October 2015, Auto Dealer Today - Feature
Recently I was asked whether it is ever a good idea to talk politics or religion in the finance manager’s office. I responded with, “WTF!” … Before you get too excited, don’t forget, this is a family magazine. “WTF” stands for “We think forward.” What were you thinking?
You were thinking what everyone else thinks. As with politics and religion, that particular initialism can be interpreted in more than one way. Now your thought process will remember “We think forward” whenever you see it. At least I hope so.
Wouldn’t you agree that the automotive finance professional has determined by occupation to be a forward thinker? The world doesn’t care about your outside-the-office pursuits, especially with respect to your deeply held personal beliefs. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act makes it unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status or age.
OK, so what happens when the customer broaches these topics? Well, I’ll share with you some knowledge I gained first as a young lad whose father served as a state senator and deputy chief of staff for the governor of Minnesota and now as the brother of our state representative: Artful deflection is your best friend.
Many a customer walks into my office with full knowledge of my familial ties and a compulsive desire to guess at my political affiliations and opinions on a variety of matters both foreign and domestic. I acknowledge the connection and invoke my right to freely decide upon another topic. When pressed, I frequently use humor. Experienced F&I professionals know the value of a quick wit. A single mother of three once came into my office to finalize the purchase of a used minivan. “I suppose this the part where you bend me over and stick it to me,” she quipped. I stopped writing, looked up and replied, “This isn’t the time for romance. I’m just trying to sell you this van!” She laughed until she cried. Then she signed the paperwork.
The F&I office is a great place to do business. It is a lousy place to discuss just about anything else. Every guest will have their own set of values and viewpoints. I’m just trying to deliver the deal. Change the subject. We think forward.
Who are you voting for? Red flag! What church do you go to? Red flag! You don’t want to tell them and they don’t need to know. Even if your philosophies align, they won’t (or shouldn’t) help move iron over the curb. You distinguish your character through your flawless handling and treatment of guests during your entire time together. Be a professional and expect the same of your managers and coworkers.
With all the various components of a car deal, we are obliged to focus on the task at hand. We need to rehearse it, curse it, nurse it and disburse it. As in any highly skilled professional position, ongoing training, practice and mastery of skills is paramount. Don’t always do what you always did or you will always get what you always got. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.
Your beliefs are your own and your customers need to respect that. We think forward! Now go out there and make me proud.
G.P. Anderson is finance director of Thielen Motors Chevrolet Buick in Park Rapids, Minn., and a 25-year industry veteran. He is AFIP-certified, a 2008 F&I Pacesetter and winner of the inaugural 2011 F&Idol contest. [email protected]