F&I: Refining Your Best Practices, Menu Selling, and Current Trends – Becky Chernek, F&I Trainer

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Internal employee meetings are necessary for every business, and the dealership is no exception. And while there might be plenty of sessions for sales and service, when was the last time you had a meeting for the F&I staff? Here to tell us how you can revamp and re-invigorate your dealership’s F&I meetings is Becky Chernek. Becky is an F&I Expert, President of Chernek Consulting, and host of F&I Today right here on CBT News.

On the topic of F&I meetings, Becky says that despite the fact that you don’t hear about them as often as sales meetings or manager meetings they are just as important. She explains just how critical they are because they are not just about F&I people getting together, but it’s about sizing up the day ahead or the previous day’s work in order to find out the status of deals throughout the dealership. Have deals been conditioned or approved? And what has been going on in order to get good deals together?

Additionally, Becky discusses how much of a role F&I managers should have within a deal, as well as who determines whether or not a dealer gets rolled, the sales manager or the F&I manager.

To hear all this and more check out the full interview above.

F&IVIDEO TRANSCRIPT: 

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hello everyone, I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining us in another edition of CBT News. Today I am so happy to have with us Ms. Becky Chernek, who is the F&I expert and president of Chernek Consulting. Becky helps dealerships all over the country with their F&I department to make more money. Becky, welcome to the CBT News.

Becky Chernek :
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, sure. And of course you host our show, F&I Today on the CBT Automotive Network, so thank you so much for that. We get a tremendous amount of positive comments and all kinds of things.

Becky Chernek :
Oh yeah, I know, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, yeah.

Becky Chernek :
Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
No, you do a great job.

Becky Chernek :
Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, let’s talk about this topic of F&I meetings. Okay?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Dealers have sales meetings, they have meetings among the, all of the sales managers. They have manager meetings, but you don’t often hear about dealers having F&I meetings perse, is that… they need to, right?

Becky Chernek :
Well, some of them do. Yeah. Well, and they should have more. They call them save a deal meetings or make a deal meeting.

Becky Chernek :
And, I think it’s critical because I think not only F&I, people getting together, but their managers getting together and just really sizing up the day, the previous day. Find about their deals, what happened? Our deal’s been conditioned, are they approved, do we have any steps outstanding? What’s exactly going on with these deals to put a good deal together and/or to make sure that we get funded on time?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. When’s the best time to have this meeting? Like first thing in the morning, the following, each day or?

Becky Chernek :
I know people are not going to like this, but I think 8:30 in the morning, let’s just get it done. Get your coffee and let’s get in there and let’s work it through, and let’s talk about it together. How the deals went.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, sure.

Becky Chernek :
And that’s for front-end, from the sales managers and F&I people.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Are these meetings a good opportunity for training and role play and practice as well or should that be a different meeting that you’ve got with your F&I managers?

Becky Chernek :
Generally speaking, a save a deal or make a deal meeting we may or may not necessarily have any kind of role play activity training going on. But really what’s happening there is you’re really searching through their deals, trying to put deals together, trying to make sure deals are tight and how we can actually sell more vehicles and make more deals happen. That’s what that’s all about. That’s that meeting.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Should an F&I manager in your book, should an F&I manager be out and present at the desk while the deals are being made? I know there’s been kind of two different styles out there where the desk manager says, “Let me work the deal and I’ll leave you enough room and I’ll send it into the box and then you can take it from there. It’s your job to get the deal done,” and so on.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But then you’ve got some other setups and dealerships where the dealer will say, “I want the F&I manager in on the deal when it’s being structured.

Becky Chernek :
Yeah. Well I think it’s always better, two heads are always better than one. And I’ve said it a lot, get on the desk, work with the sales manager, get involved earlier. Because I think when we’re involved earlier, we certainly make sure that the vehicle, that the customer is on the right vehicle to begin with. Sometimes when we stretch that out, the sales manager they’re doing their job to submit the deal, to structure the deal. Maybe sometimes they’re just not on the right car too. And we don’t find out until much later on.

Becky Chernek :
And a lot of times what ends up happening is those deals get into the, Oh gosh, F&I office and now we’re doing everything we can to piece our deal together, try to put the deal… the payments, that sort of thing. And it’s just a tougher way to go.

Becky Chernek :
I think it’s better certainly that the F&I manager’s out and about and getting involved earlier on.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Who should have the final say as to whether or not a deal gets rolled? Should it be the finance manager or should it be the sales manager in a dealership?

Becky Chernek :
Oh my gosh, that’s a tough one.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I know.

Becky Chernek :
I believe that the F&I person always has the dealerships, protects the dealership assets.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. So if the dealership, if the F&I guy says, “We’re not rolling this car tonight, okay? Let’s wait and get an approval. I really don’t want to spot deliver it. And the GSM or the, I should say the sales manager on the desk says, “No, that car’s got to hit the road.” I mean, this has been a conversation around for a hundred years.

Becky Chernek :
I think that the F&I person’s weight should hold. But again, if that GSMs all about putting that deal out, then they need to sign for it. That’s the thing. I mean, if in fact you want to go out-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sign internally for it, you mean.

Becky Chernek :
If you want to go out and get the car, by all means it’s you not me going to get the car, just take full responsibility of the spot. Here’s what I don’t like. Then they making decision to go ahead and spot the deal, put it out, but yet it all falls back on the F&I department to go ahead and get the car, get the steps to get this and get that. That’s not-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s not fair.

Becky Chernek :
… right. No, it’s not right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. It’s got to be the sales department, sales person orchestrating, right?

Becky Chernek :
Yeah. Take accountability for your decisions. Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Becky Chernek :
Do the right thing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Do the right thing managers.

Becky Chernek :
I got to tell you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, you hear so much about training in the business, that salesmen needs to be trained, and managers need to be trained, and obviously the GSM and the GM may be going to different types of seminars to pick up on leadership training. But what about F&I managers? How often should they be trained?

Becky Chernek :
I think it’s continuous. I think it’s continuing-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Daily? Weekly? Monthly?

Becky Chernek :
They should be picking up a book. They got to be picking up an article, just read an article. I mean, there are so many good magazines or so many different articles that… books that they absolutely should make it a point to read.

Becky Chernek :
I wonder sometimes, and I’m in dealerships a lot and I’m like, “When is the last time you picked up a book? When is the last time you picked up a compliance book? When was the last time you picked up an article?” Hudson and Cook, for crying out loud. He’s got some great stuff. Spot Delivery. That is a great newsletter. Try reading it. That is, when you’re always educating yourself. I mean, it’s the best thing that you could ever do.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Is there still some loading going on? You know, where the guy says, “Hey, your payments will be around 400 bucks a month,” and the customer says, “Great.” And he says, “Great, I’m going to throw a warranty in there and I’m going to throw a, maybe a prepaid maintenance.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
The customer already said 400 a month. “Guess what, Mr. Jones kept you to 3.95, I need your signature here and here.”

Becky Chernek :
So exactly. So here’s the thing, I always, I kind of say, you know, this is Vegas. Whatever goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas. But yes, that’s-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s happening.

Becky Chernek :
… still goes on at dealerships across the country. Yes. All day long. They say assumptive selling is still… that’s what they do. But a dealer may or may not know that’s really happening. They’re busy. I mean, they’ve got all kinds of other things going on in their life, right?

Becky Chernek :
All they know is they got a menu. So I go in, and I’m in an audit, I do audits and I look through this and I’m like-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So you look through… when you come in, you look through the deal jackets, you actually sit in, I suppose, on some-

Becky Chernek :
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
… of the closes to see how is this finance manager handling this close?

Becky Chernek :
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Becky Chernek :
I watch the presentation because one menu says one thing to me in my audit and doing a presentation in that with that customer is another thing altogether. Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. Okay.

Becky Chernek :
So, taking-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And just for the record, you’re a huge proponent of doing the full menu presentation?

Becky Chernek :
Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. Okay. A hundred percent of the customers need to get, be given a hundred percent of the opportunities out there.

Becky Chernek :
I totally-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And just through that you’ll close more deals.

Becky Chernek :
I know.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I mean, you’ll close more products.

Becky Chernek :
I know you will.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Becky Chernek :
I know you do and you’re going to be a lot more successful because you’re consistent in your practices and when you’re consistent, you have a lot more confidence.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Becky Chernek :
And when we’re more confident-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right, we sell.

Becky Chernek :
… we can help ourselves, right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Becky Chernek :
And customers like it so much better anyway.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Becky Chernek :
Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. And you can never be accused of not presenting some of the products that maybe later on when they’re in the service drive to say, “Well, the tire’s bad.” And the guy says, “Well, I looked in your deal jacket and you don’t have tire and wheel.” “Okay. What do you mean? Why don’t I have it?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You want to be able to pull out that form that says, “Well look, it was presented to you but you declined it. You took this package and you didn’t take that package, right?

Becky Chernek :
Exactly. And just like we had another gentleman, another dealer on the F&I Today Show and he was explaining that even in his store they’re doing a virtual F&I manager. So, and they have found just doing the virtual F&I. This is not a real F&I, this is virtual F&I-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Becky Chernek :
… presenting to their customers, cash customers that they found that they’ve increased their profits by three to $400 and the whole idea is just being consistent.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Becky Chernek :
A hundred percent of the products-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s something.

Becky Chernek :
… a hundred percent of the time. Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh my gosh, that’s as easy as it is.

Becky Chernek :
They saw the difference. Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Why don’t more F&I managers do that? What do you think it is, coming from you?

Becky Chernek :
They have bought into it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. They’re still, “I’m not going to present all these products to everybody.”

Becky Chernek :
Do you remember back when-

Becky Chernek :
… I mean, years ago when we did the alternation deal?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, sure.

Becky Chernek :
It was uncomfortable for everyone and everybody was gone. You want me to put this base payment on the menu, let the customer know what they’re paying for a car too, and then we’re going to present products? How the heck does that work?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. And why would anybody buy anything over basic?

Becky Chernek :
Who in their right mind would do that? And I even thought at first. I’m like, “Okay. Well, let’s see how this deal works.” And then we found out that it does work. We went from the new, the mega stores into the new car stores.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yep. You got to trust the customer that they’re going to make an informed decision. And if they’re not giving all the information, then they’re going to go south on you. Right?

Becky Chernek :
Well, yeah. I think that what surprises me or surprised everyone back then, that the more that you gave a customer the ability to take advantage of the options, they would buy more than what… than you would have ever believed that they would buy.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Becky Chernek :
Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And you’re a car person that does this every single day. And you, while you may not think there’s a lot of value in some of these things, that doesn’t mean that the customer that does it once every 36 months or every 48 months now, because cars are lasting longer, isn’t going to see value in these things, right?

Becky Chernek :
Wait, right. We all take for granted. For example, we have dealers that are uncomfortable about putting F&I online, their products.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. I know. I know.

Becky Chernek :
But more informed the customer is the more chances they’ll take advantage of the product.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. And with digital retailing here alive and well, coming into the auto industry in a much bigger way each quarter, this is something that dealers are really going to have to sit up and pay attention to. Because in digital retailing, as you know, it’s got to all be laid out before the customer signs on the electronic contract, so to speak, and picks their car up, or has it delivered to them.

Becky Chernek :
I will tell you, I’m not uncomfortable with it. I mean, I feel this, it’s the best thing that can happen to dealers. Why do we need to spend all day dragging a customer from one car to another car, to another car?

Becky Chernek :
Why do we have to create this and muddy the water? Why can’t we streamline the process and just make it a much more efficient process for the customer?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You got companies like Carvana and Vroom that are doing just that. I mean they’ve really brought it down to a very concise way to buy a car, put it online, and then empowered the customer to say, “Here everything is and just have your DocuSign signature on there and we’ll deliver the car to you.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, it’s funny how an independent used car company is going to show new car franchises how to deliver a car.

Becky Chernek :
Yeah, I still think that customers will still go into a dealership or a lie to go into a brick and mortar store. Right? But give the customer an option.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right.

Becky Chernek :
I mean, if this is how they want to buy you, are you saying, “Hey, I don’t want you to do that business the way that you want to do the business. Right, customer?

Becky Chernek :
So why not give them a choice?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Becky Chernek, F&I expert, president of Chernek Consulting. Thank you so much for joining us. And thanks for all your contributions on CBT.

Becky Chernek :
It’s a pleasure.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.

Becky Chernek :
Thank you.

CBT Automotive Network. The number one most watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media Production.

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