Downtime. No deals. Few ups and just not a lot of activity. Tumbleweeds blowing through the lot. This is every dealer’s nightmare scenario. It happens, though, and when we think of this quiet period in the dealership, everyone defaults to standing around chatting in service, taking a smoke break out behind the bays, or staring endlessly at your phone checking updates on Facebook.

F&IMaybe other staff can afford this kind of mindless inactivity, but F&I managers can actually make good use of this time. It’s not often talked about as we would all like to think there is a non-stop, endless stream of deals from bell-to-bell but that’s simply not the case. There are times (usually during the weekdays and early in the day) that can be dedicated to helping them be better at their job and become more in tune with other departments.

Let’s take a look at 3 ways F&I managers can take full advantage of downtime at the store…

  1. Continuing Education: There is a wealth of training available to every F&I manager and not just within the dealer-sanctioned training programs from large providers. There are education channels all over the Internet as well…even on YouTube. Don’t laugh…believe it or not, there are plenty of quick videos on basic selling techniques and overcoming objections that could help your F&I staff hone their skills or simply give them some new talking points.

Seek out as many opportunities as possible to gain more product knowledge. All of your product vendors likely have sales tips available on their own websites or have YouTube channels that give more information on the existing products you already sell or may have insights on new offerings coming down the line. Use those hours during the week to be an expert in both selling techniques and product knowledge. Brush up on your existing knowledge base and understand that being a professional means learning like one.

  1. Educating Others: Sales and F&I really do share a symbiotic relationship. Each relies on the other to some degree to hold a profit and move the unit. If your F&I managers have downtime, chances are your sales staff is slow, too. Use that time to have F&I conduct trainings for the sales staff. Help them understand the importance of the set-up on products. Maybe have ongoing training on how to overcome objections in a general sense. After all, the salespeople will have many of the same hurdles that F&I has to combat.

F&I can help sales understand more about their own challenges and keep them updated on new product offerings and coverage. The more educated the salespeople are about the F&I process, the easier it is to have them help the process instead of hamper it. When sales and F&I don’t understand how they can help each other, it can be an ugly mess that costs everyone money.

  1. Office Housekeeping: In my years as an F&I manager, one of the things I took pride in was how my office looked to start the day. No matter how busy the store became, I made sure that my office looked professional and inviting to every customer who walked in. Yes, this could be tough on a busy Saturday when deals are flying in and out of the office but when I DID have even just a few minutes, I would take a look around to see what needed to be done to clean up the desk and any other surfaces in my office.

This may seem like a silly thing to make a point of but in today’s busy dealerships, a messy, unorganized desk that looks like a bomb went off is not the image you want to project to customers. Downtime is the perfect time to have the F&I managers get their offices together. Organize forms, files, and visual menus (if your store uses them) in their proper place. Dump the smelly lunch out of your trashcan and ditch the personal clutter.

If you want to help make the F&I process as professional as possible, start with the look and feel of the offices, and encourage this every day when times are slow.

Downtime at a dealership can be put to good use. Socializing with co-workers is fine but always keep an eye on how the time can be spent making your staff better, more knowledgeable, and more cohesive. Efficiency is important ALL the time at your dealership, not just when the floor and lot is filled with customers.

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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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