Article

Keeping The Personal Touch In Auto Financing

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Marc Starkey - Also by this author

The last five years have brought tremendous changes to the world of auto finance. These days, increased technology and automation are the norm, evolving every day to help make the process more efficient and effective. While these innovations provide great value to both dealers and sales finance companies—offering improved accuracy and speed in contract purchasing—they clearly take some of the personal touch out of auto finance.

In the age of automated phone systems, the working relationship between dealer and their sales finance company has never been more important. As we become increasingly dependent on technology to handle our daily transactions, it is imperative that we make an extra effort to cultivate the personal side of our business. Taking the time to develop a relationship with your sales finance company can pay off immensely for you and your dealership.
At times, it feels like the relationship between dealers and those that purchase retail installment contracts is more adversarial than mutually beneficial. Each has their own performance goals, rules of engagement and ways of doing business. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Banks or sales finance companies want and need their dealer partners to be happy and successful. With a little effort by both parties, good communication and mutual trust can drive the business relationship – which helps everyone win in the end.

Thinking “outside the box” can go a long way toward building rapport. For example, Drive Financial Services® often relies less on scoring models and more on conversations to make credit decisions on tough deals. During that process, some deals work that otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance of being purchased. We work to forge relationships with our dealers that can’t be created via fax or e-mail. We believe these relationships are extremely valuable and, consequently, they are an important part of our business philosophy.

Building Strong Relationships

All business essentially comes down to relationships. For most customers, buying decisions are made more on gut feeling than reason. There might be several dealerships that can offer the same or even slightly lower price on the same car. But if the customer likes you more, chances are you’ll get the sale.

Similarly, there are many companies out there vying for your business in a highly volatile marketplace. Finding trusted banks that have strong financial backing and a history of success can put your mind at ease about getting your deals purchased consistently. Here are some other ideas for boosting your relationships:

Find a sales finance company whose style is compatible to yours. Some finance companies have different styles of doing the same thing. How do they accept applications? What is the preferred method of communication? Find one that works well with the kinds of customers you deal with most frequently. If you can find a company that you feel comfortable doing business with, you’ll see an increase in volume.

Make a commitment. A continuing partnership can create a competitive advantage for your dealership. Shopping around for every deal can be time-consuming and often doesn’t save you that much money. Making a commitment to a few specific companies can take a lot of hassle out of the financing process and will help to build the relationships that can be beneficial in the future. Increasing volume to a single company helps you streamline the process and earns you a “preferred dealer” status with many. What’s more, a strong relationship can give you the right to ask for favors when you need them.

Learn the program. The more you know about the program the more successful your relationship will be. What steps are the most important and what are the preferred types of verification? The purchasing process will be much swifter if you can provide the things that are non-negotiable every time.

Communicate regularly. It’s important for your sales finance company to know what your needs are. Find ways to communicate with them even when things are going well or no deals are pending. Getting your name and face in front of your buyers is a critical step in building strong relationships.

Get to know the people. Find out about your credit buyer or sales representative. Ask for some personal information about their family or hobbies. You’ll be the dealer that they remember and are willing to go the extra mile for.

Most sales finance companies and banks know that a high level of service and personal relationships are the key to gaining your trust and getting your business. By working together more deals get financed and more customers hit the road in your vehicles.

Marc Starkey is Senior Vice President of Marketing at Drive Financial Services®, LP. Drive Financial Services, LP (www.drivefinancial.com).

Vol 2, Issue 9

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