Most sales gurus will tell you that the pitch matters, the right questions matter, and that the ‘consultative sale’ is critical to high performance in F&I. But there is something that is more important to sales success and rarely every talked about. Certainly not talked about enough in the F&I office – the power of listening.

Listening to your customers in a way that helps zero in on how your products will benefit them is not an easy task. It takes a particular skill to ‘listen between the lines’ and hear clues to how best to present your products. It takes patience and it relies on a person’s ability to ask the right questions every time.

Is It Really THAT Important?

Why is listening so important in sales? There are several reasons. The first is that most people want someone to listen to them. In today’s fast-paced world, however, few of us get someone’s undivided attention for very long.

The second reason listening is so important in sales is that since there are so few good listeners these days, those who are will stand out in the customer’s mind. This means that by being a good listener, you will stand out among your peers. Your F&I department will be more profitable, and everyone wins.

If your customer gets the sense that you are tuned into what they are saying when they tell you about their driving habits or how many road trips they take as a family, it makes them feel as though they matter. Even when you know that you are looking for specific bits of information to be able to pivot to the right item on the F&I menu, they don’t necessarily know that. They want to feel heard.

Here are a few tips to help you stop talking and start listening.

Put the phone away

Our interactions in the world seems to always be interrupted by our obsession with our phones. When a customer comes into the F&I office, turn the phone off or put it on vibrate. If you hear the phone, you are not listening to your customer’s needs.

Don’t interrupt as they answer your questions

If you are talking, you are not able to listen. It’s seems simple but so many F&I managers can’t help themselves from slipping into product talking points. While this is normal when you give the same pitches hundreds of times a month, try to pull back and give the customer time to make their point.

Always ask open-ended questions

It’s going back to Sales 101 here but it’s worth reiterating that open-ended questions give you the key insights into what the hot buttons are for specific products.

If you can’t help yourself, simply put your hand near your mouth if possible

It may sound silly but it’s a little trick that can help. If you are physically aware of your hand being so close to your mouth, the brain may use that as a reminder to not talk.

Maintain eye contact

Again, a simple thing taught to us by our parents when we were small children. ‘Look at people when they talk to you’. In the F&I office, it’s just as important. Customers will immediately feel you are not listening if you are looking at your phone or at the menu screen. Taking down some notes quickly is fine but keep your eyes on the customer.

Know how to handle the awkward silences

Don’t be afraid of them. Just make sure you are ready with questions to keep conversation going. If the silence comes during the talk about finance/credit/stips, be empathetic and know that the customer may be overly sensitive talking about these issues. Watch for body language cues like folded arms or exasperated sighs…it all means the customer is uncomfortable with something about the process. Be open and lighten the mood if possible…it will go a long way to gaining trust.

The key is to listen and try to understand what they really want. They have come into the dealership to buy a car and unless they have done all the research themselves about F&I products, they are relying on your staff to walk them through the menu and to listen to what the need AND want.

Be a good listener and watch your PRU and CSI go up. Customers who feel that they are heard are more likely to respond well to your sales presentation and they will be more likely to give your store good reviews, too.

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

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