6 Steps to Becoming a Top F&I Consultant
Technology helps amateurs become good, the good become great, and the great unstoppable
A skilled F&I consultant is one of the highest-paid employees in the car dealership, second only to the general manager or dealer operator. Their ability to create profit at the dealership makes them in demand and increasingly hard to find. Plug “F&I” into Google Alerts and be ready for the avalanche of F&I help wanted notices that’ll overflow your inbox.
Three powerful factors are at play here.
First, many seasoned F&I professionals are aging out of their careers.
Second, tighter scrutiny on F&I practices, including fee markup and compliance chores, causes some who’ve previously done well in the F&I office to pack it up (no pun intended).
Third, working in F&I isn’t the right fit for many. The hours can be a challenge, and as perhaps the last ambassador a buyer will engage with in buying a car, F&I professional need stamina, the ability to be positive and personable with all customers, and to be enthusiastic about the aftermarket products they promote.
Fortunately, because traditional car-buying processes have changed to deliver better flow to shoppers, F&I processes have as well. For instance, F&I automation tools, such as decision-making software, e-contracting, e-menu, and other software, enable less-experienced F&I hires to perform at high levels, measured by per-vehicle retail (PVR) and product penetration results.
Time may eventually force tradition-bound dealers who don’t use menus now to ultimately do so. In 2015, our company conducted a study to analyze nearly 1.5 million vehicle transactions at dealerships, and looked at several important F&I performance indicators. Here are results:
These stores achieved their substantial lifts by using a top-of-the-line digital menu for more than half of their total deals. Imagine how much more profitable they would have been had high-end e-menu technology been applied to all sales.
There is no reasonable alternative to ensure proper and compliant aftermarket product penetration that also saves time for both F&I practitioners and their customers.
Modern F&I platforms not only give dealerships improved technologies for engaging consumers and transacting business, but enable dealers to do so in a more organized, streamlined, and compelling way. Technology helps amateurs become good, the good become great, and the great unstoppable.
There are six key ways you or your F&I professionals can become even better F&I consultants:
1. Become proficient with the tools
Get all the training available on F&I technology used, and practice using it. This training should be provided by your technology partners.
If training is live, take the time to participate. If it’s online and downloadable training is available, take advantage of it to become a master of F&I tools.
2. Handle customers kindly and with respect
Modern F&I engagement that uses tablets, big-screen TVs, and similar digital touch technologies help relax buyers, who are then more likely to express how their needs can best be met.
Predictive selling strategies that use an interactive customer survey mechanism enable customers to “sell themselves” on aftermarket products. A great system will facilitate smooth transactions and an open dialog, which gives all customers confidence.
3. Learn to flow through objectives
One reason product penetration is low in some dealerships is because of F&I’s failure to manage the flow of conversation.
Talk-track training equips staff with objection-handling scenarios for almost any situation, so managers can come back at the sale from different angles to promote the products’ value, but not in a pestering way that frustrates customers and erodes customer satisfaction. High-end sales aids inform the customer upfront, avoiding objections before they form.
4. Persistently pursue
Today’s interactive F&I platforms enable customers to touch and select the products of interest to them, and also quickly reconfigure options and monthly payments. This presentation flexibility encourages multiple configurations to make sure buyers are given several chances to buy.
Some products, such as service agreements, often require multiple trial closes—don’t give up after the first or second decline. Persistently pursue also means sharpening skills. Former management consultant Stephen Covey described this personal investment as “sharpening the saw.” Be sure you’re the sharpest and best tool in the F&I department’s toolbox.
The best systems use presentation psychology to present the options multiple times and in multiple ways to maximize opportunities to sell without using outdated pushy tactics.
5. Read exhaustively
You need to be on top of the F&I game, and from many perspectives. This means being skilled at demonstrating and answering questions about F&I processes and products, as well as the overall car business, the economics influencing it, consumer shopping behavior, and trends in consumer-engagement practices.
Know what is going on in your community, including its politics, schools, health care systems, and demographic trends. You probably won’t need to know all this information, but regular reading will help you spot trends and opportunities, and be a better F&I consultant.
Also, an intelligent survey system helps F&I managers connect the lives of customers with their real risks and need for coverage.
6. Adopt competitive advantages
Any time you shorten a customer’s time to complete a vehicle purchase, you win. Studies show consumers are increasingly dissatisfied with slow F&I processes.
Digital F&I technologies enable you to give a more compelling presentation to customers, and give them more control over the choice of aftermarket products.