Know Thy Customer
    We all know time is of the essence in the Finance and Insurance office when closing a
    customer. So good use of the limited time is essential.

    Most customers only have a 20-25 minute attention span and truly appreciate you not
    wasting precious minutes. If they perceive that you are, it can show up on customer
    satisfaction surveys.
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By Marv Eleazor
Finance Manager/Langdale Ford
Marv Eleazer has served in many positions, most notably
finance manager and director, during his 30 years in
automotive retailing.  For the last 10 years, he has been at
Langdale Ford Co in Valdosta GA.
So I ask: What is the single most important step in the F&I process?

You may think the menu presentation, the credit analysis or even document
preparation. But consider for a moment
the interview.
Yes, that dreaded step in the F&I selling process that seems mundane and
requires you to slow down and actually pay attention to the customer's needs.

Ironically, by slowing down to gather important facts, you can actually accelerate
the process by accurately presenting a qualified menu.

“Why is this step so important?” you may ask. “What's wrong with just
presenting the menu and getting the customer's OK to do business?”
What's wrong is that you may be leaving on the table by doing that.

Face it, very few customers saunter into your office with plans to initial off on your
top-of-the line F&I platinum plan.
Most are interested in interest rates. Many think they don't need any of your
product offerings. So most of the work you do is uphill.

Enter - the Qualifying Interview

It's vital because it probes the needs of the customer. Those needs can then be
assembled to create a professional, empathetic presentation with the right
product mix.

“Why not just roll out all my packages and let the customer choose rather
than all this useless rhetoric?” you may ask.
You can, but run the risk of sounding like a street vendor hawking cheap stuff
and taking too much time doing so.

Most customers have been pitched menu offerings at other stores by less than
professional F&I managers, and know the drill. Separate yourself from this
practice and interview the customer.

Consider this; the 300% rule doesn't apply to every customer because every
customer doesn't qualify for every product.

Too many F&I trainers have drilled the 300% rule into the heads of F&I managers
to the point that some are desensitized as to its importance.
A 75-year-old man with a history of trading in a car every three years while driving 10,000 miles annually probably isn't
interested in a vehicle service contract, but he may be interested in GAP, tire-and-wheel protection and pre-paid
maintenance. We know he doesn't qualify for credit life.

This is a situation where a well-crafted interview can yield huge dividends by understanding the customer's needs and
fulfilling them, not offering a canned sales pitch.

When and Where to Interview

That's up to you. Some F&I managers prefer to interview the customer in the salesperson's office where they're the most
comfortable. Others choose the quaintness of their own office.

The obvious advantage of floor interviews is that less time is spent in your office conducting the interview while
maximizing selling time once the customer is in your domain. The clock tends to start ticketing when customers are in
your office.

The important thing is to do customer interviews daily, while paying close attention to the needs and desires of the
person across the desk from you.

Your customers are real people with real needs. They want to be understood, not just sold to. One of the greatest
human needs is the need to be understood.

The better you become at this most necessary step of the F&I selling process the more consistent your sales and gross
profits will be.
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