Dr. StrangeLike, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Deal.

There are quite a few written pieces on F&I training and maximizing effectiveness. We all know about Word Tracks, (Do we use them verbatim? Do we ad-lib? Should we use them at all?) There are focused approaches, goal setting, step by step closes, and finally, the more enlightened purist methodology which tells us to forget about our numbers and strictly zoom in on customer needs and wants.

I am behind these tools 100%, particularly the last one. But there is a “ghost in the machine” that can undermine the hard work and practice that has gone in to perfecting our craft. And even in today’s more enlightened business world, with all of its advances, this outmoded attitude, has manifested itself in a variety of ways, and it is still with us.

Before I elaborate, let me first say that one of the reasons I can confidently report on this phenomenon is that I have been in more dealerships than even the most flighty of employees. And not as a jobber, but in the capacity of an F&I manager working right alongside regular personnel. (I run a small staffing business geared toward retail automotive, and it has given me the opportunity to work in quite a variety of dealership settings over the years.)

Back to the problem at hand. It is simply this; in many cases there is still an appalling lack of attention to the work environment. There is often a history of treating the F&I Department as an afterthought, when, in reality, it is pound for pound the most profitable part of the dealership.

In many stores, the workload for a typical Finance Manager is too high for ideal productivity. This is not always based on the number of deals. As a matter of fact, more often than not it is the ancillary duties that detract from profits more than the number of paying customers.

How many of you have found yourselves rushing through a presentation because you have a stack of deals to bill out and package? No matter how mentally disciplined you are, it will inevitably affect the number of passes you make to sell products.

The rule of thumb used to be that we are most productive if we see about 70-80 customers a month. Frankly, in dealerships where there is an F&I assistant/secretary, I think that number could go up considerably. And when you have room to breathe, you have time to get involved in a deal earlier, which almost always leads to higher back end profit.

Now I’m not saying you should all go on strike for an assistant. There are other ways to keep Finance Managers from being some of the highest paid clerks in the world. One is to stem the tide of another environmental issue: the, “Accounting Office Power Grab”. Because you are usually so darned busy catching stray phone calls, doing cancellations, billing deals, doing deals, and hoping to get included when lunch is being ordered, (out of sight, out of mind!),  you don’t have much time left over for politicking. Unfortunately, that’s a problem. Because in most dealerships, the office staff seem to always find the time to bend the ear of upper management. And what happens is that slowly but surely, more of the deal paperwork, processing, and packaging becomes your responsibility and less of it theirs.

There are a number of other manifestations of the same problem, hand-me-down equipment with cut rate maintenance, worn out furniture, an overlong process for receipting money, and unnecessarily hand written forms when we all have printers, to name just a few.

So what is the solution? Well, first, don’t be part of the problem. What I mean is; the underlying feeling when we in Finance complain is that we need to tough it out, deal with the stress, power through. We are all affected by that old notion. And we need to knock it off. Studies always show that finesse, perceptiveness, flexibility, responsiveness, and a myriad of communication skills are dramatically reduced by stress. And guess what all of these characteristics are helpful with? Bingo! Sales.

So when you’re tempted to just be quiet, maybe it is time to tactfully start a dialogue. You’ll be ahead of the game if you do. You’re not asking for a creampuff job. You’re just saying that you should have breathers, a little fun, time to actually do in-service refreshers, time to recharge, whatever it takes to help you perform at peak. No one objects when sales managers get time to banter with the salespeople and each other. Why not Finance?

In your case, it will make you better able to serve the customer by providing the important products that help make their purchase and their driving experience tops.

Martin O’Brien

O’Brien Professional Services




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