The importance of having qualified F&I Managers available in the “pipe line” that are prepared to interview is invaluable when it comes to maintaining relationships with our dealer clients. Most often the candidates we recommend do secure positions and now it is just a matter of getting them up to speed with the policies, procedures and culture that being at a new dealership carry.
Sometimes the transition to the new dealership is quick and easy and other times it can be slow and painstaking. So now I am thinking… wouldn’t it be great to be able to “plug and play” any time there is a need to replace an F&I Manager who leaves one of your dealerships. Sure it would… to be able to say to someone “you’re up” and they are ready and eager to step right into the box, ready to take a swing!
Then why is it that dealers run away from building a bench and creating “Home Grown” F&I Managers? I am sure there are a number of reasons but I think the primary reason is they have had a bad experience in the past due to their high expectations. Too often all a Sales Consultant has to do is sell a bunch of cars, be overly aggressive with a bit of charisma and they will most likely get promoted.
That is generally what it takes to advance in the car business. The training will come later. It’s crazy but that model has had success in producing Sales Managers over the years so the dealer expects that if it works for sales management it must work for F&I as well. The problem is, unlike the transition from Sales Consultant to Sales Manager where the principles are similar, the transition to F&I is much more challenging.
Selling cars as opposed to selling F&I products is not the same. F&I products are intangibles and selling intangibles is like selling air as you cannot see it, touch it or smell it. So, therein lies the first challenge for many sales consultants given an opportunity to advance into F&I.
Additionally many sales consultants who take the leap into F&I are succumbed by the complexity of all the duties and responsibilities the F&I manager position requires. There are however, many sales consultants who are able to quickly understand the intricacy of F&I with a little help from a friend. That friend is “you” the F&I Agent, the dealer’s F&I Partner.
Rather than recruit outside of your clients dealership, seek out an F&I apprentice, a “bench player" inside their dealership. Selecting the right “bench players” and nurturing them along will prove to be beneficial to both you and your dealer. When you begin to seek out a “bench player" though, there are many attributes to look for.
The most prominent are a “Positive Attitude” and the “Desire to Succeed.” After all, the right attitude along with a desire to succeed is definitely something we can work with, improve and fine tune. The following attributes will put you on the right track in selecting your next “bench player.”
- Professional in Appearance and Demeanor: They carry themselves well are organized and get things done in a timely manner. Procrastination is not in their vocabulary they have the “do it now” mentality.
- Commitment: They are committed to self-improvement and growth specifically in your client's dealership.
- Work Ethic: They have efficient and effective work habits and recognize it’s not just the hours you put in but what you put into those hours that count.
- Honest Upfront and Ethical: They are reliable, straight forward; they are sincere and display integrity in their actions.
- Process Driven: They follow the dealerships process and procedures while turning in paper work that is complete and accurate. They recognize that the process drives the results.
- Effective Communicator: They are persuasive and able to get their point across in a convincing and non-intimidating style.
- Customer Focus: They are always meeting or exceeding their customer’s expectations. CSI is a priority with them.
- Team Player: They work as well independently as they do as part of a team. They are comfortable working with others and others are comfortable working with them.
- Attitude: They are optimistic. Their enthusiasm is contagious. They look at problems as possibilities.
- Desire: They want it bad!
Once you have recognized a potential “bench player” it is time to begin the development process. The first task at hand is to talk to the candidate about their needs, strengths and aspirations. This is a step that is often over looked. All too often we identify that person with “what it takes” so we lure them into the position without ever questioning their desires and ambitions and the results do not live up to expectations.
Make sure they want it and they know exactly what is expected of them before you seal the deal. Drive results by setting mutual expectations before any training begins.Let the Training Begin
Create a solid foundation by first setting up clear and precise training objectives. Start with a complete explanation of the dealerships F&I policies and procedures. Do not overlook the administrative responsibility and managerial responsibility they will be expected to sustain. Include federal and state regulations that they must adhere to. Provide them with an overview of the features of all the F&I products the dealership has made available to customers. Hold them accountable for product knowledge. Provide them with word tracks for a menu presentation and overcoming objections along with a time line to master them. Teach them how to read Credit Reports and test their knowledge as they progress. Show them Lenders Rate Sheets and explain to them how to manage their lenders portfolio.
Next step is to let them experience it hands-on by putting them in the action, make them play the role. Playing the role should start out with learning the dealerships DMS fundamentals. Have the “bench player” load deals into the DMS and follow through by entering deal information onto the dealership’s finance source web site. Be sure someone is monitoring their progress until they are comfortable with that task. Have your “bench player” clean and package deals. Show them how to manage contracts in transit and charge backs.
When they are ready to take a deal be sure to be there to coach and critique them. Do not let them down. After all they were your recommendation so pay attention to them. Mentoring a “bench player” has to be a meaningful experience not just a “we’ll send you to training.” Certainly sending them to a qualified training and development company is essential.
The point is if you (the F&I Agent) provide the selected “bench player” with critical development experiences by implementing an on the job training program that includes all the aforementioned F&I essentials and Presto! you now have a plug-and-play “Home Grown” F&I Manager. Be wise in your selection… and Good Luck!