Teaching F&I students how to handle the hardest customers in market

Dupaquier: "Techniques that work very well with the millennial customer base work equally well, if not better, with all customer bases."

Retail expert Tony Dupaquier is teaching his F&I students to think forward, such embracing one employee for both sales and F&I and using services such as GoToMeeting to reach online customers.

Dupaquier took over as director of The Academy, an F&I training center, in Austin, Texas, in June. The Academy is part of Service Group, an F&I income development company that provides insurance products, training and servicing solutions to dealerships.

Dupaquier, who has worked for and with auto retailers for nearly 25 years, will teach classes on F&I, Internet sales, vehicle sales, and sales management.

He is also developing the school’s curriculum and marketing outreach.

Before joining The Academy, Dupaquier was director of training at consulting firm American Financial & Automotive Services for 15 years.

Dupaquier spoke this week with Staff Reporter Hannah Lutz.

What F&I ideas will you bring to your new position?

More forward-thinking techniques, things like hybrid F&I where you have a single individual that not only sells the vehicle but also introduces the F&I products.

We’re also working on how to bring F&I to the online customer. One of the easiest ways that’s currently available is through online meeting services, like join.me and GoTo Meeting.

We’re also re-evaluating the sales processes inside the dealership to be more forward-thinking for today’s more progressive customer. Manufacturers are pushing the dealerships to update their sales techniques for the younger generation customer, but there are not a lot of solutions for that right now. Now we’re looking at other industries’ techniques to integrate into the automotive field.

What main points that today’s F&I managers or dealers may be missing will you emphasize to students?

Presentations have got to be about the customer. The personalization of the products to the customer are imperative, especially with today’s younger-generation, tech-savvy customer base. A lot of traditional F&I processes seem to be more about the F&I manager trying to sell the customer something, while today’s younger generation, the millennial customer, they investigate products so much. They want to see how products work in their life specifically. It has to be about them. The F&I process has to be about the customer, not the F&I manager.

Do you train students to approach younger customers differently than older consumers?

Our F&I process is more designed for the Millennial-Gen Y customer base. They’re the most predominant in the buying industry. We’ve come to find out that the techniques that work very well with the millennial customer base work equally well, if not better, with all customer bases.

When we can work and be successful with a 23-year-old female, most other customers are a little bit easier. Millennials are the hardest customers in the market because they have grown up on the Internet. They’ve grown up with Google. If they want to know something, they look it up. If they walk in and someone tries to sell them something, they’re not going to be interested. We design our training and processes around our most difficult customer. When we have success with our most difficult customers, everyone else is easier.

How does technology change dealerships’ F&I processes?

We certainly endorse utilizing tablet menus to allow business managers to go to customers. Last week, working with an RV dealership on a tablet menu, we were doing the transaction essentially inside the RV with the people that were buying. I don’t foresee doing that within the confines of a car, but tablet technology and WiFi allows F&I managers to go to the customer.

What are some of the differences between the F&I managers in training and veteran F&I managers?

Overall, the business managers that we see in class are, for the most part, all the same cut. Whether they are a tenured business manager or a brand-new business manager coming off of the floor, there always seems to be certain traits of those people that are common. One of them is the basic ability to accept a “no” answer and not get flustered. We find that millennials are great salespeople, but they don’t respond well to the direct “no” answer. If they’re able to move past it, those are the ones who become the business managers.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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