Back in the day, it would never have been thought of to have a salesperson present F&I products out on the floor. Sales was sales and F&I was F&I…period. Customers did their preliminary paperwork with the salespeople and were quickly ushered into The Box. Unfortunately, decades of this led to generations of car buyers who ended up truly hating the F&I process. It was seen as pushy, sometimes sleazy, and always time-consuming.
Over the last 15-20 years, dealerships have started experimenting with having salespeople offer F&I products on the floor in an effort to make that part of the process quicker and less aggravating. Is this a sign of things to come or just a novelty? Should they be a separate part of the car buying process or can the roles be blended well to increase PRU and CSI?
Let’s take a closer look at both scenarios, pros and cons, and see if there is a happy middle ground for dealers who are not sure how to change this process for the better….
- Sales and F&I as Separate Roles – This is the tried and true set-up at a majority of dealerships. A salesperson has one job…sell the car and hand off to F&I to work their magic. What makes this work after so many decades are that each knows their roles well and are trained in specific methods for success.
F&I has the added responsibility of having to know all the state and Federal compliance issues involved in executing paperwork and gathering sensitive personal data. In some states that even involves licensure which may not be necessary for sales.
Keeping these two roles separate allows for easier training and more well-defined areas of responsibility. Each group can be trained to work well with the other to allow for an efficient and quick transition from the floor to the F&I office.
The cons to this are unfortunately related to the same points just made. If not structured well, teamwork can be tough between these two groups. Think of the last time a deal was made on the floor and it broke down once it got into the F&I office. Poor information gathering, bad hand-off…who knows? But we have all seen it happen. Sales blames F&I and F&I blames sales. It can be a bad scene for everyone, most importantly your customers.
- Sales/F&I Hybrid – With increasing popularity over the years, more stores are having one staffer handle both roles. They sell, close, and present product all in one interaction. The customer doesn’t get shuttled around from here to there and they generally can get through from test drive to sale to tags/delivery in one fairly easy transaction.
The biggest pro here is obvious. Since most buyers (Millennials especially) are sick of the traditional process to buy a car, this makes it easier and quicker resulting in higher CSI. One stop shop!
But some dealerships have noticing that there is one big CON to this model…your hybrid salesperson/F&I now has a massive learning curve ahead of them. They have to understand and master all the model specifics, options, and best practices to close sales. Oh….and now they have to ALSO know all the F&I regulatory stuff that is required to satisfy state and Federal requirements in addition to all the paperwork to fund a deal. That’s a lot.
It ends up being a big investment is finding the right person to be able to wear those two hats effectively (which can prove difficult). Some may be better at one skill rather than the other. A person with extensive financial knowledge may simply not be that good at a walk-around and a salesperson may struggle to understand all the benefits of GAP insurance.
Perhaps there is no easy or clear answer to which is best for your store. Some dealerships have experimented during the slower times with the hybrid model with great success. Other prefer to keep the roles separate finding that it just makes processes easier and less problematic.
There is an argument to be made that if you simply train the two departments to work together better and support each other’s efforts, everyone wins. This is particularly true with dealerships that compensate salespeople on the F&I monthly gross. It forces both positions to work together for the common good.
However, your dealership chooses to address this, a good rule of thumb is to always have your customers preferences in mind. If your CSI is suffering as a result of the transition between departments, it must be fixed sooner rather than later. Profits will suffer if they are frustrated with the process or feel that it all takes too long. Actively explore what works and not only with the profits follow but your customers will be happy. That’s what really matters.