Special Finance Requires Special Strategies

Some people consider the term “special finance” to be a feel-good, sanitized spin on terms such as “subprime,” “second-chance,” and other less desirable nicknames. The term “special finance,” however, is actually quite accurate—the “special” part in particular. Special finance is a complicated, nuanced part of our industry that requires a disciplined and focused approach very different from more traditional forms of selling.

To get an idea of current best practices in special finance, we polled some of our dealer partners who are currently seeing consistent success in special finance. One dealer we spoke to, for example, rolls roughly 40 cars a month at healthy margins while purchasing just 100 to 150 special finance leads.

Here’s some of what they had to share:

Do deals the right way.

They key here is the disclosure process, our dealers tell us. Talk to the customer first. Explain the process thoroughly and make it clear to them what they will need to do to assist you. Treat the customer with respect and allow them to keep their dignity.

Make it personal.

Think of yourself as the customer’s advocate. Show them you are the one who can level the playing field and champion their wants and needs. If customers know you’re fighting for them, they’ll be much more likely to buy a car from you and recommend your store to their friends and family. Ask lots of questions. Let the customer help you build the story you will go to the bank with.

Transparency is key.

Once an approval is secured, sit down with the customer and present everything up front. Everything means everything—the original price, the selling price, the interest rate, the down payment, and their payment.



Having a clear, transparent proposal to consider puts customers at ease and helps them think flexibly about which car they will ultimately purchase. This also helps a customer understand why some cars will work for them, and why others won’t. Get their buy-in; don’t just simply say, “These are the two cars I can get you done in.”

Follow-up on longer-lead sales.

Most successful dealers know that customers are being treated poorly during this process, and dealers are quick to churn them. Following up a couple weeks after lead submission and letting them know you can possibly assist them and want to help them is key to closing sales. The customer is looking for someone who cares.

Lead quality makes a difference.

There are many sources of special finance leads. When evaluating where to source leads from, take into consideration a vendor’s quality assurance process, track record, and any other products you may have tried from a vendor. Consistent, high-quality leads followed up with dutiful prospecting has been proven many times over to help lead to sales success.

You’re the buyer when it comes to talking to lead providers. You should feel like you’re being treated as a partner, are being presented with transparent information, and overall should feel that a lead provider is genuinely invested in seeing you succeed.

Ken Potter is vice president of Sales at CarsDirect, including CarsDirect’s special finance division. He can be reached at kpotter@carsdirect.com or at 800-692-2200.

Ken Potter

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