Thursday, March 01, 2007

F&I Express - Station #3 - Office Visit(s)

At Station No. 1, the F&I manager met the customer and reviewed the sales figures at the sales consultant’s workstation. At Station No. 2, the customer learned about the F&I manager’s role in the sales process, and what to expect next. The F&I manager and the customer developed some degree of rapport during the walk-and-talk time it took to arrive at Station No. 3, the F&I office visit.

Setting the Scene

The F&I office should be warm and inviting, conveying a sense of professionalism. Everything in the office must have a purpose and be arranged for convenience. Pay attention to what the customer will be looking at during the F&I office visit(s). Is it the showroom activity? If so, rearrange the furniture to eliminate outside distractions. The F&I manager should be the only one able to view incoming traffic. Is a clock visible in the office? If so, remove it so that your customer is not reminded of the passing minutes. Anything on the wall should have a frame. Use mirrors to add light and make the office appear larger. The best place for brochures is inside a drawer, arranged for easy access.

Two-visit Process

Many of you work with a two-visit process. This process allows the F&I department two opportunities and reduces customer stress. In a two-visit process, the customer selects a vehicle, agrees on a sales price and trade figures, gives the F&I manager a deposit, signs a buyer’s order or purchase order, and selects a delivery date -- all on the first visit. The customer then departs until the delivery date and the second visit to the F&I office.

During the first visit, the F&I professional should dedicate the first 15-20 minutes to secure the financing, obtain a complete customer statement, and present all the options that must be added to the vehicle before delivery. The final few minutes of the first visit are reserved for preparing the receipt for the deposit, signing the purchase order (buyer’s order), and confirming the delivery date.

Try to set the delivery time on the seventh minute, e.g., 10:07 a.m., 11:17 a.m., 1:27 p.m., 2:47 p.m., which fosters the customer’s perception that your delivery personnel are scheduled by the nanosecond and every minute counts. Conversely, when appointments are set on the hour or half hour, customers are typically late and lose sight of how their tardiness affects the rest of the process. When pressed for time, customers become irritated and they become less willing to listen. The undesirable result is no additional sales, since the customer has no patience for anything except signing the loan documents and picking up the unit.

With the variety and complexity of today’s inventory, orientations can take from 30 minutes to three hours. For maximum productivity, the customer needs to be energetic and attentive for the second visit to the F&I office. Fatigue invites the word “No” to intrude upon most choices. Many times the customer says “No” without realizing what they are saying no to.

For those who typically take customers through the vehicle orientation before they sign the loan documents, try the following alternative. On the day of delivery, give your customer the VIP treatment. Put the customer’s name on a greeting board along with the vehicle delivery time. Most likely, the dealership promised to add something to the vehicle. Make sure the sales consultant greets the customer and walks the customer out to the vehicle, with a copy of the “Due Bill” in tow, to confirm that the additional equipment was installed. Mind you, this is not the orientation phase; the purpose of this step is simply to verify completed work. While the orientation specialist prepares to meet with the customer, the sales consultant can then walk the customer to the finance office to complete the loan documents, thus “delivering” to the F&I manager a customer open to considering insurance-related options to protect their investment during their second visit to the F&I office.

An energized customer is far more likely to give their full attention to the F&I manager’s review of opportunities to protect the customer’s future repair budget and equity. Service agreements, GAP, and credit insurance are all insurance-related products that need to be presented at the time of contracting.

When the installment contract is complete and all the required documentation is secured, the F&I professional can walk the customer to the orientation specialist, conduct a professional handoff, and return to the F&I office to process the paperwork.

One-visit Process

A good number of you are urged to contract with the customer on the first visit, and many of you will contract at shows. If you are among those F&I producers who see the customer only at the point of delivery, or at the point of commitment, you must present your products the first, and only, time you see the customer. It is possible to combine all the products into a value-added presentation and answer your customer’s concerns if you are focused and not interrupted. With razor-sharp content and time management, you can complete documentation within 20 minutes after the customer crosses the threshold of the F&I office.

You have no more than the first 20 minutes to build rapport, identify the needs of the customer, make a value-filled presentation, and use a menu to close the sale. If you think you can take all the time you want, you need to adjust your thinking. Otherwise, you may find yourself struggling with a customer who is physically present but mentally absent.

If you contract at shows and anticipate funding before physical delivery of the unit, you will be wise to have the customer sign a storage agreement and include a copy of that document along with the funding package.

Time Means Business

The rate of business is related to the pace of business, which means time is not a luxury. Whether you operate in a one-visit process or two, it is important to streamline your time with the customer so that F&I can contribute to the bottom line.

In upcoming articles, we will address how to make the most of each phase of the F&I office visit, starting with “Greeting the Customer” at Station No. 4.

RV Executive Today, March 2007