John, a seasoned F&I manager, asked the question: “When business slows down, how do I get through the lean periods?” The answer to that is as simple as it is logical: It’s not about how many customers you have. It’s about what you do with the ones you have!

Although it’s great while it lasts, high volume always seems to come with a price and can be responsible for creating poor habits, causing many F&I professionals to skip necessary steps to keep up. When you’re flooded with business, you have the luxury of fumbling the ball from time to time, especially if you’ve got solid deals waiting in the pipeline to make up for it.

But what F&I professionals fail to understand is that success isn’t always about volume.

Sure, it helps – but it’s not everything. In my opinion, too much volume can hinder a dealership’s performance. It leaves you with little time to perform the necessary steps to get the business, such taking the time to meet the customer on the showroom floor or at the salesperson’s desk. Or maybe carefully reviewing the buyer’s agreement and validating that the customer understands all the buying numbers and achieving a true meeting of the minds.

If you’re simply blowing through customers one after another, you’re probably missing out on some huge opportunities.

Important Questions to Ask Yourself

Do you take the time to sit at the desk with your sales managers? Do you discuss current bank guidelines and what the banks are buying versus what they bought three months ago? Do you take the time to go over the new and used car inventory? This is key Knowing what you have in stock will help you in the event the customer lands on a vehicle that doesn’t fit within their budget or if the PTI is out of whack. There are a number of factors to consider, and having access to an accurate inventory count can help maximize profits. A capable F&I professional will always look for clever ways to maximize potential while building a solid relationship with the customer.

Take the time to provide one-on-one training with your sales staff. Do you meet with the sales staff and go over word tracks to sharpen their abilities at presenting EPencil worksheets to customers? Perhaps you might want to assist your sales staff in developing word tracks that sell the advantages of shorter terms with more money down when presenting options to the customer. Why should the customer make an additional investment? Why are shorter terms better? Remember, it’s not about your paycheck. Customers need to know what’s in it for them.

Suggestions for Improvement

Take time out of your day to sharpen your skills by reading a book that helps motivate you and puts you back on track. Pick up that long-lost training manual, blow off the dust and crack it open.

Go over closes you may have used years ago but have forgotten all about. I can’t begin to tell you how many veterans who attend my workshops have told me that they’ve forgotten all about this critical tactic that once brought them so much success.

Plan out your closes with thought-out visuals. Don’t rely on a brochure to do the work for you. Use interactive visuals that hold a customer’s interest and facilitate engagement. This brings the customer in line with your own “thought-out track” and hits home every time.

Don’t be afraid to try new ideas! Always be on the lookout for ways to step outside of the box. Are you meeting the customer on their terms, both online and at the dealership? Have you come to terms with digital retailing and how other dealers are utilizing this technology to convert more customers to finance?

Some studies have been conducted that show an online customer’s PVR and product penetration have been higher. If this is news to you, it’s time to get on board with the technology available. Technology equals efficiency! And let’s face it: being more efficient means more profits.

Embrace Tech

Technology will continue to play a huge part over the next few years in helping to streamline processes, reduce the bottleneck, and provide customers with enough information to help them come to a buying decision. Customers no longer have to spend the entire day at the dealership buying a car. Offering customers the ability to do some of the self-desking on their own ensures they understand the terms and will likely result in approval. This will also help shorten the time the customer spends in the dealership.

Gone are the days when you could literally ask the bank to buy the deal and they would. Times have changed, and it’s better to be prepared than to let it take you by surprise. Getting the customer on the right vehicle the first time out requires homework and an inside-out understanding of the products you sell. Bone up on your closes and perform role-play scenarios. If you do all of this, you will watch your profits and paycheck soar to heights you never dreamed possible – even through the slow months.

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Rebecca Chernek, founded Chernek Consulting, LLC in 2001, has nearly three decades of experience in the automobile dealership industry. She started her career by working with her father at their family-owned auto dealerships in Have De Grace, Maryland. She gained hands-on skills and experience in almost every aspect of the automotive sales process: new used cars and trucks sales, F&I, Director of Finance for volume operations and general management. She was hired in 1986 as the first woman to sell cars for Al Packer Lincoln & Mercury in Baltimore, and in 1989, she was promoted to F&I Manager for Ron Bortnick Ford in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. In 1995, Rebecca took a position with the JM&A Group and was promoted to District Manager for the AutoNation division — the #1 retailer in the United States — to hire, train boost profits and implement menu selling. She single-handedly earned a sterling reputation for adding millions of dollars to the bottom line for all her accounts! Rebecca has a well-deserved reputation as a self-starter, high-performer, and spirited entrepreneur and motivator. It’s not a matter of what you think you know… it’s a matter of proving it! As a consultant, trainer and nationally recognized expert in F&I Training and sales procedures, Rebecca has helped hundreds of automotive car dealers throughout the United States and Canada streamline their processes and closing techniques and significantly increase profits. She writes regularly for Wards Business, CBT Automotive Network, Dealer Magazine, Subprime News and as a NCM 20 Group F&I Guest Expert. She facilitates for the NCM Institute, Desking and F&I Integration. Rebecca is the anchor for F&I Today – CBT Automotive Network headquartered in Atlanta, GA. Don’t forget to check out our interactive continuing F&I online education platform Chernek Consulting Virtual Pro the best kept secrets on how to be successful in F&I! Boost your F&I performance! Every dealer must have to help your F&I manager increase sales and profits while reducing liability.

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