Finance managers know that end-of-the-month sales are traditionally strong, but the volume they encounter during the last week of the year can throw off even auto finance veterans.
Although U.S. new light-vehicle sales through November were down slightly from a year earlier, they're on pace to reach a healthy 17.1 million this year, according to the Automotive News Data Center.And many vehicle sales are made during the last week of the month, when customers hunt for bargains.
"During the last week of the year I would first say, 'Don't panic,' " said Karen Rowe, finance director at Elk Grove Toyota in California, of advice she gives new finance staff. "In most cases, training has been sufficient, so you have the knowledge you need to do well. Take your time, don't worry about what other staff members are doing and stay focused."
The best way to stay on track with compliance and easily move through the year-end crunch with high customer satisfaction scores is to not skimp on staff, training or procedures, Rowe said.
"We staff pretty aggressively. We are ready for that influx of business," Rowe said. "I don't allow my staff to see 80 to 100 car deals a month. As volume increases, I increase staff."
And she doesn't bring in new hires. Instead, she monitors hires on the sales floor as potential F&I department recruits. Strong candidates are detail-oriented yet have strong social skills that allow them to engage with customers while working as part of a team. Maturity, professionalism and, most of all, strong ethical bents are also key.
And as part of the team, members are expected to show they're all in, working as much as needed with no time off during the last week of the year.
"I'm always monitoring at least two people on the sales floor," Rowe said. "It probably isn't the top salesperson but it is someone who has all of the qualities and can make the switch from selling tangible to nontangible goods. There is a difference."