Every GM has the important task of choosing the right F&I manager when screening applicants, whether they are an outside hire or an existing employee. They have to think about the important revenue-generating responsibility this position holds, and the qualities needed to make all that revenue consistently. But above all else, the F&I manager has to have the right combination of personality and sales ability.

But what is more important really? Can you have an F&I manager with a great personality but light on sales skills? Or should sales ability be the first thing you look for regardless of how they present themselves to customers?

Let’s weigh it out and see which is a better approach for the next F&I manager you interview…

How Important is ‘Personality’?

To get technical about it, personality is often defined as a combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. A rather dry and academic way to describe all the general attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs a person has in their daily life. It’s just…who they are.

This can be a good thing or a really bad thing when taking about an F&I manager. The ‘bad’ usually comes in the form of the stereotypical sleazy, fast-talking unethical person just looking to scam the customer any way they can to make a higher back-end on the deal. We have all known one or two. They give the position a bad name.

It is possible, though, to come across an applicant who may have the important qualities necessary to be successful in F&I but perhaps not have all the exact sales skills you need?F&I

The most successful F&I managers throughout the industry have empathy, an innate desire to really help the customer understand the products and how they can help, and an overall likeability that helps them make a true connection with customers. They have the highest PRU and consistently high CSI. Customers simply feel comfortable doing business with them.

F&I managers can be trained on the nuts-and-bolts of menu-selling, handling paperwork, and all the required compliance standards. But you either have the right personality to sit in front of a customer and make the connection necessary to gain trust enough to sell or you don’t.

Personality is the most important factor, full stop.

Yes, the Sales Skills Are Important, too…

No one should ignore the importance of understanding how to sell and the psychology behind it. I have seen many F&I managers come from industries where selling may not have been their career focus…but knowing how to work with people was. The objective skills and knowledge can be taught to a personality that is open to learning and eager to work the steps accordingly.

No F&I manager can be successful without knowing what buttons to push, what questions to ask, or how to properly (and ethically) disclose contract terms and product details. Without that, your F&I office can become a mess.

Can’t Have One Without the Other

I would argue (and many may disagree) that you can’t have an F&I manager that is all sales ability and no personality. It’s not enough for success in a position where decades-old stereotypes are constantly working against them. Customers expect the hard sell and are often closed off right from the second they walk into the office.

But…give me an applicant with a great personality – open, empathetic, inquisitive, trustworthy, and fun to be around – any day over someone flat who happens to know the latest method in selling a maintenance plan. That doesn’t work. It won’t work with your buyers, either.

Your successful F&I managers need the right combination of both. Personality, though, should be the first focus when hiring. They need to be the right fit, not only for the customer, but also for the team in general. A toxic personality ‘in the box’ will impact the sales floor and your sales managers…I’ve seen that more times than I can count.

So, the next time you are interviewing someone for F&I, ask yourself if this is the kind of person YOU would want to sit and talk to in the business office. Are they likable? Do they smile? Are they easy to sit with, even for something as formal as an interview?

If they are and they are a little light on sales skills, gives them a shot. You, your team, and your customers will be glad you did.

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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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