Anyone who is tasked with selling any kind of product or service is always searching for one thing…the perfect sales strategy. How can I sell more? How do I convince more people to buy from me? What is the best method to connect in a way that they trust me?
All valid questions. In the F&I office it’s no different than any other selling scenario. You are looking for the best approach to sell multiple products for maximum profit. You have a limited amount of time to connect with the buyer and you are already fighting against the negative stereotype of F&I before they even walk into your office.
There is one selling method that alleviates much of this concern and if executed the right way, profits and CSI will skyrocket. Welcome to Consultative Selling.
What is Consultative Selling (or Solutions Based Selling)?
Simply put, this allows your F&I staff to focus on building a relationship with the buyer and identifying solutions to their challenges through a series of open-ended questions and active listening.
This method may seem to run counter to everything F&I managers are taught when presenting to a customer. Consultative selling is putting you in the position of educator rather than salesperson. Big difference, better results.
How is it different than traditional selling?
F&I managers for decades have been taught to ‘pitch’ and present all their products all at once (through menu selling or other tactics) in hope that something will stick. There may be a few questions asked here and there but the focus is less on building that rapport and more on getting a commitment for one or more products.
Consultative selling is different in almost every way. The customer’s needs come first. You are not ‘pitching’. You are asking well thought out questions to uncover opportunities to suggest a product or service that fits solely based on that answer. It’s all about uncovering their needs and effectively getting them to sell themselves.
Take a warranty product for example. After asking truly thought-provoking questions about whether or not the customer has the resources to handle major repairs in the years to come, you find that the customer starts remarking that with their new car payment and the other expenses she has coming up with kids and her house, that maybe she should consider something to protect her from high repair bills, at least while making her payment.
The right questions helped her talk herself into an extended warranty. All you did was ask the right questions and listen with empathy. The old way would have likely scared her off from considering the warranty and she may have immediately had her guard up when it was presented.
How do you easily adopt a Consultative Sales Strategy?
There are 6 widely accepted steps to a solid consultative sales strategy that easily apply to F&I…
- Research – Make sure you have as much ‘intel’ as you can get about the customers before they come into the office. Pay attention to details on a credit application, ask the salesperson about what brought them in to buy a car, is the down payment leaner than most, etc. Any information you get upfront prepares you for everything to come.
- Ask – Questions that will serve you best will start with ‘Are’, ‘You’, ‘Do’, and ‘Can’. ‘Can you manage a major repair while you are making the payments?’ ‘Do you have insurance policies or other means to handle the car payment if you have to miss work for any reason or if there is an unexpected family emergency?’ You get the point.
- Listen – This almost should not have to be said but there are still F&I managers out there that still talk more than they listen. Really hear what your customers are saying when they respond without interrupting or overtalking. It will serve you well in most situations to simply stop talking.
- Teach – Sit next to or shoulder-to-shoulder with your customers when you walk them through the products you offer. Share stories, information of any kind about repair costs, etc. Educate them and you will see that they appreciate the extra knowledge you are sharing with them.
- Qualify – This is easy to overlook. It makes no sense to offer a product or service that simply doesn’t fit the needs of the customer. Qualifying is simply taking the time to see if they can actually afford the product you are selling and whether or not it is necessary.
- Close – Once you have executed all these steps and built trust and rapport with your customer, do not be afraid to close. Closing should not be a dirty word. It’s all about reviewing the choices they have made and having them repeat back to you that they feel it’s the right decision for them. Again, the customer is in control and they feel more confident in their decision because they should feel like they came to it, not because you pushed them.
Replace the old ‘Always Be Closing’ with ‘Always Be Listening’ and see how much higher your PRU can grow.