As 2020 approaches, many dealers may be looking to replace an F&I manager that may not be performing at a high level. The new year always seems to be a good time to ‘clean house’ and bring in new staff that can often raise the profit AND the energy level of the department.
Maybe your store has too many F&I managers. Maybe you don’t have enough and with sales projections increasing in the new year, you may need to bring on new staff to take up the slack. No matter the reason, it’s important to have a clear idea what qualities you should be looking for in your next F&I manager.
It’s not as easy as looking for the ‘strongest closer’ or someone with the ‘most dealership experience’. It goes beyond that and if there is no clear list of tangible and intangible qualifications set before your search, it could be a recipe for disaster. After all, the resume only tells part of the story.
Let’s take a look at 4 intangible traits to look for in your next F&I hire in the coming year…
- Sales Experience/Knowledge – Your next hire may not have sold cars or worked in F&I but if they have some sales experience or sales training in their background, that can be a plus. Many industries sell their products and services with similar strategies like real estate, financial, or even retail. Having that foundation of understanding the buyer’s journey and behavior can make for an easy transition to F&I.
Don’t be afraid to consider an inside hire, too. A good candidate may have sold cars for a few years and could be ready for the next step in their career which would usually be F&I. They already have familiarity with dealership processes and the staff. Give them a look and see if they can make the transition easily.
- A Real Personality – It may seem like a weird use of the word ‘real’ but with the reputation of F&I having taken such a hit in the last few decades, many buyers are guarded from the moment they walk into the F&I office. It’s often cited in surveys as the customers least favorite part of the car buying process. A genuine and engaging personality can help to overcome that.
A resume won’t reveal this. The phone screen and interview gives you the sense of whether or not the candidate can make the human connection necessary to be successful in F&I. Ask questions about how they handle tough customers in other jobs or what they liked or disliked about their own car buying experience. Watch for behavioral clues like direct eye contact (or lack thereof), fidgety movements, or an easy smile when greeting them.
Your F&I managers have to be empathetic, professional, and able to be the consultative salesperson who takes the time to understand what the buyer needs. A sense of humor and splash of energy helps, too. A dull and flat F&I manager simply won’t be successful and could cost you in CSI results.
- Ethical and Honest – Again, a resume won’t exactly come out and say ‘I’m not a sleazy salesperson’ but there are opportunities when you interview a candidate to get a sense of their moral and ethical compass.
Consider role-play scenarios to judge the answers you get. Have they worked in a sales environment before and if so, ask how they handled situations where shortcuts could have been taken in the name of profits? Give a real-world scenario and ask how they may handle it. Hypotheticals, when executed correctly, can give you all the insight you need to decide if the candidate is a good fit.
If they are coming from another store or a sales position at a dealership, be more direct. When calling for a reference, see if they prior dealership will give you any indications at all about their work ethic. Ask about paperwork, CSI, chargebacks, etc. Some HR personnel at other dealerships may have policies about what they can and cannot say but it’s still worth asking. You may be surprised what you find out.
- Organized and Teachable – F&I managers have more regulatory requirements than ever before. It all starts with making sure all the paperwork is executed properly and within established guidelines. If your F&I manager is not organized, this becomes a nightmare. Your office staff will be frustrated, and the banks will bounce the funding packets for incomplete documents or missing signatures.
Your next F&I manager must be also teachable and willing to learn YOUR way of doing business. Every dealership is different, and you have to be careful with a candidate that is insisting on doing things THEIR way. They should be more than willing to go to ‘F&I school’ if your store requires it. Look for someone who welcomes learning new selling strategies and is not afraid of embracing a new environment.
Certain qualities are simply a given…good closer, high PRU, years in the business, etc. But if you look a little closer at the intangibles that don’t necessarily show up on a resume, you may find the next top producer that helps elevate your F&I department to a new level. And isn’t that what every dealer wants?