You can hardly go one day without seeing something online about the importance of ‘branding’ yourself. We live in the ‘influencer culture’ and it seems that everyone has some cool persona they have cultivated to get likes, shares, etc. Social media has made it easier than ever with corporations, non-profits, local clubs, and even car salespeople positioning themselves as ‘The —-’ (whatever that may be).

But what about the F&I managers? Should they cultivate a brand? We hear all the time about salespeople branding themselves to increase their numbers, referrals, and profits but can (or should) the F&I staff bother with it? Would it make a difference and if so, how?

The case can be made for and against…

How Branding Can Help Your F&I StaffF&I

The process of establishing a personal brand can be described as crafting how someone wants the world to view them and the place they occupy in society. It’s their ‘thing’, their niche, their unique space they reside in. So how can this help in F&I?

F&I already suffers from the title of ‘least trusted person at a dealership’ and has for decades. The sleazy tactics back in the day has made everyone wary and distrustful of this part of the car buying process and branding as an F&I Manager could help change that.

Consider constructing a LinkedIn page to show a professional slant to your position. Posting and sharing relevant articles and content relating to F&I issues can show you as something more than the dealerships ‘hired gun’. Used it to network and connect with others in the field. Your customers may find you and be impressed that you are as dialed in professionally as they may be.

Create a persona for yourself. Salespeople do this all the time so why not you? Are you the funny Rockstar F&I manager who takes a fresh and irreverent approach to selling or are you the no-BS straight talker who customers can trust right from the start? Think about the F&I Manager you WANT to be to make customers feel at ease while maximizing your own income potential.

Branding through social media interaction can be helpful as well and attract more customers to come to your store. If done well, it can be the kind of outreach in the local market that makes customers see you as approachable and knowledgeable…and maybe a little bit fun, too. Be willing to answer F&I related questions or offer advice to help establish you as the expert (another critical part of personal branding).

All of these strategies, if done well and in line with the overall branding of the store itself, can help get more traffic. F&I managers should not be the shadowy, mysterious figures in the back-office lying in wait to hard-sell your customers. Put them out front-and-center and see if branding themselves results in higher PRU and better CSI.

Related: Is Your F&I Manager on Social Media?

How Branding Could Be A Problem in F&I

Sure, there could be several benefits to encouraging the F&I staff to brand themselves but what does it look like when it goes bad? How can this negatively impact the staff and the dealership as a whole?

Going rogue comes to mind here. If you have strong personalities in the F&I office that are not willing to listen to upper management before putting themselves out there, you have a problem. Professionalism is key even when you are positioning yourself as the ‘Rockstar F&I Guy/Gal’. It could go bad real quick and potentially hurt the store’s reputation in the community. Never risk that.

F&IBranding in F&I could inadvertently run up against the sales team. There is already, in some dealerships, palpable tension between the two departments. It’s always been that way I believe…one group always looking at the other as hindering their ability to sell or close a deal or hold enough gross, etc.

So, if you have an F&I Manager hitting the market hard with an aggressive branding strategy, it could overshadow the salespeople on the floor. Ideally, everyone shares the spotlight equally and everyone works together to move as many cars for as much gross as possible. One manager grabbing the spotlight could cause problems.

The Verdict……?

An easier case can be made for allowing and even encouraging your F&I managers to establish some kind of brand for themselves. Let’s face it…we all exist in an online and social media-driven space now. We all have Facebook profiles or Instagram pages, or we Tweet. It’s here and it’s not going away. So why not leverage that for the one position in the dealership that probably needs the exposure the most?

Make sure it’s done tastefully, professionally, and aligned with your store’s mission and presence in the local market. But let them have fun with it and express some individuality. Let your F&I staff be the local experts, the trusted and fun financial advisors in the car market, and the most approachable people in the store.

If all this had existed when I was in F&I, you better believe I would have been ‘The No-BS Business Manager’ in my Ford store. I would have been on all platforms with pictures of me standing on the lot with my arms folded looking like a boss. Blogging, posting, answering questions. Yeah…I would have rocked it.

Related: Interview Tips When Hiring F&I Managers – What to Look (and Listen For)

 


 

Did you enjoy this article from Kristine Cain? Read other articles from her here.

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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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