The retail automotive industry is experiencing significant changes that can quickly leave your dealership in the dust if you are not adapting to what buyers want today. We live in a time when information is readily available to car shoppers and most of them avoid going to a dealership until they have gathered as much information as they can on what to buy and where to buy it.
And, why is that? Because of fear and the negative reputation car salespeople have had in the marketplace for a long time. The ‘Annual Gallup Poll on Honesty and Ethics in Professions’ has car salespeople falling near the very bottom of the list every year. That doesn’t help us at all with people who are already skeptical about how we do our business.
When people go through the process of buying a car and then agree to make the purchase, they move into a non-defensive state of mind. However, when they go into the F&I or Business Office they can become extremely defensive and start preparing to resist every attempt to sell them additional products other than the vehicle itself. The reason this happens is that everybody knows what an F&I or Business Manager is all about and their anxieties rise when it is time to go and meet with them.
The trip to the F&I Office can be a source of stress and frustration to buyers. They fully expect to be barraged with attempts to sell them on several products and services that will increase their payment if they buy them, or to be taken through a lease presentation or sales pitch they may not want to hear. By the time they walk in, they have probably already spent hours at the dealership, finding the vehicle they want, test driving it and negotiating and agreeing on the final price. At this point, they just want to go home and show off their new car to their family, friends, and neighbors.
All of this can re-ignite a Customer’s defensive posture before they even have an opportunity to hear what you have to say as the Finance Manager. They know they must talk to you to take care of the paperwork they need to sign to purchase their new car, but the expectations they have about this part of the process can be very difficult and stressful.
If you want to experience your greatest success with this part of the car sales process, and you truly want to lower the Customers defensive posture, you need to change your title to Billing Clerk. This simple change can help maintain the positive attitude most buyers have when they have finished with the negotiation process and arrived at an acceptable deal. It can also help reduce any anxiety they might feel from hearing the term F&I if it already has a negative connotation in their mind from a previous buying experience.
When the time comes to take the Customer to handle this part of the sale, the Salesperson should use a simple introduction to the process, for example:
“Mr. Smith, I am going to take you in to see Bob. He’s our Billing Clerk and he handles all of the paperwork for us here at the dealership.”
This simple statement alone will substantially lower the Customer’s defenses and will provide you the best chance for successfully presenting the additional products and services you have to offer without getting so much resistance from the buyer.
Words and titles have meaning, and many that have been used in the car business for a long time carry a negative perception with some Customers. The terms F&I Manager and Business Office are titles we need to leave behind if we want to have more success with today’s highly informed and defensive Customers. Things are changing for every aspect of our business and we must adapt to those changes to make our processes easier and less stressful for buyers.
A Salesperson can spend several hours working to eliminate their defensiveness and earn a Customer’s business, and then watch that all be dashed to the ground when they are taken into the F&I Office. It is no secret to salespeople this happens because some of them will even prep the Customer to resist by telling them ahead of time what they can expect and what to avoid.
This makes it very important for your office to participate in regular sales meetings, so your salespeople can be a part of the transition from F&I Manager to Billing Clerk. It’s not enough to just change the title if the salespeople are not informed of what it will do for their Customers and for the outcome of the process. The more they understand how your success affects their commissions, the more eager they will be to help make the transition a success.
Some F&I Managers are used to having their salespeople trained in how to T.O. the Customer to F&I. By transitioning to the title of Billing Clerk, you eliminate the need for this and in turn, avoid the temptation some salespeople have to prepare the Customer to resist your part of the sales process. By using the simple transition statement mentioned above, you can reduce the chances of that happening and keep the Customers in a non-defensive posture during the billing process.
I have seen this to be a very effective change in Dealerships where the switch from F&I Manager to Billing Clerk is adapted. Do yourself a favor and implement this simple change and watch what happens. It will alter the Customers’ expectations and create better opportunities for you to sell your valuable products for the benefit of your Customers and your Dealership’s bottom line.