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Using ‘thought tracks’ to build trust, F&I sales

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Scripted F&I interviews or casual customer conversations? That’s the choice F&I managers are beginning to face as they look to build trust with customers, two trainers say.

The longstanding practice of using hard-scripted word tracks to conduct customer interviews and sell F&I products especially may need adjustment as dealerships seek to engage younger buyers, says Scott Gunnell, director of sales administration and strategy at JM&A Group in Deerfield Beach, Fla. “Millennials are looking for an authentic transaction,” he said.

JM&A still teaches the word-track technique for F&I interviews and product presentations, but it’s also piloting the technique of “thought tracks.”

Building trust

With the thought-track process, F&I managers address the same questions during the F&I interview and sales process as they would with a word track, but they use their own words for a “more authentic approach,” Gunnell said. JM&A helps F&I managers sort that out, posing the question: “What do you need to accomplish in this step of the transaction and how do you achieve authenticity with a thought track?”

George Angus, president of F&I consulting firm Team One Group in Scottsdale, Ariz., also teaches managers to “use their own natural way of speaking.”

“An explanation of credit life is as simple as ‘If either of you should die, the car would be paid off,’” Angus said.

The primary benefit of conversational offers, Angus said, is that they build a more trusting relationship with the customer. “The minute [F&I managers] try to sell you something, you’re going to resist,” he said. The conversational approach “doesn’t trigger that sales resistant response.”

Word tracks still deliver

Word tracks have been around since at least the late 1970s, according to Angus. And many managers continue to use them.

Gunnell sees nothing wrong with that. F&I managers still benefit from using word tracks, he said. That’s because prepared interview questions isolate customers’ product issues, enabling F&I managers to tailor menus according to their needs, he said.

JM&A has “a library of word tracks based on customer questions or responses,” he said. When customers turn down a product, one word-tracked reply might be: “Most customers generally find value in one or more of the products on the menu. Was it the cost or coverage that concerns you?” The customer’s response would determine the next step, he said.

Word tracks provide an organized, consistent and customer-centric approach, Gunnell said.

“In F&I today, we don’t have a lot of time with the consumer. There’s a lot of work in a short order of time,” he said. “By giving them clear direction, we make sure we accomplish everything we need to accomplish while addressing the customers’ needs.”

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com

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