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Are You a Vendor or a Trusted Partner?

Are You a Vendor or a Trusted Partner?

This should be the time of year when you start implementing your annual growth plans. Like many agents, you have most likely spent considerable time and treasure over the past couple of months looking ahead, forecasting all areas of your business. I am also certain your plan includes improving your agency’s financial performance year over year.

Where is your growth going to come from this year? A merger or acquisition? Increasing production from your current clients? Or perhaps taking business from a competitor?

Can you think of any business that is more competitive than the car business?

Consumers have many choices of where and with whom they do business. They want to buy from a dealer that values their time, gives them a fair deal, understands their needs, treats them respectfully, is transparent, and provides an easy and professional buying experience.

These dealers are usually benchmarked in departmental performance in their 20 Group composites. They experience low employee turnover and usually are very sound in their business practices. They bring discipline and ingenuity to expense control. Often these dealers enjoy high or benchmark CSI scores as a reward for their customer focus. They have also seemed to figure out how to instill customer loyalty and dominate their competitors. As an agent entrepreneur, these are the dealers you want to do business with.

How Do You Compare?

Part of any good plan is an evaluation of your competitive advantage, where you need to improve, and what your opportunities are. Also, where is your business at risk and vulnerable?

Can your competitors drive a wedge between you and your dealers?

When you signed that agreement with your dealer, he or she was convinced you were going to perform as promised, and most likely you did. But what about now?

When objectively assessing your dealer relationships, here are some classifications that might describe you and your relationship from the dealer’s perspective:

1. Vendor: As a vendor, you have little constructive interaction with the dealer. You provide the basics, but the relationship isn’t strong, and you know it is not working. If you are reacting to the dealer more than engaging the dealer, that may be a symptom that this client is on their way to a competitor.

2. Friendly supplier: You are a little more aligned with the dealer’s priorities and are more engaged and interactive, but the dealer may see little equity after interactions.

3. Valued partner: You bring more to the table than most other agent entrepreneurs. You not only understand the business, but bring value by understanding their business, you are the go-to in training and developing their key team members. You are relied upon.

4. Trusted partner: Joint planning and growth discussions occur with you regularly, your input is valued and sought out, training and development is all custom and designed to align with the dealer’s needs, employee development and to support growth.

The bad news is that, if one or more of your dealers fall into a vendor or friendly supplier category, their business is most likely part of your competitor’s growth plan for the coming year.

The good news is, if you go after these dealers like you plan to go after your new acquisitions, they might resist the urge to make a change and stay with you.

Make the time you spend in stores invaluable to your dealers, find out what their needs and priorities are, and be willing to provide solutions. Be flexible. They may have priorities and needs outside of F&I that you may have experience or expertise with.

Be transparent in what you are doing and why you are doing it. Make it easier to do business with you and harder for them to move their business to a competitor.

Dealers are a lot like the customers they serve. They too have a lot of choices. Finding new business takes time, resources and expenses. Now is the time to identify and invest in the business you have that may be at risk. This process can contribute to achieving your goals in the coming year. If you don’t do it, you may be helping your competitor achieve theirs.

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Evaluate Your Roster

Evaluate Your Roster

I love football. High school, college or the NFL, it doesn’t matter. I am amazed at the speed and athleticism of the game and those who play it today.

Most of the young men who are in the NFL were lucky enough to have the right coaches in their lives along the way that were able to develop their talent and help them realize their potential. The discipline, learning, training and development process never stops.

The NCAA tells us that only 2.6% of high school players go on to play at a Division I college and only 1.5% of those players ever make it to the NFL. Yet the interesting fact is that, even though these players are the best of the best, they spend a majority of their time training.

When we think of training in football, we think of lifting weights and running drills. But NFL coaches will tell you that film study is some of the most productive time spent with a player — not studying their opponents but the performance of the player.

The NFL game is changing, and coaches and players need to evaluate and adjust to keep up. Evaluating film takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. The time coaches spend with each player in performance evaluation helps them put the most prepared and talented roster on the field each week.

As an agent, what is the talent level on your roster?

Count Your Superstars

General F&I training for the sake of training is better than nothing but unfortunately isn’t usually the best strategy. As an agent, you are like a head coach; you didn’t get to pick your roster — the GM of the store does that — but it is in your best interest to evaluate, train and coach your roster to perform to their highest potential.

If you were to evaluate all your players, what percentage of your roster would you consider an F&I superstar?

You know this kind of player. They are consistent performers who set goals, seek constant improvement, and track and review their performance data to determine areas of growth. These pros hold themselves accountable to compliant F&I processes and procedures that deliver results, they go the extra mile, and they are detail-orientated. They listen to and focus on the customer’s needs. They use their extensive knowledge to align those needs with the products and services they have to offer to make the intangible tangible — products that are wanted and valued by the customer.

That description is not just a pro but an all-pro! What would your team’s performance look like if you had a few more all-pros on the roster?

Our game is changing too. Our customers in F&I are demanding a faster, easier and more customer focused needs based experience.

Be a Better Coach

The better we can evaluate the talent and ability of our F&I managers to deliver this level of experience, the better we can train and develop them into pros and ultimately all-pros.

The problem is that it takes a lot of time and effort to evaluate individual performance and then create individual training and development plans for each member of our roster based on their needs. But if you do, the results can be amazing.

You will find some players have the talent but need more general game-planning and coaching, like training camp. You will also find some players that just need to be made aware of some of the tendencies they have developed that, if corrected, can get them back on top of their game. Unfortunately, you might also find some players you might suggest be traded or allowed to seek other opportunities in free agency!

The more specific and appropriate training is to the individual’s needs, the better and more effective it can be. Evaluate all the resources your training provider offers — such as classroom, online and in-store — and utilize them. If the content is too general, ask that more specific content be created.

NFL coaches don’t evaluate and train their players some of the time; they evaluate and train their players all of the time. To win, so should we.

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