Tag Archive | "Ron Reahard"


The most successful agents are seldom the cheapest product provider, but they are always the best at helping their dealers grow their business. They get results. Today, your agency has to be in the results business. And that requires training, sir!

Today’s F&I professionals face unprecedented challenges with regard to their dealership’s sales and F&I processes on a daily basis. In most dealerships, salespeople take the credit application or it’s submitted online. The sales desk then pulls the credit bureau report and submits the deal to a lender. Often, the financing is approved before the customer even talks to the F&I manager. As a result, customers do not perceive the F&I department as adding any value to their purchase experience.

With the instant access to unlimited amounts of information on their cell phones, customers don’t take someone’s word on anything anymore. They can do their research right on their phone while they’re sitting in an F&I manager’s office. We’ve gone from a need to “know” information to a need to “go to” information. Customers now want to obtain online confirmation, or at least validation, of every decision they are asked to make… before they make the decision. Because when it is their research, it’s always right!

It used to be dealers had to worry about a customer leaving the dealership, and driving down the street to a competitor to check out their inventory, compare vehicles, prices and their trade-in allowance. Not anymore. Now they do it right on the dealers own showroom. Showrooming is the term for when a consumer is comparison shopping a dealership using their smart phone while they’re still sitting in that dealer’s showroom.

That doesn’t change when it comes to the F&I office. After those customers agree to buy the car, every minute they’re waiting on an F&I manager to prepare their paperwork, they’re no longer showrooming, they’re celling F&I products. Celling F&I products is the customer texting her mother, his father, or their buddy Bubba to ask if they should buy an “extended warranty,” GAP protection, or other F&I products. If you leave a customer alone for even one or two minutes, chances are you’ll return to find them sitting quietly, head bowed, worshiping the god of Google.

Today’s F&I manager has to be able to take customers to websites that provide positive, not negative information about our products. As their agent, as someone involved in this industry, we all have a responsibility to help them provide customers with positive information about our products. As an agency, you have to help your F&I managers address the challenges they face on a daily basis, and give them the skills, the knowledge, and the access to information they need to be successful. Here are nine things you can do to help your dealers, their F&I managers, and your agency become more successful.

First, develop your agency’s own blueprint for F&I success. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Your agency should assist in developing and implementing written job descriptions for the dealer’s F&I managers that includes ongoing training as part of their responsibility. Managers should be expected to set monthly goals and report their progress every week. When you monitor performance, performance increases.

Your blueprint should also be based on the idea that everybody at that dealership attends the same F&I class, and that the training managers receive matches your (and the dealer’s) philosophy! It’s critical everyone there is following the same process. Plus, it’s difficult to build your training on someone else’s foundation. You should always try to be at the dealership when that F&I manager returns from class to reinforce the training, and help them practice and implement what they learned.

As their agent, you have to instill the expectation of continuous improvement. Whatever they did last month is not good enough this month. Whenever an F&I manager reaches a new level of performance, that now becomes the new norm. You can’t expect performance to improve without implementing a process to make it happen. Here’s where we are, here’s where we’re going, and here’s how we’re going to get there. Ongoing training has to be like brushing their teeth: something they do every day.

Second, acquire top-down expectations and dealer commitment. It doesn’t matter how committed you are to your blueprint for training, if the dealer isn’t committed. Based on the dealer’s expectations, what is Job 1? Job 2? Job 3? Is it increasing dollars per retail unit or products per retail unit? Is it ensuring compliance, reducing chargebacks, or improving the dealership’s CSI? Or is it finding or replacing personnel, improving their processes, or obtaining additional finance sources?

Next, what are the barriers to achieving the desired results? Is it the dealership’s retail sales process, the F&I sales process, or the F&I personnel? Are they properly motivated, or are their efforts misdirected by their compensation plan? What are each manager’s strengths, weaknesses, and performance obstacles?

Finally, you have to come to an agreement with the dealer on the desired results, confirm his expectations, and develop a plan to achieve them. Then you must obtain the dealer’s buy-in and commitment to the plan, next steps, and how you will measure its effectiveness. Without dealer buy-in and constant reinforcement, even the best training plan will fall apart. It’s also critical that the dealer communicate his or her commitment to the training plan to the F&I managers. While you might be totally committed to the training, those F&I people don’t work for you!

Third, implement your plan! Success happens not by chance, but because you were given a chance, and then took advantage of it. Training must be consistent, continuous, and constantly reinforced. The fundamental principal of every successful business is to help customers. Make sure your training is sending the right message! Make the focus more on growth and progress rather than goals.

Never let the desired results dictate the actual process. You have to align your vision and values with dealer expectations. “I don’t care how you get there, just get there!” is a recipe for disaster … and deceptive sales practices. Implementing a written Code of Conduct can help spell out very clearly what is expected, and what will not be tolerated.

Performance improves not because you demand it, but because you put in place a plan to ensure it happens. Let everyone know what the plan is! Then analyze the results. Determine what’s working, what’s not working, and make whatever changes are necessary to achieve the desired results.

Forth, whatever your plan, you gotta’ own it! Commit to it, implement it, follow it, use it, do it! This is who you are, this is what your agency does! Training is the foundation you build on. Leaders lead by example. That means you need to go through the same training class you send your F&I managers through. How can you or your reps fully embrace and reinforce any training if you’ve never experienced it?

Just as there are lots of ways to train an army, there are lots of ways to do F&I. Whether you do training by design or by accident, new employees learn by watching the veterans. Your plan for training, and those F&I manager’s commitment to it, all starts with you! Dealers and F&I managers take their cues from you. Ongoing training is not optional at this dealership, it’s expected. It’s what professionals do. And it’s what your agency does. As a former Navy Seal once said, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

Fifth, make it sticky. Whatever training you decide to provide, choose a curriculum with content that works, and stick to it. That requires that you get all the F&I managers on board. How? Identify your bell cow. A bell cow is the lead cow of a herd. Determine who the other F&I managers listen to, and let him or her know that when it comes to training, you and the dealer see them as a leader, and you expect them to step up and lead.

It also requires that you become a valuable resource to your F&I managers. Have something new every time you come in the dealership. Bring an article, a new close or a new visual aid. Help them find solutions and answers they need. Personalize the training to what will help them improve their skills. Record F&I transactions, and watch them with the F&I manager, to help them see what they’re doing! Bring something new to the table every time; a new idea or a new resource, such as www.autoconsumerinfo.com, where F&I managers and customers can get answers to their questions about F&I products.

Remove any obstacles and excuses to improved performance.  Give ‘em some new tools, like the ability to get additional help with the objections they struggle with.  Use your cell phone, or theirs, to shoot a brief video with whatever question or issue they’d like help with, and then upload it to www.hightail.com/u/REAHARD.  Feel free to submit as many video questions from as many of your F&I managers as you want.  Each month, one or two questions will be selected and featured in “So Here’s The Deal” in F&I and Showroom magazine.  If your F&I manager’s video question or problematic objection is selected for a response, they will not only get an answer, they will also receive a free pass to the industry summit in Las Vegas!

Sixth, utilize a training calendar. Make a business case for ongoing training. Just because you win the game, you don’t stop practicing. Professionals practice. That’s what separates them from amateurs. As their coach, you have to emphasize the importance of continuous learning. Have a training agenda every time you walk in their office. You’re here today to work on overcoming this objection, or share something that’s working for another manager, or evaluate their presentation to see how you can help them improve.

Create and customize your training calendar based on what you feel will help them the most. Challenge them to turn their weaknesses into their strengths. Help your F&I managers focus on the BIG picture. Where do you want to be 5, 10, 15 years from now? The only way you can achieve that long-term goal is to be the best you can possibly be, at what you’re doing right now. And that requires you continue your training on a regular basis.

Seventh, keep throwing the ball! Redefine your role. You’re their coach, not their critic; a resource, not a vendor. Tell the F&I Manager what is in it for them. Make training FUN! Be different. Sponsor seminars or workshops by outside trainers or industry experts. Hold a contest for a trip, to drive a race car, or have an annual golf outing for your managers.

Continually test their product knowledge and consultative selling skills. See how many open-ended, needs-discovery questions they can ask in 60 seconds. Help them learn more about cars, about the aspect ratio of a tire, about metal memory and thermoset enamel. Role-play, role-play, role-play!

Every F&I transaction you can witness becomes another learning opportunity. On the spot debriefs after they finish a deal are a great way to help your managers improve their skills. Become their go-to person, their mentor, their champion, their ally, their advocate, their confidant, their coach … not their rep.

Eighth, Show ‘Em The Money! Help your F&I people see how ongoing training will provide them additional career opportunities. Continued training will accelerate their growth as a professional, increase their income, and provide new career opportunities. If you were a dealer, who would you promote? The person who is always trying to improve, or the one who doesn’t think they need to improve?

Track their performance before and after training, so they can “see” their improvement. You have to eliminate complacency. Good enough is the enemy of best, close enough is best friends with failure, and “let’s be realistic” is the first step on the road to mediocrity. Recognize their accomplishments with a Certificate. It’s amazing what a framed “Business Manager of the Month” award will do. Celebrate their successes.

Focus on the execution after the training. Too often the training being provided is disconnected from the F&I manager’s daily routine and processes. For training to be a priority, it must be part of their job description … their pay plan!

Ninth, Evaluate & Document The Effectiveness Of Your Training! Documentation is like quality control. Recording and reviewing actual F&I transactions is one of the best ways to see and document what’s really happening in the F&I office. Want to see an immediate improvement in F&I performance, customer satisfaction, and ensure compliance at your dealership? Start recording actual F&I transactions. It’s amazing how a person’s actions change for the better when they know someone is watching.

Develop a culture of learning. Track effort, not just results. If the effort is there, the results will follow! What are they going to learn today, to help them become better tomorrow? If it’s a dealer group, conduct a monthly or at least quarterly F&I meeting to review everyone’s progress. If no one meets with them regularly to congratulate them on their progress or call them out on their lack of effort, then the entire process is viewed as optional. Inspect what you expect. Let them see their improvement! And finally, let them evaluate YOU, and your training!

When it comes to developing your own training program, the most important thing is to take that first step. Do something, anything. Do it consistently. Almost any training, if done consistently, is better than no training. Training should be one of the main benefits a dealer receives for doing business with your agency. It’s what can help separate you from your competition. And it’s why the training your agency provides matters.

The fact is, every business exists to help customers. To be successful, your agency must help your dealers increase their product sales and profits. While that certainly requires great products, it also requires training, sir!

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Meet the Trainer: Ron Reahard

Ron Reahard’s career in the auto industry has been shaped by his desire to do it right. As he worked his way up from sales, to F&I, and into training, he noted along the way the characteristics and skills that were lacking in many of those he worked under, as well as the characteristics of those who were effective at their jobs. In each scenario, Reahard saw a job that could be done with excellence and he made it his goal to do it better.

Reahard got his start selling cars in Fargo, North Dakota. It was summer break and he was a college student studying business and working at a manufacturing plant. When he learned that layoffs were imminent at the plant, he began searching for a new job. Seeing a routine ad in the paper for a car salesperson, Reahard applied and was hired on the spot. He sold cars for two and a half years and recalls his experience working with an F&I manager he couldn’t stand. “The guy was a jerk. Before taking customers to his office, I actually told them they did not have to buy anything from him, but they had to go back there or I would lose my job!”

Working with a bad F&I manager, Reahard experienced firsthand the traits that caused him to be ineffective and disliked by the salespeople. He determined that if he ever got the chance, he would be everything that F&I manager was not; a knowledgeable, personable and professional F&I manager. This led to a successful six-year stint in the F&I office.

As an F&I manager, Reahard soon concluded that much of what he had been taught was really not applicable in the real world. That led to his next career jump – into the role of trainer. “I decided I wanted to go into training because I thought that it needed to be done right – better than most of the training I had experienced – and I felt very strongly that I would be able to do that.” And Reahard has been training ever since.

In 2001, Reahard started his own training company, Reahard and Associates, Inc., of which he is the president. The company began as a one-trainer operation but has grown to seven employees. He attributes the business’s success, in part, to the fact that training is all they do. “We don’t sell any F&I products or provide menu software. So we have the same agenda as our clients – to help F&I managers help more customers.”   This has allowed Reahard & Associates to work with agents, finance companies, product vendors, vehicle manufacturers, dealer associations, individual dealers, as well as some of the largest dealer groups in the country.

The focus of Reahard’s training boils down to three things: adding value to the customer’s experience, ongoing training, and helping people. “If you aren’t adding value, you are adding aggravation. If your services and products don’t help people then you are not adding value. Our goal is to help improve F&I managers’ ability to help customers. A good F&I manager must possess needs awareness and product knowledge. You can’t sell a service contract if you don’t know anything about a car.”

Success, according to Reahard, is achieved through hard work and the continual improvement of your skills. “Training is never over; it is a process – not an event. The most important job F&I managers have is helping people. Knowing how your products work and being convinced they are going to help the person on the other side of the desk is key. It’s important for customers not to feel they are being coerced to buy something they don’t really need. F&I products have real value and customers will pay good money for them when that value is demonstrated to them. You have to be a champion of your products. If you don’t believe in your products and buy them yourself then you shouldn’t be selling them.” Reahard says that too often F&I managers don’t believe in their products; they just want to make money. “If you want to make more money, help more people. That is how you become more successful in any business endeavor.”

Issues Facing the Future

As income generated in the F&I office grows, Reahard predicts that the industry will see an increased scrutiny of all F&I practices. “Higher profits from F&I are drawing the attention of regulatory authorities, such as the CFPB. Honda and Toyota are both being challenged by the CFPB with regard to their lending practices based on the theory of disparate impact. If like Ally, they settle, I think financial reserve will probably go away. If they decide to fight this unproven theory, which is full of holes, then it may not happen. Either way, I think we will see increased focus on F&I sales practices, the mark-up on financing and maybe on products too, if no one reigns in the CFPB.”

Reahard says F&I managers generally need to know more about their products so they can be an important resource for their customers. “Customers today think they know everything and can find the answer to any question by using Google. If we can’t give them more information than what is readily available on the Internet, we aren’t adding value.”

While there is constant talk about how to speed up the process in F&I, Reahard has a slightly different perspective. “An auto purchase is a major investment. While I agree that customers don’t want to listen to a 20 minute canned sales pitch, our experience is that it is not the time spent in the F&I office that drives customers crazy, but the time spent waiting to get in the office! However, if customers are forced to endure multiple presentations or watch infomercials for products they’re not interested in, five minutes in the F&I office is too long.” He believes if the F&I manager is doing his or her job properly, customers appreciate having someone who can explain their options, answer their questions, and provide them with the information they need to make the right decision for them and their family. The end result being that the F&I manager will sell more products.

Down Time

When Reahard is not busy training, you are likely to find him in his shop working on his 1971 Chevelle Malibu. “I love cars and I love working on them. My very first car was a 1971 Chevelle, just like the one I am restoring.” When it’s done, he says it will be identical to the one he bought brand new when he was 17. Reahard also enjoys attending NASCAR races with his wife Ann, and makes it a point to go to several each year. He also has two grandkids whom he enjoys spending time with.

F&I Changing Lives

Reahard shared the story of a former customer who was killed by a drunk driver. The customer had purchased credit life coverage from Reahard when he purchased the car. When his widow came in with the policy, she was distraught and in tears. She shared that she really needed to go back to college in order to support her three kids, but she couldn’t afford it.

Reahard realized at that point the true impact of what he was doing working in F&I. “I was able to tell her she did not have to worry about the car payment; it would be paid off. And because it was being paid off three and a half years early, she would get a refund of $1865 in interest. For her, that meant she could go back to college. When she came around the desk, hugging me and crying, it struck me like a bolt of lightning. That day we changed a human being’s life . . . for the better. We have an opportunity to do that every day in F&I.”

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Agent Summit V Wrap Up

To all who attended – thank you for making Agent Summit V the best yet. Since its inception, the number of attendees has increased with each passing year – and with close to 900 attendees, this year was no exception. Agent Summit was launched in 2010 and was designed to provide Independent Agents, who serve as an extension of F&I product providers, with a forum to come together to network, share and learn. Today, many now regard Agent Summit as the one must-attend industry event of the year. This year’s show highlighted the latest training techniques and addressed the newest trends and most pressing challenges that Agents face as they serve their dealer clients.

Attendees were welcomed to the show’s upscale new location at the Venetian Palazzo. Complete with cobblestone streets, footbridges over canals, blue skies, and gondolas, attendees couldn’t help but feel as if they had just stepped off the plane in Venice, Italy. Jaws dropped as Agents who had taken advantage of the Agent Summit room block entered their stunning suites. Words like “lavish” and “spectacular” were heard describing the Palazzo as Agents arriving on Sunday evening gathered for welcoming cocktails.

Much like the Palazzo’s five star reputation, show sessions featured “five star” industry experts with every detail of the show sessions ultimately spelling “Profit!”

The third annual Reinsurance Symposium once again preceded Agent Summit; this year featuring two expert speakers. Greg Petrowski, senior vice president, GPW and Associates Inc., and a veteran speaker at Agent Summit, returned to the stage, and was followed by Brian Feldman, executive vice president, Spencer Re – a seasoned executive who has been a part of just about every facet of the reinsurance space.

With more than 20 years of industry experience each, Petrowski and Feldman shed light on the often confusing benefits of controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) and non-controlled foreign corporations (NCFCs).

At the conclusion of the half-day Reinsurance Symposium, Randy Crisorio, president and CEO, United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), and returning advisory board chair, got the show underway with the official opening address.

This year’s show focused on four major areas, 1) Selling to dealers; 2) Training; 3) Coaching and development; and 4) Technology. Each topic was explored first in an individual feature presentation, and was then followed by a panel session.

Morning presentations featured strategies for closing more business and practical steps for getting in front of dealers. Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corp, stated, “You have to look at a dealer’s DNA – ‘Dealership Needs Analysis’ so you can provide them with products and solutions to meet those needs. This requires pre-call planning and a targeted presentation.” His mantra for agents was “Be prepared. Be flexible. Be confident.” AE readers can look forward to Atkinson’s further expansion of this topic in an upcoming issue.

Days one and two closed with a cocktail reception in the Expo Hall. Throughout the show, crowds filled the expansive Expo area as agents took advantage of the buffet of networking opportunities. With more than 75 tabletop exhibitors and just shy of a hundred sponsors, the exhibit hall was full to overflowing. Exquisite breakfasts and lunch were served alongside the Expo Hall, thanks to show sponsors.

Known as the “World Greatest Closer,” keynote George Dans jump-started day two out with a bang. Dans was a whirlwind of energy, as he crossed the stage, leaving a flurry of excitement and emotion in his wake. He shared personal stories of both success and failure. In his fast paced, energetic address, Dans got the audience pumped up with a revitalized enthusiasm for closing every single deal. He encouraged attendees to be at the top of their game, “We become what we think about all day. You need to say to yourself, ‘I’m good. I’m gifted. I’m talented. Fear, doubt and worry are behind me.’” Dans urged attendees to step out of their comfort zone and to change their way of thinking so they could come out not just ahead, but at the front of the pack. After his presentation, Dans signed hundreds of copies of his book, Just Close It… Ask and You Shall Receive, which were available to all attendees.

Day two also featured two sessions on training, which emphasized the foundational importance of establishing good relationships in order to get buy in from all parties. The sessions covered themes, frequency, and the needs of retail personnel in service, sales, desking and F&I management.

“As an agency,” stated Ron Reahard, president, Reahard & Associates Inc., “you have to help your F&I managers address the challenges they face on a daily basis, and give them the skills, the knowledge, and the confidence to be successful… Performance doesn’t improve because you or a dealer demands it, it gets better because you put a plan in place to ensure it happens.”

A panelist urged, “Make sure the dealer and GM see you as a partner, and know that you are there to make them better.”

Joe St. John, director of training, Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS), and seasoned academic, delivered the feature presentation on coaching and development titled, “Xs and Os – Brain Science for Better Coaching.” This dynamic presentation was definitely an audience favorite. St. John’s unconventional yet proven approach focused on the “why” that drives a customer’s decision to make a purchase. He used a lively combination of humor, experience, and science to demonstrate how to reframe common scenarios for success and forge a unique roadmap for the road to the sale.

The coaching and development panel session explored topics ranging from dealing with underperforming veteran F&I managers, strategies for facilitating collaboration between the sales department and F&I, and how agents can ensure their efforts are recognized by dealers. ”Communication,” urged panelists, “is key.”

After a lunch that rivaled any Vegas hot spot, names were drawn for two $500 gift cards, courtesy of Old Republic Insured Automotive Services, and two weeklong deep-sea fishing trips, thanks to Performance Automotive Management. The lucky recipients of the gift cards were Glen Tuscan, president, Dealer Commitment Services, and Greg Liverett, vice president of marketing, SGI Services. William Kelly, partner, Automotive Development Group, and Anna McMillan, president, The Milby Group, were thrilled to win the fishing trip prizes.

Jim Maxim Jr., president, MaximTrak, showed agents how to use cutting edge technology to set themselves apart from the competition, increase profits and operate more easily and efficiently. In addition to examining today’s technology landscape in industries across the board, he presented innovative technology solutions for agents and explained how they could be integrated into everyday business.

The technology panel session dissected topics ranging from the impact of compliance on menu usage, to data analytics, and the increasingly popular move towards customer driven presentations in F&I. Panel members were in agreement that in any type of business, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

The day concluded with a drawing for a Surface Pro 3 sponsored by Endurance Dealer Services. Tom Clark, the owner of Prosperity Dealer Services, was named the prizewinner.

Day three of Agent Summit ushered in the second annual agent principal only session, featuring round table discussions during a sponsored breakfast. The new format was informative and engaging with top agents brainstorming solutions for common issues agents face in their day-to-day business operation. Agents entered the room on high alert as they scanned topics by table to decide which one was most relevant to them. After thoughtful collaboration, each table captain shared their group’s recommendations for making the most of the given challenges. Discussion topics included selling in the service drive, provider relations, dealer expectations, effectively managing a remote sales force, staffing, competition and more. As one table captain took the podium, he pointed out the vast amount of wisdom and experience in the room, stating that his table alone represented more than 81 years of collective industry experience.

Show sponsor, ECP, ended the third day by sending several attendees home with new timepieces. Tension filled the room when names were drawn for the recipients of a Tissot Sailing Touch watch, a Luminox Deep Dive watch, and a Rolex Explorer II. Derek Doberstein, account executive, Back End Builders, took home the Tissot; Brian LoBaugh, partner, Auto Group Services pocketed the Luminox; and Mark Swannie, president, Karbiz took home the grand prize Rolex.

At the end of the show, Crisorio shared his thoughts on Agent Summit V with AE, “The feedback I’ve received is scary. We’ve set the bar so high that future Summit planning will be challenging. Nonetheless, I was told over and over again that Agent Summit V was the best industry event EVER! That says it all and is a credit to the industry professionals that left their knowledge and talent on stage.”

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Reahard to Tackle Training at Agent Summit

LAS VEGAS — Organizers of Agent Summit V have announced that Ron Reahard, president of Reahard & Associates, will helm a session dedicated to Training at the event, which is scheduled for March 2–4 at the Venetian Palazzo Las Vegas.

“Ron Reahard’s name is well-know in dealer and agency circles as a top trainer and a pioneer in the F&I segment,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Agent Entrepreneur and F&I and Showroom. “He is no stranger to Agent Summit and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for our attendees this year.”

Reahard’s address is titled “Training, Sir!” and will focus on strategies agents can use to expand upon the product-provider aspect of agency operations to become true business partners to their dealer clients.

“Ron has had many speaking appearances at Agent Summit, Industry Summit and NADA among others always delivering high quality take aways for all who attend,” said Randy Crisorio, president and CEO of United Development Systems Inc. (UDS) and chair of the Agent Summit advisory board. “We are pleased to have Reahard back on center stage for Agent Summit V.”

To register for Agent Summit or for more information, visit AgentSummit.com. Attendees who register by Feb. 1 will receive 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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Ron Reahard Returns to Industry Summit

LAS VEGAS — Voted a 2013 Best in Class trainer, Ron Reahard returns to Industry Summit to offer attendees new techniques for converting customers to dealership financing. His workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 10:05 a.m.

Last year, according to the Credit Union National Association, credit unions accounted for 36.2% of total loans outstanding, and all signs point to the segment taking a bigger chunk of the market this year. F&I offices are also facing new threats to dealership financing, including insurance companies like State Farm and online financial services companies.

“The auto finance market is booming, which is good news for consumers and vehicle sales,” said David Gesualdo, publisher of F&I and Showroom magazine. “But that also means dealership front-end departments need a plan for keeping the business in the F&I office. And that’s what Ron will focus on.”

Aside from providing tips and advice for converting customers to dealership financing, Ron will outline a front-end process designed to keep direct-to-consumer finance sources at bay and the F&I office in the game.

Ron is the president of Reahard & Associates, which provides custom, in-dealership training programs and consulting services. He has created and conducted numerous training programs, seminars and management workshops for various dealer events, including the National Automobile Dealers Association’s annual conference.

Industry Summit, scheduled for Sept. 8-10 at the Paris Las Vegas, includes educational tracks for F&I, Special Finance, Used Vehicle Retailing, Dealership Sales & Technology and P&A Leadership. For more information or to register, visit www.industrysummit.com. For information about sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact David Gesualdo via email or call (727) 947-4027.

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