The F&I department and the process by which they deliver profit for the dealer has been stuck in one paradigm. Customers spend too much time picking out the perfect car and then dread the walk to ‘The Box’ where the F&I manager lays in wait to push them into buying aftermarket products they think they don’t need and taking an interest rate they can’t really afford. It’s no wonder consumers often say they would rather get a root canal without anesthetic than deal with the F&I manager.
The fact that buying a car has had so many steps involved makes a good case for trying what some in the automotive sales space have been quietly trying for the last few years – having the salesperson do it all.
More simply put, one salesperson or ‘sales consultant’ shepherds the customer from picking out the car on the lot all the way to putting the tags on and watching them drive off.
They handle it all.
Risky or an Idea Whose Time has Come?
Most F&I managers would say this is not beneficial and that they are skilled in not only high-margin aftermarket sales but also trained in the art of working a financing deal with banks and captives that they have come to know and understand. They know how to get deals bought and it takes training that salespeople don’t have. Fair point.
But in today’s increasingly digital sales environment and with Millennial and Gen Z buyers looking for a more seamless way to buy a car, perhaps a one-person car sales experience is an idea whose time has come. And it’s abundantly clear the old way of spending 4-5 hours at a dealership is not appealing to anyone of any generation.
Benefits of One Point of Sales Contact
Here are two of the most obvious benefits of having all steps in the car buying process be handled by one sales consultant, including F&I.
- Saves Time– It bears repeating. One less step or handoff to another department means the buyers get out to their shiny new car faster. Happy customers mean higher CSI scores, too. The process takes too long and has for decades.
Consultants can handle the price negotiation and pivot immediately to financing options and presentation of aftermarket products all at the same desk. Quick and easy.
- Smoother Connection to the Buyer – When you work with one person throughout a buying experience, it lends itself to a better sense of connection, a better rapport.
Think about the last time you bought a house. You worked with one realtor from beginning to end. They help guide you through choosing a house, making an offer, negotiating the deal, and on through to the closing. Now imagine that process with three different people trying to help you with the biggest purchase of your life. See the difference?
Having one consultant handle everything makes the connection stronger and people will naturally be more open to buying aftermarket products and protections because now there is a level of trust. This one person is helping you with everything. It will be psychologically harder to say ‘No’.
None of this is to say that F&I is ‘going away’ anytime soon as many in the industry have predicted over the last few years. More online retailers like Carvana have been making waves in the market by offering an entirely digital car buying experience. That is good for many shoppers but not all. Some still like the human connection involved in car buying.
F&I is a more highly regulated position as well. State and Federal rules govern much of the compliance aspect of the job but with the same training they get now, a sales consultant can be trained up on all the same.
They can also share in the profits and make a higher income handling the entire process. They can be incentivized in much the same way F&I managers are now, and that level of earning can bring with it an increased sense of responsibility to get it right every time.
Profits increase and CSI scores will, too. And happy customers become repeat customers. All because the process was simplified.
By pushing F&I product presentations to a one-person model, dealers can better control the overall process by having only one person executing paperwork. Compliance could be easier with a few less people involved. Training is easier with one person than several.