Becky's blog

Be The Leader in F&I Today?

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Auto-Nation USA, the #1 publicly owned retailer, opened it’s doors as the pre-owned mega giant in 1997. It built elaborate showrooms; county records show one was 218,000 square feet. The showrooms included a café, a playroom, and an aftermarket display platform.Kiosks with computers were placed throughout the store enabling consumers to efficiently check out in-stock inventory or to submit a loan application. Customers were greeted at these kiosks, which meant that all F&I deliveries were out on the floor. There were no finance offices but instead- business offices that were meant strictly for printing documents.

Most importantly, Auto-Nation was the principal leader of full disclosure selling in finance—a transparent, upfront sales philosophy. Using this philosophy as its key initiative has served them well. In a recent 2013 article posted by Bernie Woodall in Reuters, Auto-Nation earnings beat Wall Street estimates. Michael Jackson reported that he expects “U.S. industry new vehicles sales to reach the mid-15 million range in 2013, which would mark a rise of about 7 percent from last year and the highest sales total since 2007.” Its F&I profits also reached an all-time record, up 31 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. F&I Showroom’s February 21, 2013, issue reported that Auto-Nation total revenue reached $4.2 billion, up 13 percent since last year.

Those are impressive numbers.You’re thinking that managing $1,300 per car isn’t always achievable, but it might be, if you shared their zero tolerance for deceptive practices. If your customers walk away with any hint of dishonesty, they’ll be on Twitter spreading the word. Your ‘best practices’ application begins with the menu presentation. Being upfront and straight -forward is the way to go for increased profits.

Since implementing menu selling for the Auto-Nation mega giant in 1997, the F&I per vehicle retail increased significantly year after year. We used paper menus. Unfortunately, F&I managers today are using a variation of online versions without realizing that some cut corners. They inspire “rush” service—service that doesn’t spell out all the particular points of full disclosure or just minimize it’s potential.

Inspect the menu version you’re currently using. Does it include the buying numbers, APR, terms and base payment? Is every product listed and itemized? Do you take whatever time is necessary with every customer to clearly disclose what they’re paying for the vehicle and all terms?

Tom Hudson, of F&I Magazine, said, “So, even if federal law and the law of your state does not require the disclosure of an optional products menu, would I advise a dealer to use one and to disclose a “base payment” as part of the menu presentation? Without a second thought.”

Menu selling isn’t a time-wasting chore. Think KISS—Keep it Simple Silly.To be successful with menu selling, be consistent. Establish a well-practiced system that leaves room for customer feedback. Know the terms; define them with clarity. Don’t pack an endless number of products on the menu. A menu is not a scroll. Itemize all products and offer “two” payment options but be careful to not over do it. Be upfront and customer friendly. Offer all the products 100% of the time, but stick to the point. Don’t ramble. Throw out the sales jargon, pitches and props, Get rid of the after-market sales kits on the walls or your desk. Act like the professional you are, but treat your customer with the same courtesy you would your neighbor. Remember, you aren’t a billboard!

If your online presentation takes longer than five minutes, consider utilizing a printed menu that keeps you on track. Most customers would rather work with an F&I manager who presents a paper menu effectively than an automated menu with a 45 -minute video session-tied to it that promises a quick fix. Automation technology might represent the paperless so-called green world, but it won’t ever replace you, “the driver behind the wheel”- customer service that comes with the presentation of menu products on paper that can be held. Think “Barnes & Noble” how many people still enjoy reading a paperback book.

Follow Auto-Nation lead. It has demonstrated convincingly that full disclosure is the future. They have mastered the F&I office, and their ethical standard of business practices prevails. If you aren’t achieving over $1,000 PVR, ask yourself: Is you menu working you or are you working the menu?