At what point should F&I managers stop pitching F&I products and take a customer's "no" for an answer?
A panel of five F&I managers at a conference in September said it takes at least three or four "nos" to convince them that a customer really can't be persuaded. Persisting beyond that point is counterproductive, the managers said.
But some F&I vendors ask: Why stop there? The companies are coming up with ways to send car buyers an F&I sales pitch long after they have taken delivery and left the store.
"Why does the selling have to stop with the menu presentation?" said Shawn McCool, co-founder of iTapMenu in Carmel, Ind. This year the company introduced an electronic F&I menu that operates on an iPad.
The software's latest optional feature, called Sell More, automatically e-mails a sales pitch for F&I products to car buyers days after they've taken delivery. McCool said last month that the new feature was just being introduced, so it was too early to tell how well it would work.
"A lot of consumers get to that point in the process, after they've made the decision to buy the car, they get turned over to F&I, and they have shut themselves off. They have programmed themselves to say 'no,'" McCool said. "When they get out of that selling environment and a week later they get an e-mail, out of that environment, they may be open to a service contract or paint protection or whatever."
The e-mail isn't a hard sell, McCool said. The customer has to opt in and click on a link for "more information." Only then does the customer see a videotaped product presentation, he said.
Innovative Aftermarket Systems, an administrator and F&I software developer in Austin, Texas, offers a product called SmartOffer, which enables dealers to e-mail customers a customizable product presentation. The product was originally designed for Internet customers, so dealers could conduct an F&I interview and pitch products to Internet customers prior to the sale. But it can also be used to send out information after the F&I transaction, said Matt Nowicki, vice president of retail software.
Mark Thorpe, president of Impact Group Inc. in Hopkinton, N.H., says he's skeptical.
Impact Group develops software for dealerships, including F&I product presentation software, but Thorpe says the company hasn't come up with something specifically aimed at making a sale after the customer has left the store.
"Our industry has repeatedly tried to develop a way to follow up on opportunities after the point of sale, without success," he said. "From e-mail campaigns to call centers, nothing has really worked very well."
iTapMenu's McCool acknowledges his company's new F&I sales feature isn't for everyone. Still, he says, an incremental sale is an incremental sale.
"We're not turning the industry upside down with this feature," McCool says. "But we've shown it to a lot of [dealership] people, and, so far, the reaction is an overwhelming home run. They get it."