After four years of covering the finance and insurance world for Automotive News, I put on an F&I manager's hat for a few days.
In June, I participated in part of a four-day F&I training course offered by EFG Cos., in Grapevine, Texas. I've never worked in F&I at a dealership, but I at least had an outsider's view of the basics. Putting myself in an F&I trainee's shoes gave me a new perspective. Here are some takeaways.
- Training is a living document, as EFG says. The instructors carefully watched the students and their responses, noting what small modifications they needed to make before the next sessions.
- Training is ongoing. Most of the 10 students in my class had been in their F&I role only for a few weeks or a few months, but there was one tenured F&I professional and even an independent dealership owner in the class.
- Compliance is complicated. Although the instructor went through many compliance requirements, four days wasn't nearly enough to learn about both the F&I process and compliance standards, a reality that EFG acknowledged. Complex compliance standards need a course of their own. Many of the students had completed separate compliance classes ahead of EFG's training.
- Forgetting a step can throw off the process. Seeing the number of objectives F&I managers have to meet was overwhelming. At the very least, they have to complete the interview, make disclosures, sell products and secure financing. But many do even more. Forgetting just one step means the F&I managers have to go back to the customer later or miss out on a potential F&I product sale.
- Listen to the customer. Customers will buy from someone they trust, someone who knows their history and lifestyle. F&I managers won't know much about the customer until they ask. If the customer is excited about the vehicle technology, for example, they may be more inclined to buy a product that protects it. Or if they blew out three tires the year earlier because of construction or potholes, they may be in the market for tire and wheel protection.
- Build rapport. "Establish rapport" is a tip I've heard often in my reporting, and I learned that doing so and finding common ground with the customer is the key to selling F&I products. It may add more time, but when there's a two-way, engaged dialogue, rather than a presentation or a sales pitch, the time flies by.