June 18, 2019

The 3 Essential Traits of High-Profit F&I Managers

F&I managers have a very complex role to play. From selling F&I products to negotiating with lenders, to leading salespeople, to managing compliance; F&I managers can singlehandedly influence the bottom line by millions of dollars. So it’s no surprise that F&I remains one the most highly monitored and deeply analyzed departments in the dealership. Given the direction of our industry and nature of deals today, I’m sure that you would agree, F&I profits are more than important, they’re absolutely critical! Dealers everywhere are looking for more. While success in F&I requires a very diverse and developed skill-set, there are three essential traits that when refined can radically transform any professional into a high-profit F&I manager.

Trait #1: Prepare

High-profit F&I managers are committed to mastery in all that they do. Not only do they constantly work to better prepare themselves for success, but they also work to prepare anyone else who affects the overall success of the deal as well. They actively come alongside their sales team, their sales managers, their buyers, and funders to help everyone sell and finance more vehicles more profitably. If you are looking to create and capitalize on more opportunity in F&I, look at your preparation. In this ever-changing marketplace, you are either growing or dying.

No one stays the same. It’s in the preparation that you and your team can make the greatest advancements. You have to admit, there is some level of redundancy in every deal. Take objections for example; there have been no new objections for years! Whatever the “reason” was for you not successfully motivating that last person to take action, not getting that last deal approved, or not selling that last product… unless you’re new to F&I, you’ve heard it all before. Why not prepare for what you know is coming? Make no mistake, the success of any deal will always come down to what you ask, what you say, and how you act. In order to change the trajectory of your month, you have to make adjustments when the barrage of deals isn’t firing. I am a firm believer that it is what you do at work that generates your income, but it is what you do to prepare for your work that determines your income!

Trait #2: Position

John C. Maxwell has been widely recognized for decades as one of the world’s top teacher and thinker on leadership; and he recently announced, “Here is what I know: the effectiveness of your work will never rise above your ability to lead and influence others.” High-profit F&I managers know that at the end of the day, it’s all about influence! Consequently, they take special care to position themselves as a trusted advisor as they learn, lead, and leverage what really drives their customers. Too many F&I managers get stuck by focusing on the what in their presentations, whereas high-profit F&I managers leverage the personal whys. Face it, fully explaining the features, facts, and figures associated with a particular product or service is not leading, and it is surely not selling. On paper, the features, facts, and figures may be unique, but customers don’t care. All that matters to your customers is how you can change their life… literally!

It’s all about them, and not about you, your product or service. What is specific and personal to your customer is compelling, but the rest is largely ignored. Therefore, the most valuable information in the deal will never be your knowledge of the products or programs, which is expected; but rather, the most valuable information in the deal is the personal knowledge you gain about your customers. If you are treating everyone the same in F&I, you are completely missing the boat, because each customer is unique. High-profit F&I managers know that true influence only begins when you align with your customers!

Trait #3: Persist

High-profit F&I managers are unapologetically persistent! They’re excited, they’re sold, they’re certain, and it shows. While always persistent, you will not find these managers putting on the pressure. They don’t need to. After all, sales pressure is really just a sign of weakness. It’s a tell-tale indicator that when push comes to shove the F&I manager has very little personal knowledge of the customer, and only is able to demonstrate one or two solid reasons why the customer should buy. After a couple of “No’s”, frustration and desperation sets in, and unequipped F&I managers are left to pressure their customers by unskillfully repeating what they had already said again and again. Conversely, high-profit F&I managers are able to continue to ask for the sale many times without sounding redundant or their customers feeling pressured because they use all 5 levels of value and adhere to the following…

1: They expect resistance and they don’t take it personally.

High-profit F&I managers are very aware that ‘No’ comes with the territory. They understand that customer reluctance is simply a natural occurrence in the process. Your customer’s first “No” often has nothing to do with you or your offering at all.

2: They acknowledge the implied commitment that comes with “No.”

High-profit F&I managers know that “No” is many times nothing more than a “time-out” that customers use to allow themselves the opportunity to work through their “instant-replay,” if you will. “No” is just your customer’s first step in committing to a purchase.

3: They don’t get defensive or argue with their customers.

High-profit F&I managers know defensive responses merely strengthen their customers’ original concerns. Nothing will get your customers feeling better about their “No” than a defensive response from you. Stay cool, calm, and collected.

4: They use resistance to make the deal bigger, personal and more compelling.

High-profit F&I managers use “No” to keep the conversation going, ask better questions, probe deeper, and get the personal information needed to make the deal bigger, more personal, and therefore more compelling to their customers.

F&I profits can vary a lot from one dealership to the next. Regardless if your store is averaging $700 per retailed unit, or it is averaging $1700 per retailed unit, there is certainly an opportunity for more. Level 5 F&I managers are committed to achieving high profitability! You too can see increased profits and performance in F&I by improving how you… ✔Prepare ✔Position & ✔Persist!

-Previously printed in Digital Dealer by Mike Hirschfield on August 10th, 2018. Mike is CEO of Assured Influence and has served in both franchise and independent dealer groups, leading teams as large as 80+ to reach new heights of achievement.