How salespeople erode ties with the finance office

Dupaquier: Stop coaching
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As F&I and sales departments struggle to find ways to work together, there are bound to be gripes on both sides. Even so -- and with all due respect to sales staffers' point of view -- there are some things salespeople do that can frustrate the finance office, F&I insiders say. Here are a few:

•  Snap judgments. Sales professionals some-times prejudge customers based on appearance or something they said and decide those customers can't afford much. "I try not to listen to my salespeople. I've caught myself immediately discounting things before I even presented them," says Stephanie Cooper, finance manager for Timbrook Automotive in Cumberland, Md.

•  Mystery deals. The sales department, especially the Internet sales department, sometimes neglects to tell the F&I office that a customer is coming to take delivery. F&I trainer Gerry Gould calls these Mysteriously Appeared Deals. MADs have a bad habit of turning up on busy Saturdays, he says, when the F&I office is backed up. "No one's ready," he told F&I conference-goers recently. "The only person who knows about that deal is the sales manager." Gould, who is director of training for United Development Systems Inc. in Clearwater, Fla., said F&I managers share the blame for Mysteriously Appeared Deals. They should reach out to the Internet sales team and stay on top of sales in the works. "Don't be blindsided," he said. "Form an alliance with the sales staff."

• Third-base coaching. Whether accidentally or on purpose, salespeople sometimes talk customers out of buying F&I products, says Tony Dupaquier, director of F&I training at American Financial & Automotive Services in The Woodlands, Texas. He says it's fairly common for customers to say at the time of sale they won't buy an extended service contract because they've been told the service contract can be purchased at any time and doesn't have to be purchased at the same time as the car. "Where do most customers learn that? The sales department," Dupaquier says. That makes the sales staffer on the deal a third-base coach -- someone who talks a customer out of a deal or a product at the last moment. It's usually a relative or a friend, but sometimes it's the salesperson.

•  Half-baked deals. These can include such things as incomplete or missing paperwork or customers being turned over to the F&I office when they're nowhere near ready to start the F&I process. In addition to irritating the F&I manager, incomplete deals slow the process, increase the risk of not complying with required disclosures, and irritate customers, says F&I trainer Becky Chernek, president of Chernek Consulting in Cumming, Ga. "This happened at a dealership: a customer looking at me and saying, 'Honey, I haven't even taken the test drive yet.' "

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com.

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