Many F&I managers take a consultative approach with customers. Still, some customers enter dealerships convinced stereotypical — fast-talking, deal-padding — salespeople are ready to pounce.
How can F&I managers convince customers that those stereotypes are as obsolete as eight-track tape players? Savvy dealers, general managers and finance managers weigh in.
W. Kevin Collins, owner of Bill Collins Ford-Lincoln of Louisville, Ky.: "I've found when people are hostile, it's only because they are confused or think they aren't prepared for the F&I transaction. Their last vehicle may have had factory-sponsored zero percent financing; factory rebates may have been different. In order to defuse consumer anxiety, we recap the conditions of their last deal. Then we use current menus and other tools to illustrate comparisons of packages, warranties and products in order to develop an accurate monthly payment."
Tony Giorgione, auto consultant for Grand Pacific Media in Destin, Fla.: "Even customers that have had positive past experiences at auto dealerships will have anxiety levels of 10 when they walk in. It's vital to sit down with them and show them exactly what products are available, exactly what the products include and exactly what they cost. A good finance person sells the product through a presentation, brochures and menus. They also take the customers' driving styles into account. One example is if a customer keeps a car a long time, it's to their benefit to consider extras such as sealants."
Jay Prince, vice president of Prince Automotive Group in Tifton, Ga.: "A lot of times customers just want someone to listen to them. Allowing them to vent makes them feel like they are still in control. It is also important to reassure the customer that they received a great deal and made a great decision to buy at this dealership. Explaining what is going to happen next just reassures them."
Stephanie Cooper, finance manager for Timbrook Automotive in Cumberland, Md.: "Usually, a hostile customer comes from previous bad experiences at another dealer. Our job is not to over inform; it is to assist the customer with what they specifically need. There are four words that can usually break down someone pretty quickly: 'How can we help?' These words are powerful to someone who has felt mistreated or misunderstood. If they ask a question, answer it honestly, transparently and with full disclosure."
Phil Maguire, owner of Maguire Family of Dealerships in Ithaca, N.Y.: "We don't have F&I staff. Our salespeople present the financial products to the customers. They build rapport with the customers as they go through the sales process and start the product presentation portion halfway through. When they're talking about features and benefits, it's the perfect time to integrate financial product presentation. That's the secret to building rapport and having a high penetration rate."