Making the Time to Improve
Making the Time to Improve

Why do F&I Managers often avoid attending training classes? While they will tell you that they “don’t have the time,” or that they are “shorthanded in the store,” the real reason is training takes people out of their comfort zone. Humans are creatures of habit and once a habit is ingrained, any attempt to change the habit is met with considerable resistance. Change is generally viewed as a bad thing - something to be avoided at all costs. This resistance to change becomes problematic when the performance in the store is not at an acceptable level. This situation deprives you and your dealers of additional revenue opportunities - just do the math. How many stores are you responsible for? How much money is being left on the table each month? This situation reminds me of a quote from former Major League Baseball catcher, Yogi Berra: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.”

To illustrate this point I’d like you to think about the stores you manage. In those stores, do you see a wild fluctuation in the per vehicle unit (PVR)/per retail unit (PRU) from month to month? For example, in the first month the PVR/PRU is $750, then the next is $900, and that’s followed by $665, or do they remain relatively constant? My experience has shown that the month-to-month PVR/PRU figure stays pretty constant, varying by $20 to $50. But if you think about it, how is that possible? Every month a new group of customers come through the F&I office, each unique as far as income and credit, yet the PVR/PRU number is relatively static. Why? Because that PVR/PRU number is comfortable for the F&I manager. It’s comfortable from a commission standpoint and it’s comfortable from a process standpoint. If the F&I Manager has their F&I sales process grooved, and they are satisfied with their monthly paycheck, why would they want to change anything? They won’t. They have convinced themselves, their bosses and even perhaps you that the number is the right number and life goes on.

A savvy agent knows how to combat this resistance to change, and also knows how to leverage pay plans and incentives to improve in-store performance. Good agents recognize the value that a quality training program brings to the individuals in attendance, and also know that what’s good for the F&I manager is usually good for the agent as well. So, do you consider yourself a good agent? Do you consider yourself a savvy agent? If so, I’d like to ask you a question …

When was the last time YOU made time for your own professional development? When was the last time you attended an agent-focused training event?

Sadly, for many of you it’s been way too long. Just like the F&I managers you try to convince to go to F&I school, you’re just as resistant to change as they are. And, just like the F&I managers, you may have grown satisfied with your monthly commissions and are content to keep doing what you’re doing and getting what you’re getting. Unfortunately, this mindset hurts your dealers; your F&I managers; your boss (or bosses) if applicable; and most importantly, it hurts you and your family.

Finding the time for professional development, while important, isn’t the goal, MAKING the time for professional development is the goal. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. For example, why not take advantage of your windshield time by listening to an audiobook? They’re inexpensive and may just provide you with that little edge that will help you win more new business or help you hold onto your current business. We are constantly adding new sales concepts to our agent training based on the new sales oriented offerings. The beauty of taking advantage of this type of self-development is it’s just you. You can process what you hear and then decide if and how you can apply it to your daily battles.

Your product providers may also offer professional development. Some of the topics Allstate Dealer Services covers with the independent agents representing our products in the field include; time and territory management; new account acquisition skills; account development and management: how to leverage pay plans and incentives; and understanding deal structure and reinsurance options, just to name a few.

Listening to audiobooks and searching out training and development opportunities are just a couple of ways to make yourself better, but the first step is being honest with yourself. Are you as good as you can be at your job? Do you know what your strengths are? Do you know how to leverage them? Are you honest with yourself about your weaknesses? Do you know how keep them from getting in the way of your success?

Another good question to ask yourself is - where did you learn how to do the job you do every day? A lot of you worked for a large direct company in the past, learned what you needed to learn, became disenchanted with the politics or whatever and decided to try the agent route. While you were employed, you were provided training, and required to follow your particular organization’s processes. This was probably where you learned how to do the job, but how long ago was that? If it was more than five or ten years ago, then what have you done to update your repertoire? Wouldn’t you agree that the car business today is a lot different than it was in 2004?

A fair number of you reading this article may have found your way to the agent side directly from an F&I office. You got to know an agent, figured the hours had to be less, and knew you had more talent than the guy calling on your store. So you gave it a shot. You knew what to do when a customer came into your office, but who taught you how to be an agent? Who taught them? Have you picked up any bad habits along the way? Would you recognize them if you had?

I realize this article is filled with a lot of inward-looking questions, but who is in a better position to know you, than you? No matter how you found your way to this side of the business, you have probably already learned the hard way that there are no guarantees. But I can make one guarantee, if you stop growing personally and professionally, you will eventually rot and die on the vine.

Recognize that there is no good time for training. You can come up with TEN great reasons why you shouldn’t attend a training session, but I’d like to offer ONE reason you should. You owe it to yourself. If for no other reason, do it for yourself. Who knows, you might just pick up one new idea, or piece of knowledge that will enable you to win that deal you’ve been chasing for years.

When you have an opportunity to attend a training session and you begin to think that you might try to make it, remember Yoda’s immortal words, “Try not. Do ... or do not. There is no try.”