Article

Escape From Finance Island

F&I pros can use sympathy, efficiency and leadership to break down the barriers between themselves and the sales team.

November 2014, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Jason Heard

It has been said that no man is an island. We all need support from our families, friends and colleagues at some point. F&I professionals are no exception, but they too often find themselves marooned on Finance Island. It’s a lonely place where your only connection to the mainland is a constant stream of complaints from salespeople, sales managers and office staff.

It’s time to escape from Finance Island by building a bridge to the mainland. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s put our focus on the sales team. Most finance managers have sold cars at some point. If you have made a living from greeting walk-ins, answering

Internet leads and handling phone ups, then you should have a healthy level of empathy for what that job entails and what a typical salesperson is up against on a daily basis.
So if you can remember what life is like on the sales side — or at least empathize — you should be better at your job. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

1. Salespeople Use Quality to Build Value

When you greet a customer in the F&I office and immediately begin casting doubt on their new vehicle’s dependability or reliability in the hopes of scaring them into buying a service contract, you run the risk of creating an adversarial relationship between the customer and the salesperson. Assume the salesperson sold the customer on quality and imagine the consequences of shattering that image.

The customer will feel they have been led astray, and unnecessarily so. The quality of the vehicle is not in question. F&I products are designed to add layers of protection to the customer’s investment. Forcing the salesperson to defend their pitch is a no-win proposition. You can create a level of need for your products without undermining their efforts.

2. Salespeople Want the Car Delivered — Now

Salespeople can get nervous on deals. Perhaps it is a bonus unit. Maybe the buyer has been tough to deal with. Possibly it is a referral customer and they just want everything to go smoothly. Whatever the reason, they simply want the car gone.

This needs to be acknowledged when you are talking to them about the deal before they TO the customer. Stay positive, keep calm and be efficient. Remember that you have a leadership position in the dealership. If you make a salesperson — or their deal — feel unimportant, you could create a morale issue that will spread like wildfire through the entire sales force.

3. Salespeople Need Allies

Sitting in an ivory tower and barking out orders is no way to build a spirit of camaraderie. There is a lot of power in helping. Famed entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn was often quoted about the power of “let’s go do” as opposed of “you go do.”

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that you do anybody else’s job for them. I am saying that, by pitching in to help the sales team close a deal, you can become an ally. If someone has to call the customer’s insurance agent and you have the time, do it. If you don’t have their driver’s license and the machine is free, make a copy. If the customer forgot to list a reference on the credit application, ask them to complete it while you are handling the paperwork. Again, you don’t have to do the sales team’s job for them, but it’s better to be a traffic warden than a roadblock.

Every worker in every dealership has good days, bad days, superb days and frustrating days. Just remember that everyone is working toward the same goal and nobody wants to be stuck on an island.

Jason Heard is the general sales manager at Frank Ancona Honda in Olathe, Kan. He is a 20-year industry veteran with extensive sales management experience. [email protected]

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