Tag Archive | "Jerry Biller"

Selling Appearance Protection

As dealership reserve shrinks, the pressure is increasing on the F&I office to find other avenues to enhance and replenish overall profit margins. Shoring up dealers’ bottom line in F&I is more critical than ever before. Historically, the focus in F&I has been on big-ticket items, but as lease penetration reaches new highs and reserves shrink, ensuring that a balance of products are being offered could be the key to maximizing profit. Offering and being well versed in appearance protection products might be just what the doctor ordered to stay ahead in today’s changing market.

Andy Parvich, national sales director, Siskin, has found that dealers are often unaware of their lack of focus on appearance protection. He believes the job of a general agent is to make the importance of this clear to the dealer on a profit level. “You have to reopen their eyes sometimes. At the end of the day, appearance products are the products the customer will benefit from on a daily basis.”

Lease and Cash Customers

The recent growth in luxury vehicle leasing is having a positive impact on the sale of appearance products. The benefits appearance protection products offer are especially applicable to cash and lease customers. They can enhance customers’ trade in value by keeping the car looking new. They can also prevent the customer from being charged for minor damages at the end of a lease.

When dealing with lease customers, Stan Starnes, executive vice president, Dent Zone Companies Inc., recommends being proactive. “Ask the customer why they would want to live with a dent for the entire term of their lease and then get the covered repair fixed just before they trade the car in?” Instead of selling protection that works this way, Starnes recommends offering protection that the customer can take advantage of as soon as a dent occurs.

“They want a new and fresh looking car every day,” added Jerry Biller, president, Usbergo Inc., “So ask them, ‘Would you like to look at a dent for three years (until the end of the lease term) or get it fixed right away?’ If you can get dealers to focus on enhancing the customer’s ownership experience, F&I will be more profitable.”

Aaron Cooper, director of F&I, Dent Wizard International, agreed, “Why get a program that doesn’t benefit them until the end of the lease? Customers like that approach.”

The Appeal for Dealers and Customers

Biller recommends including appearance products as a part of the core offering in F&I. “You want the customer to consider these products first and not just present appearance protection as an afterthought.” Biller says it’s the relevance to the customer that makes them core products. “A dealer needs to make sure that they are offering ‘actual products’ in the finance office – and not just contracts.”

Jeff Phillips, account manager, XPEL Technologies Corp., sells a protective film that he says works everyday ­­– unlike some products, such as theft recovery, that customers may never see the benefit from. “As people keep cars longer, products that maintain the vehicle’s appearance not only result in greater profits when a car is eventually traded in, but also improve the entire ownership experience.”

Cooper sees appearance protection products not only as revenue generators, but also as tools for increasing customer retentions. “When we sell appearance products and the customer comes back to the dealership, it provides another opportunity for the dealer to provide a positive experience for the customer that will hopefully result in them being a repeat customer.”

Appearance protection products can also be sold after the vehicle sale. Offering appearance products in the service drive and when a customer files a claim can be a successful strategy that give customers something of immediate value.

Despite the added value of selling in the service drive, Cooper says the greatest success comes from a well trained F&I manager who is knowledgeable about both the products and the disclosures. The panel agreed, adding that while service drive selling is an option, the F&I office is the best fit for offering these products.

Appearance Protection and the Sales Department

By training the sales department about product options, they can be the first to expose a customer to appearance products. By pointing out areas in which a new vehicle is not protected and then reassuring the customer that the dealership can provide a solution, the sales department whets the customer’s appetite, so to speak. Then, when customers arrive in F&I they are more interested and receptive to hearing about the products.

Phillips says he has seen the most success when the dealer takes advantage of the downtime after the customer selects a car and the sales department does a soft sell presenting the products. “Often it is as simple as exposing the need for products earlier to the customer. Point out dents and dings on the customer’s trade-in when they first bring the vehicle in and let them know that those dents and dings will lower their trade-in value.”

Pavich agreed that there is an advantage to involving the sales department. “They need to know what the products are and what the coverage is. Sit down with the sales team and make sure they know the ins and outs of the products. Training them as well as F&I can make a big difference.”

Another way the sales team can facilitate the sale of F&I products is by giving the customer a live demo. “Make it fun,” says Pavich, “If the sales team can involve customers in a way that is fun, that’s great.”

“You can only present so many things,” added Starnes, “We talk about needs awareness. You have to develop this and set the stage. Our value proposition is, ‘You will get a dent. What will you do?’ You only have to get three dents and the product is paid for.” Starnes says their products “play well with others” and also do not require a lengthy presentation when it comes down to the array of products offered on the menu.

Menu Selling and Price

The placement of appearance protection on the menu is a factor worth considering. Pavich says that F&I managers are often trained to present service contracts first on a menu. However in his experience, Pavich says this can turn customers off. He recommends presenting appearance products first. “Appearance matters to everyone. Whether they are a Chevy buyer or a Mercedes buyer, people want their vehicle to look nice. It is a matter of opening their eyes and offering products at a reasonable price. When you do this, they will see the value in it.”

“It goes back to what is important to the dealer.” said Cooper, “Sit down with them, evaluate the customer base and decide if appearance protection should be a product that is presented third, sixth or higher on the menu.”

Pavich pointed out that pricing coverage right is a critical component when presenting product offerings. The customer’s monthly payment needs to be taken into consideration when offering appearance products. “It would be tough to bump a payment up $40 for someone with a lease for $199 per month. The payment increase for the product needs to fall in the $6 to $10 range.”

To Bundle or Not to Bundle

Cooper reports he has seen better penetration with bundled product presentations. “A customer can choose if they want to add products to a bundle. We see this as a better play for dealers, and what customers gravitate towards.”

Pavich, on the other hand, reports seeing huge success when products are sold individually. “What benefit is the customer getting with a bundle? Windshield is not going to cover full replacement, it is repair only. The benefit is going to be actual replacement. Some packages of dent protection only provide $250 of dent.”

In a few states, where contracts are now cancelable, bundling products may come with added risk, warned Pavich. He thinks other states may soon start following this practice. “Putting everything on one form could make the whole thing cancelable.”

Understanding and Explaining Coverage

Making sure the customers understand the limits of coverage as well as the F&I managers is very important. Starnes says someone could have a giant scratch keyed across the entire car door and assume it is covered if they weren’t fully informed of what the product covers when they purchased it.

Biller added that the F&I manager must explain what is included and excluded, and note the limitations, deductible, and out of pocket costs. “Paying attention to the benefits when presenting to a customer is important.”

“Lay out the exclusions,” recommends Cooper, “You don’t want something [incorrect] being said when the product is sold and it coming back to you later. If the car comes back with the customer having lots of issues, guess what? The F&I department is not going to sell the product anymore! It sounds like a no brainer but it goes back to getting the correct picture painted with the F&I manager of what is and isn’t covered. It’s critically important in that process.”

In the event that a customer did not understand the coverage and is obviously upset about something not being covered, Pavich suggests that in certain situations, it may be worth it to oblige the customer and eat the cost. “If we need to pay extra to keep that customer coming back and telling their friends, then it’s worth it.”

Making sure that all of a dealer’s F&I managers not only understand the coverage, but are on board and convinced of a product’s value, as well as it’s reliability and effectiveness is crucial. “There is always one F&I manager who sells everything except for one product.” says Phillips, “They have to be convinced that the product is not like ones they have seen in the past that were not quality products. For example, they may have seen a coating in the past that eventually yellowed or became hazy. They need to see and be convinced that the products they are selling are quality products. And we have to show them that they are top quality.”

Technology and Sales

As the push for electronic and digital training and presentations grows, the panel discussed how they are meeting these demands. Cooper emphasized that having cutting edge technology for presentations can make a big difference in capturing customers’ interest.

Biller agreed and expects the demand and appeal to continue to grow. He recommends making technology available to facilitate the process of selling appearance protection products. He believes technology can also offer a means for including the sales department in the process, “If the sales department is part of the process, are they given tools, such as a mobile app, to present products?”.

Taking advantage of the latest advancements technology has to offer is a must as everything becomes more digital, says Starnes. In response, his team, as well as other appearance protection companies, are investing in digital training modules and iPad presentations. “More and more, our clients are leaning towards electronics and are asking for technology.”

Technology can also be used to provide frequent and effective training in the actual application of products. This method is especially valuable in light of the high turnover in the F&I office that dealers face. Most appearance care companies offer various electronic training and videos that can prevent the agent representing the products from having to visit a dealership every time the dealership experiences employee turnover.

If you have not done so already, this panel says it’s worth giving appearance care products a second look. Offering customers a variety of products beyond the service contract can be a great way to shore up the dealer’s bottom line. And that is something all agents want to cash in on!

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The Evolution of Eco Products

The term “eco friendly” means something different to everyone who hears it. In general, the products that bear that label are more environmentally friendly than counterparts in the same category; this can mean they carry a lower volatile organic compound (VOC) rating, are water soluble, are even fully biodegradable – or anything in between. What can’t be argued is that eco-friendly products have become a much larger part of the F&I space in recent years, and that trend is not looking like it is losing momentum.

Consumer demand is one of the biggest drivers of the eco trend. “For years consumers have recognized their growing responsibility to our planet through the choices they make in purchases,” said Daniel Jones, director of sales, Xzilon. His company launched a Green line at NADA this past year in response to that demand.

John Nisson, COO, PermaPlate, agreed, noting that customer demand was the top reason his company offers an eco friendly line. “We continue to strive to produce offerings that best protect the customer’s investment in a responsible manner.”

Customer demand isn’t the only factor, however. Federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act, set standards for every product sold in the United States – including chemicals and coatings sold through the F&I office. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the standards for every product category, and while vehicle emissions are the largest part of the automobile industry’s contribution to those standards, F&I products have a part to play as well. “Staying on top of the ever-changing regulations is very important to us,” said Nisson. “We want to make sure we are going above and beyond any regulations to make sure all products we offer are environmentally friendly to all parties involved, from our own team of manufacturing specialists all the way to the end consumer users.”

“Anyone who follows the EPA and compliance knows this topic is not only relevant, but becoming the standard for all products in every industry,” said Tim Whittaker, president, EckBond Performance Coatings. “From ink to light bulbs and electric cars, the footprint for manufacturing is Earth friendly.”

Jerry Biller, president, EcoProProducts, has the same philosophy – that going green isn’t just a trend, but is a mandate for all companies who sell products in the United States today. “We won’t offer products that are not environmentally responsible. Being eco-friendly isn’t a trend, it’s our contribution to a consumers’ choice for products that perform at the highest level without a negative environmental impact.”

Walking the Walk
Performance, however, is both a key selling point, and a hurdle many F&I managers will have to get past to sell to the consumer. Products cannot simply be environmentally friendly – they also have to perform to the standards set by all other products available to the consumer.

“We have spent much time to ensure that, like traditional appearance protection products, our eco-products continue to offer the same benefits; however giving additional peace of mind that they are safe for the consumer, their loved ones and the environment,” noted Nisson. “The difference comes down to R&D, and making sure that our formulas have been designed to minimize or eliminate aspects that might be considered to have adverse effects to the environment and/or users of the products.”

Jones pointed out that, in the past, most consumers saw the performance versus environmentally friendly choice as either/or. “We’ve all been conditioned that choosing Earth-friendly products probably translates to sacrificing performance.” He went on to note that educating those consumers that they do not have to choose between the two is the biggest opportunity – and hurdle – facing the F&I market today. “The greatest growth potential is clearly converting the conditioned nonbelievers of Earth-friendly appearance protection into steadfast customers.”

Whittaker agreed, noting that while there are plenty of products out today that hit both the performance and eco-friendly benchmarks, there are still plenty out there that do not. “Unfortunately several agents and consumers still refer to these products as mop and glow or snake oil. I challenge our industry to comply and sell products that actually perform and do what they say.” He advocates that providers should bring in independent, third party testing companies to verify both the performance and environmental claims of products, to give F&I managers another strong selling point to combat those old beliefs.

“A huge segment of people (even in our industry) don’t believe appearance protection products really work, and many believe these long standing products are ‘snake oil,’” agreed Biller. “Overcoming the cultural belief that eco-friendly products don’t perform as well as ‘traditional’ products is a tremendous growth opportunity.”

Selling the Eco Benefits
Each of the providers we talked to all stressed the same thing – that F&I managers need to be trained to sell eco products based on performance. “The F&I professionals need to present our products as value added and performance driven first – the fact it is eco friendly is just another benefit,” noted Whittaker.

Biller agreed, noting that, “F&I managers do not have to decipher these tendencies if the eco-friendly products they are promoting are ultra high performance.” All customers, he went on to point out, can benefit from the performance of products such as windshield coatings to prevent cracks and chips, or appearance protection products that are anti-bacterial and eco-friendly at the same time. He believes F&I managers should stress those benefits first, and the fact that the products are also environmentally safe becomes a bonus, rather than trying to make it the key feature.

“A significantly growing number of customers have the desire to purchase Earth-friendly products, especially if performance isn’t sacrificed,” said Jones. “The F&I manager can create the connection with the purchase of the vehicle itself. Customers love buying new vehicles, and they have a natural desire to protect them. Today’s vehicles are more Earth-friendly then ever before, but they also have great performance; the products that protect these vehicles should have the same traits.”

Agents play a large role in getting that message out – because most, if not all, of these products are sold through the agent channel, there is a perfect opportunity for offering additional training, on everything from what makes eco products different from the traditional chemicals, to how to sell them effectively to consumers. Too many F&I managers share the old-fashioned beliefs, and agents can play a key role in changing attitudes from the top down. Environmentally friendly products will only become more important as regulations and consumer demand continue to swell.

“Earth-friendly products are a rapidly growing ingredient of the evolving relationship that appearance protection providers have with their customers,” said Jones. “[They] translate into a greater revenue for dealers because of the relevant connection it makes with their customers’ desire to protect their vehicles and the Earth.”

“Being eco-friendly isn’t a trend, it’s our contribution to a consumers’ choice for products that perform at the highest level without a negative environmental impact,” said Biller.

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An Interview with Jerry Biller

Presenting a new product at Industry Summit 2012 in Las Vegas at the Paris Hotel is Jerry Biller, president of Usbergo Inc. He sat down with AE Magazine to talk about his new EcoProProducts range of products, and detailed the advantages for agents and their dealerships in adding the product to their F&I lineup.

He also noted the changing face of “eco friendly” products, and how the definition of makes a product environmentally friendly is changing. New products such as this are are pushing the industry forward in how it thinks about the eco-friendly label. He also chatted with us about why his company has decided to go to market via agents, rather than marketing directly to the dealerships.

Anti-Microbial Surfaces
One of the points Biller touches on is what his company calls an anti-microbial surface. While he briefly explains what that means, this video gives a more complete explanation of the science behind the technology. If you’d like to learn more about how it works after watching Biller’s interview, this is a great place to start.

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