Why It’s a Mistake

Having been on both sides of the aisle as a Salesperson and F&I Manager, I have my own experiences and stories that have absolutely convinced me that it is a mistake to have the salesperson set up their customer by planting the service contract seed.

The truth is, no customer walks into the Finance Office and tells the F&I Manager:

“By the way, I’m supposed to remind you to go over the Extended Service Contract with me.”

It simply does not happen that way and it never will.  In reality, the opposite is true.  Some people go into F&I and state:

“Look!  If you are going to try and sell me an extended warranty, I am just not interested.”

Why does this happen?  Because the customer was already warned by the salesperson about what to expect.   After having gone through the whole sales process and successfully lowering the customers defenses enough to get them to the close, they now re-engage their fear and resistance in their T.O. to F&I.

In my opinion, we need to rethink the whole idea of the term F&I and do so on the basis of what we know to be true about today’s informed customers.

When a customer comes to a car dealership today, their posture is already very distrustful. Whether by experience or hearsay, most are aware of the negative reputation our business has in the marketplace and it tends to make them apprehensive about talking to a salesperson or a manager.  This means that, before anything else, the first job of the salesperson is to release the customers defensive posture by being unique and different from what they are expecting.

If the salesperson is able to get the customer to feel good about working with them and can inspire them with their personality and their sales presentation, the customer will usually relax and cooperate with their process.  When the customer is at their lowest point of apprehension that is when the salesperson should ask them to purchase the car.  Once they have said yes to the closing question, they usually become very comfortable.

Leave the Sales Person Out!

This is a good time to add to the customers excitement by going over the features and benefits of their new vehicle while waiting for the call from the finance office that they are ready for the customer.  My suggestion at this point is to not have the salesperson plant the seed.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even want them to use the term F&I, Business Manager or anything else that sounds like a Manager.  Instead, I prefer the term ‘Billing Clerk.’  What I like the salesperson to say to the customer is:

“I’m going to take you to our Billing Clerk who will complete the necessary paperwork with you.”

This statement does not carry the negative stigma that the other terms do with many car buyers.  It is not necessary to bring up the words service contract.   Avoiding those terms prepares the customer to be more relaxed and allows the business manager to make an effective presentation without having to deal with any preconceived ideas or fears that have been planted in the customers mind by the salespersons statements.

Most of us in this business understand that the buying public has negative preconceptions about car salespeople.  The truth is, many of them feel the same way about F&I managers.  Some have stated that they were pressured by the F&I Manager to buy products or services they didn’t really want or need the last time they bought a car.  

Anxiety-Free Zone

Having the salesperson set them up with such an introduction can re-ignite those negative feelings and emotions and turn a relaxed customer into one that is now apprehensive and fearful.  I believe you should avoid those things altogether and save yourself and your customer a lot of anxiety.

A well trained and professional Finance Manager does not need a salesperson to help them do their job properly.  They are already prepared for the customer before they let the salesperson know they are ready for the T.O.  If a salesperson does their job properly, that alone will reduce the customers’ fears and trepidations about every aspect of the sale, including the final paperwork.  Hearing about additional protection for their investment is something that can add to the whole dealership experience when the customer is relaxed and excited about driving off the lot in their new vehicle.

1 COMMENT

  1. I like the Billing Clerk idea. It takes me back to to 1978 when I was promoted from the sales floor to be the 1st “Completion Manager” for Scottsdale Datsun. Obviously, there was no pre-conceived expectation of the customer then. As for the main point of not setting up the sale, well, I agree with that as well. I remember the sales meeting when I was introduced as the new F&I Manager at Vero Beach Chrysler in the early 90’s. The sales people were anxious to ask me how I wanted them to set up the sale of the anti theft device that was pre-installed on all the cars. The device had to be sold to the customer or it would be deactivated. The previous Manager insisted the customer be set up in a very particular way. They were shocked and relieved when I told them I didn’t want them to mention it at all. My closing ratio was above 80% where his was closer to 20% . It seems if you live long enough, everything that was once old, becomes new again. 😊

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