F&I Is Not The Problem- Right On! People Sell Not Gadgets!

           Great article, Greg! I’ve been singing in the same chorus, but it seems that other members are either staying home or remaining silent. Both reasons denote an underlying sense of fear or helplessness or ignorance of the real issues.  It’s hard to change “old ways” but not impossible. Change is good.

            However, too many F&I managers are still being lumped into the same crock of criticism; some deserve to be there, but many more don’t. The dealership F&I department is here to stay, regardless of what the proponents of iPhone or iPad menu selling are saying. Nothing replaces face-to-face communication. Especially when everyone in the dealership understands the meaning of communication. It’s 50% talking, but 50% listening. Each customer has individual problems and needs and circumstances. Car sellers and buyers aren’t clones.

            Customers who are met with a genuine smile and a warm handshake, from sales and finance personnel who love their jobs and thoroughly enjoy solving their customers’ problems, can tell the difference. Selling begins with building rapport. Trust and satisfaction follow. The primary factors in selling from a menu of offerings is transparency, honesty, and compliance. But how we transition to be more accessible and competitive in dealership menu offerings needs candid and thorough discussion. Dealership personnel need training!

            F&I managers aren’t the only ones with knowledge of car and menu options anymore. Anyone with reasonable skill in online searches can find information. Dealers need to emphasize the personal aspect of their customers relationships and take a more proactive role in educating and training their staff. All of them, so they’re all on the same page regardless of work days or shifts.

            Some dealers have crossed over to a hybrid F&I manager in order to generate a more effective transition from sales to finance in the anticipation of increasing their sales and profits. Some are successful. Some are learning they personally don’t have the know-how to create this type of sales environment. It takes time.

            It reminds me of the Saturn days. The Saturn sales method challenged dealers and their staff and everyone else in the auto industry. Most were scoffers. “It won’t work. No one in his right mind would pay full retail for a car with full knowing of doing so.” Saturn was a game changer for these skeptics. Transparency demonstrated it was not only possible to sell cars at full sticker price, the customers loved it! They were being treated like adults, not like cattle being led to slaughter. Transparency went against anything we were ever taught in the business. Far too many still don’t “get it.”

            So, Greg . . . I agree. It’s not the finance department. It’s the bridge between the sales and the finance departments that’s in need of repair.  The sale and compliance begin in the minute the customer walks on the lot. When a buying customer is respectfully and carefully walked through the completed purchase agreement, when all the numbers are accurately disclosed and fully discussed, when all the customer’s questions have been truthfully answered by both the sales and finance managers, then perhaps an I-Pad transaction will work. It’s a long time coming. Online buyers aren’t thinking of the details and how they will effect their budgets.

            Compare online car buying to reading a book on an eReader versus holding one in your hands.  As a book owner, you can underline meaningful text, dog-ears favorite pages, read and reread and share loved passages with family or friends. Limiting yourself to an eReader version means you’re reading only for plot. The formatting itself is replete with errors, you lack any easy way of highlighting favorite passages, and you find the vast majority of books choices are by first-time authors of nonedited manuscripts. It’s a novelty experience that soon loses its luster, its credibility, and its value.

            Dealership owners and their F&I managers need to read and study the iPhone menu selling methodology and compare the good and the bad with what they offer their community customers. Any comparison begins with a thorough vetting of their sales transparency and compliance. Unless they have it or are willing to learn everything about it and ensure every single member of their team practices it, they will find it increasingly difficult to compete against the iPad, video, or other menu-selling gadget.

            The bottom line? Will an iPad customer become a satisfied, long term customer. One you know and who knows you on a first-name basis.


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