Author Archives | Rick

The Three Musts of Every Agency Visit

The Three Musts of Every Agency Visit

There are three things that must happen every time an agent or their representative visits a dealership. If these three things do not happen then we have done one of the most unproductive things possible: wasted their time. We value the time of everyone we meet with when we assure these three things take place.

Let’s take a look.

1. The People We Meet With Must Learn Something!

Many times agencies are given the task of changing behaviour and increasing performance levels. To motivate dealership personnel to make changes, they need new information they did not have previously. Otherwise, they will just continue to do what they have always done.

When I was in the F&I office, I always looked forward to the visit of one agency representative. I always learned something when he came by, and I am sure that was on purpose. He would share recent claims he had processed to show how my customers were benefiting from the products I was selling. And that provided stories I could share with customers on what the products had done for past clients. I always knew the highest claim paid on a service contract in the last 12 months and what the most frequent repair was.

He also provided a book for me to read each quarter and challenged me to share with him things I learned from it. Make every dealership visit a learning experience and it will increase your value and grow everyone’s income!

2. Every Person We Meet With Should Feel Something!

Every decision we make is driven by emotion much more than facts. Nike doesn’t sell shoes, Gatorade doesn’t sell sports drinks, and Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee. They sell a feeling!

We don’t provide products to dealerships; we provide a feeling. Our visit can inspire the F&I professional to reach the record levels of production they are striving for or provide encouragement for one recovering from a difficult month. How they feel affects how they sell! Enabling the F&I professional to see the actual results of what it must have felt like for the customer, to have the product when they needed it, or the expense incurred if they did not have the product, interjects real emotions in the decisions made in their office every day.

The learning opportunities referenced previously can provide a launchpad for effective goal-setting. “Based on the new information we have shared today, what level of increase would you predict for the coming month in sales? And how much will that increase your income for the month or the coming year?”

If the F&I professional “feels” the changes we are asking them to make or acquiring the knowledge we are asking them to reach for, this will positively affect their income, and we are much more likely to see the changes take place. And when the challenge to change and grow is embraced, the positive affect it will have will make you “feel” you are truly helping them to grow as an individual and a dealership.

3. We Must Motivate Them to Do Something About What They Have Learned and Felt!

While we all know that compensation motivates the F&I professional, surprisingly, recognition is almost as important to them. F&I professionals — just like everyone else — want to know their work is making a difference in the overall profitability of the dealership and the lives of their customers.

Make it a point to show how their production is having a positive effect on the dealership. My favorite agent I mentioned earlier was always telling me how I compared to others in my market and spurred me to be the best in my region. When I did, we always had a lunch that involved a steak entrée and a lot of appreciation for a job well done.

Provide these three efforts with every dealership interaction and everyone will look forward to your visits and know it was worth every minute you spent there. Time well spent means the dealership will keep spending its money with you!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post. Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also, feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas that get results is my passion!

 

Posted in F&I Success, Featured Articles1 Comment

The Agent’s Most Valuable Asset

The Agent’s Most Valuable Asset

The field of competition for the business of the dealership has never been more crowded. The ability to separate your agency from others will rarely be accomplished simply by working to provide products with unique features or even a better price to the dealer. Car dealers are the most astute consumers around, and they have heard every sales and product pitch there is.

In today’s ever-changing market, dealers need an agency partner that will provide direction, training, support, and encouragement to their F&I teams. While all agencies track results, those that provide the tools necessary to drive performance, ensure accountability, and have an instore personal presence on a regular basis become valuable dealer partners.

So, what is the most valuable assset of the agency? If you said that your people are your most valuable asset, you are partially correct. People are not the most valuable asset — the right people are! The right people, with the right message and the right agenda, will propel your agency to new heights. Here’s how:

1. People With the Right Message

The F&I training you deliver sends a message to customers, and that message should resonate with the way they like to buy. No one likes to be sold, and when it comes to F&I products, customers are more informed and more resistant to a sales pitch than ever. A well-informed customer is looking for someone to help them make good decisions in connection with the vehicle they have purchased. That message of “helping” versus “selling” should come through in all of our efforts.

Recently someone shared with me their thoughts on a central message they felt should be conveyed with their dealer visits that I thought said it well: “Helping customers navigate their way to a great ownership experience.” Every facet of the F&I process should be centered around a customer focused message. The menu used, the process provided, and the products offered should seek to help them have a great ownership experience.

Successful agencies bring much more to the dealer than just products. They articulate a message that helps motivate and focus the team. When you leave following a dealer visit, everyone in the store should feel challenged, encouraged, and focused on a specific goal they are working to achieve.

2. People With the Right Agenda

The agenda for every dealer visit can be summarized in one word: growth. The instore effort should be focused on growing the F&I manager’s skillset. Focusing only on profit levels is a misdirected effort.

Farmers know that, to gain a great harvest, the focus has to be on providing the right amounts of nutrients, water, and working of the soil — or, simply, “the process.” An apple tree produces more fruit, a corn field more corn, and a cow more milk when the process is healthy and productive. The same rings true for the F&I office. Where you place your focus is where all of your creativity and energy goes.

Focus your agenda on efforts that will produce growth in the ability to provide a comfortable, informative, and interactive F&I process, and you will naturally produce a consistent increase in profits. Even the compensation plan utilized should focus on helping customers buy more products that will make their ownership experience an enjoyable one.

The right people for every agency are those who are committed to providing every dealership with the tools and inspiration to reach record levels of production. That is accomplished by arriving for every visit with the right agenda and the right message wrapped around great products. That’s the right way to “help” your dealership partners!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post. Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also, feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas that get results is my passion!

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Who Motivates the Motivator?

Who Motivates the Motivator?

Agents are expected to provide information and support for products, training, software, and, most importantly, to get results! We are expected to keep the F&I team motivated to reach their highest potential. However, after long days of dealership visits, your vehicle’s gas tank is not the only one running near empty. So who motivates the motivator when we find our tanks empty after we’ve encouraged, instructed, corrected and rewarded everyone else?

There are three efforts that are pure octane to keep your motivation tank full.

1. Read, Listen, and Learn.

Find leaders that speak to you. Buy their books, listen to their podcasts, and access their blogs. The average American reads one book each year, and it is often an online version or an audio book — meaning they will pay less attention than they would if they were reading a physical copy. Want to be 12 times more motivated that those you face each month? Read one book a month! Every year, I attend several conferences and I always leave with a few ideas that I can use right away. Reading a book every month is like attending 12 conferences every year!

When you access new information, it makes you think. Even if the information suggests ideas I disagree with, it makes me think about a better way to accomplish what they are discussing. Good or bad ideas, when confronted, make us think. The ability to motivate others demands that we have fresh information to share with them. As we read and research, we discover that information; we embrace it and become passionate about it. However, we must first develop the habit of reaching out every month for more information.

2. Access a Mentor to Be a Mentor.

A mentor’s mindset will enable you to make full use of the experiences you walk through. When I was in F&I, I looked for mentors I could learn from and who would leave me better than they found me. Those mentors enabled me to reach levels of ability that I could never reach on my own. When I made the transition to F&I training, I didn’t simply look for a position, I looked for someone that I could look up to and learn from, a mentor. Those choices have paid great dividends and will continue to do so in the future. Also, working with a mentor has made me a more skilled mentor myself.

What do Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates all have in common? They all had great mentors and they have become mentors to others. No matter how successful we become, we should always have someone we look up to, to enable us to continue to grow. Every time I spend time with a mentor, I leave motivated and inspired. My tank gets filled up!

3. Retreat to Refuel!

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I’m not sure who really said this, but it is true. The nature of our business forces many agents onto the road for weeks at a time. You’re putting in long days and constant travel, all the while balancing multiple high-level projects. A nonstop schedule wears away at the cutting-edge energy you bring to the dealership, and if there is no effort to refill the motivation tank you become just like the competition. That can be deadly! The competitive edge we deliver to our dealer partners goes beyond the products we offer and leans more to the motivation we provide for the team to sell them. Time away is time well spent!

As general agents, we are a key part of the success of every dealer partner we work with. The motivation we provide for the frontline members of the team translates directly to the bottom line on their financial statement each month. That motivates them to continue to look to us for leadership. Motivation completes a full-circle benefit for everyone. Make sure the circle remains unbroken in your dealerships!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post. Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also, feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas that get results is my passion!

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Facilitate the Transition From Sales to F&I

Facilitate the Transition From Sales to F&I

A noble action of any organization is to promote from within. Rewarding an employee who has demonstrated commitment and success in one area by giving them opportunities in other departments creates longevity and commitment in others. Agents can provide an invaluable service by helping identify the right person to promote, advise them on how to make the transition effective, and shorten the learning curve a transition incurs.

Here are three steps you can take to successfully transition a sales professional to F&I and increase your value to your dealer partners.

1. Properly Identify the Right Person!

The salesperson who will succeed in F&I will be the one who has success in producing gross profit — the invisible product — versus the high-volume sales pro who is successfully selling the visible product. Identifying the salesperson that is among the top volume producers in a store and has a high gross average should be the focus.

In more than 12 years of working with dealerships, I have never once seen a salesperson who struggled with gross profit when selling a car, be successful in F&I. The second qualifier is how they treat both their external and internal customers. This person will become a member of the leadership team and they will have a huge impact on the satisfaction level of both customers. Happy customers buy more products. Happy team members produce more sales. This person will affect both, so choose wisely.

2. Promote a Preemptive Training Effort!

F&I training should begin before the transition decision is made. An agent should determine a list of steps that the salesperson must complete to show that they see this as a career move, not just another job in the dealership — their response to this will help determine if we should move forward with this person.

We provide the salesperson who wants to be considered for F&I access to the same online training that current F&I managers are required to complete. Consistent training to increase skill levels will be crucial to their success. You want to know how committed that person is to growing their skills. If the salesperson is proactive and completes everything we have asked, that’s a good sign. If they don’t complete the training, we may have just avoided a bad choice!

3. Ensure a Transition — Not a Baptism!

The F&I position looks easy and effortless from the outside. New F&I managers who have transitioned from the sales floor can easily become overwhelmed with all the demands of the position. The paperwork load demands organization and time-management skills that were less important in sales. Then add the production expectations, and many become discouraged quickly.

When I ask a training class how they were introduced to F&I, most have a similar answer: They were just thrown into the position and told to sink or swim or “You’ll figure it out.”

Have a current F&I manager spend time with them and share what the challenges and requirements are to succeed. Have the salesperson sit in on some actual deliveries to observe the current F&I manager at work with customers so they can see the effort required to sell the intangibles as opposed to the tangible sale they have been immersed in.

Once a decision has been made to move a salesperson to F&I, the agent’s role can be crucial. You must ensure that the entire dealership team works to make the transition a successful one. A value add to any dealership provided by the agent is not just getting products sold but getting the right person to sell them. Supporting an internal promotion culture in dealerships and providing insight on how to make it successful sets you part from the competition — exactly what we want to assure at every level!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post. Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas that get results is my passion!

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Conduct a Monthly F&I Meeting

Conduct a Monthly F&I Meeting

One of the key areas that dealers expect an agent to help with is the training of the F&I team. While the dealership may be utilizing training either online or from other sources, the agent who adds to that sets themselves apart from the competition that will eventually be knocking on the door. Conducting a monthly F&I meeting provides the agent with great opportunities to have direct input to the process and practices used in the F&I office at a level not available in any other venue.

Let’s look at three ingredients to build into each meeting.

1. Have a specific agenda. Gather information from the F&I managers and check production levels to determine a specific product or part of the process that everyone agrees could see improvement. When you decide the agenda for the next meeting and provide lead time to prepare, everyone can search out articles, information, and research to provide valuable input for the upcoming meeting.

The most important facet of every meeting is to assure that it is interactive, and everyone participates. Having a monthly meeting where everyone is expected to research and bring information to share to the meeting will provide the most productive agenda that will help influence growth and change.

2. Listen and practice with them. The two factors that have provided me the most insight on how to help F&I managers have been the willingness to listen to their challenges and struggles and then practice with them to work on solutions. Ask for the most challenging issues they are facing and listen to learn.

Other F&I managers may have solutions that are working for them. Ask them to demonstrate this in a role-playing session to show what the solution looks and sounds like. The role-play should last only 10 to 15 minutes; however, it could be the best-spent time of the meeting.

3. Leave them with a challenge. End each meeting with an action item for your trainees to complete or an objective to shoot for. Always have a handout to leave with them, whether a recent article or third-party research that validates the need for a product. They will know you are working to help them and they as well as the dealer will know you are providing more than the average agent.

I shared a recent article concerning the computer technology behind self-driving cars in a recent meeting. A seasoned F&I manager called me several weeks later and said they had sold seven of the last 10 customers that originally said “No” to a service contract by using that piece of information. That has built more value in my interaction with them than most other efforts. It helped them help more customers. That is success!

When you invest the time to provide a valuable monthly F&I meeting for your team you will build more success for the dealership, more protection for their customers, and more profit for yourself. Everybody wins!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post. Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas that get results is my passion!

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Master the Four Pillars of Success With Customers!

Master the Four Pillars of Success With Customers!

1. Listen Early and Never Stop Listening.

Listening is the most important skill in every professional relationship. When a customer feels they are being heard, on a much deeper level, they feel you care about them and their situation.

When we encounter a lack of customer service in any purchase, it normally involves an individual who is too busy talking — or waiting to talk — to listen to us. A conversation in which the “salesperson” is doing the majority of the talking is not communication, just a presentation. And customers are tired of our presentations and talking points. They wait for someone to listen to them and focus on their wants and needs, and until they find it they will refuse to buy.

Great success awaits the one that can listen with empathy. Great frustration awaits the one that can’t hardly wait to talk!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

2. Help Customers.

Selling isn’t about helping yourself; it’s all about helping the customer. The competitive advantage any business has is the customer experience. When they get what they want, you get what you want. What they want is someone who will help them make good decisions and provide them with helpful information without any pressure to buy.

I can hear the screaming as some read this: “You have to sell your product!” I agree. I simply disagree with what the product is. Most customers research their purchases online and arrive to buy with a high level of information. They are hoping they encounter someone that can provide helpful insights into the product and is focused on providing additional information that may not be available online.

Today’s customer is focused on finding a helpful person to facilitate the buying process and someone who will make their ownership experience a more enjoyable one.

3. Tell a Great Story.

Customer reviews have become the place of choice for customers when researching products online. They want to hear another customer’s story. We should be prepared to share a story of how other customers have benefited from our product and have tangible support of what we are saying.

Sharing a copy of a repair order to show the customer their share of the cost can help build urgency for a service contract. It also allows you to say, “A customer sitting in the same chair as you, was faced with the same decision we are talking about. And when they received a bill for $2,365 for a repair, they had the peace of mind of knowing someone else would be paying that bill!”

Real stories about real customers create an emotional attachment to the benefit of the product. And all buying decisions are emotional ones. The facts about the product should be used to move the customer to action concerning the product you have built the emotional connection to. Moving from product selling to story telling will move more to buy!

4. Be Passionate About Your Product.

Customers feed off the level of belief that you have in your product. You don’t have to bounce off the walls with enthusiasm; however, your words, body language, and tone all tell the customer if this is something that you really believe in or are you just trying to sell them something.

Do you buy the product you are selling for yourself? Passion is deepened as you learn more about a product and most importantly, when you experience the benefits of the product yourself. My car was stolen two years ago. When I discovered it was gone, I didn’t panic. I had a product on the car that would enable the police to find it in a couple of hours. I will never forget the peace of mind of knowing my car would be found, and quickly.

I am passionate about that product and I could convince a high percentage of others to buy it as well. My passion shows! Does yours?

The main products we sell are a great customer experience, ourselves and the belief in the products we offer. The products we offer may change as the market demands change. However, these are constant: Sell them often and sell them well!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post. Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas that get results is my passion!

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