Making sales in any industry requires knowledge of what makes your customer tick, what their ‘pain points’ are, and being able to apply that knowledge to show them how your product helps them. But in F&I, how do you find all that out when you are NOT the first person the buyer interacts with?

The interview.

This is not a new concept. Interviewing customers often helps the F&I managers know exactly what products they can sell and what picture they can paint to help close the deal. It’s a conversation that can happen at the salesperson’s desk or in the F&I office. The information can be critical to the process of holding a high PRU.

But what happens if this goes bad? What if it becomes an ‘interrogation’ instead of an interview?

There are 4 tips to helping your F&I staff conduct a solid and valuable interview every time…

  1. Be prepared – Have the list of questions ready, don’t waste the buyers time. Chances are the customers have already been at the dealership for an hour or more and coming into the F&I office usually makes them more anxious to hurry along the process. Let them know you understand the process takes a long time and that you empathize. Show them you are prepared and that your questions will actually help streamline the experience for them.

Be focused and yet conversational. Remember…this is not an interrogation.

  1. Be a Good Listener – It seems like such a basic thing but so many F&I managers rush through the questions without listening at a deeper level to the answers. When asking about the buyer’s driving habits or their ability to pay for unexpected repairs, really focus on the little details they may provide. Every buyer has a different ‘story’ and knowing that can be the difference in selling a VSC or not. 
  2. Start Early – If possible, start the conversation on the sales floor. Customers may be more comfortable at the salesperson’s desk when interviewing them. You don’t have to get into delicate financial questions in a public setting but you can introduce yourself, ask a couple of basic questions, and even temper expectations when it comes to how long the F&I process will take.

If they sense a ‘rushed’ customer, many F&I managers will be upfront and let them know ‘Our paperwork process will take between 15-20 minutes at the most.’ This helps the buyers feel more at ease knowing what to expect before they ever step a foot into the F&I office. A small but powerful step to help make the customer more receptive to your presentation.

  1. Watch and Listen – The F&I interview is critical to knowing what to sell and how to sell it. But there are some red flags that your F&I staff should be looking for that can derail the best efforts to get this information.

Look for closed posture body language when they sit down. This usually means they are NOT going to be interested in giving you any personal information that can help you. They just want to sign and go. Use a personal story or even a little humor if you can to help them lighten up.

If the customer takes a defensive tone to answering questions, change your approach. Let them know you are simply trying to figure out what products can help them in the long and short term, nothing more.

If their responses are short and direct, empathize by letting them know that buying a car can be a tedious process and that you believe in making it easier. This can ease their defensive posture. Everyone looks for understanding even in sales situations. It can go along away.

Higher gross per deal and better CSI are the lifeblood of the F&I department and it often starts with the connections that can be made with the customer. Making the interview process more pleasurable is the first step to getting all the information needed to sell more product and increase customer retention.

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