The New World of F&I – Phase Two - Prep the Deal with What’s Best for the Customer
Before the customer sits with the financial services advisor – remember, the role has changed – the deal needs to be worked up.
It’s the job of the sales manager and/or the financial services advisor to handle this part of the process. It’s behind-the-scenes work that involves preparing all the resources, activities, and environmental factors for the sales transaction.
Prep the Deal
As you already know, deal prep is much more than just reviewing the numbers in the deal jacket. It’s the jumping-off point for understanding the customer, establishing baseline pricing, and building the deal framework within your lender network. A structure needs to be in place to prep the deal well.
Look Back at Online Communications
One step that is more valuable than most financial service advisors realize is a customer’s recent history. Did they submit a credit app online for pre-approval? Did they inquire about a certain make or model, features, or pricing? If they did, it can provide insight into their values and needs that can help you focus on the right things for them.
Secure Customer Information
There must be a process in place to understand and maintain customer profile information. It’s crucial for relating well to individual F&I customers over the long term, not just one sales deal. Identify the information you need to collect for a complete profile. As important as the profile itself is a secure method to store customer information. Symantec identifies that small businesses are the most targeted segment for malware and hacks, meaning information security is a must.
Implement Fair Pricing and Rates
Customers talk to each other, and to their friends and family. What’s offered to one must be offered to another. Create a level playing field with your pricing and rates – your F&I products and your financing rate inflation. Obviously, various credit levels will be handled differently, however, you’ll benefit by keeping consistent rates and pricing.
Beware that, even before they are in the F&I office, customers could be showrooming you with services like Carvana. The straightforward and transparent pricing structure they offer could damage your reputation if you aren’t as open and honest.
Train Sales Staff
As a financial services advisor, take ownership of your team’s knowledge. Help your team to understand your processes and keep them abreast of changes. Don’t just keep them informed on how it’s done but let them know why it’s done that way too. The customer’s first point of contact with financing information is through the sales consultant, so be sure they’re armed with accurate understanding.
Work With Your Lenders
It’s not just finessing the best rates from time to time. Develop positive lender relationships so you can make the most of your back-end gross. Meet with your lenders to review their strategies and policies. Lenders like CU Direct are the largest source for auto lending in the United States, however, they are among the most interactive. Develop goodwill with one or more reps at each lender. It goes a long way - A good lender relationship will add, at a minimum, 10% to your back-end gross.
Create Your Environment
Keep a neat and tidy finance office and make it as welcoming for customers as you can. Comfy chairs, a water dispenser, warm family pictures, and the like can ease a customer’s nerves. There’s more to the environment than comfort, though. Keep your forms and files easy to access. Ensure forms are legible, not messy, grainy, off-center photocopies.
Keep it Quick
A streamlined F&I process means being set up to print agreements on the quick. It’s a point in the sales process that you want to keep moving – a hang-up now can shut doors with a previously-receptive customer.