Anyone who was alive in the years 2007-2009 remembers very well the crash of the stock market, the stories of Bear Stearns and AIG employees being walked out of their building with no jobs, and businesses across America shutting their doors. The Great Recession had implications not only here but all over the world.
As the saying goes, when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. Boy, did it…
So, are we lined up for another recession? Talking heads on cable news and world economists would say there are at least some signs pointing that way. There is no definitive way of knowing.
Should dealers be worried? How will another recession effect F&I? We know the automotive industry took an enormous hit, but it also ushered in some new approaches to sales and F&I at the dealer level that could actually help ‘recession-proof’ those profit streams now.
3 Strategies to Be Ready Just in Case
- Training – Make sure your F&I is trained to make the shift in sales approach with borrowers that could be hesitant to add any extra expenses to their loan balance. Be ready with better questions at the front end of the buying process, have stories ready to illustrate the reasons why these products and services are more important than ever during times of economic uncertainty, and tune-up the ‘empathy’ approach. Buyers who are scared about the economic climate need to know that your staff understands and is in tune with these worries.
Role-playing is a training tool that works well no matter what the market is presenting but when buyers are worried about the financial climate, this can be your F&I manager’s best way to prepare. Take any downtime to run through common scenarios…it will pay off if things go south.
- Be Creative – The Great Recession forced dealers to think outside the box when it came to getting approvals and selling F&I products. Tablet presentation tools and a deeper level of menu selling was being adopted at a higher level and F&I profits for many dealers actually grew during the last recession. The emphasis became protecting the investment since buyers would naturally keep the cars longer.
Be ready with new ways to position the products that should be a slam-dunk. Extended warranties and pre-paid maintenance can be introduced out on the sales floor or highlighted with a service department walk-through. This illustrates the reason why protecting the car against unforeseen repairs can help them financially.
Consider making F&I more accessible through social media or adding content to your dealer website offering up information about why these products are so helpful especially in times of economic uncertainty. Paint the picture and your buyers will understand that F&I is not the boogeyman…they are here with helpful protections to ease any financial crisis that may affect them.
- Teamwork – The most successful dealers nationwide have instilled a synergy between departments, encouraging them to work together to insure a great customer experience from the test drive to the drive-off. Dealers who won’t be affected by an economic downturn are those that have this down to a science.
F&I should be working closely with salespeople to help with a smooth hand-off, knowing what questions to ask to set-up F&I opportunities, and being willing to meet a buyer on the floor to ease any fears about moving the deal forward. If everyone is working together to make that buyer feel comfortable all throughout the process, it’s a win for everyone (especially the buyer!).
Service advisors can help F&I by greeting buyers and explaining how they can help them keep their new car in top shape. It gives them a chance to allude to the rising cost of parts, etc and how valuable extended service plans have been for their customers. Again, a walk-through with other professionals in the dealership can help F&I sales without it ever seeming obvious. And this only happens with teamwork between the departments.
Better Prepared, Higher Profits
It may happen, it may not. If a recession comes, most experts have said it would look different than the last, but it doesn’t have to spell doom for auto dealers or F&I staff. Sales may slow but that could mean more time spent with buyers and that’s always a good thing both for higher PRU and better CSI.
Your staff can take more time to ask the right questions, dig deep to make better presentations, and make the buyer feel like they have come to the right place to make such a big purchase during tough economic times.