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The King of Consistency!

The King of Consistency!

Hank Aaron is not the home run king. His most significant achievement is that he was great every single year from 1955 to 1973. That’s 19 consecutive seasons. There really isn’t a record quite like it in baseball history. He was the king of consistency.

Breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record was merely a side effect of two decades of brilliance. But Aaron was more than a home run hitter. He hit the baseball as hard and for as long as anybody in the game’s history.

The balls that went off the fence were doubles. The balls that went over were home runs. It was all the same to Aaron. His job was to hit baseballs hard and whatever followed, followed. Two key commitments were consistent throughout his career and those same commitments will make any career successful:

1. He arrived at the ball park each day prepared, with a plan and a purpose.

Hank Aaron focused on the right thing. He admittedly never focused on hitting home runs; instead he spent all of his energy working to make every time at bat a success. He arrived at the ballpark each day prepared, with a plan and a purpose.

As an agent, you have the opportunity to ask a simple question of the F&I professionals you train: What is your purpose in the F&I office where you serve?

For many F&I managers, their mantra is “I have products. How can I sell them to my customer?” Working with masters of this process for over 10 years, I can attest to the fact their focus is completely different. Their mantra is “I have customers, how can my products help them?”

A great paradox in F&I is if you focus on producing the highest profits, you will do well; but you will never reach your highest level of success until you focus more on helping each customer make the best decisions in connection with their purchase. Just like with Aaron, record numbers will come when you focus on what matters most.

In a 2012 commencement address at Marquette University, Aaron said, “If you want something bad enough, you have to make the necessary sacrifices to get it. You learn to navigate the circumstances and accept the fact that failure is not an option for you.”

2. He was great year after year because he was committed to consistent improvement in his skills and practiced to make that happen.

Professionals practice and actors rehearse. It doesn’t matter how successful or famous they are. The truly great ones are always challenging themselves with new goals because they know it will demand working harder than ever and the effort to improve is as rewarding as the end result.

Champions are made in the training room! Every great F&I manager I know is committed to consistent improvement. When I walk into their office I am greeted with “I had a great month. Let’s get started. I have a couple of things I need help with.”

The best years in the F&I world are ahead of us, more customers are waiting to be helped and more records are waiting to be set. A great month or a great year is a good thing. A great career will make everyone around you be amazed at how you did it. We don’t need a home run king in F&I. What we need are more consistency kings! Batter up!

Posted in F&I Success5 Comments

The Five ‘T’s of the F&I Process

The Five ‘T’s of the F&I Process

The general agent is tasked with assisting dealers on two distinct levels: The first responsibility is to help each dealership develop a profitable sales process as it flows into and through the F&I office. The dealer needs to be assured that they have the right (1) people who are well-trained, a professional F&I (2) presentation, a customer-focused (3) process, quality (4) products that offer real customer value and fair and consistent (5) prices. Guiding a dealership to implement strategies focused on these five “P”s can yield higher profit and customer satisfaction levels.

While the five “P”s are fundamental to a successful and profitable dealership, the second focal point for agents is what actually happens once the customer is inside the F&I office. F&I managers that focus on the five “T”s of the F&I process are seeing record acceptance levels of products. Let’s examine each one individually and how it affects the desired end result.

1. Trust

Low levels of customer trust in the F&I process come at a high cost. The level of profit will rise and fall based on the level of trust established. Each part of the process must be filtered through the measure of whether it is building trust. When the F&I manager should first engage the customer, the wait time to get into the F&I office, utilization of an interview or more of a conversational uncovering of needs and, finally, how objections are overcome must all be evaluated in light of the new era of customer service in which we operate.

When the F&I manager is involved early in the transaction, they are viewed as adding value to it. Complete transparency throughout the process causes the customer to open up and share freely when questions are asked and a true and telling needs discovery process takes place.

Today’s sales environment demands we concentrate on getting the customer to open up early in the process rather than focusing our efforts on how to “close” them at the end. When high levels of trust are built it takes less effort and time to move customers to buy. Trust is the “holy grail”; it scores an 11 on a scale of importance of one to 10. Once we become a trusted advisor, we can help customers make good decisions about protecting themselves against future issues. Without a commitment to this foundational concept, maximum levels of production can never be reached.

2. Talk

Every great F&I professional I have ever met is a great listener! They have mastered the skill of talking 30% of the time and listening 70%. Knowing when to talk and when to listen paves the way to high levels of production. Effective use of questions and listening skills is necessary to uncover what each unique customer needs. The focus should be on helping customers, not selling customers. If you are trying to sell, you can go ahead and do most of the talking. However, if you are focused on helping customers you will listen much more than you talk and customers will buy more than you could ever sell them.

The secret to having a genuine conversation is to ask questions, and the quality of information received depends on the quality of the questions asked. The bigger secret is waiting for — and listening to — the answers! Customers don’t want to be talked at. They want to be heard. If the F&I manager has established a good measure of trust, the customer wants to talk and they are more apt to buy when they are talking than when the F&I manager is.

3. Transition

The most important part of the F&I process is how to re-engage the customer after they decline products the first time through and therefore how to transition the conversation back to the customer needs uncovered earlier. We have to make the customer want to talk more about the products. To do this we have to get them to ask us for more information.

We need to use statements that will make the customer “thirsty” for more information. For example, “That surprises me. You said something a few minutes ago that I never expected you to say,” or “That is unusual, especially since you are buying a vehicle built since 2010.” Either of these will make the customer curious to know more. More importantly, this turns the process around. We are now responding to a request for more information.

Great F&I managers use a variety of techniques. The one I hear most often is a direct statement, such as, “I am surprised you are not interested in the service contract.” While this may lead to more VSCs being sold, it also leads to low levels of packages being sold.

The bottom line is that even the best F&I managers can see an increase in overall production with a shift of focus. Make the effort to first turn the discussion around, not to sell a particular product, and you can sell more VSCs and packages.

4. Target

The effort to move a customer to buy a product/package must be targeted and personalized based on the unique needs of each customer. Today’s informed customer will not buy products because others buy them. It has to meet a specific need that they have or solve a future problem they can foresee happening.

Our task is to help the customer see how a future problem can be best handled by taking action today. When an F&I manager runs out of reasons the customer needs a product before the customer runs out of objections, an opportunity to sell that product and help a customer is lost. When the focus is on uncovering needs throughout the process, a more targeted effort is used to overcome customer objections and more customers buy!

5. Tell

Once the process is complete, it is imperative that the customer know everyone at the dealership is committed to making this the best ownership experience this customer has ever had. The F&I manager is in a strategic position to tell every customer the dealership is a resource for all their needs concerning the vehicle they just purchased. This continues the dealership message that we are there to help them not just sell them. This can develop loyal customers that are less likely to cancel any products they have just purchased.

Managing chargebacks is a result of building trust from beginning to end. Telling the trust-building story again as the customer finalizes their purchase enables them to leave with the confidence that they just purchased a great car from a great dealership. It’s a great story and great F&I mangers tell it well!

An F&I process that builds trust, has a balanced talk/listen ratio, transitions seamlessly after the initial no, utilizes a targeted response to overcome objections and ends by effectively telling the story of the dealerships commitment to a great ownership experience will produce record results. Profits and customer satisfaction levels will rise while chargebacks fall.

Some of the record numbers we are reading about are the result of great F&I professionals being open to the changes demanded by today’s more informed customer. They are adjusting their processes to be more targeted and build high levels of trust. The results have been amazing for them and will be for all that are willing to adjust and assure their process is focused on the five “T”s of F&I success!

Posted in Training0 Comments

New vs Used Customers – Identifying Their F&I Hot Button

New vs Used Customers – Identifying Their F&I Hot Button

We have seen major shifts in customer buying behavior since the great recession. In fact we have realistically seen more changes in their buying habits in the last five years than we have in the previous 25! One of the major shifts has been a record in the length of the average loan with a 27.62% increase of new car buyers going 73+ months during the first quarter of 2014 as compared to the same period in 2013. The used car buyer saw an increase of 25.73%. Consumers have spoken loud and clear as they recovery personally from a downturn in income and/or confidence in today’s economy. They still love their cars and are willing to stretch out their loans to have the vehicle they want.

  New Car Buyer Used Car Buyer
Average Credit Score 714 641
Average Loan Terms 66 61
Increase in 73+ Month Financing 27.62% 25.73%
Loans made with Credit Union 9.26% 20.84%
Average Amount Financed $27,612 $17,927

Secondly, we have seen upbeat projections of new car sales for 2014 from 16 – 17.5 million units. The consumers hunger for the technology that is flooding every new car category rivals that of their hunger for the newest technology in computers and cell phones. Couple these two factors and we are having customers show up in our F&I offices with more needs than ever for the products we offer. Helping customers see their need clearly with an interactive and engaging process can lead to some of the healthiest profits we have seen. F&I managers cannot adhere to a one-size fits all strategy but must develop their ability to uncover the unique motivations, needs and buying factors of each customer and the vehicle they are buying.

Let’s take a look at some of the “Hot Buttons” of the new car buyer. The desire for the newest technology available is one of the most compelling motivating factors for many consumers to buy a new vehicle. J.D Powers disclosed that 79% of those surveyed recently expressed interest in “blind spot technology” on the next car they purchase. J.D Powers also provided research that shows an increase of 24% in overall reliability for the time period 2006-2012. However they also saw an increase of 45% in issues with “in-vehicle technology” during that same time-frame.

Recent announcements of technology coming soon to a vehicle near you are almost too rapid to keep up with. In about two years, an all-new 2017 Cadillac vehicle will offer customers an advanced driver assist technology called “Super Cruise” and in the same timeframe the 2017 Cadillac CTS will be enabled with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology. Also the recent YouTube video of the “Empty Car Convey” by Hyundai where a vehicle’s technology capability is on display which can literally drive and stop itself tells us the future is here!

Here are just a few of the latest vehicle technologies:

• BLIS – Blind Spot Information System • Forward Collision Warning
• Lane Departure Warning • Adaptive Cruise Control
• Lane Assist • Voice Activation System
• Rear View Cameras • Reverse Sensing System
• Rear Cross-Traffic Alert • Panic Brake Assist

Therefore the needs for a service contract are greater than ever. This is fueling record service contract sales in many dealerships. However there must be an intentional effort and process to move the customer to buy. Simply telling a customer “there is a lot more technology on this car” is not likely to change a customer’s mind concerning protecting themselves with a vehicle service contract. The process must make the vehicle service contract come alive by making this intangible product, tangible to the customer.

I have never met an F&I manager who consistently reaches top levels of service contract sales who doesn’t use an interactive process that employs tangible items to bring the product alive. Verbal efforts alone make it simple for the customer to disagree with what was “said.” Don’t talk about the high level of technology on vehicles today; hand them an engine control unit. Comparing an old owner’s manual with a new version that’s three to four times thicker is a great way to demonstrate how much technology is packed into today’s vehicles. When today’s customer hears a verbal response to why they should consider a service contract, their thoughts are shouting one response loud and clear. . . Prove it! Making invisible objects become visible is not the work of a magician; it’s the work of a great F&I manager and it has never been more needed than it is in today’s F&I office! I have seen F&I professionals across the nation who capitalize on the technology acceleration on vehicles today reach record levels of production and many have seen their career best numbers as a result!

Another major “Hot Button” for the new car buyer is to keep their car looking like new. With the new “normal” of keeping the car longer, the desire to protect the appearance both inside and out has taken on greater importance. Appearance or environmental protection products are not new. However the changes in the vehicle being protected have been enormous. One of the major key’s to selling appearance products is to “sell the difference.” This demands an F&I manager who is committed to learning the make-up of metallic paint versus pearl coat paints and how they are applied.

Here are just a few of the recent changes in vehicles and the products to protect them:

• Body Side Moldings Eliminated • Dent and Ding Protection
• New Generation Thermo-Set Enamel Paints • Exterior-Interior Protection
• Alloy Wheels Replace Metal Wheels • Road Hazard Protection

Today’s paints are much more advanced than their predecessors. They are thermo-set enamels and are applied by a water-borne process. The manufacturer bakes on the paint at 250-400 degrees. This can’t be duplicated at the dealership so the process to re-paint a vehicle takes more time and matching the mixture of special flakes to create a pearl coat and/or metallic paint is costly. However if the customer does not know how the paint has changed, they will not perceive value in the product offered to protect it.

To effectively build the value of these products and enable the customer to see how it will benefit them takes an educated and intentional effort. Using an effort to push and pressure a customer to purchase these products will only create resistance and bad CSI scores. Yet if the F&I professional is not educated on the differences of the paint on a vehicle today and other appearance factors, they will find the push technique the only thing they are left with. F&I managers must educate and inform to be successful, not push or pressure a customer to buy. That demands intentional effort to become an expert on today’s vehicle paint. The new car customer is looking for three things in any environmental protection product. (1) Save me time, (2) Save me money, and (3) Guard my trade in value. The advanced protection products offered today are true surface science at its best and are backed by three to five years of guaranteed protection. They provide a protective shield on the exterior and interior of today’s vehicles and when it is time to trade in this vehicle, it will have a heads up on competing vehicles of the same age and miles. That alone can make the protection products valuable.

Another “Hot Button” for new car customers is the need to protect the factory installed windshield. The factory seal on the windshield is difficult to duplicate so a product that keeps the original one in place is valuable. Again it is imperative that the F&I manager has acquired the product knowledge necessary to educate and inform the customer to move more customers to buy. The windshield provides 50-75% of the structural integrity of the vehicle in a roll-over accident and it can prevent collapse of roof and protect passengers from major injury. The passenger airbag deploys against the windshield at 200 MPH and the original seal becomes a life saver and may keep the passenger inside the vehicle in the event of a collision. Improved safety is a major consideration that moves a customer from buying a used to a new one. When presenting a windshield protection product, the main focus should be on safety.

Now the used car buyer has unique needs and expectations and forming a process and products specifically tailored to them is critical for success. Used car buyers are usually in one of two categories. The first is the low mileage used car buyer. They are looking for a used car price and new car appearance and performance. The effort of selling F&I products to this customer is similar to that of the new car buyer since they perceive they are buying a “like new” vehicle.

Changing the names of the products can show the targeted benefits they can provide for every used car buyer and build perceived value. The service contract becomes the Pre-Owned Performance Plan. Windshield protection becomes Driver’s Care, and tire and wheel road hazard protection becomes Emergency Care. The product line-up must meet the unique challenges of the used car buyer. If you haven’t changed your product line-up on used cars in the last 12 months you are behind the market demands and it is costing you money!

The high mileage used car buyer is the most challenging to the F&I manager’s efforts. A high mileage service contract is no longer an option. Plans that will cover the customer for 12,000-24,000 are key to provide coverage for the initial ownership period. Every vehicle, regardless of the age or miles, can face an emergency that would leave the customer stranded without assistance on the side of the road. So a tire and wheel or more effectively named Emergency Care product is valuable to this customer and should be presented with conviction.

The most important “Hot Button” with every customer is why they need the product! Helping the customer see their need for the product offered takes an intentional effort that is backed by exceptional product knowledge.

The number one differentiator in the F&I office is the ability to focus! The majority of production issues are not a skill issue but a lack of focus. Wherever your focus is that is where your energy and creativity go! To be successful in today’s F&I environment you must be focused on personal development through consistent training and practice. All professionals practice and top producers consistently evaluate their production and look for ways to improve. Today’s car buying market provides multiple challenges. However, I don’t hear the top performers complaining. Instead they are practicing and strategizing on ways to improve and provide more desirable products to every buyer – both new and used.

I grew up watching Hank Aaron play baseball. My father would take my friends and me early to watch him take batting practice and try and catch a home run ball. We noticed some players would “skip” batting practice occasionally. However we never saw Hank Aaron skip practicing before a game. That taught me that the difference between good baseball players and legends of the game is consistent practice. It is true in professional sports and it is true in the F&I office! Building an F&I team that is committed to consistent practicing of their skills is critical to keep everyone sharp and ready to help customers. So let’s build that kind of a team in our markets. Now go practice!

Posted in Industry1 Comment

Think Like A Customer

Think Like A Customer

What do Starbucks, Apple, Fed-Ex and Dollar General all have in common? Each company had a crossroads moment when their business was in decline and the future was uncertain. Also each company had a turn-around that was based on an intentional effort to make changes that were based on what the customer thinks and wants.

Dollar General is a surprising company in the list above. However, their effort to adjust their business model, based on what their customers think, has led to 2800 new stores and 30,000 new jobs since 2004. All great company leaders have a clear understanding of their customers. It is the basis of why a company exists. It’s the foundation of an organization’s vision and strategy. Customers, if we listen to them, will tell us all we need to know to develop the right products and services to grow a viable business.

We all have an idea of what we think is the best way to present products. Should we talk about products immediately after meeting the customer, or after we have discovered why the customer needs them? When should we present the menu? Should we conduct a customer interview at the salesperson’s desk or in the F&I office? Should we use an iPad in our presentation or the traditional paper menu? The plain answer is: it really doesn’t matter what I think or what you think. What the customer thinks is what really matters! We should filter everything we do in the F&I office through the concept of “What does the customer think?” Customer behavior and preferences are changing frequently, and the same manner utilized effectively to present products several years ago is obsolete today. While the principles of selling are timeless, the manner in which they are carried out does change.

When the video rental market welcomed a new player called Red Box, there were others that said, “It will never work.” You see companies that refuse to change and adapt to customer behavior and preference and get left behind. F&I professionals who refuse to change do too! Let’s look at two important ways we need to adjust our presentation that matches what customers think and like.

Customers are interested in what they do and what they like.
If we stop talking about ourselves and listen and learn more about each customer, we will have the clues to what will lead them to buy. The most important tool in the F&I office is “you told me earlier.” When we repeat something a customer told us, they know they have been heard. Then the chances they will buy our products go up dramatically. Customers are not likely to buy our products because of what they hear, but because they feel they have been heard! There is a direct correlation between your ability to listen effectively and the level of your success. I have yet to find a top-producing F&I professional who doesn’t have superior listening skills.

Use the 70/30 rule.
Customers should be talking 70% of the time and we should be talking 30% during the time leading up to the menu presentation. That demands that we use open-ended questions to get them talking.
Recently while reviewing a video of an F&I transaction, I counted the facts that I learned from the conversation. I learned 12 facts about the F&I manager, including where they grew up, what they drive, what F&I products they buy and how long they have been in F&I. I learned five facts about the customer. I also watched the customer respond to the question “What brought you in to buy a car today?” She responded, “My husband has been given 12 months to live and he wants me to have a new car.” The F&I manager responded, “That is great. So what are you trading today?” Really! She wanted to talk about her husband and her family. Guess how many products they sold to that customer? You guessed correctly. Zero!

Getting customers to talk about themselves is not a trick to get customers to buy. It’s what they like to do. So let them! If we let them talk about what they do and what they like, they are more likely to be comfortable with the process and listen to what we have to say. That’s the goal. So stop talking and start listening more intentionally. Customers love to talk about themselves. Let them!

Customers want to know what their options are.
Customers like to review their options. They like a process without being pressured to buy a product that someone else thinks they need. They simply will not buy a product they don’t want and don’t think they need. Our effort to lead the customer to buy should only happen after we have established that they need the product in their eyes, not ours. Customers expect someone is going to pressure them to buy products they don’t want or need. What a relief when they find a different experience. You see, if we want to change the outcome of our F&I presentations, we must change the experience.

Remove the pressure from your presentation. When pressure goes down, customer resistance does too! When a customer says “No”, welcome it and agree with their decision. “Absolutely, the last thing you want to do is increase your payment. If you thought you were going to have problems with your new Lexus, you would buy something else. Am I right?” The pressure to buy just went out of the sales balloon and you now have the opportunity to follow up with, “You certainly don’t have to buy anything you don’t see value in. However you said something a minute ago that really got my attention.”

Use the menu as it was intended: to be a non-threatening disclosure of the customer’s options, not an effort to sell. Do not sell the first time through the menu. Just simply tell them what each product is and what it does. Even something as simple as the layout of the menu can put a customer at ease. They expect us to try and sell them an “extended warranty.” So if it is listed first on the menu immediately they think, “I knew they were going to try and sell me that,” and they stop listening to anything else we say. Why not list a product they are not familiar with first and list the service agreement further down the list? Customers might like it. And remember: it doesn’t matter what we like, it only matters what they like.

Starbucks didn’t offer free Wi-Fi or breakfast items until they listened to their customers. Fed-Ex didn’t develop the “total office experience” until their customers told them what they wanted. And Dollar General didn’t offer grocery items or new, clean and convenient locations until their customers told them what they expected. Customers have something to say. The question is: are we listening? And even more, are we willing to change to think like our customers and give them the experience they want? The answer to that question holds the keys to our future success!

Posted in F&I, Training Articles1 Comment

Tire and Wheel is Strong and Getting Stronger

Tire and Wheel is Strong and Getting Stronger

Tire and wheel road-hazard protection has become one of the fastest-growing products provided in the F&I office. While there are a few isolated areas of the country that have endured high increases in the cost of this product, for most it is a great profit opportunity for the dealer, and a great value for the customer. That’s a recipe for success.

There are three trends fueling this growth.

1. The evolution of the type of tires and wheels on today’s vehicles.
Customers are demanding wheels that enhance the look of the vehicle. The manufacturers have responded with alloy wheels that are bigger and more costly to replace if damaged. The larger wheels are complemented by low-profile tires. Both factors have produced a tire and wheel that are more susceptible to damage. Tires are the contact point of the vehicle with the road and are purposely excluded from almost all manufacturers’ warranty coverage. This provides for a level of risk to the customer and genuine need for protection.

2. The bundle.
Many providers are bundling products that are attractive to customers, which is driving acceptance levels. An example would be tire and wheel together with paintless dent repair, windshield protection, key replacement and roadside assistance on import vehicles that do not provide this, along with the other factory coverages. We live in a “bundle” retail environment and there is a perceived value with customers when they are presented products in this manner, as opposed to a long list of individual products. It’s how they buy fast food, cell phone service, Internet and cable/satellite television service — and it is a preferred way to buy protection on their vehicle.

3. Training, training and more training.
Technology has provided fast menu options that are integrated with DMS systems. Many come with pre-loaded videos to illustrate the value of the coverage. However, these offerings have not driven acceptance levels. Today’s F&I manager must be prepared to provide the cost to replace a tire and/or wheel on the vehicle the customer is buying to show the level of exposure. F&I managers lose credibility if they tell a customer the cost of replacing a tire and wheel on the vehicle they are buying is “around $600.” However, if they are told “the cost would be $183 for the tire and $378 for the wheel for a total of $561,” that tells the customer you know what you are talking about and makes the likelihood of selling the product go up dramatically.

An interactive process that discovers why that particular customer needs the coverage — and the ability to match that to the benefit provided — will always lead to more sales. Does the vehicle being purchased have a full-size spare? Does the vehicle have run-flat tires, and how does that affect the cost of replacement? What is the series of the tire? All these are questions the F&I manager must know the answer to for the vehicles they offer. This requires consistent training and follow-up to assure that a fact-filled, needs-based process is being used to sell the product. Technology, menus and videos do not sell F&I products — well-trained F&I professionals do.

All products have life cycles, and tire and wheel road-hazard protection is still young by comparison. It provides needed coverage at a value-based price to the customer and is providing good profit levels for dealers. Bottom line, it is a great product that is a strong performer and is still growing stronger everyday. The key is to train the F&I manager to utilize a needs-based sales process and have a level of product knowledge that will drive sales. Now let’s get busy helping customers make good buying decisions!

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Insights From the Front Lines

Insights From the Front Lines

At the 2012 Agent Summit, I had the opportunity to serve as moderator of a panel called “Five Ways to Take Your Agency From Provider Rep to Partner.” Our goal was to provide a discussion that would highlight effective ways to become a true partner with today’s dealer — and lead them to record profits.

I was joined by Tim Blochowiak of Protective Asset Protection, David Duncan of Safe-Guard Products International, Garrett Lacour of RoadVantage, John Luckett of First Extended Service Corp. and Ricky Wolfe of Interstate National Corp. These five strong voices in the agent arena shared how they are working through a changing market and providing innovative products and creative ways to maximize dealer profitability.

Let’s take a look at some of the many insights they provided:

Agents must offer new ways to present products.

In the F&I office, the presentation must match the changing behavior of customers. As an agent, bringing that kind of creative change will differentiate you from the competition.

The recent recession has made dramatic change in how consumers view their money. They are more resistant than ever to what they perceive as “extras.” Most customers who have bought a vehicle before have already experienced an F&I presentation. If the products and the way they are presented is the same as their last experience, they’re more likely to be resistant.

Great companies have used a changing environment as an opportunity to examine the way they do business and make creative changes that move more customers to buy.
Take Apple Computer, for example. In 1997, everyone was writing the company’s obituary. Then they re-launched their company with creative ideas and products and have since become a leader, and not just in home computing. Apple has become a new standard bearer for designing and marketing products that customers are motivated to buy.

On the flip side, companies like Kodak are going under because of their lack of urgency to change. Kodak introduced us to film photography and remained a market leader for decades. However when the market demanded digital photography, Kodak stalled. Now, they’re in bankruptcy. The message was clearly defined: Change and innovation today will lead to record profits tomorrow.

Adding underperforming dealerships to your roster will not lead to long-term and sustainable growth.

Successful agents have learned that it’s not about adding dealerships; it’s about selling products. Dealers need and demand income development. A well-trained and focused F&I team can change to meet the new perspective of customers and provide record profits in a challenging market. The bad news is that most dealerships cut or even eliminated their training budgets during the recent recession. The good news is that they’re turning to their agents to provide new training.

You have the opportunity to take a hands-on approach to growing the overall skill level of your dealers’ F&I teams. Your toolkit should include role-playing exercises, benchmarking and accountability. Certification through off-site training also will be valued and sought after by dealers.

The next step is establishing a new F&I process that utilizes the finer points of your training. Customers have already seen the high pressure, memorized sales pitch many F&I managers still swear by. Introduce your dealers to a customer-focused process that will provide an environment where customers feel someone is trying to help them make good decisions, rather than just trying to sell them something they don’t want or need.

Also, there is real opportunity to sell service contracts in the service drive. Many dealers have tried and failed in the past. But there are better approaches out there than there were 10 years ago, and it may be worth another shot. Providing your dealers with a new revenue stream will definitely help set you apart.

“How are you different than other agents? What can you provide that they don’t?”

Agents that are in a growth mode today have heard those questions from dealers more than once. Those who have the answer will see their stock soar.

Dealers are possibly the most sophisticated consumer in the market today. They have heard every sales pitch for just about every product on the market. What they really need is a true partner who can provide training, processes and the ability to bring the change needed to their organization to sell those products in today’s market.

There is a shift taking place in the dealerships that survived the downturn. Dealers can no longer afford to have an untrained and unfocused F&I team presenting the products at their stores. Why not take a leadership role? The gentlemen who provided the insights listed above know that the agent segement will see record growth in 2012 and beyond. In other words, our best days are still ahead of us. Let’s help our industry change to see unprecedented growth and profits!

Posted in F&I, Training Articles0 Comments

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