F&I Tips


Start where the customer left off

10:06 am U.S. ET | July 29, 2015

Although most customers research products before entering the F&I office, “traditional dealerships still want to take them through all the steps. It creates a lot of tension,” says Justina Davis, director of performance development at JM&A. Instead, she suggests, find out where the customers left off and start the process there. Make what they’re getting at the dealership match their online experience. “Be open and transparent. Show them what’s on the iPad.”... Read More »


Be a proactive recruiter

11:08 am U.S. ET | July 22, 2015

Don’t wait for someone to leave to start recruiting F&I job candidates. To avoid hasty, perhaps bad, decisions, know in advance where to look, advises Suzanne Malo, senior manager for DHG Search, an accounting, finance and IT executive recruiting firm that services auto dealerships and other industries. “Be aware of the people working at your competitors. This kind of familiarity and connection is always beneficial when a seat opens in your dealership.”... Read More »


Less paper means stronger security

10:03 am U.S. ET | July 15, 2015

Embrace e-contracting to increase security, says Jim Dunn, general manager at JM Lexus in Margate, Fla. “With the sensitivity for private information, the less paper you have, the more secure you become,” he said. If a customer requests hard copies, the F&I manager still has the ability to print documents, which could bolster customer satisfaction, he added.... Read More »


Delegate compliance duties to a select few

12:01 am U.S. ET | July 8, 2015

To ensure your dealership remains legally compliant, appoint a select group of compliance staffers, advises Karen Rowe, finance director at Elk Grove Toyota in Elk Grove, Calif. Having seven trained compliance staffers handle that part of the transaction, rather than all 40 employees taking on compliance, is the best way to go, she says.... Read More »


Start relationships right away

11:39 am U.S. ET | July 1, 2015

“Form a rapport in the first 30 seconds” the customer is in the F&I office, advises Rasheed Creary, business manager at Sutliff Volkswagen in Harrisburg, Pa. “If you don’t do that, you’re going to be shut out.” He added: “Customers think F&I managers are just robotic.” Joking around with them makes the process more enjoyable and increases customer retention.... Read More »


Explain service contracts in plain language

12:01 am U.S. ET | June 24, 2015

When marketing service contracts, ask yourself: "How would I explain this to an eighth grader?" advises Nick Smyth, financial services regulatory attorney at Reed Smith law firm. Dealers should disclose what is covered and what is not covered in summary form "using plain English," not technical jargon that goes over the average person's head, he says. "Do it in a way that an eighth grader would understand."... Read More »


Move the F&I office to the sales area

10:51 am U.S. ET | June 17, 2015

Finance managers should get involved in car deals earlier, says Cary Castro, customer financial services director at AutoNation Chevrolet Coral Gables. Her office is at the sales desks so she can work closely with the sales managers from the moment a sales rep arrives with the first pencil price. That way, she says, “I know every single deal, and I can work deals from the beginning so we can maximize our profit per deal.”... Read More »


Help customers drive the conversation on insurance

9:57 am U.S. ET | June 10, 2015

Find a way to encourage customers to ask about ancillary vehicle protection plans, advises Raj Sundaram, co-president of Dealertrack. Dealers should include protection options on their websites so that customers are familiar before they visit the store. “It’s a different conversation when the consumer is initiating it,” he says.... Read More »


Knowing lenders’ niches eases deals

9:40 am U.S. ET | June 3, 2015

If you don’t know your lenders’ niches, ask. Some will say they’re “everything to everybody,” says Mary Byrne, general manager of Bruce Titus Automotive Group in Olympia, Wash., “but they really aren’t.” Some only want credit scores over 600, others predominantly want subprime customers. Pressing the lender to identify its niche will help both the dealership and the lender, she says.... Read More »


Finesse the timing of document printouts

11:32 am U.S. ET | May 27, 2015

Bill Paschen, finance director for Tuttle-Click Automotive Group, recommends preprinting only the temporary plate and the customer menu before inviting the customer into the F&I office. “If you have [all documents] preprinted, you don't get the rapport-building opportunity,” he advises, say, chatting about birthdays. “You can control the deal-flow by how fast you print,” e.g., faster for those in a hurry. And if you made a mistake, “you save trees.”... Read More »


Know GAP product details: Yours vs. theirs

10:45 am U.S. ET | May 20, 2015

In the competition between dealership and insurance company GAP deals, product education is key, says Damien Bullard, president at consulting firm IDDS Group. F&I managers should know the value of their product and how it compares to insurance companies’ offerings. “Product information is so important for finance managers to know if their GAP product is superior,” he says. He also suggests setting up insurance companies in-house to “control the flow.”... Read More »


Employee pricing on F&I can prove invaluable

10:27 am U.S. ET | May 13, 2015

Dealerships should offer employees special pricing on F&I products, says Richard Wentz, F&I manager at Shields Automart (Buick-Cadillac-Chevrolet-GMC) in Paxton, Ill. “From the receptionist to the technicians, having each of them ready to pipe up that they’ve used the VSC [vehicle service contract] or tire-and-wheel is so beneficial to the entire organization,” he says.... Read More »


Eliminate the negative

11:33 am U.S. ET | May 6, 2015

Good relationships with the sales staff are a must for F&I managers, says George Angus, head trainer for Team One Group. Step 1 is to quit complaining about them, he said. “There is an old saying: ‘Stop complaining. Eighty percent of the people don’t care and 20 percent are glad you have the problem.’” If sales staffers are doing something wrong, “many times it’s because they simply don’t know any better.”... Read More »


Simple prop can seal the deal

11:39 am U.S. ET | April 29, 2015

To sell a service contract, try the "stapler close," suggests F&I trainer Tony Dupaquier. Use a stapler and a cellphone as props. The stapler represents a vehicle's engine and transmission. The cellphone represents the vehicle's buttons, scanners, sensors and computers. The stapler likely will operate just as well in a few years. The cellphone? Maybe not, he says. “That's why we need the service contract. It protects against all the computerized pieces we can't repair.”... Read More »


Pitch GAP as loan protection

10:46 am U.S. ET | April 22, 2015

Chris Shields, business manager for Mountain Valley Motors (Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram) in Blue Ridge, Ga., has a simple way to explain GAP. “I remind customers that their insurance company insures the vehicle; GAP insures the loan. And then I explain the other benefits of GAP.” GAP, or guaranteed asset protection, pays the shortfall if the insurance payout on a stolen or totaled vehicle isn't enough to cover the owner's loan or lease balance.... Read More »


Spot delivery? Consider delaying the F&I pitch

12:01 am U.S. ET | April 15, 2015

Customers already overwhelmed by the vehicle deal may reject an immediate F&I sales pitch, says Suzanne Cochrane, general manager at Helms Brothers Inc., a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Bayside, N.Y. Instead, for spot deliveries, her store sends the client out for a meal -- and picks up the tab -- while it runs the paperwork. The F&I menu is reviewed when the client gets back. F&I sales haven’t suffered, she says. It's a "much nicer experience for the client and worth the ... bill."... Read More »


It pays to do your homework

12:01 am U.S. ET | April 8, 2015

F&I managers build credibility -- and sales -- when they know the details of the service contracts they sell. "Read it cover to cover. Know the exceptions and limitations for all of them," advises F&I veteran Jacqueline Paquette-Weedo. Finance managers should also know manufacturer warranties inside and out, she says. "It helps handle objections, limit chargebacks and adds incredible credibility to our jobs as F&I professionals."... Read More »


Light days should never be lazy days

10:10 am U.S. ET | April 1, 2015

Don’t while away the hours on a slow day. “Focus on constructive activities,” George Angus, head trainer at Team One Group, advises F&I managers. “Use this time to hone your skills. Practice your presentation. Develop your lender relations. Be a cheerleader. Whether you know it or not, the people around you look to you for direction.”... Read More »


Take advantage of those pesky potholes

9:33 am U.S. ET | March 25, 2015

It’s spring, time for roads to thaw and F&I managers to stockpile news items on the giant potholes lying in wait. “The Asbury Park Press is full of them,” says Chris Bell, finance director for Freehold Buick-GMC, near the Jersey shore. He has a display stand outside his office, but instead of holding shiny, new wheels it houses dinged up ones. Sales of tire-and-wheel plans “always go up” as a result of winter weather, he says.... Read More »


Better shred than read

11:20 am U.S. ET | March 18, 2015

Timely shredding is an important way to keep confidential customer and dealership information confidential. “The bad guys are not beyond rooting through your trash can looking for identities to steal,” says Boulton Fernando, chief security officer at Toyota Financial Services. “The same applies to wiping of old personal computers, mobile phones and servers. If not disposed of correctly, data can easily be retrieved from hard drives. Shred it!”... Read More »


Technical safeguards need human backup

10:31 am U.S. ET | March 11, 2015

It’s easy to assume that technology alone can protect customer data. In fact, safeguarding data is the responsibility of everyone at the dealership, says Boulton Fernando, chief security officer at Toyota Financial Services. “Technology alone is never enough,” he says. “The bad guys will look for the weakest links, and these are often the untrained and careless employee who believes that ‘anti-virus’ and ‘firewalls’ mean they are safe.”... Read More »


Allow customers time to ponder

11:08 am U.S. ET | March 4, 2015

Customers sometimes need to go home and think, and that’s OK, says Brandon Wood, finance manager at Van Bortel Ford in East Rochester, N.Y. “I work for a dealer principal who never wants any customer feeling pressured, period,” he says. Wood sometimes emails customers a menu of F&I products to look over. He’s created different templates for new-car purchases, used, certified pre-owned and leases. “This saves so much time!”... Read More »


Advanced knowledge makes for easier sell

10:26 am U.S. ET | Feb. 25, 2015

Some F&I managers don't interview customers before they get to the F&I office for fear of provoking sales resistance. But Fred Gitter, business manager for Lia Honda in Albany, N.Y., makes it a point to interview first-time customers so he can set up a customized menu. "A quick understanding of who I am dealing with ... and a quick overview of their driving habits," Gitter says, makes for an easier sell.... Read More »


Focus on customers’ needs, not numbers

11:03 am U.S. ET | Feb. 18, 2015

Here’s an experiment for March. For the entire month, don’t peek at the numbers. Pay attention only to customers’ needs and wants. Jason Melton, finance manager at Roger Jobs Porsche in Bellingham, Wash., did the test in January and discovered at month’s end he had improved 10 to 15 percent per retail unit. Through Feb. 15, he improved some more.... Read More »


To sell F&I, keep calm and carry on

10:26 am U.S. ET | Feb. 11, 2015

F&I managers can’t let frustration over customer objections show, even with body language, which can say: “If you’re not going to buy anything, then get the heck out of my office,” according to F&I trainer Ron Reahard. It’s important to explore the customer’s real motivation. Use reflective probes, Reahard advises, such as, “So you feel like it’s more than you can afford?” or “You’re not sure you need the protection?”... Read More »

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