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Small changes in F&I questions can yield big results

Buyers are already on edge when they come into the F&I office…the last thing they need is to feel like they are in The Inquisition

To sell anything to anyone, regardless of the product or industry, it’s important to master one thing: asking the right questions. In the dealership environment, this is especially critical in F&I, where the entire process can be made up of equal parts anxiety and skepticism. It’s a tough place to sell for sure.

F&I managers are tasked with gathering an enormous amount of information to help do their job most effectively. Trainings over the decades have focused on solid selling principles and techniques to help present features and benefits of all products on the menu but how to ask the right questions is something that morphs a bit over time.

Different generations of buyers come and go, and so do their priorities regarding their driving circumstances and now the type of vehicle they are buying. Just think of the surge of EVs they are buying. The questions asked for a VSC now versus 20 years ago have changed a lot.

How you ask is as important as what you ask

Buyers are already on edge when they come into the F&I office…the last thing they need is to feel like they are in The Inquisition. Rapid-fire questions that only illicit one-word answers are going to cause the entire interaction to fail miserably. They will feel like every question is simply moving to a sale for the F&I manager, not an honest discussion about what THEY need.

Asking questions that draw out a bigger picture of the buyer and what their driving experience may be like will help move you to the better-qualified sale in a seamless manner. For example, if you notice that their trade has stickers on it from a local national park, for example, ask, “I see you have visited Yellowstone…what was it like there?”

Simple question, but it helps open the customer up to talking about their trip and perhaps other vacations they have taken that meant long drives. Now you can more easily use that information to focus on a maintenance plan or VSC to help their new car be ready for their adventures.

Now, if you change just a few words in that question, it’s easy to see where the momentum stops. “I see you have visited Yellowstone…have you seen any other national parks?” The easy answer may very well be “No,” ….and then you’re done. Awkward silence, and then on to the next closed-ended question. Not ideal and does little to build rapport or move the process forward naturally.

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Questions at the end matter, too

Salespeople of all sorts tend to have a terrible habit of making their pitch and ending it with what they THINK is a strong, clarifying statement at the end, but it comes off a bit arrogant at times. “…does that make sense?” is used often to be sure the buyer understands the value of the product you have presented when in reality, it can make them feel like the salesperson is assuming they might not get it. Buyers DO get it, and rather than talk down to them this way, the better approach may be to ask, “how does that sound?” or “what are your thoughts?”. This encourages the buyer to be a more involved participant in the sale than simply assuming they don’t understand. It’s minor semantic differences that can hold all the power in the success or failure of the closing process in F&I.

How you answer is important

Buyers who feel comfortable in the F&I office will also ask plenty of questions. They want to know as much as possible about their options and want to be educated on the value relative to their individual ownership and driving situation. How you answer is important here but not just in terms of detail but also in how you choose to respond.

If asked what precisely the VSC covers in terms of individual components, you could rattle off a list you have memorized or show the list onscreen. Or you could start with a few quick sentences about the increasing cost of parts industry-wide—no long paragraphs, no speeches but shorter responses that keep the conversation flowing.

Why? The last thing you want to do is bore the buyer to death by droning on and on. Keep answers shorter and with an ongoing exchange as the goal. This shows your buyer that you are not just an order taker but someone genuinely interested in them as a valued customer.

F&I managers are constantly trained in the standard qualifying questions. While there’s nothing wrong with that as a foundation for good consultative selling, small shifts like these can take the process to a more successful place for you and more comfortable for your buyer. Always make it about helping them open up, and your PVR will thank you for it.


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Kristine Cain
Kristine Cain
Kristine is a freelance writer in the automotive industry with experience in both F&I and B2B sales to the auto industry for over 20 years. You can reach her at kristine@caincopywriting.com.

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