Author Archives | Rick

Do the Work!

Do the Work!

Selling intangible products is hard! I’ve never seen a customer so excited about buying a vehicle service agreement that they can’t wait to show it to their friends. Selling an intangible product requires discovering and helping the customer see their need for the product. You must make the product and its benefits come alive by painting a picture and putting the customer in that picture using the product. It’s a unique skill set that must be developed by researching the products and role playing the effort to move customers to buy.

Great F&I managers are rarely operating on just the natural skills they were born with. It takes a lot of work and effort to become highly successful at selling the intangibles — work that many are hesitant to commit to. Those who make the commitment can accomplish what others can’t!

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, practicing, sacrifice and love of what you are doing. One of the most powerful things we can provide as independent agents (a.k.a. coaches) is the framework and accountability structure to assure those we influence to “do the work” to be successful. As Pro Football Hall of Famer (and arguably No. 1 NFL player of all time) Jerry Rice once said, “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”

I am an avid SEC college football fan so I like to use those letters as an acronym as often as I can. Here are three components of an effective strategy to assure those we are coaching are doing the work to get the results everyone is looking for:

S is for Schedule

Schedule practice consistently through the month. Anything that is important must be scheduled. Provide a “growth calendar” that includes several specific assignments each week. It can include role-play sessions, research or team-building exercises, all of which turn professional growth from an occasional effort to an ongoing process.

All professionals practice, in sports and in business. Every individual comes to the table with natural abilities and a foundation of skills they were born with. And yet, very often, I see less talented individuals outperform the naturally talented because they are willing to do the work to be great at what they do.

As coaches, providing this growth calendar to those we work with can be one of the most important tools to drive success. Once this is in place, we must follow up with intentional effort to assure the work is being done.

E is for Effort

Everyone tracks performance, and the goal is record-setting performance, right? However, one of the great illusions in our industry is focusing more on the outcome instead of the process. A healthy and consistent process will do more to improve performance than almost anything else we do. If the process is right, the results will follow.

Holding people accountable for the effort they are exerting to improve their skills on a weekly basis will ensure that improvement is taking place. Demanding improvement in performance absent of an accountable training process leads managers to seek increases in production through less desirable ways. That might include exerting pressure on customers to buy and can even lead some to use deceptive or questionable efforts. When effort is tracked, performance improves.

C is for Connect

We must connect results to the execution of the process. With new skills learned and consistent practice in place, the F&I manager knows where they need to go and how to get there.

Knowing what to do is often the easy part; doing it is the hard part. Accountability is simply monitoring to assure the new skills and actions that will bring success are executed in real customer interactions. Attending a class and implementing regular skills practice won’t lead to execution success any more than having a fitness magazine on the coffee table will lead to losing weight. It’s all about execution.

Coaching a team to success includes scheduling regular practice, tracking all team members efforts to improve and measuring the level of execution during the game. That will lead to wins in college football and in the F&I office as 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 with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!

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Safe and Sound!

Safe and Sound!

The founder of online music store CD Baby, Derek Sivers, once said, “The single most important thing is to make people happy. If you are making people happy, as a side effect, they will be happy to open up their wallets and pay you.” In the F&I office, one of the most important things we do for our customers is prioritize the effort to put them at ease.

Customers come into any selling environment apprehensive that someone is going to talk them into doing something they will regret later. Customers who feel safe will listen to you, trust you, ask questions, and seek recommendations from you. If they don’t feel safe, they will avoid interaction with you, share only limited information, and seek to end the process as quickly as possible.

I recently went into a metro-area Apple store to pick up a new phone I had ordered online — and nothing else! I was disheartened when I saw 100-plus people inside and every Apple employee busy with a customer. I knew this would take forever and looked for a place to sign in. But I was immediately greeted by an employee with an iPad who welcomed me and asked how they could “help.” They communicated wirelessly and had someone bring my phone to me in less than five minutes.

But the most important part of the process was the initial greeting. “Mr. McCormick, I will have someone bring the phone out to you immediately. We will provide you all the help you need to get up and running right away, answer any questions you have, and assist you with any additional purchases if you need them. Would that be OK?” I was “safe” now. In about 20 minutes, I was leaving, and yes, I purchased two additional products.

What are the ingredients to produce this safe environment with our own customers? Let’s look at a couple:

1. Listen Deeply and Laugh Often.

When customers enter an F&I office, they expect to be forced to listen to a sales pitch. When the F&I manager urges the customer to talk 70% of the time and the customer realizes someone wants to listen to them, it creates a safe environment to talk.

… And talk they will! They will tell you everything you need to know to help them see their need for several products you offer. Don’t forget to make the experience fun! They just bought a new car and they think the fun is over. If the customer laughs in the first two minutes of meeting you, the tension is leaving the room and is replaced with a feeling that this experience will be different.

Most car buyers have had a least one tension-filled experience in an F&I office. Make this experience different and the outcome will be different!

2. Provide Value That Has Nothing to Do With Selling Anything.

Helping customers and providing a safe environment requires that we do good things for them. In fact, we may do things for our customers that have nothing to do with selling.

A great opportunity is with the recent Equifax security breach that impacted millions of Americans. When we review our customer’s credit history, their personal information is exposed to us. They are concerned that their Social Security number and birthdate are part of the public record now. They want to know what steps they should take.

Providing a simple one-page document with websites and phone numbers of the three credit bureau reporting companies along with some solid recommendations of what to do next will build great value with customers. They will see you helping them, not selling them, and when it comes time to discuss products you offer, they are more likely to listen.

I have seen this transpire in dealerships recently. I saw the quick change of the tone when customers realized this process was going to be different and they felt safe to talk and buy in. And buy they will!

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 with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!

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Growing From The Inside Out!

Growing From The Inside Out!

Sales is a numbers game. However, many times we get things backwards. We focus almost exclusively on results (outside) to the neglect of the process (inside) that produces them. I remember the first time I said to an owner who had just made very clear their desire for the numbers to increase; “so you want more apples on the tree.” I explained further that you don’t get more apples by yelling at the tree or beating on the trunk! You get more apples when you provide the ingredients to improve the health of the tree — working from the inside out.

Healthy things grow. Unhealthy things die.

To see an increase in production there must be an honest diagnosis of how healthy the current process is. Substandard numbers are a symptom of a deeper problem. The two most important health factors to analyze are trust and comfort levels. If our process doesn’t build high levels of trust with customers, we encounter high levels of resistance. Three words are the basis for building trust with every customer: Transparency-Transparency-Transparency!

Be real! When your customer sees that you genuinely enjoy what you do, and most importantly, are genuinely interested in them, that differentiates you from most other “salespeople” they have encountered. The buying process becomes fun for them and they can’t remember that happening in a long time. Now they can relax and engage in a healthy conversation that reveals their need for your products. They become a customer thirsty for your solutions.

Be informative! A customer should never have to wonder what comes next. Clearly explain what you are going to do, in what sequence, and how long it is going to take. If they are unsure of the process as it progresses, any trust built earlier evaporates. Since we do the same thing every day we make assumptions that customers know what will happen. Communicating to them along the path to the sale will create a guiding environment versus asking them to follow us blindly. One builds genuine interest in what we have to share and the other builds resistance.

Be specific! General statements scream to the customer that we may be exaggerating, or even worse, not telling them the truth. Specific information backed up by independent 3rd party data not only makes what we say believable, it makes the customer think and reevaluate their objection. We shouldn’t say to a customer replacing a tire and wheel is “expensive” or “around $1000.” Instead we should show them the exact price from our service department.

Comfortable customers buy … buy more … and buy faster.

With every customer interaction, we either demand the customer adjust to the way we like to walk through the process or we adjust to theirs. Customers feel comfortable when you adapt to their needs and that demands we learn more about how customers like to buy and provide a process that accommodates their preferences. We always say when a customer is laughing they are buying. Laughter is a sign that the tension often felt in a selling situation is being removed and the level of comfort is rising.

Focusing on building trust with customers and providing a relaxed, enjoyable process is a sure way to see an increase in the desired outcome. It will put more apples on the tree! Yes, we must still be good at selling. However, if the trust and comfort levels are low, so will be the production level. To get more results, focus on a healthy process. Apple trees don’t struggle to produce apples, it’s natural … and a healthy process will make selling at record levels just as natural. Sell on!

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 with F&I Professionals is my passion!

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3 Levels of Selling the Invisible!

3 Levels of Selling the Invisible!

The products sold by the F&I manager, as with any insurance-based product, are invisible. Customers buy a tangible product because they can see, touch, smell or test it. However, they buy an intangible product because they see a need for it or are motivated by the fear of not having it. Many salespeople that have sold tangible products attempt to sell intangible products in a similar manner. At best, that is a recipe for mediocre success. There are three levels of selling intangible products and an intentional effort to use the most effective manner, level 3, will bring the most success.

Level 1: Tell them about the products.

This involves an entirely verbal effort to make the products come alive. The delusion with this effort is that you can see a certain level of success, and the more fluent you become in talking about the products the more successful you will be. The problem is, regardless of what level of success you see utilizing this method, you are leaving a lot of money on the table. There is opportunity for additional success if a shift in effort is made. The number one challenge I encounter with those new to selling intangibles is they simply want to talk their customers into buying. At times I even find some veterans that make this their focus of selling.

Level 2: Show them something visual concerning your products

Moving beyond just a verbal effort and utilizing visual reinforcement will provide an increase in consumer acceptance levels of your products. Common sense tells us that moving from using just one of the five senses to utilizing two will get more buy in from the customer. Telling a true story of how your product helped another customer makes what you’re selling more real. Adding a copy of the actual repair order that the customer can see makes the need for the product even more compelling. If you want to add the ultimate visual aid, have the actual part of the vehicle covered by the product available for them to see and touch! A damaged wheel or a failed airbag control module brings reality to the need of the coverage to your customer. This creates a vision of the concrete outcomes if something bad happens to them, both with and without your product.

Level 3: Involve the customer in the learning process.

To involve three of the five senses, get your customer physically involved. If math is needed to illustrate a benefit, hand them a calculator and ask them to help with the math. The numbers then become their numbers which adds a thousand times more credibility to the process. Selling anything, let alone an invisible product, is not a spectator sport. The customer should always participate in the process of uncovering how they will benefit from the product discussed. This allows them to self-discover their need for the product and how it will benefit them. This is the most effective tactic to build value in the products you offer, and when consistently utilized, produces the best results.

Routine self-evaluations should be conducted as to what level of selling is being used. Look around your office. What visual and tangible tools are available to help customers see and experience products? Brochures may be considered visuals; however they say, “I want to sell you something.” Put them away and only bring them out when needed to answer a question. A golf ball to illustrate what paint looks like under a microscope or a 3-inch nail to illustrate how something so small can cause expensive repairs are just a couple of ideas that are much more effective than brochures. If a customer can hold something in their hand to illustrate a need for a product, then you’ve reached level three selling and the most effective way to help customers buy the products they need … and a byproduct of level three selling; it is more fun for you and the customer!

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 with F&I Professionals is my passion!

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Lightbulbs, Microphones and a Tattoo Machine!

Lightbulbs, Microphones and a Tattoo Machine!

Determination is the real story behind Thomas Edison. He didn’t just invent the lightbulb in a day. He tweaked a tiny little filament over 10,000 times, leading the inventor to famously quip, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He kept going, consistently putting in the long hours required to reach his goal of a commercially viable light source. The result of his determination, the lightbulb, was one of the most important inventions in history. There were two powerful principles that drove Edison into the history books and they will also drive us to historic levels of success.

1. Determined Individuals Always Work Until They Find a Way.

Less-determined individuals will always find an excuse. Moving from an excuse level to an execution level is the challenge of every individual working toward success. Success cannot survive in an excuse environment. Those who enjoy a high level of success are determined to eliminate excuses whenever they arise. However, excuses are only a symptom of the root problem: lack of commitment.

As Kenneth H. Blanchard once said, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”

The hard reality is that when we are working to achieve a goal whether it is to improve our skills, our income or our physical or financial health, the issue is our level of commitment.

Each month, I work with dealership personnel to raise their production and skill levels. Often, I encounter excuses that reveal legitimate obstacles to their progress. Those obstacles hindered others and they can’t see a way through to success. The common denominator is always the obstacle. When an extraordinary level of commitment and determination is present, that individual can do what others could not. The proverbial light comes on and they find a path through the obstacles and to great levels of success.

The difference between the Edisons of the world and others is rarely intellect, charisma and ability. It comes down to how committed they are to succeed.

2. Success Achieved in One Area Drives You to Pursue It in Others.

Edison lived for another 52 years after the first successful lightbulb. He kept working, filing over 1,000 patents in his lifetime and contributing to numerous inventions he’s not as well-known for, like the microphone and an early version of the tattoo machine. Success and excuse-filled living are both addictive! If we can break out of the addiction of excuses we will find ourselves experiencing one success after another. This also reminds us, as leaders, of how powerful guiding others to kick the excuse addiction can be. It unleashes a surge of creativity and focused effort that leads to levels of success thought to be impossible before.

One of the reasons success leads to even more success, is we become more confident in our abilities and are willing to attempt greater things. Edison felt invincible after his success with the lightbulb and was confident he could do more. It’s a natural progression of champions in any area of life. We often see amazing things accomplished and assume it comes because of great talent. While a factor, it is always a part of a larger process that began with eliminating excuses. My birthday is October 21, the same month and day as the day in 1879 that Edison finally succeeded in inventing a working lightbulb. It reminds me each year I have numerous areas that deserve more commitment and fewer excuses. How about you and your team? I will forever be indebted to Edison for the lightbulb and the microphone. I’m not too sure about the tattoo machine.

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 with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!

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The Chick-fil-A Difference

The Chick-fil-A Difference

Chick-fil-A draws from the same pool of individuals to hire employees as Taco Bell, McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants. Yet their customer service skills and intentional effort to respond with “Please,” “Thank You” and “My pleasure,” has been one of the core principals of their success. While other fast food providers have a consistent process for preparing food, Chick-fil-A is very focused on the customer experience.

So what makes the difference? One simple word: training! If you haven’t viewed their training video, entitled “Every Life Has a Story,” Google it and be prepared to be challenged on how we should train our team to treat customers. While there are many benefits of training your team, here are two of the most powerful:

1. Training Changes Behavior.

The only difference perceived by customers in today’s retail market is their experience while interacting with the members of your team. Great companies focus on creating a climate customers enjoy and one that is driven by what the customer wants. For far too long, we have expected our customers to acclimate to us. In the automotive business, we have our thoughts concerning everything from how long the sales process should take to how long the F&I process should take. It really doesn’t matter what any of us think. What matters is what the customer thinks!

Training turns the vision of a company into logical steps to follow, providing a more consistent customer experience. While the food is more expensive than their competitors’, drive up to a Chick-fil-A during meal times and you will always see a long line both inside and out. When customers enjoy the experience, they will spend more money. Higher profit levels are easily achieved when a well-trained team provides a great experience. Training not only changes the behavior of your team, it also changes the behavior of your customers!

2. Training Lifts Everyone and Everything.

Every team member will grow because of consistent training. A growing employee will grow the company! Well-trained employees communicate better, provide higher levels of customer service and produce more profits than those less trained. They are more confident in their abilities, feel more valued and focus more on helping customers, not selling them.

A recent survey revealed that 35% of millennials consider training provided by their employer as a desired key benefit and those that feel there is no investment in their professional growth are 12 times more likely to leave.

With well-vested employees, a more consistent process and a laser focus on the customer experience, you will see consistent increases on every side. On the other hand, without a consistent training plan, employees will be left to their own ideas of how to treat customers and will always be looking for a better opportunity.

And don’t worry about investing in an employee and having them leave. It costs much less than not investing in them and having them stay. We are all in the same business: the people business. We just have different products to sell. Sell them well and sell them with well-trained employees that love what they do every day!

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 with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!

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