your monthly newsletter
aRE WE SPEAKING A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE THAN OUR CUSTOMERS?
We have all been in this situation; we are in a closing with a customer, and they are really engaged in the process. We have built great rapport. They like us. They are engaged in the conversation about finance products. They are asking the right questions and giving us all the buying signals. Then, when we get to the end of our menu presentation and ask them which option works best for them and their family, they say, “No thanks” and then give us one of a handful of reflex objections that we hear day in and day out.
We pause thinking, “I figured this was going to be an easy one.” Then we launch into an objection handling conversation to try and root out the real objection so that we can overcome it and close. History has told us that we have a good chance of success, but maybe we didn’t need to get this far. Maybe we were speaking a language the customer couldn’t relate to and this caused them to say no. Let me elaborate.
First, we need to go back in time to when we were taking the credit application from the customer. It is critical for the finance manager to do this because it allows us to make sure that we have complete and accurate information to submit to the lender. This is also a great time for us to build rapport and ask questions. One of the most important things we can find out is how the customer is paid. Not only if they are hourly or salary or if they have any additional income outside of their workplace, but more importantly, the frequency of their pay.
U.S. Labor and statistics reports that people get paid the following ways:
12% monthly | 17% semi-monthly | 33% weekly | 38% bi-weekly
If 71% of our customers get paid weekly or bi-weekly, showing them monthly options can be stressful for them. Most people are only a few missed paychecks away from being in dire financial straights and they arrange the payment of their bills around when they get paid. A new (typically higher) payment with a different due date can make the customer nervous and unsure. When customers feel this way, they will say no for fear of making a mistake.
So, if a customer gets paid weekly, let’s not show them a monthly payment of $510. Let’s show them a weekly payment of $118. If they get paid bi-weekly, let’s show them a payment of $235. This makes the payment relatable to the customer and when they get paid. This ensures that we are speaking in a way that makes the customer more comfortable with the process. This also makes the payment increase for finance products feel more palatable for the customer. Instead of talking about an $80 increase in monthly payment, we can talk about an $18 weekly increase. When we can talk speak in smaller numbers, we win more often.
When Value Exceeds Price
For years, we have been coaching our sales and F&I departments by telling them, “When value exceeds price, your customer will purchase from you”. Is that really the case? I have always believed that, but lately I have put my own spin on it. I think if value exceeds price, your client is “likely” to buy from you. If value exceeds price, and your client likes you, they are more likely to buy from you. What if value exceeds price and the customer “loves” you? The answer is that they will most likely buy from you.
My challenge to you
Serve your clients like they are guests in your home. Offer them something before you ever ask them for anything. Robert Cialdini, an American psychologist, author, speaker, and professor, teaches on this very subject. One of his principles of persuasion is “reciprocity.” People will give back to others what they have received. Studies have shown that if your server at a restaurant offers you a gift before bringing the check, the tip will increase. If the server personalizes the gift, the tip will increase substantially.
Offer to serve the customer before they ever say yes to the transaction. As F&I professionals, we need to get out of our office and spend more time on the showroom floor. Introduce yourself to the potential client and let them know who you are, what you do, and how you will enhance the buying experience for them. After you make your great first impression, offer your guests some refreshments. This is super simple and extremely usefull. Put together a cart of a few beverage and snack options and offer them to your guest before they come into the F&I office to complete their transaction. Here is an example of a refreshment tray that we use in one of our groups:
Instead of asking your client if they want something to drink, simply bring over the refreshment tray and serve them. They will select something, and that selection will play a physiological role later on in your objection handling. If you are more urgent to serve than to sell, you will sell much more. People buy from people. Do not ever forget that. If you can identify the personality type of the customer that you are attempting to do business with, then you can provide them with solutions in a frictionless environment. You’ve heard of the “Golden Rule”: treat others as you would like them to treat you. In sales, I do not agree with that. I believe that we should treat others the way they want to be treated. How do we do that? We must slow down and get a better understanding of the personality types of our customers. For example, if we have a red, this is an A-type personality that wants to skip the sales pitch and get straight to the point. This customer is impatient. This customer demands the facts and will not tolerate being misinformed. If the F&I manager skipped important steps in their process, they may not have realized what personality type this customer actually is. This costs many people at the dealership money, and most importantly, the customer suffers as a result of not receiving the level of coverage that they truly require.
My Final Thoughts
The most profitable decision one can make is to commit to growth. Set your ego aside and understand that there is always more to learn. This business changes so often that we must stay on top of trends and embrace change. As the industry changes, remember that people still buy from people. Focus more on serving than selling, and you will sell more. If you treat everyone you encounter like they are a guest in your home, you will continue to enhance the buying experience for your customers. At the end of the day, that’s our most important role in F&I.
Tackling the Hard no
For years F&I managers have been successful at payment manipulation and repair scare. We have learned how to extend the term and use fancy closing techniques to close down the payment buyer.
What happens when the customer gives us the hard no? When they shut us down immediately telling us they do not want any of our products.
I will tell you what happens. Most F&I managers freeze up and move forward with the paperwork.
In this industry we have focused most of our efforts on the payment buyer and not the value buyer. Does the value buyer have different needs than the payment buyer? My experience tells me that most of our customers are looking for these few things when they purchase a new vehicle:
- The greatest use enjoyment;
- The least amount of aggravation;
- The lowest total
By purchasing the service contract, you will never have to worry about paying for an unexpected repair or worry about having a car to drive. GUESS WHAT? That’s just icing on the cake. The real magic is hidden and it’s up to you to explain. The reason ALL customers should purchase the service contract is it provides them an exit strategy. There is absolutely nothing that can add value to the vehicle like the service contract. Here are some reasons why:
- It allows you to trade the car on your terms and not the vehicles. I’ve watched several customers trade in their vehicle prematurely due to a problematic car. What happens is you end up paying more in depreciation, interest and sales tax.
- It allows you to receive more money for your trade. The sales manager would much rather put more money in a trade that has the service contract.
- It allows you to keep the car longer, saves depreciation, interest, sales tax.
- Policy is cancelable or transferable.
- The customer has options that they would never experience without the service contract.
When the customer declines, simply relax and ask, “What is the main reason you are choosing to be unprotected.” They will tell you something like this:
- I don’t ever buy those
- I will assume the risk
- I don’t believe in them
IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THEY SAY! The only reason the customer does not purchase the service contract is they do not know how to do the math. It’s up to us to show them.
Do not allow your customers previous experience with F&I
dictate the outcome of their experience with you!!!
Slow down and explain how the customer is not just paying a premium to cover repairs. They are investing in an exit strategy that will give them options and those options will save thousands.
The Sales Manager Is The F&I Manager’s Best Friend
The relationship between the sales manager and the finance manager is directly tied to the profitability of the finance department. The sales manager is the architect of the deal, and it is the finance manager’s responsibility to get involved as early as possible to help facilitate the transaction. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that we’re all here to sell cars. Nothing happens for the F&I department if the sales department does not close deals. How can we close more deals with a higher gross profit? The answer is pretty simple: the sales manager and the finance manager must row in the same direction at all times. I realized early on in my retail career that I needed to find ways to get the sales manager on the same page as me. Here are a few things that I did every day in my dealership:
- I was the first one at the dealership and walked the service drive every morning. By doing this, I was able to meet clients that were ready to upgrade. I had a sales professional named Marco that I would feed deals to. He was my house mouse because he took great care of customers and he was the first salesman there every morning. I got to know all of my service techs and writers. Anytime a customer was in service asking about a service contract, they would bring them directly to me.
- I would work on my CIT immediately following my time in the service department. By having a routine and structure, your CIT schedule should always look good. When you are busy selling cars, there is nothing more annoying than chasing your tail to get deals funded in the afternoon.
- I sat with the sales managers to see if they needed any help with anything. I would ask if there were any scheduled deliveries that needed prepped or submitted to the bank. I would ask them if they needed any help by sitting at the desk so they could go to lunch or just take a break. I would offer to help with any deal if the salesperson is struggling to move the customer. By offering to serve your sales manager, it does a couple of things.
- You develop a more intimate relationship with your sales manager.
- You gain trust by getting involved early and helping facilitate the transaction.
- You develop likability with your sales managers.
- You will develop a finance-friendly desk.
- You will make the dealership and yourself more money.
- I would host a 5-10 minute sales meeting with the sales team. I would offer to do manager call backs for them. Most importantly, I let them know how much I appreciated them. All of this goes a long way in the sales department.
At some level, all of these things are self-serving because they help ensure a friendly handoff to the finance department. My experience shows me that if I help other people get what they want, I end up getting what I want.
The Servant Leading Mentality
One of the most influential F&I coaches that I had was a gentleman by the name of Ron Reahard. He would always tell me that I needed to be more urgent to serve than I was to sell. By instilling that mindset into me at a young age, I was able to have a very healthy career in the automotive industry. We must treat every customer like they are a guest in our home. If we do this, you will watch your F&I product sales go through the roof. I believe you can forget every word tract or fancy close in your arsenal. If your customer likes and trusts you, you will be able to handle objections much more effectively. As F&I professionals, we must pay more attention to our customers. Remember that we provide solutions to problems that the customer does not always know exists.
My LOVE/HATE relationship with Pete
I was very fortunate to work with Pete, who, in my opinion, is the strongest desk guy on the planet. We worked together at a high-volume Nissan store near St. Louis, MO, for over a decade. When I made the decision to retire from retail in May 2017, I left having had the best month of my career. I delivered 98 deals for $280,000 in F&I gross profit. My VSC pen was over 70% and my ancillary product penetrations were all high. There is no way I would have been able to run these types of numbers if I hadn’t had a very supportive desk. This was not always the case, though. Early on in our careers, Pete and I butted heads for years. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye on many things. We let our egos get in the way, and it cost the dealership money and negatively affected the buying experience for the customer. There were many nights when we left the dealership upset at each other, and it was typically over something that could have been avoided if we had communicated more effectively. Over time, Pete and I learned to slow down and really work on our communication. We got on the same page and worked deals together. When a sales professional struggled to close the customer at the payment quoted by Pete, I would go out and take a swing before he penciled in a buy/sell on a lease. Pete and I followed a process on every deal and did not deviate from that process. Pete and I may have never hung out outside the dealership, but in the showroom we were best friends. Pete and I would always refer to each other as the “Bash Brothers”. He was Mark McGwire and I was Jose Canseco, and we would maximize the gross profit of every single transaction.