For my entire professional career, my success or failure has been, for the most part, linked to the success or failure of the finance managers who utilize the software I represent. I consider myself blessed to be part of two startups in the automotive industry that have made a huge impact in the world of F&I.
The first helped to put electronic menu selling on the map and the second helped evolve what the selling of F&I protection looks like in the age of Amazon. It’s hard to ignore a trend that aims at eliminating a position that we hold near and dear to our hearts, especially when the position and role could and should be so much more!
In many stores, the finance manager is one of the most talented and skilled associates. We should be tapping into this skillset more and having conversations about the future role of the finance manager.
For instance, what should the finance manager’s role be in helping to get your valuable F&I protection on your website both standalone and tied into your digital retailing solution? How about the service department or, better yet, setting a true follow-up cadence on previously declined F&I protection? Should they be getting involved more in the training and education of all consumer-facing dealership employees? Everyone from the BDC, to sales, service and the equity team should understand the value and benefits of the protection that make up one of the largest profit centers at the dealership. What would a pay plan look like to expand the role in this manner? In addition to PVR, could we start tracking Per Vehicle Digitally Retailed (PVDR), Per Vehicle Remote Delivery (PVRD), Per Vehicle Serviced (PVS) or Per Vehicle After Purchase (PVAP)?
It’s a strong belief by many that in order to retain or hopefully grow F&I revenue in the future, we will need to get better at selling to the customer over the phone using technology to aid us. “Digital Retailing” will eventually be adopted by the vast majority of new car franchises across the U.S. and, like it or not, that means we need to prepare to spend less face-to-face time with our customers. Belly-to-belly selling and negotiating is not a thing that millennials like anyway, nor are they comfortable with it. The good news is, early data already suggests that by giving the consumer the experience they’re looking for and engaging them on their own “turf,” you can actually sell them more.
If the thought of putting your F&I protection on display in any of the aforementioned departments concerns you, I would ask you to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Ignore all the statistics about the percentage of the customers that would buy here or buy there and ask yourself a couple things: If I’m the customer shopping online and looking at a car, would I want to know about the benefits of the various protection available? If you’re the customer in the service department paying for something you might not have had to pay for if you chose the protection at time of purchase, would being educated on the benefits of the protection maybe sway your decision the next time around? Of course it would.
The most successful retailers in the world provide constant product education and a path to purchase wherever the customers are exposed to said product. Whether you’re selling a $30,000 car or a $3,000 service contract, you should be following this same strategy. So, dealers and finance managers, start talking about the strategy going forward in constantly educating your customer base on your valuable F&I protection and make it as easy as possible to purchase when the customer decides it makes sense to do so — wherever that customer is.