“What Business Are You In?”
“What Business Are You In?”

“You are not paid to work hard. In fact, you are not paid for effort at all. You are paid for results. It's not what you do; it's what you get done." – Larry Winget

As a successful agent entrepreneur, you can never forget what your dealers are paying you for. They’re not paying you for supplying them with the latest and greatest F&I products. Your products really aren’t all that different from your competitors, and there are dozens of other providers out there with similar products that are priced less than yours.

The dealers are not paying you for your time. They don’t care how many hours it took you to drive to their dealership, how long you spent training their F&I people last month, or how many hours you spent preparing this month’s arts & charts highlighting their dealership’s F&I performance. They’re not paying you for your years of experience, your vast knowledge, your engaging personality, or your positive attitude. They’re paying you for one thing… results!

To be a successful general agent, you had better be in the results business because that’s what every one of your dealers, and potential dealers, expects. Most dealers aren’t really all that concerned with who provides their F&I training, the specific F&I sales process used in the F&I office, the menu software being used, or the F&I products being offered. What dealers are concerned about, and what ensures they remain a long-term client of your agency, is just one thing- are you helping them achieve the results they want?

The key to any long-term business relationship is to identify the results the dealer expects you to help him or her achieve, and their relative priority with that dealer. What results are the dealer looking for? What is his or her primary objective? What is Job 1, Job 2, Job 3, etc.? Is it all about the money, or is improving their customer satisfaction rating and reducing chargebacks what they want to achieve?

When it comes to their F&I department, every dealer has different areas that are their hot button. What they want and need is for someone to help them improve or excel in those areas. For one dealer, it might be improving their CSI, because it’s a qualifier for many of today’s manufacturer’s incentive programs. (And they missed out on the last one by two tenths of one percent, which cost them thousands of dollars!) Or it might be being number one in their 20 Group in $PRU, or at least beating their buddy down the street.

To another dealer, it might be compliance, because they’ve had a compliance issue, or someone filed a complaint with the AG’s office. The fact that you can help his F&I managers become AFIP Certified, not only increases your value to that dealer, it helps him achieve the desired results… a compliant F&I process with F&I managers who know the laws and regulations they have to comply with on a daily basis.

Other areas a dealer may need your help with is incomplete/incorrect paperwork in the F&I office, reducing contracts in transit, achieving consistent F&I performance, and finding or retaining good F&I managers. They may need help improving their F&I accountability and reporting, reducing chargebacks, improving lender relations or implementing a more effective compensation program.

A thorough understanding of each dealer’s expectations is the foundation on which you will build your relationship with that dealer, and must always be used as the starting point for a discussion concerning any facet of the dealer’s F&I products and processes.

Like any good salesperson, top agents with long-term clients have mastered the ability of interest questioning to discover their dealers’ motives, priorities and objectives. When talking with any dealer, whether it’s the 1st time or the 101st time, it’s critical you show genuine interest in that dealer’s business, and engage him or her in a dialogue, not merely pitch them on your product or service.

When you demonstrate genuine interest in improving the dealer’s business and helping them achieve their goals and objectives, they become genuinely interested in learning more about your products and services. The most important practice to follow while interest questioning, is to listen.

When discussing any F&I product or service you want to provide a new or existing dealer, your questions should always be based upon gaining a clear understanding of the following: As Is; Should Be; Barriers; and Results.

As Is - Determine the current situation; i.e. existing vendor relationships, program structures, penetrations, production volumes, products per retail, dollars per retail, individual product sales volumes, F&I processes, manager accountability, menu software used, customer satisfaction levels, F&I personnel, initial training, ongoing training, etc.

Should Be - Determine the desired situation; i.e. the dealer’s vision, expectations, long-term and short-term goals, what is the “perfect picture,” how it should look; what should be happening, if he or she could make any changes in F&I, what would it look like in a perfect world (i.e., the ability to retire in ten years).

Barriers – Identify the obstacles preventing the desired (Should Be) situation from happening; i.e. regulations, relationships, personnel, insufficient or ineffective training, no accountability, another decision maker, indifference, complacency, the wrong products, or lender issues.

Results – This is where you demonstrate and paint a picture of the rewards and benefits the dealer will receive by achieving the desired (Should Be) situation; i.e. increased $PRU, no worries about talking to lawyers, happy customers and employees, the ability to buyout his partner, becoming the top dealer in his 20 Group, a reinsurance company providing that retirement nest egg, additional back-end profits, etc.

As you attempt to discern a potential or existing dealer’s As Is, Should Be, and Barriers, three categories of needs-discovery questions that you will want to ask include:

General Questions - Often closed-ended, these questions enable you to get basic dealership information and history; who works where, what products are being sold, who reports to who, etc.

Elaborative Questions - Usually open-ended, these questions require the dealer to elaborate on a general probe question or to explain his reasoning, philosophy, procedures, vision, and are typically who, what, when, where, how and why questions.

Quantifying Questions - Usually closed-ended, these questions enable you to obtain current $PRU, PPRU objectives, goals, production numbers, sales volumes and penetrations. (For 90+ examples of General, Elaborative, and Quantifying Questions, please contact Ron at [email protected])

If you want to be in the results business, you have to first have a thorough understanding of that dealer’s As Is, and determine where he or she feels their F&I department Should Be. Once you determine the obstacles preventing the desired Should Be from happening, you can help remove the Barriers, and implement a solution that gets Results. Because if you want that dealer selling your products tomorrow, you had better be in the results business today!