, which would mark a rise of about 7 percent from last year and the highest sales total since 2007.” Its F&I profits also reached an all-time record, up 31 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. F&I Showroom’s February 21, 2013, issue reported that AutoNation’s total revenue reached $4.2 billion, up 13 percent since last year.


Those are impressive numbers.


You’re thinking that managing $1,300 per car isn’t always achievable, but it might be, if you shared their zero tolerance for deceptive practices. If your customers walk away with any hint of dishonesty, you can almost assure yourself of a chargeback. Your ‘best practices’ application begins with the menu presentation. Where do you stand? Do you disclose every single buying term before presentation of products? Do you try to work the system – and fail to realize that full disclosure selling is the means to significant sales achievement?


Since implementing menu selling for the AutoNation mega dealer in 1997, our division has presented thousands of menus on the showroom floor. The F&I PVR increased significantly year after year. We used paper menus. Unfortunately, F&I managers today are using a variety of online menu versions that inspire “rush” service—service that doesn’t present every part of the menu or full disclosure 100% of the time. The menus are super streamlined and programmed from one software provider to another; they make a list of claims about your potential to significantly increase your F&I profits, if you use their software. You might. For a time. Especially if you don’t fully understand the reason behind full disclosure selling and why, if the terms are removed from the menu verbiage in the software menu version, the dealer is open to potential law suits.


Inspect the menu version you’re currently using. Does it itemize buying numbers, APR, terms or base payment of the vehicle purchase? Is every product listed with full discloser? Does your state (like CA) require the discloser of the base payment prior to presentation of products? Do you take whatever time is necessary with every customer to clearly disclose what they’re paying for the vehicle and all terms?


Tom Hudson, in F&I Magazine, said, “So, even if federal law and the law of your state do not require the disclosure of an optional products menu, would I advise a dealer to use one and to disclose a “base payment” as part of the menu presentation? Without a second thought.”


Menu selling isn’t a time-wasting chore. Think KISS—Keep it Simple Silly.


To be successful with menu selling, be consistent. Establish a well-rehearsed system that is interactive with your customer. Know the terms; define them with clarity. Don’t pack an endless number of products on the menu. Stick to basics. A menu is not a scroll. Itemize all products and offer two payment options. Be upfront and customer friendly. Offer all the products 100% of the time, but stick to the point. Don’t ramble. Throw out the sales jargon, pitches and props, Get rid of the after-market sales kits on the walls or your desk. Act like the professional you are, but treat your customer with the same courtesy you would your neighbor. Don’t think of your menu presentation as a gimmick.
If your online menu or next best menu presentation takes longer than five minutes, consider utilizing a printed menu that keeps you on track. Remember, less is more! A delivery should take no more than 30 minutes Most customers would rather work with an F&I manager who presents a paper menu effectively than an automated menu that promises a quick fix! Automation online presentation technology might represent the paperless so-called green future, but it won’t take the place of hands-on customer service that comes with the presentation of menu products on paper that can be held.


Follow AutoNation’s lead. It has demonstrated convincingly that full disclosure selling is the driver behind their success. They have mastered the F&I office, and their ethical standard of business practices prevails. If you aren’t achieving over $1,000 PVR, ask yourself: Is you menu working you or are you working the menu?

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Comment by Rebecca Chernek on March 20, 2013 at 12:47pm

I wonder how many F&I Managers understand why it's always best practices to mandate a "base payment" and "specific loan terms" on the menu?  Is it the the chicken or the egg mentality? How many F&I Managers simply use the declination page to disclose the base payment and loan terms after the customer has taken one product or the other? Really? Get Back To Basic's!

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