Emotional Intelligence is Vital to F&I IQ

By: Jim Leman

Emotional intelligence describes an individual’s ability to perceive others’ emotions and intuitively respond to them in understanding and compassion.

For leaders and managers who’ve learned how to practice emotional intelligence in their places of business, the payoff is huge. These benefits include more productivity, reduced turnover, faster problem solving, and improved customer service and customer satisfaction.

In the F&I office, though, this empathy toward the customers has traditionally been hard to find. At most, managers who used emotional intelligence did not speak about it. Others who may have practiced the technique probably didn’t realize their natural way of relating to customers relied on it.

Times have changed, and relating to consumers this way is now being advocated by industry leaders as how to improve F&I product penetration by practicing better and longer listening and matching solution to need, not “selling” product.

If you want a better outcome from the time you engage with customers, learn about and then practice emotional intelligence so you know how to engage with them more personally and collaboratively. Those who do, both well-established F&I managers and those new to the business will sell more aftermarket product by learning to apply strategies like emotional intelligence as they help customers through the F&I process.

No one wants or likes to be sold. The pathway to deeper product penetration is by engaging customers through their emotions. This requires the asking of better questions that elicit specific concerns; listening more attentively for subtle clues about budget concerns or family safety, for instance, that will help the F&I practitioner turn a product pitch into a lifestyle solution.

If emotional intelligence does not come to you naturally, see your F&I training sources or Google the term to identify self-learning resources.  Understand that today’s car buyers will have used many online tools while conducting their 14-hour purchase research before stepping into the showroom. They will have run payment calculator apps, browsed aftermarket product offers and will engage knowledgeably about GAP, service contracts, tire and wheel, lease wear and tear products and other products.

The job of once explaining and educating consumers about aftermarket products sways more today to advising about product benefits and how they fit buyer concerns.

Therefore, practicing a F&I IQ strategy first identifies buyers’ emotional intelligence triggers. The best place to start this is by seeking customers still in the buying process. Greet them at their sales associate’s desk. Listen in on that conversation. What are they feeling? What concerns or questions are not they sharing or asking? Earn trust – and their business — when you address these matters directly as they related to your aftermarket products.

If you want better outcomes from your time with your customers, learn about and then practice F&I IQ as you engage with them throughout their buying experience.

Jim Leman, a former Ford salesman, writes about dealership fixed and variable operations. His work appears in F&I and Showroom, Wards Dealer Business, DrivingSales and others. Contact jimleman@gmail.com


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