Bringing F&I to the Showroom Floor

F&I manager

Every dealership is set up the same way…sales, service, parts, and F&I all operate as their own separate departments. Each has a unique part to play both in overall profit and in the customer experience.

However, when you look at the sales and F&I department together, there are some in the business that think these two groups should work more closely together to help drive sales and profit per unit.

But ask a salesperson and an F&I manager how THEY feel about it? Most will say the two should not mix. Everyone stays in their corner and works the deal for the highest gross they can hold.

But is that the best way to help the dealership hit their overall goals?

Why Would the F&I Manager Work the Floor?

So why exactly would an F&I manager come out of their office and help on the sales floor? Does it work? What can go wrong?

The most common reason is simply to help close a sale, particularly if the salesperson is not skilled enough in closing the deal or if they need to reassure the customer about rate or payment before they will buy the car. This has been a common practice for decades as F&I managers ultimately want to preserve their own opportunity at making money on the deal and that won’t happen if the customer walks out because of a weak salesperson.

Another reason is to help set up product sales once they come into the F&I office. Many dealers now have F&I managers ‘interview’ buyers early on to gather information that can make it easier to sell products such as extended warranties, paint & fabric, or GAP insurance. The theory is that it can make for a smoother presentation when the F&I manager knows their hot buttons before buyers come into their office.

Unfortunately, it can also cause resistance especially if the customer says early on that they do not want any products presented to them when they come into the F&I office. Many customers already see the F&I manager as someone who will hard-sell them products they don’t think they need. Challenging? Yes, but a skilled and seasoned F&I manager can overcome that with solid selling techniques and some good old fashioned rapport building.

How Are Dealers Successfully Moving F&I Out of the ‘Box’?

Some dealer groups have created ‘hybrid’ sales positions that handle the entire sales process from the test drive to issuing tags and delivering the car. They do it all. It provides continuity and can actually increase profit per deal by having one consistent sales process guiding the entire deal. No more moving the customer all over the showroom…it’s a one stop shop and less intimidating for the customer.

Dealers who use this model also feel the process of a hybrid sales/F&I consultant helps make the buying process less disruptive for the customer and can increase CSI post-delivery.

The Verdict?

The days of having the F&I manager simply sitting in their office all day waiting for deals are over. Engagement on the sales floor is expected in many stores to help hold more gross on the front and back end by helping to overcome the negative light F&I managers have in the eyes of most car buyers.

If your F&I manager comes out to the floor, have the salespeople trained up to do a ‘soft’ introduction. This can help the customers let their guard down and be more receptive to the F&I presentation. Do the introduction early and show the buyer that everyone is working together to make their buying experience a positive one. Do that and the money will follow…for both F&I and sales.