Tag Archive | "Bill Kelly"

Bill Kelly to Helm ‘Selling to Dealers’ Panel at Agent Summit


LAS VEGAS — Automotive Development Group (ADG)’s Bill Kelly will lead a panel discussion at the upcoming Agent Summit, organizers announced Tuesday. The event will be held May 9–11, 2016, at the Venetian Palazzo Las Vegas.

Kelly’s session is titled “My Prospect Doesn’t Seem to Get It!” and will begin at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11, as part of the “Selling to Dealers” portion of the Agent Summit agenda. He will be joined by Kevin Hausch of Protective Asset Protection, Coffeen Management Co.’s Justin Jones, Dealer Associates Inc.’s Rick Messinger and Michael Pack of Resource Agent Group/First Extended.

“So often we hear agents say that, if only they could get their foot in the door, there is so much they could do for their prospects,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Agent Entrepreneur and F&I and Showroom magazines. “If you don’t walk away from this panel with more strategies — and more confidence — for that challenge, then you weren’t paying attention.”

The group is expected to focus on honing the message agents and agency principals give to prospective dealer clients, including the advantages particular to the agency, its programs and its sales strategy. Kelly said he was honored to serve as a moderator, particularly given the caliber of his panelists.

“This is an amazing group of high-impact industry professionals that will be sure to give everyone something to take back to their respective areas,” Kelly said. “I am looking forward to what will be the most talked-about hour at Agent Summit!”

Registration for Agent Summit is now open at the event’s website as well as by phone, fax and email. Attendees who register by April 4 will enjoy a $100 discount. To inquire about sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact Eric Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 727-612-8826.

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The Agent’s Guide to Hiring Effective F&I Managers


Among the many facets of the value proposition agents bring to dealers is their ability to help recruit F&I managers. But this is no small task. Real talent is hard to find, and the agent should also therefore ensure that new talent is not wasted or lost by a dealer not having a process in place to train and continually motivate new hires.

To learn more, we turned to the experts. Shelley Boggan-Kirchner of GSFSGroup, Great Lakes Companies’ John Braganini, Brian Crisorio of United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), Harlene Doane of DealerStrong and Automotive Development Group (ADG)’s Bill Kelly all weighed in to help answer three key questions: Where should agents look for candidates, what attributes should they look for, and how can they help put them on the path to success?

1. Where to Look

Most of our experts agreed that although the traditional path from the sales floor to the finance office continues to yield excellent results, agents and dealers would be remiss in failing to expand their search. With that in mind, we discussed a few primary sources to focus on, each with its own pros and cons:

  • Internal candidates: Do not overlook the employees already working in the dealership, particularly especially those who make known their intentions to move to F&I. In fact, this remains one of the best sources to start with, the experts say.

“Top-producing salespeople and sales managers are good candidates,” says Braganini, principal of Portage, Mich.-based Great Lakes.

“We always like to look within the organization first, as there are often a number of qualified candidates itching for their shot at being the almighty F&I Manager,” says Brian Crisorio, vice president of marketing for Clearwater, Fla.-based UDS.

In fact, Crisorio adds that he advises dealers to invest in F&I training for promising salespeople — even before a job becomes available. This strategy demonstrates a commitment to the individual on the dealer’s part, giving them a clear path to advance. It also creates a roster of qualified workers who can step in when needed, be it for a particularly busy afternoon or on a more permanent basis.

  • External candidates: Agents should be constantly on the lookout for experienced F&I managers who may be looking for a change of scenery. One good way to do that is to make sure every dealer client has a career portal on their website. But Shelley Boggan-Kirchner, the executive in charge of the Hiring Winners platform for Houston-based GSFSGroup, says dealers may want to make their intentions known in a number of ways, including asking customers for candidate referrals and conspicuously posting recruiting materials in the store.

“When we go into a dealership, we bring in marketing and recruiting materials,” Boggan-Kirchner says. “We give them signage they can put up — be it at the receptionist desk or customer waiting areas — saying, ‘This is just to inform you we’re always looking for great people. Feel free to visit our career portal.’ We also give it to them electronically. So if they want to take that link and attach it to a community job board, they can market it directly to community colleges and vocational schools.”

This strategy allows the dealership to constantly evaluate and recruit new talent, she adds, so there is never a crisis when someone decides to move on to another opportunity.

  • Outside-the-box candidates: Our experts agreed that smart, ambitious, hard-working professionals in other fields can become effective F&I managers — if you can find them. For all the time and money dealers spend marketing to find new customers, for many, the idea of creating a similar campaign to find outside-the-box candidates remains foreign. For dealers who are focused on the day-to-day operations, taking the time to actively and continuously recruit can be a daunting task. Agents who can weed through and identify the next potential stars — of F&I, sales, customer service or any other part of the dealership — can become invaluable partners. They just have to know where to look.

“Qualified candidates can come from a variety of sources, and those sources often vary from market to market,” stresses Harlene Doane, COO of DealerStrong, based out of Evansville, Ind. She also notes that other sources, such as local job boards, and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are also good places to hunt for candidates.

From traditional sources, such as the local newspaper, to online resources like Monster, CareerBuilder and Indeed, dealers have a number of opportunities to advertise their stores as friendly, productive work environments with the potential for a six-figure income. The downside, of course, is managing a presence on multiple job sites and sifting through the reams of applications that result.

“You will have to look at many more candidates and applications if you’re only recruiting via the Internet than you will if you’re collecting referrals,” Boggan-Kirchner notes.

Agents can help by managing this process on their dealers’ behalf and making sure the ads paint a realistic picture of life in the box, including the long hours and weekend shifts. That description can prove attractive to graduates of colleges and technical schools, who may be willing to sacrifice personal time in order to enter the workforce in a high-paying position.

Of course, like other outside-the-box recruits, recent grads will come in without the benefit of relevant training and experience. That’s where screening for aptitude, ambition and a willingness to learn and follow a process take on added importance.

“What we look for are people that have certain characteristics that we feel will be the most successful,” says Kelly, a partner at Bloomington, Minn.-based ADG. “Oftentimes, they are people with a proven track record, but sometimes we do come across the right individual that we believe we can train on our trademarked Proactive Selling System.”

2. What to Look For

It is not enough to simply look for any candidate that walks through the door. It takes a certain blend of skills and attitude to be a great F&I manager, so agents focused on helping dealerships recruit the right people need to ensure they are identifying certain key traits.

  • Coachability: One of the first traits to look for is a willingness to learn the F&I process and stick to it. Every dealership will have its own set of rules and procedures that F&I managers will be expected to follow. New hires need to be willing to learn and adapt to that process, whether they are green peas or seasoned professionals.

“With all of the compliance laws and moving parts, a business manager has to have structure and be able to work in a very structured environment,” Kelly stresses. “We are not looking for an individual to go out and create their own way. When the proven path is followed, we have the best results.”

  • Professionalism: Even the most knowledgeable F&I manager will struggle if they do not look, walk and talk the part. They need to be able to put consumers at ease and be capable of guiding them through the entire process. If the F&I manager doesn’t inspire trust, they will not get very far.

“We are always looking for someone that not only possesses the general knowledge, but also has the look,” explains Crisorio. “The ideal F&I manager will present himself as a trusted advisor who is qualified and prepared to help the customers navigate the details of a vehicle purchase. They should also demonstrate a team-first attitude and strong leadership qualities.”

  • Intelligence: F&I managers must build a working knowledge of terminology, deal structure and federal, state and local regulations, often in short order. Does your latest recruit have the brainpower to guide customers through the F&I process and keep the dealership out of trouble?
  • Character: F&I managers assume a powerful position in the dealership. They will regularly face situations that will test their ethics, and ensuring their level of morality matches that of the dealership is a key trait. This can be screened for with examples of real-life situations that came up in the hiring dealership, and then having the candidate explain how they would have handled it. This gives a good baseline for how well they will fit into the dealership’s expectations of its F&I managers.

“Some dealers are more comfortable with the gray lines than others, so the character needs to be in the same circle as the dealer’s expectations,” notes Doane. “Character also comes out in reference checks, if conducted properly.”

  • Chemistry: This is perhaps the hardest trait to screen for. The F&I manager will be working with every member of the dealership staff on a daily basis, and it only takes one bad apple to disrupt the entire culture. Agents rarely have the opportunity to work with new personnel on a daily basis, so the dealer’s expectations must be perfectly clear. The dealer principal should have the final say in all new hires, and, assuming the agent has brought them all highly qualified candidates that meet every other criteria, this should be the one trait they focus on the most when making the final decision.

“You want to be sure the person you’re hiring is oriented to the culture,” Boggan-Kirchner says. “You’ll get a lot of information about their character during the due diligence of the hiring process. But once the dealer has made that decision, the work they do needs to be reflective of the culture. I think it’s important that, from the moment people enter into the dealership, it should be emphasized that it’s a career, not just a job.”

One thing all of the experts agreed on was that, while finding someone with previous F&I training is always a good thing, it isn’t necessarily a requirement. Many of them stressed that either going the internal route, hiring experienced sales people who are looking to move ahead at the dealership, or young graduates just out of school who are blank slates, can both be very compelling options. The first comes with knowledge of the industry, the vehicles and the customers that the dealership serves, putting them one step ahead of other candidates. And hiring graduates means not having to undo training or bad habits picked up somewhere else. They can be taught exactly how this dealership does it, right from the start.

“I like both,” says Boggan-Kirchner. “If you hire experienced personnel, that usually means less down time and acquiring a person with a proven track record. Hiring inexperienced requires utilizing broader recruiting methods, having a commitment to training and utilizing performance assessment tools like Hiring Winners.”

Crisorio agrees, noting that an openness to training is, in the long run, more important than previous F&I experience. Although, he says, having automotive experience of some sort can certainly help. “The experienced individual must prove to be coachable in order to adapt to the processes and procedures that a dealer group has in place. Someone new to the F&I office must share the same trait and welcome the guidance that a reputable F&I company and dealership management will provide. That will give them the best chance at a successful career.”

“We all want to think we’ll get the guy who’s going to come out and run $1,200 per copy,” says Boggan-Kirchner. “But what are the characteristics that will make that person able to do it? You want somebody who’s got drive and ambition. You want somebody who’s motivated by their own performance.”

3. How to Prepare for Success

It doesn’t matter if it is the perfect candidate, or whether they are brand new to F&I or seasoned pros, every F&I manager should get the education they need to start strong and commit to regular, ongoing training to ensure they always perform at the top of their game.

Braganini might look for candidates who have a proven track record in either F&I or automotive sales, however, he notes, that doesn’t stop him from training them. “Both [experienced and new hires] need to complete our basic and advanced FSM schools, complete a development specialist assignment with one of our trainers and maintain strict adherence to our sales process and core competency system.”

“An experienced F&I manager must become familiar with the products being offered, as well as the selling system utilized to offer those products, so menu training and product knowledge training is a must,” stresses Crisorio. “Regarding the inexperienced F&I manager, additional training would be necessary in the areas of compliance, lender relations and objection handling, to name a few.”

“You are never too experienced to receive training,” says Kelly. “We emphasize weekly training for everyone. Someone that is newer to the job will require offsite, multiday F&I development training. All of the offsite training is followed up with in store one-on-one and online classes. Every week, the best business managers make time to improve themselves.”

It is important for the dealership to set expectations early in the relationship, and then give the F&I manager the tools and knowledge they need to meet and exceed those goals. It is not, however, enough to simply have a list of vague statements that are only pulled out when it’s time to do the annual evaluation. “Once the expectations are set and goals are formed, a daily action plan needs to be followed and a six-month trend report should be implemented to track the progress,” Kelly says.

“It depends on the store and market, but goals should all be written, tracked and have consequences,” agreed Braganini. “Assigning a development specialist to the store to ensure performance compliance will ensure the candidate can succeed.”

It is important for agents to manage the dealer expectations, as well. No matter how experienced a new F&I manager might have been before joining the team, there will be a learning curve when it comes to the exact processes and products the dealership uses. This is another area where training will make a big difference. If the dealer is willing to let the agent get the new hire all the training they need prior to their first day in the office, the chances of their success — and the dealer’s — goes up exponentially.

“While it may be understood that a learning curve will exist, especially with someone new to F&I, the targets established are, well, the targets,” notes Crisorio. “As the chosen F&I partner to our clients, we accept the challenge to ensure an individual is ready to succeed on day one. Realizing success immediately is certainly not guaranteed, so I would encourage any dealer to lean on their F&I company to provide dedicated support, giving that new manager the best chance at success.”

In fact, Kelly believes agents play a critical role in this entire process. “Be a coach and always have a game plan when working with a finance manager,” he advises. “Set the objectives and always bring something of value to each session. I very much believe that it is an agent’s responsibility to develop the finance managers. Contract count is nice, but PVR is the measuring stick.”

The further an agent is willing to go to help dealers find effective F&I managers, Boggan-Kirchner says, the more valuable they will become.

“I think that it behooves everybody for the agent to be involved in the recruiting, hiring and training process,” she says. “I think agents should act as consultants to the dealer for anything F&I-related. I also think it’s a selling point for the agency to have good F&I manager development. And I think that when you have an agency that does that, it stands out.”

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Compliance Summit Panel to Highlight ‘Your Responsibilities’


CHICAGO — Organizers of Compliance Summit have announced that a panel has been convened to discuss “Your Responsibilities” at the Midwest event, which will be held April 20–21, 2015, at the DoubleTree Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill.

“This section of the agenda cuts to the heart of the question Compliance Summit was designed to answer,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Auto Dealer Monthly and F&I and Showroom magazines. “What responsibilities do dealers, compliance officers and F&I professionals actually bear when it comes to front-end compliance?”

The panel will include JC Cramer, who serves as compliance director for Detroit’s Feldman Auto Group and spoke at the inaugural Compliance Summit, in Miami, last November, as well as Bill Kelly, a partner in the Minnesota-based Automotive Development Group (ADG). Kelly will discuss the role agents can and should take in ensuring compliance standards are taught and reinforced at their dealerships. The panel will be moderated by Tariq Kamal, managing editor of Auto Dealer Monthly.

“Our plan is to drill down to the compliance issues Midwest dealers face on a daily basis,” Kamal said. “We will tackle those issues head-on in true Compliance Summit fashion.”

More information about Compliance Summit, including registration and travel information, is available at ComplianceSummit.com. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact Eric Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 727-612-8826.

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Agent Summit Advisory Board Announced


LAS VEGAS — Organizers of the annual Agent Summit have released the names of the advisory board members for the 2015 event, which will be held March 2–4 at the Venetian Palazzo Las Vegas.

“From the outset, we have been blessed with the talent and dedication of a crack team of general agents and leading industry executives,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Agent Entrepreneur and F&I and Showroom. “This year’s board continues that tradition, and I thank them in advance for the time and energy they will invest to create an agenda that will fulfill agents’ needs for agency and dealer development.”

This year’s advisory board will include the following agents and executives:

Randy Crisorio (chair)
President and CEO
United Development Systems Inc.

Tony Wanderon
CEO
National Auto Care

Lance LaCoe
President
Century Automotive Service Corp (a MAPFRE company)

Tony Fincannon
President
Dealer Associates

Arden Hetland
President
American Financial and Automotive Services

Bill Kelly
Partner
Automotive Development Group

Sid Vance
Partner
MAJ Consulting

Crisorio, who will serve as board chairman for the third consecutive year, said he expects great things from this year’s team. “I am both pleased and proud to have been asked to once again chair the advisory board for Agent Summit, now entering its fifth year,” he said. “A talent-laden board has been organized to fill the presentation lineup which will be topical in content and really looking to drill down on important industry components of the day. Without a doubt, this board will do a great job filling roles with impactful talent that will make Agent Summit V a can’t-miss opportunity.”

To register, visit AgentSummit.com. Attendees who register by Feb. 1 will enjoy a $100 early-bird discount. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact Eric Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 727-612-8826.

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Making the Most of Time in the F&I Office


The average time consumers spend on purchasing a new vehicle is almost four hours from start to finish – and most customers agree this is way too long. Once the customer has chosen a vehicle and negotiated the sale, they proceed to the F&I office. There, the F&I manager has numerous products to present, and a growing number of forms and disclosures to deal with due to increasing state and federal regulations. Without unnecessarily adding to the total transaction time, F&I managers must go through all the steps from securing financing and presenting products to the signing of paperwork in a very limited amount of time. We spoke to top trainers and agents and asked them how to achieve customer satisfaction while facilitating an efficient and productive transaction.

The Bigger Picture

Tony Dupaquier, director of training for American Financial’s F&I University, says in most cases the problem with the transaction being too lengthy starts well before the business manager is ever involved. He estimates that 80% of the time, required information is left out of the deal when it arrives in the business office. He says the front end – not the back end – is the biggest contributing factor to an excessively lengthy transaction. “The issue is not the time it takes for the F&I manager to complete the transaction, it’s all that leads up to that,” says Dupaquier, “The F&I manager has to spend a lot of time running around getting information and correcting things that are wrong on the paperwork before they can even start their product presentation.” He says this still happens around 20% of the time with some of the best, most well trained sales managers.

Ron Reahard, president, Reahard & Associates, Inc., agrees. He believes the issue is not the time a customer spends in the finance office; it’s the time they spend waiting to get in the finance office that creates customer dissatisfaction. “The other issue is whether or not the customer feels the F&I process is adding value or aggravation to their purchase experience. If the customer feels the F&I person is genuinely trying to help them, they don’t care how long it takes. If the customer feels the F&I person is merely trying to sell them products they don’t want and don’t think they need, ten minutes is too long.”

So what kind of information is it that the business office has to spend time waiting for, looking for, or correcting? An example would be information that was either not obtained or was recorded incorrectly by the sales department, such as copying a customer’s address from their drivers license and failing to ask if they still reside at that address. In this situation, when the customer arrives in the business office, the F&I manager has to reprint and correct all forms that contain the customer’s address – wasting time that could be spent on far more valuable tasks. Other items that are often missing are the new and trade-in vehicles’ mileage, payoff amount, and the loan holder’s information. “So much time in the F&I office is spent correcting inaccuracies coming from the sales department! And it is a problem nationwide,” says Dupaquier.

In addition, if a customer simply has not been made aware of the required paperwork that they must provide – such as title, registration and proof of insurance – having to obtain it when they arrive in the F&I office adds significant time to the deal.

Putting the customer in the right car from the start – one that fits with the amount they wish to pay monthly – can also save an hour or two of what Dupaquier feels is often unnecessary negotiation. “Say the customer says they want to spend $400 dollars a month but the sales department puts them in a car that will cost $550 dollars. Then they begin negotiating the deal and it takes an hour and a half to do this. It drives me crazy!”

At a one-price dealership, with fully transparent pricing, the transaction time is significantly less than at a traditional dealership where price negotiating is the norm. According to Dupaquier, at a one-price dealership, the entire transaction could be done in the amount of time it takes to print out the paperwork!

Planning and Managing the Time Spent in F&I

Before the customer arrives in the F&I office, Steve Pearl, president, The Oak Group, says there are a number of time-saving maneuvers that the business manager can and should engage in. “The deal should be input to the computer for one thing. Another is the F&I manager needs to have a conversation with the salesperson and sales manager about how the transition was structured. The customer needs to be briefed ahead of time on what forms they need to provide, such as title and registration. Finally, the F&I manager needs to ensure the car is being prepared for delivery.”

Bill Kelly, partner/owner, Automotive Development Group (ADG), added that ideally, though it is not always possible, the F&I manager should be prepared with a structured, approved deal and a complete menu. “Title paperwork and other forms that don’t affect the numbers can be pre-printed prior to the customer arriving in F&I, so that the time spent in the office is used most efficiently.”

“It’s not secret agent spy stuff we are doing in the F&I office,” says Reahard, “The customer needs to ‘see’ what that F&I manager is doing – that he or she is preparing their paperwork as quickly as possible. The F&I manager needs to have time to discover the customer’s needs by asking questions as the paperwork is being prepared.” Reahard says the F&I process has to be totally transparent. “The F&I process should be viewed by the customer as expediting the delivery process, not prolonging it, and this requires F&I professionals to have the ability to multitask.”

The actual appearance of the F&I manager’s office is not something to be overlooked pointed out Gerry Gould, director of training, United Development Systems, Inc. (UDS). “Many F&I managers don’t get their office ready for business and it is in disarray when the customer enters it.” A clean, comfortable office environment sets the tone for a smooth, relaxed conversation with the customer. A chaotic office does not lend itself to making customers feel at ease.

Pearl believes that 45 minutes should be the typical time a customer spends in the F&I office. However if the customer has already been held up for a significant amount of time prior to arriving in F&I, he says it is the responsibility of the F&I manager to complete the transaction more quickly.

Menu Presentations

Presenting products using a menu offers numerous advantages. According to Pearl, Menu selling is a must – and not the old fashion paper menu. “With all the quality menus on the market, it not only makes the sale less confrontational but it also increases the speed.”

Kelly points out that the menu is just a tool; proper use of the menu is what makes it work. During their menu presentation, Kelly says the F&I manager should review the deal structure and then present up to eight products.

Kelly says that ADG has developed a two-step method to present up to eight products and deliver a complete menu presentation in five to seven minutes. If a customer has concerns or objections, he trains F&I managers to address those concerns in an additional five to ten minutes. Based on customer surveys, Kelly reports that some manufacturers are guiding dealers towards a 50-minute total transaction – this is from the moment the customer says “yes” to the sales person until the moment they leave the F&I office. However, once a transaction reaches F&I, he thinks the transaction can be completed in even less time. This includes all the necessary steps from credit approval, menu presentation and product sales to the completion of paperwork.

Reahard also believes that the proper use of a menu is key to a well given, succinct presentation. “A menu allows an F&I manager to present multiple products in a brief amount of time, and makes it easier for a customer to buy more products. The fact is, in the F&I office you can only sell two or three products before the customer has had enough, but a customer can buy six or seven products if they’re in a package on a menu. That’s why the manufacturers offer option packages, and McDonald’s has value meals.  Grouping products into a package makes it easier for a customer to see the value of buying a package.”

John Braganini, principal, Great Lakes Companies, says trying to present too many products to a customer can take up too much time if not done properly. Ideally, he says four to seven products should be presented using a personal, pre-printed menu.

Keeping the F&I presentation to 45 minutes or less is what Gould recommends as a best practice. He describes step-by-step how to deliver a presentation in just more than a half hour: “First, review each DMS screen in front of the customer. It should take no more than three to five-minutes to verify and gather information from the customer. Printing paperwork should take no more than eight to ten-minutes. A product disclosure/menu presentation should be no more than three minutes. This should be precise and to the point – no selling or lengthy descriptions. Handling customers concerns over purchasing products should be less than ten minutes. Finally, signing the paperwork should take no more than eight minutes.”

Gould emphasizes the importance of delivering a feature presentation without including the benefits statements. He says an initial focus on selling, rather that telling adds unnecessarily to the time spent in F&I and wears the customer out. Developing a presentation that presents each column of the menu as one complete option narrows the customer’s choices and allows the presentation to be done more swiftly. “Each product should be described in no more than two or three sentences and the description should only point out what the product does. For example, to describe a tire and wheel product, you would tell the customer, ‘Tire and wheel coverage pays to replace or repair tires damaged by a road hazard for the next five years. A road hazard is anything that’s not supposed to be in the road.’” A simple, yet concise explanation of coverage works best.

Advice from the Experts

The most often repeated advice Braganini gives to F&I managers is: “personalize everything and project confidence.” He emphasizes good presentation skills, having a prepared menu and loading the deal in the DMS before the customer’s arrival. By doing all of these things, you will be ready for an effective conversation with the customer.

There are several sayings that Pearl has used many times through the years.

  • “No one has the right to say no for a customer. Be sure the customer is presented all the products available.”
  • “If a customer says no the answer should be ‘ok’. This totally diffuses the customer’s barriers. You can then circle back at a later point.”

And this leads to his last piece of advice…

  • “Conversation not confrontation.” Be able to discuss the pros and cons rationally and logically without putting it in the customer’s face.

Gould says rather than waiting on a customer to be dropped off in the F&I office, F&I managers should be proactive. “Get off your axle and meet the customer in the showroom!” Then, when giving the presentation, he advises F&I managers to “tell” initially and “sell” once you have the customer’s attention.

Take it from the pros – incorporate these tips and time saving tricks, and you will find a great starting point for improving efficiency, and streamlining transactions. The result? Satisfied customers and profitability in the F&I office.

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Overcoming Dealer Objections to Technology


The technology used to facilitate the F&I sales and contracting process is constantly evolving; what worked – or didn’t – yesterday could be completely changed tomorrow. From eContracting and eSignatures, to menu and other F&I product quoting and contracting systems, agents have their hands full when it comes to convincing dealers to adopt new technologies. Some dealers are comfortable and don’t want to change, while others are resistant to change, no matter what that change may be. The challenge for agents is convincing those dealers that while there will be some initial frustration while their staff adjusts, the long-term benefits will lead to a much more profitable, efficient and successful process.

Agents and providers often view technology as an ongoing source of developing solutions to make the processes that make up the F&I office more accurate, efficient and profitable. And they are eager to get all their F&I managers on board. Human error is eliminated, contracts are submitted quicker and the customer experience is smoother – everyone in the F&I process, from the provider, to the agent, to the dealer, to the end consumer benefits from new technology. The problem is that the F&I manager does not always see it that way, and as obvious as the benefits may seem to the agent, the F&I manager resists with every objection they can think of.

Some managers, particularly those who are experienced in the F&I office but did not grow up with technology, may see new technology as a commentary on their job proficiency. Others object simply because it changes the way they are accustomed to doing things. Change in any form can be painful, particularly for those who have experienced success without technology for decades.

“It is not always the easiest process to convert a dealer who is not using technology,” said Jim Maxim, Jr., president, MaximTrak Technologies. “People usually take the path of least resistance, and if the dealer allows them to continue paper rating and putting the forms through the impact printer because it has worked for 25 years or more, they just will not change. But you have to embrace change, because if you don’t, you’re going to get left behind.”

To be effective, agents must be comfortable using the technology themselves. They need to be educated on how it benefits everyone in the F&I process. Only then can they effectively convey this to the dealer principal and then adequately convince and train the F&I manager.

“Agents need to be up to date on all the technology available,” said Steve Pearl, president, The Oak Group. “The agent needs to know all of the positives and negatives of every piece of technology, as well as how it will assist the F&I manager and dealer principal.” But, he went on to say, it is an uphill battle at times. “You can’t say that dealers in general are falling short with technology adoption. It is a very specific, dealer-by-dealer process. What we tend to find is that with the dealers who are falling short, it tends to be an age-based item; not everyone reacts that way, but certain people are resistant to change. They have always done it one way, and they don’t want to change; that’s not the case every time, but it tends to be one of the bigger issues.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the words ‘switch and easy’ used together to describe any technology transition,” said Patrick Donahue, president and CEO, Agents Management Group. “Regardless of the potential or immense upside, this is change, and human nature rarely deviates. Those that seek change reach a comfort point faster than those who feel they are being unfairly penalized or compromised by the structure that comes with technology.”

Mick Rabley, agent, Great Lakes Companies, categorized dealers into two types: “Those who embrace technology and others who pretend they embrace technology. The dealers that embrace technology are positioning themselves to make the technological transition. There are challenges, but they are meeting those challenges and finding the way to succeed. The dealerships that don’t embrace technology use every excuse created to circumvent the transition. The difference between these two types of dealerships is the ones that embrace technology have an individual with authority driving the technology through the dealership, and have the commitment from the dealer and department managers to succeed in this endeavor.”

Overcoming the Objections
There are a few ways to handle some of the top objections dealers offer for their resistance to new technologies. The first objection is that they tried it once in the past and had a bad experience, or have heard horror stories and are hesitant to make the leap; this is where the agent can point out that what might have been an issue even a year ago has drastically changed today. “I have seen more change in the last five years than in the previous 20 in technology in the automotive world,” said Bill Kelly, partner, Automotive Development Group.

“We are better off than we were even five years ago, but we’re not where we need to be,” noted Pearl. “The cost of new technology is coming down, and there are good providers with good solutions across the board working on getting the technology to a place where it is easy to use and at an affordable price. At the end of the day, for the agent, convincing a dealer to use a new technology comes back to the basics of selling. No matter what type of sale it is, the customer – in this case the dealer – will buy when they perceive that the value they’re receiving exceeds the price they are paying. There is value in the new technologies, but that value has to exceed the price; as providers are increasing the value, adding more bells and whistles, they are also decreasing the pricing, and I believe if we keep crossing that threshold, what will occur is more technology will be used. And that is an extremely important thing.”

Another objection is the lack of a common point of entry among the various technology solutions. “Technology comes at F&I departments from every compass setting,” noted Donahue. “Product providers, service providers, lenders, software firms, regulators, manufacturers and DMS providers all have some technology to offer. Unfortunately, very few of these systems talk to each other and even fewer have an open architecture that encourages use in concert with other systems.”

There are several solutions on the market today, however, to help address that problem. These third-party systems act as a single point of contact for the F&I manager, streamlining the process and simplifying data entry, and agents should educate themselves on what those solutions are, and what benefits – and drawbacks – each one brings to the table. A good agent can overcome this objection by knowing the system they believe is the right choice for that dealership – and be able to explain it in a way that makes the value clear. If the agent cannot explain how their chosen solution is different from the rest, then it will be a hard sell to convince a dealer of the benefits.

Another challenge for agents is that the dealership has hardware that is not capable of running the more advanced technologies. Today’s software programs require more computing power and faster Internet speeds, and for some dealers, that is a barrier to entry.

“Dealers are slow to adapt because it usually means that they will need to increase their Internet speed and get better computer equipment in the finance office,” said Kelly. “The efficiency and speed, along with the added benefit to the back office, should push every dealer to have the best computer equipment in the finance office.”

Rabley listed the top objections he has come across from dealers who don’t want to change their F&I technology:

  • Resistance to change – we’ve always done it the old way and it’s difficult to learn the new process.
  • Double entry – due to the lack of integration, the cost or reluctance to purchase the integration option, information has to be input multiple times.
  • Different processes – the F&I sales process is intricate and detailed enough without adding four or five different protocols for different products.
  • Lack of training – dealers get the new technology but have no idea how to use all the features to their fullest.

The Value of Training
Once a dealer has been convinced of the benefits of a new technology solution, and has implemented it in the F&I office, the agent’s job is not done. Effective training on how to properly use the technology is a key element in getting the F&I managers to embrace the changes and realize the full potential the agent promised.

“There has to be extensive training in order to get the dealership personnel comfortable with the change,” said Rabley. “This cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ training process; everyone learns differently. There are visual, audio or kinesthetic learners, and the training needs to be suited to impact each type. Again, the ‘one size fits all’ training creates a struggle for the dealership and the technology provider.”

Maxim agreed that training is necessary, but he believes in a more unified approach. “At the dealer level, it is important to develop a standardized training practice that your reps can become very good at in the field. Too often, what we see is that there are different processes all over the map for every single dealer, and if you have a new rep come into the territory, the process and/or business practice may be very specific to that dealer. So what agents need to do is get one common business practice across all dealers and all reps, so they really leverage their time and efforts.”

No matter which approach an agent chooses to go with, the content is ultimately what matters. “We monitor our dealerships to make sure the new technology is used 100% of the time,” said Pearl. “What we find is that, inevitably at large dealership, 2-3 embrace it, and the rest don’t. So we work with them, talk to them, teach them how to use it. That is one of the major pieces that we do when consulting with the dealer.”

“Today’s technology training we perform is one of facilitation,” agreed Donahue. “We have providers that all offer helpdesk-type resources and tutorials that demonstrate benefits of an individual product or performance driven technology. We make certain our F&I managers have been prepared to excel in the use of new technology. And we are in active discussions with our providers to become certified in the use of their equipment, which would allow us to provide seamless resources for all technology within our offerings.”

“We incorporate the technologies right into our weekly training visits as well as during our F&I workshops,” said Kelly. “We also use the technology tools as often as we can to help solidify our training initiatives.”

Success Stories
There were many encouraging success stories from our experts, where a resistant dealer finally realized the value in switching to a new technology, which in turn resulted in processes becoming more efficient and accurate, which led to increased profits.

Donahue shared one such story about five experienced finance managers in a large dealership, who were not well versed in the use of technology. They were suddenly required to use a touch screen solution in their presentations, and not only were they resistant, they seemed to view the requirement punitively – as if prior to that point, their performance had not been up to par. Over a two-year span, all five of these original managers were replaced, and the new employees came in with the expectation that the use of the technology was nonnegotiable – it was simply the way business was to be conducted. The new managers also happened to be on the more youthful side, and were naturally more comfortable using the required technology. The end result is that productivity, accuracy, efficiency and yield all are up at that dealership. The volume increased as well, yet they did not have to expand their F&I department because of the newly increased efficiency, thanks to the technology, now securely in place.

Rabely had his own story illustrating that sometimes, no matter how great the system is, it takes buy-in from the whole dealership to effect the change. “One of our dealer’s F&I departments did not want to take the technological plunge with a provider because of the myriad of reasons we usually hear: It takes too long; I have my process I don’t want to interrupt; it’s double entry; I would rather print the contract on the DMS than online; the dealer cost sheet is easier to use; and my dog ate my term paper. After a few months there were so many rating errors, it was decided we needed to train the support staff on how to use the Web site to rate and submit the contracts to the provider. Finally, the support staff said, ‘how come F&I doesn’t use this portal? It is really easy to use and it’s idiot proof.’ Guess what motivated the Financial Services department to start using the portal?”

At the end of the day when the agent is able to clearly articulate the value and the dealer embraces the change, new technology can catapult the dealership into the next level of sales and profit. Change is never going to be easy, especially with how quickly technology is changing, but the agent who knows the objections and is ready to counter them, and has the skills and knowledge to guide the dealership through the process, will be well prepared for anything the future might hold.

“Finance people and dealers that accept and push for new technology, and listen to their agents, will be the dealers who continue to thrive,” said Pearl. “They will be at vanguard of what is going on in the future. People who resist the technology will be a step back. They won’t make the income that’s necessary, won’t be compliant, will sell less cars at less gross, and they will expose themselves to much more litigation in the future.”

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