A new year is upon us and with it a chance to reflect on the year past and commit to changing your fortunes (and profits) in the year ahead. This is the perfect time to take a closer look at what changes you can make now to increase PRU and raise CSI with buyers in 2019.

profitsSo, is it just one or two things? No, it can be many different strategies but for now we’ll focus on 4 unique habits of successful F&I managers. All are easy to incorporate and can help show immediate results. Though each dealership environment is different, these are fundamental changes that can transform not only your paycheck but your overall sense of satisfaction every time you walk into your office.

  1. Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk: Whether your store is a highline franchise store or a more relaxed used car lot, there is no excuse not to present yourself as a true management professional. Carry yourself as the important part of the dealership that you are. Dress the part, make sure your office is well organized and clear of clutter. Put your smartphone away, don’t have your smelly lunch sitting in the trashcan next to your customer, and have all tools (digital and otherwise) out and ready to use.

Communicate in a manner that you would want to hear if it were you on the other side of the desk. Stand up and shake the hand of the customers immediately (if you haven’t already met them on the floor) and thank them for coming in to buy from your store. It is the small, simple things that can make a professional connection with customers and can go a long way to tearing down their preconceived notions of what the F&I experience is all about.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T the Customer: This should be a given, but many times F&I managers can be stressed with a seemingly endless flow of cash buyers or subprime buyers they can’t get bought. The pressure can be stifling but in the face of all that, it’s important to understand that showing the credit-distressed buyer a little respect and understanding can be the difference between a low producing F&I manager and a top-tier producer.

Treating buyers with respect never means giving away your chances to achieve a higher gross but rather it helps you garner the trust it can take to help them understand the situation they are in and do it in a way that still preserves your ability to make money. Too often F&I managers looks at the bad FICO or a rough credit app and feel it’s ok to talk down to the buyer and lecture rather than educate. Actively listen, show empathy and respect, and let them know you are there to help, period. The money will follow.

  1. Understanding ‘No’ Can Be a Good Thing: Any good sales trainer will tell you that hearing ‘No’ from a prospect is simply the beginning of the process, not the end of the sale. True, but in F&I, this opens the door to drilling down deeper with the buyer and uncovering the real issues behind the resistance.

‘No’ can help you keep the conversation going and forces you to ask better, more probing questions to uncover the real concerns. ‘No’ can help you focus on the benefits of the products you are offering, and help you paint the picture of their value based on the information you have gathered about the buyer such as driving habits or financial status. ‘No’ can be a chance to shift into a listening mode and can force you to stop pushing and getting defensive. If you view the ‘No’ as a challenge rather than an obstacle, you may be surprised at the result.

  1. Work with Sales, Not Against Them: F&I and the Sales Team should always strive to work together but many times this is difficult. If you are in a store where the two work well together and help each other as a matter of management mandate, that is great news! But if your store doesn’t foster this kind of relationship between the two groups, there is nothing saying you can’t you cannot simply do it yourself.

If you have no the time, offer to help the salesperson on the floor if they are struggling with a buyer on payment or rate. Step in and be a helpful voice to move the sale along. Each week or month offer to be a part of the sales meetings to review new products or to teach the salespeople how to set-up product presentations for you (after all, everyone wins when F&I is making more money!). Get to know all the salespeople and do your best to form good relationships with them. Show appreciation where you can and if there are conflicts, handle them quickly and professionally.

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Kristine Cain is a freelance writer who loves the car business, hiking long trails, and the Steelers (not necessarily in that order). After finishing a degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, she got her first taste of the dealer world working in the service department of a high volume Honda store. Warned early on that the car business would ‘get in her blood’, it did and Kristine made the leap into F&I departments at several stores around the Washington DC area and later to an automotive information company in dealer sales. A veteran of over 20 years in B2B sales to dealers, she leverages that knowledge to help write within the dealer market. Kristine lives in Holly Springs, NC with her husband and family.

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