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Where Does F&I Fit into Your Dealership’s Digital Retailing Strategy? – Adam Marburger & Paul Brown, Ascent Dealer Solutions

Looking to add more money to your bottom line by way of your finance department and dealership? CBT News sits down with Adam Marburger, F&I expert and President of Ascent Dealer Services, and Paul Brown, Vice President, to discuss solutions, training, and digital retailing within a dealership’s F&I Department.

Adam tells CBT News that with the influx of customers who want to do their car shopping from the couch, dealers might need to be a little concerned about the profitability of these customers for a dealership. Customers want to be able to select their car, select their trim, and select their options online and Adam says dealers need to be concerned about putting the right information online for these customers and consider at what point the F&I manager should be involved in the sale, if at all.

To hear more from Adam and Paul check out the full interview above.

F&I

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: 

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us. Another edition of CBT News. I’m so happy to have in the studio with us two gentlemen that can change your life if you’re looking to add more money to your bottom line in your finance department, and also to your dealership. Mr. Adam Marburger who is an F&I expert and president of Assent Dealer Services. Thank you so much for coming. And he’s joined by Paul Brown, who’s Vice President of his company. Thanks so much for joining us, gentlemen.

Paul:
Thanks for having us.

Adam:
Happy to be here, as always. Thank you so much.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
For the people that are watching this right now, the dealers and F&I managers, that are not as familiar with you as we are here at the show, kind of give us what your company does, and how you can help dealers.

Adam:
Absolutely. So Assent Dealer Services, we’re a one-stop F&I solution. Everything from F&I training, coaching and mentoring, all the way up to a full suite of F&I products. And then we also specialize in reinsurance.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay, and can a dealer use you for each individual part? Or does he have to go with your products?

Adam:
All of it. When we say we’re a one-stop shop, that’s what we are.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. Great. And I know, Paul, you have a huge background in retail automotive as well, right?

Paul:
Yes. Spent about 15 years in finance. Everything from a finance manager’s role to a director’s role. And then the past seven years I’ve been a general manager and a managing partner at a pretty large dealership in St. Louis.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, okay. Great, great. Well, let’s dive right in here. Talk to us about … we talk a great length about digital retailing, and it seems as though it’s coming. You know, the day that you can sit on the couch, order your vehicle, much like at Carvana, and the vehicle’s delivered to you, you’ve done all the paperwork, everything else.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But there’s a lot of dealers that are very nervous out there right now, about the loss of maybe their finance income. How is that going to be done effectively online, and still be able to sell the products and services? So, talk to us a little bit about that. Should dealers be nervous about that?

Adam:
I would say somewhat. Here’s what I know about digital retailing, the last couple years, every conference especially. I just got back from Agent Conference in Chicago. We talk a little bit about digital retailing, but even the administrators don’t have a lot in place for that.

Adam:
I do think that we have to have options available because there’s customers now, they want to do business on their couch. They want to be able to select a car, select the trim, select their options. And I think we need to do a good job as dealers putting the right information online.

Adam:
Now, the million dollar question is, how do you sell more products? Because at some level, I feel and F&I manager’s got to get involved. Because I think the customer that gets to pick everything online, is not going to be very profitable for the dealers. So that where the dealers got to be a little scared. There’s got to be something where an F&I manager can interact with that customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. And do you recommend that that dealer … I mean the F&I manager jumps in early in the deal? Along with the sales manager, when they’re actually penciling the deal? Is that when they should be introduced?

Adam:
You want to take that Paul?

Paul:
As early as possible. I mean, if you could have the finance manager shaking people’s hands as they walk through the door, that’s a beautiful thing. so, the finance manager just getting involved, and he doesn’t even need to introduce himself as a manager. Just walk by a customer that’s sitting at a desk, and say, “Hey, I’m so and so.” Don’t give them your title, “Just wanted to know, do you need anything, do you need a cup of coffee, a bottled water?”

Paul:
Adam likes to let them know who he is, and say, “Hey, my office is right down the hall. I have an open door policy, so if during this process you have any questions, concerns, anything like that, come and talk to me.” But it’s critical that you have at least one warm touch before you go talk to the customer. And then when the deal gets kind of prepared to come into finance, that you sit down with the customer in a neutral area … so this sales person’s desk, do your need analysis, and just kind of talk to them. Make sure that you have all the documentation necessary to complete the deal. And then when they come into your office, they’ve talked to you one or two times, and you’re somebody that hopefully they like at that point.

Adam:
That’s right, yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Speaking about F&I managers, how have things changed in the area of recruitment? What kind of skill set do you look for today when you’re hiring a good F&I manager?

Adam:
I look for a couple of things. First, I kind of look at their job gaps. I want to see where they’ve been, right? And I want to find out why they’re here today.

Adam:
I like an F&I manager, a potential F&I manager to ask me a lot of questions. I want a lot of questions asked. And one thing too, I always look for somebody that’s got hobbies. Specifically competitive hobbies. I like to see people who do things outside of the home, outside of their workplace that challenge them and allow them to grow as a person.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, sure. Do you think with digital retailing coming on quickly, do they have to be a little more tech savvy then maybe ten or fifteen years ago, when we were hiring F&I managers? Or is that not an issue?

Adam:
I think a little bit. I mean here it’s always good to dive in and learn what’s going on, because here technology is real, it’s passing us up. I see people in our industry, some of our competitors that do not embrace technology, and then their numbers are dropping. So I think that it’s a good idea to get involved.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Does an F&I manager have to come off the showroom floor? In your opinion?

Paul:
I personally like that. I mean, I like somebody that’s been in the trenches, understands customers buying motivations, understands how to ask the right questions, build rapport. I think it’s important to have some experience negotiating. But more just knowing how to treat a customer, how to build that rapport, how to get them to like you, because we all know if a customer likes you and trusts you … that doesn’t necessarily make them buy from you, but it makes them more receptive to the information you’re giving them. So I think that’s important, and I think that a good finance guy … a sales manager, general manager, general sales manager … you have to be a finance guy first.

Paul:
I just think that’s important. I think that’s the natural progression.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, there’s no question.

Paul:
But come from the sales floor.

Adam:
And I prefer to grow the sales person within that store. I know a lot of dealers will outsource their F&I managers, but the life cycle of an F&I manager is sometimes 12 to 18 months. But if you get a sales person, and you grow them from within, you can mold them. And those customers, your rates go up drastically.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And dive down a little bit further on that. What do you mean by grow them? Do you mean hire that sales person with it in mind that they will one day be an F&I manager?

Adam:
Yep. So what I like in some of our bigger accounts, we’ve put together what’s called a bench. We have a bench where you’ve got some of your top sales people that have shown interest to be an F&I professional, so we put them on a bench and we allow them to get involved in training. We train and love on them, and then what happens then, is your F&I managers that are in place, they know there’s always somebody looking for your job, right? We’re always trying to compete for the next job. So when you’ve got a stable there of guys that are learning, now you can pick from your bench.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
If a dealer calls you guys and says, “Hey I’m running 12 bucks a copy, but I went to a dealer 20 meeting, and everybody in the room is doing 15 … north of 15 hundred dollars a copy. A, is that plausible today? And B, where do you think he’s missing it?

Adam:
This is where he’s missing it, first of all it has to do with process. When Paul and I go into accounts … I mean, we took a thousand car store, and they were running about 12 hundred bucks a click, Okay? Within five months we got them up fifteen hundred a click. Okay? 300 dollars per transaction.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, that’s pretty nice.

Adam:
300 thousand dollars a month. 3.6 million dollars a year. Know what we did? Tweaked the process. Put a layer of accountability on top of that process allows people to grow. Effective goal setting, with action plans based to those goals, with Paul and I monitoring them, that’s how you get it done. It’s a process and accountability.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sounds pretty simple.

Adam:
Basic blocking and tackling, but why does it not happen? I don’t know.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Switching gears a little bit. Menu selling, is this something that you highly recommend the dealer do 100% of the time? Menus or … walk me through that.

Adam:
Absolutely. Without question, 100% of the time, 100% of the customers, 100% products. Now here’s the deal, we make things too difficult. I mean all this talk about menu, okay. We make things so difficult, okay. Less products equal more profit.

Adam:
I go into stores, and I see 12 products in the same line, what you’re doing is confusing the customer. You need to pick five or six products within your dealership that are fantastic, best in class products that the consumers love to buy. We need to make things efficiently, quick. They loathe a sales pitch.

Adam:
And customers have become more savvy now. When you come into the office, and you put that menu out in front of them. Or even if it’s a digital menu, they know they’re getting a sales pitch.

Adam:
So I believe less is more, and then you will definitely increase. And I know Paul has … Paul, some of his claim to fame in on menu and warranty presentation. And I’ll tell you-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay, let’s hear from the expert.

Paul:
I mean, when he’s saying less is more … and it’s not necessarily less products, because what we like to do is, we like to do bundles. We like to take one product per se, and have it have three or four things in it that matter to the customer, and that are things that the customers want to buy. But it’s not overwhelming when they look at it.

Paul:
Because sometimes if you just give a customer too much stuff, they just say no because they’re so afraid of making a mistake. Because they’ve got all this information, they don’t know what to pick. So it becomes really frustrating for a finance guy too, because you go, “Man, I know everything about the car. I know exactly what they should have bought, I knew all the buying signals. They told me how to do it, and I still sold nothing.”

Paul:
Well, it’s because you confused them. And customers are more afraid of making a mistake then they are of having to pay some money down the road.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Can you make money in F&I, leasing vehicles?

Adam:
Absolutely.

Adam:
Absolutely you can. And here, the reserves there when it’s there. Right? It’s not always there. But you do have lease ware products, you do have bundle products that the customer could get the value immediately from. So there are products out there, something bad doesn’t have to happen to you for you to get to use the benefit.

Adam:
There are some incredible chemical products that … I mean I’m talking on like a new BMW, a Mercedes, a Lexus, that just are fabulous products that consumers happily engaged with. And they run about a $500 per profit, per transaction on those products. So you can absolutely make money on leasing.

Adam:
You know, F&I guys back in the day, they hear lease in cash, and they want to run. No, no, no, embrace the deal, maximize the transaction, and help the customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, that’s about as easy as it is too, right? So when you were … what were some of the things that you were most concerned with when you were a dealer? As it related to running the showroom, and also running the F&I department, what were some of the big challenges?

Adam:
Biggest challenges were … when you put on your dealer hat, you look everywhere and you go, “Oh my gosh, as a dealership we bleed money everywhere.” Because you starting looking at things and you say, “Okay, when we do this, this costs us money. This costs us a sale. This costs us customer satisfaction.” So, being a finance guy at heart, and I always will be, I structured my dealership from the second that a salesperson said hello, the second that they got into the finance office. Everything was geared kind of towards F&I. So,

Adam:
I had eight specific questions that a salesperson was required to get information on when they were doing their needs analysis with a customer, that was just good information for the F&I office. So that when they sat down with a customer, they could sit down and build actual real rapport, and not sit there and start asking sales questions that makes the hair on a customer’s neck stand up.

Adam:
You know, “How many miles a year are you going to drive? How long are you going to keep this?” They know you’re getting ready to pitch them something.

Paul:
That’s right.

Adam:
So we set kind of what I like to call logic traps, which is when a customer gives us information, and then we use that information to present them with products that should be important to them, it’s real hard for them to go, “Oh, no, no, no, that’s not important.” Well based off all the information you gave me earlier, it’s almost critical that you have this stuff.

Adam:
So we kind of built our whole process around that, because really these days, you have F&I, and you have fixed o ps, or the places that you’re going to make money as a dealership. You can’t make front end gross on new cars anymore, it’s really difficult. Used cars is getting more difficult to do. So, you got those two areas, and you have to excel in those if you want to stay alive.

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He Mixes F&I With Mixed-Martial Arts

Adam Marburger fights for what he believes in. He has a fading black eye to prove it.

One of his passions is competing in mixed-martial-arts fighting. Another is training car dealership finance and insurance managers.

“My mixed-martial-arts career has given me confidence,” he says. It also made his days as an F&I manager easier, especially by remaining unfazed when dealing with tough customers.

“Hey, I’ve been locked in a cage with someone trying to kill me,” he explains.

Marburger is among speakers at an inaugural industry gathering here put on by a Facebook group called Ethical F&I Managers.

“I’m a young, humble, aggressive F&I guy,” he says at the EFI Conference. “I’m all things F&I. It started at an early age.”

Marburger began his dealership career as a porter while in college. He moved through the ranks, becoming an F&I manager for a metro St. Louis dealership at age 22 in 2001.

He won a lot of accolades along the way. He left in 2017 to become a trainer. He and business partner Johnny Garlich now run a consultancy called The Income Development Guys.

Of all the F&I products and services, Marburger believes post-warranty extended-service contracts are the tops. “They are the engine that pulls the train.”

They’re also mutually beneficial, he says. “Everyone wins: the dealership, the F&I department, the customers.”

Because of his martial-arts bouts, he’d sometimes show up at his dealership day job with a black eye. If there was a benefit to that, it at least was a customer “conversation starter.” 

The F&I department remains a major profit center for dealerships. But it can rank low on satisfaction surveys, with some customers complaining about too much time spent waiting to get into the F&I office to ink a vehicle purchase, too much time spent in the F&I office listening to aftermarket product presentations and the overall feeling of being trapped in the so-called “F&I box.”

“There are a hundred ways to close down a deal,” Marburger says of potential customer pushback, especially from car buyers in defensive moods when they enter the F&I office.

To connect better with customers, he recommends not abandoning scripted word tracks altogether, but relying less on them.

He also advises F&I managers meet customers as early as possible, such as on the showroom floor.

“I’d introduce myself, say I’m here to serve them, ask if they have any questions, say my door is always open and ask if they want something to drink. I had that beverage ready for them when they came into my office.”

Dealership sales and F&I departments can cross swords at times, largely because of the different natures of their jobs. Marburger suggests F&I managers make a point of getting along with vehicle-sales department staffers, particularly the boss.

“I would roll in the same direction as the sales manager,” he says. “It’s about being a good servant to customers and fellow employees. It’s called servant leadership. It will take you far in life. It will make you a fortune.”

He credits F&I trainer Ron Reahard of Reahard & Associates for showing him the ropes when he was a rookie. Reahard read him, concluding he rushed through his presentations. “Ron would tell me to slow down, that you can’t speed up until you slow down.”  

Despite his fight-night involvement, Marburger believes in non-combative F&I. “If a customer is rude and hard-nosed, you just got to take a deep breath. That’s what elite F&I managers do.”

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Achievement: Raised the F&I revenue per new vehicle at Suntrup Automotive Group in St. Louis, Mo., more than $300 in five months

Corporate finance director and serial entrepreneur Adam Marburger knows how to knock out finance and insurance sales. Marburger raised the F&I per-vehicle revenue on new vehicles at Suntrup Automotive Group in St. Louis more than $300 from November 2017 to March 2018. In May 2017, his final month as an F&I manager at AutoCenters Nissan in Wood River, Ill., he delivered 98 new and used units that pulled $278,000 in back-end revenue.When Marburger isn’t coaching F&I managers, he can usually be found inside a boxing ring. Marburger got a taste of combat from a kickboxing class he took in high school, and for the more than two decades since, Marburger has been an active mixed martial artist. In 2009, Marburger tried his hand at Brazilian jiu-jitsu. For the next eight years, he would be in an estimated 300 fights, competing nationwide thanks to a Fuji Sports sponsorship. His automotive career began at Dave Mungenast Alton Toyota in Alton, Ill.

At 18, Marburger worked as a porter, considering himself an errand boy with friends in every department. A year later, he was promoted to the sales department. He left the dealership in 2001 to follow an opportunity at AutoCenters Nissan, where he spent the bulk of his automotive retail career. He had just started training in mixed martial arts. For the next few years, Marburger worked in sales and competed in MMA tournaments on the side. By the time he got into cage fighting in 2005, he was an F&I manager, and frequently showed up to the dealership with black eyes. In his office, it helped to talk about fight club.”My customers had no problem with it,” Marburger said, noting that signed memorabilia from Brazilian MMA fighter Royce Gracie in the F&I office became a conversation piece. “It was actually a huge selling point for me because customers were interested.”Outside of the dealership, Marburger would step into a cage with no protection other than small gloves, prepared to fight until he got a knockout or submission. The art of negotiation in an F&I office, he says, requires a similar grasp of sparring. “It’s about taking turns and drilling things over and over. We role play, so when there’s time for an objection, we’ve heard this before. It’s about repetition,” he said. “That’s what builds the muscle memory and that’s what gets the deal.”

At his dealerships, Marburger used the structure, organization and discipline he learned on the mat to build a regimented program for the F&I office and sales floor.Through defined processes and procedures, Marburger says, he can get even the least experienced seller to an F&I black belt in six weeks. His “zero to hero” training has converted about 50 novice F&I managers in the St. Louis area into product-selling machines. “Thank God for martial arts. It’s allowed me to stay calm; we get some customers that aren’t so easy to deal with,” he said. “Being able to stay calm and stay focused when things don’t go your way. You’ve got to take a deep breath. Let’s slow down to speed up.”Slowing down isn’t something that comes naturally to Marburger. With a partner, Marburger started an F&I training company and product provider, The Income Development Guys, last year. The Income Development Guys is one of a vast constellation of business endeavors Marburger launched while working in dealerships. He also started an apparel line, real estate company, an investment group, and he opened a martial arts gym in Alton.

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Increase Your F&I Department’s PVR with These 3 Strategies

Jim Fitzpatrick: We are so excited to have Mr. Adam Marburger, who’s President of Ascent Dealer Services, back with us on today’s show. Adam comes to us with a tremendous amount of experience in driving more profits to the F&I department for dealers nationwide. Adam, thank you so much for joining us on CBT News.

Adam Marburger: Glad to be here, as always. Thank you very, very much for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure, let’s kind of jump right in. What are some of the biggest, I mean, you’re working with dealers all over the country, and I know you’re so busy building your company and working with dealers. What are some of the biggest issues that you find out there, facing F&I offices today?

Adam Marburger: So the biggest issue that I’m seeing, as of recent, is lack of coaching and training. So when a dealer calls me, it’s because they’re not getting the support they feel they deserve from their F&I product provider.

So I’m seeing a very, very big need for coaching and training, and so that’s where I’m getting the majority of my leads. I’ve got dealers reaching out to me, personally, because they need coaching and training.

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Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right. Yeah, and that’s just ongoing, isn’t it? I mean, that-

Adam Marburger: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Seems to be something that dealers were always struggling with, is whether they hired a new sales, I mean, a new F&I manager. Or, they’ve got one that’s kind of falling off the program a little bit, and kind of gotten a little bit comfortable in their ways, and not sticking to the block and tackle, and some of the basics that have to take place at an F&I office. You help the dealers with that, right?

Adam Marburger: Absolutely. And it all boils down to your process, so if we have a great process, and then we have somebody to hold them accountable, then you’re going to see results. But if an F&I manager goes rogue, and does it maybe their way, and their way may not be the most profitable way or the most efficient way. And then if you don’t have anybody holding them accountable, that’s a mess.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. Is it conceivable to think that every store should be running it at 1,500 a copy, or better in F&I today?

Adam Marburger: So the number on the street all over the country is 1,500 bucks a car. I don’t, I’m not going to say I disagree with that, but I will tell you, there’s markets that are massively different. St. Louis is different from Denver, Colorado. Southern California’s different from Texas. So you see some markets where PVR creeps up to that $2,000 a transaction, but then you see markets where you’re barely getting to a 1,000 a transaction.

I mean, up in Detroit, I was there earlier in the week, and they’re 70%, the store I was at, 70% lease. And at this Ford dealership, it’s all planned business, it’s all family plans. So it’s going to be very difficult for that dealer to get the $1,500 of transaction. So I would say, that it depends on your market. Every market’s a little bit different.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. And for dealers that are sitting at, let’s say, 1,200 or 1,300, what’s the best way for them to pick up that extra couple of hundred bucks a copy?

Adam Marburger: Anytime anyone ever asks that question, that question gets asked a lot. You got to look at your service contract. The quickest way to get a couple hundred dollar lift in PVR, is to look at your service contract penetration, and then look at your gross per service contract. You can look at those two things, and engage them, and get the necessary increments. That’s exactly how you can raise PVR, is raise the price of your service contract, put some skills and some action in place, on how to increase the penetrations.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Adam Marburger: And then you’ll see your PVR raise.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. And just the 200 bucks a copy increase for a dealership that sells a 150 to 200 cars a month, over a 12 month period of time, you just added a lot to that dealer’s bottom line, without doing anything more than just training, right?

Adam Marburger: Amen, absolutely correct. They’re not spending any additional money, the same customers they already have, we’re getting a couple hundred a lift, and that’s the difference between some dealers being profitable or not profitable.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Adam, share with us what the top three things are for an F&I department to be successful.

Adam Marburger: Absolutely, so it takes a combination of these three things. So you got to have best in class products. You have to have A-type service contracts. You got to have the best products in the industry. And then you got have the right technology. Technology’s really important, especially today. And most importantly, you got to have the training and the coaching to support those. If you’ve got those three, you’re going to win in F&I.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yep, absolutely. Let’s back up a minute and talk a little bit more about technology. What specifically do you mean when you say, “Technology?”

Adam Marburger: For instance, I’m here in Iowa right now, just launching a group, and they use Darwin, and Darwin’s just such a fantastic menu. It’s so user-friendly, the consumers like it. I mean, years ago, we were printing out paper menus, and some stores still do, and that’s okay. But it’s just nice to see some of these new features, docuPAD, being able to take an F&I manager, and put them on Reynolds docuPAD, it just does not allow for mistakes. So that’s a nice piece of technology. So things like that definitely help.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And then, of course, you mentioned the coaching. How often should an F&I manager be coached or be trained?

Adam Marburger: I think a professional should train every single day. I’m not saying there should be an in-store trainer there every day, but they should have some content and curriculum that they’re training on, on a daily basis, so if they’re trying to grow to that next level.

Now from a standpoint, I reach out, I touch almost every one of my managers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, via text, calls, Zooms, I’m always touching with my fellow managers. And just little, short bursts of training. I will never go into a store and hold an F&I manager up for two and three hours on a subject. I like the little, short bursts of training. “Here’s my subject matter for today. We’re going to get through this. I’m going to give you a task. We’re going to follow-up on this task.” So little bursts go a long way.

But that I think that an F&I professional should train on a daily basis. Whether it’s with another F&I manager, or a salesperson role playing, whether we’re going back as service to look an RO to see what’s really happening in their service department. There are a lot of things that we can do on a daily basis, and I think it’s on a daily basis, Jim, that we need to be training.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure. Who should be dishing up the payment range to a customer? Should it be the desk manager or the F&I manager?

Adam Marburger: I think it should come from the desk. I mean, here I like with technology, the way it is now, I mean, it’s real easy for the desk to send out a pencil with all the disclosures. Some stores I see the difference into the box type clothes. I mean, it works for some of the small town dealers, but I will tell you, that if a customer comes into the finance office, and they said yes to the car, but they’re $200 away on payment, you just wasted everybody’s time. So I think it’s a good idea for the desk manager and the sales consultant to dish out those numbers, and disclose upfront. So I think it’s a joint effort, but I think the sales desk should dish out, I like the tower sending out the first pencil.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. And should there be any leg in that number for the F&I manager?

Adam Marburger: Absolutely not. No way. Leg is a thing of the past. And you know what, for those that still do that, I think it’s a sign of weakness, to be honest.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It’s the old F&I guy in me, sorry about that.

Adam Marburger: Yeah, but at the end of the day, the customer knows more than we do sometimes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Adam Marburger: Let’s be very transparent, let’s be open, and let’s build relationships. We want the customer, see everybody’s like, “Here, we need to sell a car today, but more importantly, we need to sell a car tomorrow.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: The importance of F&I managers conducting good customer interviews, talk to us about that.

Adam Marburger: So I like to call it first impression. So I think it needs to be the F&I manager’s first impression. We can go into the interview and needs analysis, but it’s extremely important for that F&I manager to build the relationship.

I always ask, “What brought you to my dealership today, Mr. Customer? What were you trying to accomplish?” Get the customer to open up, it’s that relationship-building that’s the most important part.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Adam Marburger: I was just telling my team over here, “That you could forget all of your word tracks, you could forget how long the customer is going to keep their car, you could forget how many miles they drive a year, but if they like you, you’re going to overcome it. “If they don’t like you, you’re going to struggle.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Adam Marburger: So I think that first impression, letting your consumer know you’re trying to serve them. It’s about serving our consumer. Sell more products and services.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yep, I agree. I agree. Adam Marburger, F&I expert, and Founder of Ascent Dealer Services, I want to thank you so much for joining us on CBT News. This has been very informative. I’d love to have you back to cover some more of these topics that affect F&I manager.

Adam Marburger: Would love to, anytime. I’m here for you, my friend.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great. Thanks so much.

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Discipline in Your F&I Process Leads to Strong Revenue

From humble beginnings as a dealership porter to now being named one of Automotive News 40 Under 40, CBT Automotive welcomes Adam Marburger, corporate finance director at Suntrup Automotive in St. Louis, MO.

F&I

Adam’s place among the elite group of Automotive News’ 40 under 40 is well earned, having raised F&I revenue per vehicle over $300 PVR for Suntrup Automotive in only 5 months. But that didn’t happen overnight.

Adam has spent over 20 years in the industry and got his start at age 18 when the owner of the restaurant he was working at, brought him over to work at his dealership instead. This humble inception gives Adam a sense of gratitude, and he is excited to all of his hard work paying off.

After some time washing cars, Adam knew he wanted to move up through the ranks at the dealership. He talked and became friends with everyone on the floor, and was encouraged to pursue sales, all the while gravitating towards the F&I guys. He was impressed with the way they operated and carried themselves. They took care of the customer in a different way, and Adam liked the idea of being the guy that closed the deal.

F&I

Adam’s passion for mixed martial arts fighting was also instrumental in his rise. He started kickboxing in high school and was always fascinated with that kind of fighting. According to Adam, F&I negotiations are similar to MMA matches in that they are both games of chess. It’s all about the psychology of your opponent or customer.

Adam says that the discipline he has from MMA directly helped create a tight process for F&I and that ultimately lead to strong profitability. It is important to be process driven, and stay cool no matter what comes your way.

However, the auto retail industry is changing. Customers are buying cars online and maneuvering through the entire sales process including financing in the digital sphere. Adam doesn’t seem too worried though. He reminds us that dealerships will still need service contracts whether or not selling approaches shift.

In the more immediate future, Adam’s goals move toward the vendor side of things with his new venture, the Income Development Guys. This elite F&I product provider aims at helping dealers move the needle in stores, side by side with the F&I managers.

If you are looking to move up the ranks of a dealership as Adam has, his advice is this, “be willing to grow on a daily basis, find those within your dealership – find the best at what they do in your store and network with them. Run from the negativity, pick the hitters, and roll with the hitters. That’s what I tell everybody.”

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