Bottlenecks are the killers of progress and productivity. Where there’s a bottleneck, there’s a problem! Unfortunately, the vast majority of dealerships aren’t aware that their biggest bottleneck—the one that exists between sales and F&I—brings things to a crawl and can be removed. How? By seamlessly integrating the two processes.
Getting to the root of the problem
Think about how many customers are flocking to third-party platforms like TrueCar. The reason why is easy to understand: Buyers have grown tired of the century-old model of traditional auto sales. They want transparency and straight talk. When given the opportunity to participate in a buying process that offers this—especially a car buying experience that doesn’t require them to sit in the dealership for hours on end waiting for financial approval—they’re all too eager to snatch it up!
So what’s the best way for dealerships to combat lost business to third parties? It’s certainly not to go on the offensive against the likes of TrueCar and CarMax. These companies are only offering a service that people want. Instead, the answer is to look within and to take decisive action to enact changes that will bring your dealership up to speed with the most highly performing auto sellers on the planet.
It takes two to tango!
As with all collaborative efforts, the success of my approach hinges on teamwork. Without cooperation between sales managers and F&I managers, success simply will not happen. This is why I urge dealerships to encourage their departments to work together.
It isn’t always easy to break tradition, though, so I often recommend that representatives from both departments attend a retreat or workshop together. The NCM Institute makes it easy to get everyone to class with their buy one, get one free option. If you commit to sending someone from each department, they’ll let you send one of them for free!
Not only does the experience serve as a way of building camaraderie, but each will learn how to communicate about the issues related to both of their divisions. Once everyone gets on the same page and stays there, you will begin to see results!
Digital retailing and dealer expectations
Digital retailing puts the customer firmly in the driver’s seat by allowing them to not only shop for cars online but also the ability to secure financing online. Companies like Vroom, Carvana, CARite, and a growing number of large auto dealerships across the country are implementing this radical new approach. In expanding their presence to the digital landscape, these companies are poised to cash in on the long-held desires of auto buyers everywhere: the desire to do much of the heavy lifting themselves—not to mention the ability to walk away if the deal they find doesn’t match their precise needs. Forward-thinking companies and dealerships will secure their position at the head of the pack by adopting these processes and maximizing their profits.
Key elements for desking and F&I success
Once everyone is on board, and a genuine sense of team play has been implemented, the next step is to consider which tasks you want each individual team member to do so that everyone pulls in the same direction. Bear in mind that the approach your dealership takes will vary by your product and marketing, but I recommend that all dealers consider these essential steps:
- Establish credit criteria early in the sales process. Among one of the most important changes a dealership should consider is when to discuss credit criteria. Perhaps it might be best to bring it up earlier in the sale if the customer has mentioned past credit problems. It certainly makes sense before the customer is landed on the wrong vehicle and either financing is not available or payments are out of reach.
- Determine the best time to talk payments. Is it something best discussed up front in sales, or is it a conversation more suited to the F&I office? When it comes to selling vehicles, there’s no room for ambiguity. You must decide how sales and F&I can position you for success in menu presentation and improved profit.
- Identify “The Interview” and clarify why it is so important. An essential component to expediting the sale (and, in turn, cutting delivery time in half) is something I call “The Interview”—a question and answer phase that starts at the initial meet-and-greet. This includes having the F&I manager engage in conversation with the customer early on in discussions to learn the reasons behind potential low credit ratings and slow pay histories. What’s the best way for this team to determine customer creditworthiness and plant the seeds for menu sales further in the process?
- Getting the paperwork straight the first time. Sending a client into F&I with an incomplete deal checklist and no idea if they will be approved for credit is one of the principal contributors to the dreaded bottleneck. In my NCMi course, participants will gain an understanding of the importance of getting paperwork right the first time.
Ready to solve your F&I bottleneck? Join Becky Chernek for her upcoming NCMi class, F&I Management. In this course, you’ll learn how to develop a seamless transition that results not only in happier customers, but also in dramatically improved sales and profit.