Catching "The Big One"
Catching "The Big One"

Are you still floating in the muddy waters near the shoreline rowing your way to the fishing hole while gazing with envy when an M70 sport fishing yacht with all the bells and whistles whizzes past you?

This isn’t an article about fishing, but the analogy can be likened to your aspirations to “catch” a 100 service contract account. You want to own one of those yachts. You can’t figure out what’s missing from your already full tackle box. You’ve got the highest quality gear. You’ve been in the industry a long time. You’ve seen and done it all. You’ve spent years in finance and know dealers statewide, and they know you. You’ve done your homework and price out your products by what you think the industry will hold. You’re certainly worthy of a reasonable commission.

Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur and can’t seem to grow your customer base.

Many dealers nationwide are looking for a change in product providers. The recession and exploding use of social media and technology have changed the way they conduct business. Their needs are not only different, it’s difficult for them to keep up with all the rules and regulations that should be followed by their finance personnel. This is where you’ll find your opportunity to compete in the “Fishing Tournament” with the leading competitors.

How can you compete and become known as a champion in the industry? How can you bring in the tunas along with the minnows? First, by learning to listen and observe and evaluate. Every dealer has a problem. Maybe more. Be the problem solver. Before you throw out your hook and line of products, know what’s needed or what needs to be changed and why. This requires that you have exceptional F&I training. It’s essential for success in your “fishing” endeavors.

Why? It’s not only about high-quality products, pricing and options; corporate agents will out-bid you. Besides, they’re long-time champions who know the treacherous waters facing dealers in today’s economic environment and have an impressive cache of gear to sell them. The corporate name alone sells the products. Your success is not based on having the fanciest fishing gear or the biggest and fastest boat. It’s not having the ability to convey an exaggerated fish story in a believable manner. It’s about having the right attitude and building a trusted and personal rapport with the dealer and finance officer. It’s about having thorough knowledge of every new law and regulation and sharing your expertise with dealers and F&I managers to assist them in with any breaches in their methods that could put them at risk of a law suit.

The acquiring of knowledge and training is never “finished.” Dealerships and even third-party administrators are under the radar of the FTC and CFPB, who are initiating serious lawsuits. Compliance and transparency in selling are not just critical, they’re fundamental necessities. Don’t get caught in uncharted waters by the circling federal sharks. Become the service contract agent who can provide dealer personnel with exemplary F&I training and guidance on compliance and technology.

Every F&I manager needs updated and regular training in how to actively engage customers in their completely “transparent” menu options process. Performance tracking is required. Although technology tools are employed by nearly every dealership, they come with more regulations and legal scrutiny. Dealership compliance manuals must be intact and updated to reflect sound practices. Adverse reaction letters must be recorded and kept on file.

In June of 2012, the FTC charged EPN, a Utah debt collector, and a Georgia budget car sales dealership for “illegally exposing sensitive personal information of consumers” by allowing peer-to-peer file sharing software to be installed on their company PC systems. Agents and dealership personnel must know that all files shared on a P2P network can be viewed and downloaded by anyone with access and have proper security plans to inhibit this risk.

Why is this a litigious issue of increasing concern? Because the FTC charged that “the names, the addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth and drivers license numbers of approximately 95,000 consumers were made available to the P2P network.” The car dealership also allegedly failed “to provide annual privacy notices” and “a mechanism by which consumers could opt out of information sharing with third parties, in violation of the GLB Privacy Rule.”

Be an agent who offers dealership partners the most commendable service. Sell your value as someone who can enhance opportunities for increasing profits by limiting liability. Be the champion who can lead dealerships through perilous waters by minimizing their legal scrutiny. Training, long-term development, compliance and technology. It’s a winning combination and far from a mere offering of product price quotes. Today’s agent is equipped with the mightiest of tools, a Crowder Deep Drop Rod designed for the big-game fisherman — one who grows his own business while sharing his experience and knowledge with others.

William Tapply, author of A Fly-Fishing Life, said, “I've gone fishing thousands of times in my life, and I have never once felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water."