Focus is a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding. So, if you expect a desired outcome, you are much more likely to achieve it. That means you need to be able to channel your energy in a specific direction to increase the likelihood of getting there.
This brings to question, what factors have to be present for you to obtain your desired outcome? In F&I, the five factors are (1) the customer, (2) the team, (3) the sales process, (4) your attitude, and (5) the terminology you use. Let’s discuss each one.
1. THE CUSTOMER
The primary focus of a dealership should be the customer. Taking good care of the customer leads to higher profits and CSI, as well as far fewer complaints. Building rapport and providing the customer with products he or she desires — not the ones we think he or she needs — is crucial to being successful in F&I. That’s why I recommend starting every presentation with the following:
“Mr. and Mrs. Customer, I have everything in the computer ready to go and all of your necessary legal documentation here. But before we begin reviewing and approving the paperwork, I’d like to take a quick minute to thank you for your business. We appreciate the fact that you purchased the automobile from us today, but what is most important is that you’ll come back when you need your next vehicle.
“We would also like you to feel comfortable enough with us that you will send in your family and friends, and that you will also use our service, parts, and body shop. We have found that for these things to happen, it mostly depends on how we’ve treated you during the buying process.
“My part of the process is the financial process, and when you leave here, I’d like you to be able to say that I was prompt, efficient, and straight-forward, but most importantly, that I have explained the financial benefits that are available to you. So, I’d like to take a couple of minutes to explain those benefits.”
The sales and F&I departments must work just like a relay team if you hope to maximize your time in the race and your income at the dealership. That means all deals are turned over as soon as they are accomplished.
The team must also be sure not to give the customer unrealistic payment expectations, or set them up without any down payment considerations. I recommend giving the customer multiple payment options, ones that included different choices of down payments, terms, and method of paying for the vehicle. Using an average interest rate is also important until you receive the credit application. This is especially important in today’s tight credit market.
3. SALES PROCESS
Having a focus-driven sales process is important to maximizing F&I income. This includes properly approaching the customer, presenting in a way which qualifies them to buy, overcoming the customer’s objections, and closing with a menu. The process should also include a planned presentation, not one without a sense of direction.
Properly approaching the customer means breaking their preoccupation. This is best done by asking a question to set the pace for the presentation. Examples of breaking preoccupation would be:
- Now that you have decided to purchase this new vehicle, is getting the best possible financing important to you?
- How would you like to prevent paying for any repair bill for the next five years?
- How would you like to keep that new vehicle looking new and maintaining its value?
The presentation should be a process of giving the customer some information, asking questions and listening. In order to have a focus-driven process, you need to know all of the customer’s potential objections and the appropriate responses for each.
Finally, the sales process is most effective if you are closing on a F&I menu or giving the customer package choices from which to choose. The product choices should also focus on what is going to make you most successful. I suggest you consider the following points when constructing your menu:
- Which products do you most believe in?
- Which have the most benefit to the customer?
- Which products fit best with the terms of the loan?
- Which are soft-adds, or can be added without asking the lender for additional advance?
- Which product has the smallest increase in the payment?
Your attitude governs your mood, your emotions, your energy level, the enthusiasm of your sales presentation, and how the customer responds to you. In terms of F&I, a manager must be both reactive and proactive. Here are some examples of how reactive translates into proactive:
Reactive: There’s nothing I can do.
Proactive: Let’s look for alternatives.
Reactive: That’s just the way I am.
Proactive: I can use a different approach.
Reactive: The salesperson takes away my ability to perform.
Proactive: What kind of changes can I make to perform?
Reactive: Sales are so bad.
Proactive: How can I make the best out of my chances?
The terminology you use effects the customer’s perception of your offer. It can also determine whether you’re compliant or not:
Words NOT to Use: Price
Better Option: Investment
Words NOT to Use: Down Payment
Better Option: Initial Investment
Words NOT to Use: Payment
Better Option: Monthly Investment
Words NOT to Use: Sign
Better Option: OK, Approve, Autograph
Words NOT to Use: Get It Done
Better Option: Get Financing Approved
Words NOT to Use: Objections
Better Option: Areas of Concern
Words NOT to Use: My Deal
Better Opportunity: My Opportunity
Compliance can also be a function of terminology. Here’s what I mean:
Illegal: It’s included.
Compliant: The payment of X includes a service contract.
Illegal: It was approved this way by the bank.
Compliant: The bank has approved any options you select up to X.
Illegal: This is what your payment would be to buy the automobile (customer is unaware that products are included.)
Compliant: An itemized payment with an additional product description is presented.
Sidebar: 5 Keys to Being Focus-Driven
Understanding the five factors of F&I is a good start, but you have to be focus-driven to take advantage of that knowledge. Here are the five keys to accomplishing that goal:
Key No. 1: What’s behind you is not before you. If you focus on the past instead of the present, you are certain to get negative results. Things like the economic downturn and the credit crisis are part of today’s environment, but if they are focused on, these concepts will cause you to qualify yourself out of sales.Key No. 2: You’re going to have to crawl before you walk. Things don’t just happen because you will them to, and being focus-driven doesn’t just change over night. It is a result of continuously focusing your mind on the right things until it becomes a habit.
Key No. 3: With every challenge there is a silver lining. In other words, look for a way to succeed.
Key No. 4: Learning is within you. Being focus-driven is a learned behavior. Every time you evaluate a challenge, you innately look for a way out or a way forward.
Key No. 5: The only limits you have are your own expectations. The law of expectation goes like this: Whatever you expect with confidence becomes your own self-fulfilling prophecy.