F&I is the department with the highest profit margin within a dealership and yet consistently seems to rank as the most negative part of the car buying experience among buyers. How can you change that? It can be. As easy as selling yourself first rather than selling product.

Bear with me here as this will seem counterintuitive to everything an F&I manager is taught…

Any salesperson that has enjoyed any degree of success in their market will tell you that one of the things that helps the most is making a connection with their prospect. Being a real person, not just the salesperson who is tasked with taking their money. In F&I it is no different. You have to come across as genuine and someone who is there is help the buyer drive off in the car of their dreams (or at least the car they need right now).

How selling yourself must come before selling your product….

  • Introduce yourself early on – When a deal is being put together, walk out to the sales floor and quickly introduce yourself as the F&I manager and the next person who will help them. Smile, shake their hand, and walk them into the office. Share a little bit about yourself if you get the chance and have pictures on your desk of family or friends (or your dog…whatever you can to show you are a real person outside of the dealership). Do not rush into paperwork and product presentation. There will be enough time for that after they feel comfortable with you.

  • Position Yourself as an Equal – Depending on how your office is set up, try sitting next to them when discussing options and product. If you are using a tablet for product selling, offer to sit closer to them to review. The desk, for some buyers, can be intimidating and a barrier to having a more relaxed conversation.

  • Talk About Your Own Experiences – Effective selling often relies heavily on stories you can share that may be similar to the situations your buyer may be in. Talk about how a GAP policy helped a family member quickly replace a totaled car or share a story about how an extended warranty saved your family hundreds of dollars on a repair while on vacation. No story? Find one. Recount a story from a customer or co-worker. All of this helps the buyer feel like you could easily understand their needs as one of your own. You are not different when you buy a car and you need the same protections as they do. This will always work better than fear-based, high pressure selling.

  • Zero in on the kids – Whether you have kids or not, make sure to focus on the buyer’s kids if they come into the office. This shows you understand that the kids are an important part of the purchase when it comes to a safe, reliable vehicle and that you will make sure they have all the choices they may need to ensure that protection. If you are a parent, talk about your kids! Have a drawer with toys and coloring books…anything for kids to play with to give the parents a break while signing paperwork. The highest PRU in dealerships I worked in were with F&I managers who had ‘kid-friendly’ offices. Selling came in second to making sure the parents AND the kids were happy in their office.

In a challenging F&I climate, it’s more important than ever to sell yourself before selling the product. People would rather buy from a real human being. The sales will be there and so will your high CSI.

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Kristine Cain is a freelance writer who loves the car business, hiking long trails, and the Steelers (not necessarily in that order). After finishing a degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, she got her first taste of the dealer world working in the service department of a high volume Honda store. Warned early on that the car business would ‘get in her blood’, it did and Kristine made the leap into F&I departments at several stores around the Washington DC area and later to an automotive information company in dealer sales. A veteran of over 20 years in B2B sales to dealers, she leverages that knowledge to help write within the dealer market. Kristine lives in Holly Springs, NC with her husband and family.

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