Tag Archive | "training"

The Real Value of Ongoing Training

For any training program to truly be effective, it has to be an ongoing process and not a one-time event. Implementing and maintaining an ongoing F&I training program is the key to improving F&I performance and profits at your dealerships.

Building and maintaining an F&I department is like building and maintaining a house: A good design, the use of quality materials and outstanding craftsmanship translates into few problems, minor repairs and a great house! A bad design, cheap materials and poor construction means lots of problems, endless repairs and a lousy house.

In the F&I office, a thoroughly trained F&I professional who takes pride in his craft can deliver amazing results. On the other hand, someone with little or no training, poor processes and no ongoing training virtually guarantees you will have constant headaches, hassles … and lousy performance.

Just like it’s important to pick the right builder, every agent (and every dealer!) tries to pick the right products and the right training. As an agent entrepreneur, you need to evaluate the business philosophy of your training company, its reputation and the number of years it has been in business. How is your training company different from the rest? Is the focus on helping customers or making money? Can you take a virtual tour of the training? Check references and don’t just call your buddies. Call NADA, call AFIP and call some current clients. There is no “free” anything, and that includes F&I training.

When it comes to training, it’s important that you understand the F&I sales process that is being taught. Is it needs based or presentation based? Are they teaching menu selling or step selling? Is it real world or word tracks? Is the focus on helping customers or selling stuff? Is the training designed to meet your needs or their needs? Where is the class conducted? How often?

Whether you’re trying to build a house or an F&I department, changes are easy before you start pouring the concrete! As an agent, if possible, you need to attend the training so you know exactly what is being taught, and can reinforce the training once your F&I managers return from the class.

Is the F&I sales process how you would want your mother treated? I firmly believe if you’re not treating customers the way you’d want your mother treated, you’re doing something terribly wrong. It’s also important to know who is teaching the class. What is the instructor’s experience and background? We’ve all been to a training class where the person teaching the class has never done it and couldn’t do it if his life depended on it, but he’s going to teach you how to do it. Those trainers have zero credibility with an F&I professional.

Pour a Strong Foundation

Just as a good house starts with a good foundation, any ongoing training must be built on a strong foundation. For an ongoing training program to be successful, every F&I manager first must attend the initial training. You can’t build a house with blueprints for a different foundation, and you can’t build your ongoing training program on someone else’s sales process. Everybody has to work off the same set of plans. So pick a process you believe in and require that everybody follow it.

Even the best carpenter still has to anchor the walls to the foundation. Your ongoing training program must be anchored to a strong foundation. Whether you’re building a house or F&I performance, mistakes and change orders get expensive, so it’s critical everybody follows the blueprints and the same F&I process. For example, every customer sees the factory warranty drawing, a menu and at least two visual aids.

Let’s Build Something Great!

Once the F&I manager has attended the initial training class, it’s time to implement your ongoing training program. This is a critical period, whether you’re building a house or an F&I professional. The stud walls may be up, but the slightest wind will knock them over!

The first few days an F&I manager is back in the dealership will determine whether he builds confidence in his new F&I presentation and the non-confrontational sales process he learned in class. Either he will continue to improve his ability to consultatively sell his products, or he will revert to his former, more comfortable presentation the first time a customer refuses to buy anything.

This is also the time when an agent must demonstrate to everyone in the dealership that when it comes to F&I, it’s no longer business as usual. Ongoing training must be part of every F&I manager’s job description and compensation plan! What is the process once an F&I manager gets back from class?

This is when you must establish performance goals and expectations, with specific training assignments, role-play exercises, evaluation criteria and progress mile-markers. Training has to be like brushing your teeth: it’s something you do every day. In life, and in business, you’re either growing or dying. There is no in between. What are you doing today to improve your skills for tomorrow? You can’t expect F&I performance to improve without implementing a process to make it happen!

Ongoing training is what will enable F&I performance and income to soar to new heights at your dealerships, by keeping F&I managers firmly anchored to the fundamentals. One thing that will ensure that your manager’s skills continue to improve is if you create a monthly training calendar with daily training assignments. Training must become part of every manager’s daily routine. Not doing ongoing training is simply not an option! It’s critical, however, you don’t start something you can’t or won’t continue.

Using an online training program eliminates F&I manager excuses, it’s easy to monitor and you don’t have to create it. One-on-one training in the dealership and role-playing with your managers will allow you to determine they are using the techniques they learned in class. The reality is, everybody loves a shortcut, and pretty soon, F&I managers all find dozens of them.

Video recording and reviewing actual presentations allows you to see what’s really happening behind closed doors. You also need to conduct regular testing of every manager’s consultative selling skills. If you want performance to improve, you have to hold your F&I managers accountable, and track effort, not just results.

You may also want to begin talking with your dealers about getting their experienced managers into an advanced class. If it’s been more than three years since their manager has been through a training class, they need to go again. Chances are, they’ve added several new F&I products that they’re still trying to sell the same old way.

You Want Brick Walls or Vinyl Siding?

Whether you’re building a house or building a training program, you get what you pay for! There is no such thing as free training, no matter who is providing it! Any ongoing training program you implement needs to be S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

Specific – You have to provide specific daily training assignments.
Measurable – You need to track training activity, not just F&I performance.
Affordable – The great thing about F&I training, it’s very easy to measure your ROI.
Real world – It’s not about what worked yesterday, it’s about what works today.
Tenable – Realistically, can you sustain your ongoing training program month after month, year after year?
Embraced – Will it be viewed as something to improve skills, or punishment?
Rewarding – It always comes down to, what’s in it for me? There has to be consequences, either positive or negative, of doing/not doing the training.

Implementing an ongoing F&I training program prevents F&I managers from becoming complacent and ensures they continue to improve their consultative skills. If they don’t want to follow your ongoing training program, then what are they going to do to improve their skills? Doing nothing is not an option. An ongoing training program will ensure you have a proven process you can use to get new managers up to speed and productive immediately. More importantly, it will result in consistent process-driven results, so the bottom doesn’t fall out when you lose a top producer.

What Is the Real Value of Ongoing Training?

Implementing an ongoing training program that builds on your managers’ initial training will increase their product sales, F&I income and your income! When ongoing training is something that is both expected and tracked, F&I now becomes a career, not a job. Ongoing training also reduces turnover, and ensures no manager is irreplaceable. As we tell dealers all the time, if you think training F&I managers and having them leave is expensive, try not training them and having them stay!

The real value of implementing an ongoing training program in your dealerships is that it instills the expectation of continuous improvement. Performance doesn’t improve because you or the dealer demands it. Performance improves when you implement a process to ensure it happens. With an ongoing training program, goals now become achievable. Complacency is simply not acceptable. Continuous improvement is expected: “Here’s where you are, here’s where we need to be and here’s how we’re going to get there!”

With ongoing training, your dealers will see consistent results, constant improvement and everybody will make more money. More importantly, a SMARTER ongoing F&I training program brings real value to doing business with your agency, and demonstrates your commitment to your dealers. That commitment always gets noticed, continuously creating new business opportunities for you!

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13.3 Ways To Help Your Dealers Sell More Products

The focus of every independent agent must be on helping their dealers improve overall F&I performance and profits, not just on getting that dealership to sell more of their products. Your agency must be perceived by your dealers as their F&I partner with the resources, expertise and commitment necessary to help them maximize F&I income.

As their F&I partner, the (#1) thing every agent must do to help their dealers build F&I product sales and profits is to back up the truck and pour some concrete. Just as a house requires astrongfoundation, every successful F&I department is built on a solid foundation. That requires a blueprint; written policies and procedures with regard to F&I and written job descriptions for both sales department and F&I department personnel. That foundation should also include the understanding that the F&I department, not the desk, is responsible to submit the deals to the lenders.

You also have to (#2) change the message. The message must be that the F&I department is there to be of service to the customer, and help them make informed decisions with regard to the options available in connection with their purchase. It is not there to sell customers products they don’t need, nor is it just a way for the dealership to make money on unsuspecting customers. The F&I department must be perceived by everyone in the dealership as there to help customers, not there to sell them products they don’t want and don’t think they need.

F&I managers must understand that (#3) speed makes you money; how fast do they want to go? Every minute an F&I manager makes the customer wait before allowing them to sit before the F&I god, customer satisfaction goes down and their ability to sell products goes down. F&I managers have to be capable of multi-tasking, and continuously discovering the customer’s needs as they begin preparing the customer’s documents. It speeds up the process, and now the customer interview is perceived as a conversation, not an interrogation.

As an agent, you need to help your F&I managers (#4) make the invisible … visible! That means teaching F&I managers how to use visual aids, such as a simple hand drawing, a component part or a nail to engage the customer and help them see the need for GAP, a VSA or tire & wheel road hazard protection. A simple hand drawing that engages the customer and allows them to self-discover the value of a product is much more effective than any brochure or computer infomercial.

You also have to (#5) give ’em some new tools. Every F&I manager should have a list of 30 questions they ask every customer that will help them discover the customer’s needs. Your F&I manager should have five needs-discovery questions they ask the customer on the showroom floor, on the purchase agreement, the credit application, the credit bureau, on the odometer statements and on the agreement to provide insurance. Your F&I managers must be trained to use a customer acknowledgement or “waiver” to create customer interest in knowing more about a product, and open the door after the customer has said “No.”

Most F&I managers also have to be constantly reminded that (#6) objections are a good thing! Objections are an opportunity to learn more about the customer’s wants, needs and concerns. Identify the objections your managers continue to struggle with, and then have them write out their response. One of the most important things you can do is role play how to overcome problematic objections with your managers every time you’re in the dealership, and record their response. Then play it back, and let them hear how they really sound. It’s often eye-opening, for them and you!

So, (#7) does anybody want to see a menu? It’s critical that you make sure your managers are menu selling, not just using a menu. It’s amazing how many managers still step-sell their products the same way we did 30 years ago, only now they use a menu to do it. You have to get your F&I managers to stop wasting their time (and the customer’s time!) customizing menus before they even get the customer. And they have to ask the customer to buy a package, as opposed to simply step-selling each product individually.

Okay, so let’s (#8) feed ’em some peanuts! F&I managers have to be capable of making the customer thirsty; in other words, making the customer to want to know what they know. After all, that’s what selling is, making the customer want what you have. And what an F&I professional has is the knowledge and expertise to help the customer make a better decision. When the customer says they don’t want or need a product, F&I managers have to make a statement that piques the customer’s curiosity, and makes them thirsty to know what they know. Now they’re responding to a customer’s request for information versus making a sales pitch.

Unfortunately, (#9) you don’t want to dance with me, do you? You have to teach your managers how to close! Closing is nothing more than asking a customer for a commitment. Too many F&I managers are afraid to ask the customer for a commitment, and when they do, they make it too easy for them to say no. Teach your F&I managers that whenever they respond to an objection and get a positive response, they’ve earned the right to ask a closing question. And they should always ask a closing question that will get a positive response.

As an agent, you have to (#10) become valuable to the dealer, the sales manager, the salespeople, the service manager and the F&I manager. Demand that your F&I managers set goals every month, and then require that they demonstrate how they are going to achieve them. Test them each month on their consultative skills; the number of open-ended questions they are asking to discover the customer’s needs, and the number of benefits they’re able to relate. Sit in and critique an actual deal, so you know what is really happening in that office with real customers. Teach them a new visual aid or new close, share an article, idea or sales tip every time you’re in the dealership.

Of course, (#11) you just gotta believe! As their F&I product provider, it’s imperative that you demonstrate your belief in your products daily, and expect your F&I managers to do the same. Too many F&I managers denigrate their own products or brag about how they “crushed” some customer and made $4,000 on them. Now the perception of every salesperson at the dealership is that F&I exists to rip people off, not help them make informed decisions about the options available in connection with their purchase. As an agent, you need to bring paid claims to the attention of everyone at the dealership, so they see that these products do pay off.

One of the most important things you can do to help your dealers sell more products is to (#12) instill the expectation of continuous improvement. Training cannot be an event; it has to be an ongoing process. Creating a monthly training calendar with daily training activities will help managers recognize that training is never over for the professional. You can’t expect anyone to achieve their goals without giving them a way to get there. You also must monitor your F&I managers’ training activities, not just their performance. If you want performance to improve, you have to monitor effort, not just results!

Of course, it still comes down to (#13), show me the money! You have to ensure that your dealers implement a performance-based pay plan that rewards (and reinforces) the dealership’s commitment to all F&I products. The F&I manager’s compensation percentage should increase based on either product index (the total of penetration percentages) or the PPRU, their products per retail unit. There should also be a CSI component, $PRU component and a training component!

Keep in mind, there’s always (.3) those three little questions every dealer, every sales manager, every sales person, every service manager and every F&I manager asks themselves about you:

  1. Can I trust you?
  2. Do you know what you are talking about?
  3. Do you really care about me as a person, or are you just trying to sell me something?

How they answer those three questions will ultimately determine how successful you, and your agency, become.

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Continuing Education: Should You Choose Online or In-person?

I recently had a conversation with some colleagues about how important, and necessary, it is for anyone in the workforce to keep up-to-date in our respective industries. The idea of continuing our professional education is not so new and, for those of us in America, dates as far back as the early 1800s.

Now, of course, the setting has changed in character, form and substance, but the idea is the same: for any of us to be successful in our careers, it is critical that we continue our training and education. To retain our current customers and compete effectively for new ones, it is critical to keep ourselves current with sales methods and techniques, software and technology advances, new product and service rollouts and other information and processes necessary to run a business or organization.

Benefits apply to agents, dealers and providers in that the agent is the liaison among the three. If you don’t have well-trained, knowledgeable F&I managers at the dealership who are using the provider’s products, you don’t have providers who are satisfied with the agent’s selling and customer service ability. In a recent article in F&I and Showroom magazine it was said that, “Agents are the critical extension of most technology and product providers – acting as both sales representative and dealer consultants.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

For agents in the automotive and power sports F&I industry, further training comes in two types: required and voluntary. Now it is obvious what the necessary training for agents and brokers encompasses: pre-licensing courses and examinations with the state in which you are planning to become licensed and sell insurance. Agents and brokers need a sufficient amount of knowledge about insurance fundamentals and the state insurance laws to be able to sell in their respective states. In addition, for agents to maintain their licenses, many states have mandatory continuing education requirement that focus on insurance laws, consumer protection and the technical details of various insurance policies.

The not so obvious training, the “voluntary training” for agents in the automotive and power sports F&I industry are those courses that focus on selling strategies and techniques, business and/or organizational software (word processing, spreadsheets, database and presentation programs), industry-specific software (menu, reporting and integration programs) and product- and services-related training on those you’re promoting.

This is the training that provides you with that competitive edge, and can take your success to the next level. Even those of us who are not agents need to keep up to date on this type of information. Unfortunately, trying to keep current with everything can be very time consuming. And we all know that it is often difficult to get everything done in a day that needs to be done, let alone fitting a training class into your schedule.

The advent of the Internet has definitely made it more convenient to stay current on training, but is it the best way to learn and retain what is being taught? Which is better – traditional in-class courses or online courses? They both have their advantages and disadvantages, and it seems for each advantage, there is a disadvantage.

For example, online classes offer the ability to “attend” the course anytime, and from anywhere. That’s great! But, what if you are someone who travels a lot and the Internet isn’t running correctly at your location? Or, you can’t get Internet access from your computer? Online classes allow you more flexibility from a scheduling standpoint because they are accessible “24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” but there are still deadlines. Suppose you are one who procrastinates and then when you are all ready to review the material or take a test, you cannot access the Internet or the website you need to go to to complete your training?

Lower cost is often cited as a benefit of online courses, but when I checked with a couple local colleges, the fees for online training were more expensive than traditional classroom training. Who is this less expensive for? The trainer? I suppose the cost of the course depends on the type of training, be it college courses or vocational courses.

I have also read that an advantage of online classes is that they are “interactive.” I suppose they can be, but aren’t traditional classroom settings interactive as well? I have attended plenty of courses, training sessions and workshops in my life and they have all been interactive.

I am sure that those who are reading this are summing me up to be an advocate of traditional classroom-style learning. Perhaps! My colleagues definitely thought so. But, that is not why I’m playing devil’s advocate here. My point is that one approach is not better than the other. Wouldn’t it be better to use the advantages of both mediums? The truth of the matter is that I feel a combination of classroom and online training is the best method of training – and, therefore, the best method to look for when considering your training, be it required or optional.

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UDS Launches F&I Webinar Series for Dealer Partners

CLEARWATER, Fla. – United Development Systems, Inc. (UDS) has launched the UDS Webinar Series – aimed at bringing its award-winning F&I Training directly to its partners.

“Our promise to our dealer partners is monthly training on various F&I related topics,” said Randy Crisorio, UDS president and CEO. “Using webinar technology will allow us to more conveniently and consistently deliver on that promise to present quality F&I training solutions.”

The UDS Webinar Series will consist of monthly online sessions covering a variety of F&I-related topics. Planned topics will range from The F&I Interview Process, to Lender Relations, Compliance, and AutoMenu(TM) Selling Strategies.

Each webinar will last 60 minutes or less, enabling even the busiest of managers an opportunity to login and participate. Additionally, UDS dealer partners will have unlimited access to archived sessions via its websites’ partner portal.

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VisionMenu Releases 30 F&I Training Tutorials

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – VisionMenu, Inc. has released 30 training tutorials to enhance the already-featured product training tutorials for VisionMenu and VisionMenu Plus. They are a standard enhancement at no additional charge to the dealer.

The new training includes finance and cash conversions, the F&I sales process, how to get more paper brought from lenders and menu selling including closing with an electronic menu.

“VisionMenu PRO was designed with the F&I sales process in mind,” said Ron Martin, president of VisionMenu and The Vision of F&I. “It only made sense to provide our customers with the tools they need to sell more products and get more paper bought. We believe that a well-trained F&I person is how you get results in the F&I office, not an electronic video presentation.”

For more information, go to www.visionmenupro.com.

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