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Tips For 2013 From Top Industry Trainers


When it comes to ways agents can find more success, there are a lot of tips and tools out there to choose from. We asked a few of the top industry trainers to give us their take on what they see as the most important things agents should focus on going into this new year.

It may come as no surprise, but most of them listed training — the training agents offer to their F&I dealer clients — as one of their top pieces of advice. They noted that when it comes to being successful, the agents who create and maintain strong training programs are the ones who rise to the top. But it’s not just chatting about a new product and calling that “training.” There needs to be, the experts noted, a solid program that uses a wide range of techniques.

Luis Garcia, vice president of sales & business development, Safe-Guard Products International LLC, noted that one thing he finds a lot of value in is walkaround training. “The art of the ‘walkaround’ has been lost,” he said. “The walkaround is a perfect place to start planting the seeds for F&I products. For example, salespeople can point out features such as the tires, noting that those can be covered with tire and wheel protection. It creates an environment where customers are already starting to think about F&I, whether they know it or not, before they even sit down with the finance manager.”

Steve Veldkamp, district sales manager, Great Lakes Companies, believes agents need to have a structured system in place. “Today’s agent needs to have a monthly schedule of classroom training workshops. I have found classroom training is more effective than in-store training, mainly because there are no interruptions. The workshops can be product-specific, such as vehicle service contracts or credit insurance; topic-specific such as objection handling or presentations; or general knowledge such as a three-day F&I school.”

For Gerry Gould, director of training, United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), one of the real problems is F&I business managers who never practice their skills, outside of being in front of a customer. And then they wonder why they aren’t closing the sale. He advocates that agents train these managers using role-play techniques.

“Without role play and the critique that accompanies it, the only time the business manager gets to develop his talent and improve his skill is in front of a customer, and when they miss a shot, screw up a throw or strike out, the customer is not going to tell them what they did wrong, or right for that matter,” Gould said.

Beyond offering training directly, Tony Dupaquier, director of F&I, American Financial & Automotive Services Inc., suggests that agents encourage all their business managers to attend an F&I school at least every two years. Some things he notes an agent needs to be aware of before suggesting a specific school? “Ensure the legal compliance of the F&I school,” he advised, “and ask for documentation of legal compliance, not just a ‘yea, its legal.’”

Dupaquier also advises agents to make sure the school will focus on what they, and the dealer, want to accomplish. “Most F&I school focus on pure gross profit and not product penetration,” Dupaquier noted. “But product penetration spreads the profit around and assures keeping the profit. Focusing only on gross and making the money in rate is very dangerous in today’s market.”

Garcia cautioned though, that agents can’t just do a few training courses and call it a day. “Persistence wears down resistance. Training isn’t a one-time thing. It has to be a regular occurrence, and by being persistent, you will start to see a rise in your profits and realize the value training brings to the table. You just have to stick with it.”

Beyond Training
But training programs are the only things agents can be doing to help their dealers — and themselves — be more successful this year. One tip Ron Reahard, president, Reahard & Associates Inc., offered, was to be aware of pricing.

“Studies have shown most people tend to start rounding up at 45, so keep your prices under that number. If you charge $995 for a product, the customer mentally rounds that off to $1,000, so in the customer’s mind it’s a $1,000 anyway. They round up. If you charge the customer $1,041, they mentally round the price down to $1,000. They round in your favor, and you make more money,” he noted.

All in all, the key for agents is to not be complacent. Continuing to learn and grow, and then taking that knowledge to ensure your dealers stay ahead of the competition, is a key trait to cultivate. It will help you go from being a good agent, to a great, successful one.

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