Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Needing More, While Working With Less


Working with less seems to be the theme of 2009. We are working with fewer customers, fewer employees, less working capital, and lower expenses. So, are we seeing growth or are we simply surviving?

I am frequently asked if one person can do the job of both sales manager and finance manager. My reply is yes, for a short period of time. Both positions must be cross-trained, and should be a matched team for optimum production.

Most great sales managers have worked in a finance position for a period of at least two years. History has shown that it takes about that long to run into most credit situations and find a solution for them. In reviewing customer credit, managers must look beyond the score. He or she must be able to conduct a proper credit interview and look past the parts and parcels of the provided information to see the deal. Afterward, the manager must sell the deal to the customer and the lender.

Are lending guidelines tougher today? As we all know, yes they are. Do we need to secure monetary commitment from the customer? As we all know, yes we do. Even in these tough times, however, we cannot settle for making something on reserve and neglect other revenue streams of the finance department. Rates will be going up soon and, when they do, we will be giving away the rate to make the deal. Every dealership must have a process that can present these changes to the customer while emphasizing the protection opportunities. Those dealerships focused solely upon their reserve, will eventually suffer even more than they are now.

Preventive measures include inspecting your current processes. Make sure your team is prepared to jump in to ‘other’ managerial shoes at a moments notice and fill in as required. Also, make sure you have a backup F&I presenter who has the ability to do an effective presentation of your ancillary protection products. If their presentation is not effective or needs updating, allow them to participate in an educational venue of some kind that will remedy this situation. Yes, it will be a small investment on your part, but the rewards will be there in the long run; the results will be reflected not only in increased sales and profits, but a happier employee and happier customers.

I know businesses are running lean—the magic is in knowing how to manage your human capital to turn a profit, without burning them out. Never overlook the importance of continuing the education of key income producing positions.

For those dealerships needing cash, the F&I department is the fastest way to place dollars into any dealership. What are you going to do today to protect, promote, and provide for growth in your dealership?

Dealer Marketing Magazine, July 2009