I look at the Finance and Insurance office in a dealership as an opportunity to exercise an ambitious spirit for running a successful business within a business. Being in business for yourself is the "American Dream." It offers the opportunity to develop repeat and referral business that translates into growth and personal success. The harder you work, the more reward you can expect to see. The more you prepare yourself for the challenges, the more you can establish solid and obtainable goals in your finance office. This position carries not only legal, but also ethical responsibility within the dealership. It requires knowledge of local, state and federal regulations, which encompass the retail automotive business. It requires the understanding of lender criteria in order to create efficiencies in the finance office. It requires knowledge of products and how the contracts work. With the position comes a lot of responsibility, but it presents the opportunity for much reward as well.
What does it take to open a business today? The first and most important aspect is to have working capital. The number one reason for failure in new business startups is being undercapitalized. Therefore, you’re put into a position to raise capital either by borrowing and/or leveraging the assets you have worked hard to accumulate. You can go to family and friends to borrow or you can take on a partner with capital to help. The next step is to establish a marketing plan that ensures you have customers. Time and energy is a real commodity in this area and the ability to leverage yourself becomes very challenging. Investment in technology, office equipment, and help can cut into your marketing budget if not calculated correctly. I could go on and on, because I haven’t even mentioned the paper work required for licensing to go into business, or hiring an attorney and accountant to keep you on the legal side of state and federal requirements. Needless to say, there is risk and work involved in taking on a business adventure. We have that opportunity in the finance office without the downside of the personal investment needed to go into business. We have a business within a business.
Understand that the finance and insurance office presents efficiency, consistency and legality to the customer and to the public Those guideposts enable a finance office to be perceived as credible and performing with integrity. When we talk about efficiency, it is important not to hurry customers along, but to ensure that their experience is informative and beneficial in choosing financing or leasing options, along with the protective products you are offering them. Most customer information presents itself during the discovery step. By using information shared by the customer during discovery, we can begin building amicable finance and protective packages that are suitable to each customer. By repeating this process without omitting critical steps to the sale, you become more efficient in your processes, thus creating more time for presenting features and benefits and answering questions. The sale should never be a struggle; it should be consultative selling that offers solutions to customers’ real wants and needs.
Bringing consistency to your business allows everyone you rely on daily for your business (sales staff and management) to be aware of your processes and time. The real market for your business is your sales and service departments. They provide you with customer opportunity daily. It is important that they know what is being asked of the customer and what is being said to the customer. This will build their confidence in your ability to treat the referral with courtesy and in a professional manner. If your referral sources do not know what you sell and how you sell, it can become a nuisance instead of an asset. Educate your resources on the virtues of your products and how they work. Their understanding will enhance your opportunities.
You have to be an active participant in building and maintaining a solid finance office. Your business also depends on your ability to access and communicate information. Blame is not an option. If you are confronted with difficult employees, you need to sell them the reasons why customers are willing to include protective products into their transactions. If your resources (sales, service and parts) don’t understand the features and benefits of the products offered in F&I, they will not be enthusiastic about introducing their customers to you. Do not take anything for granted. Help your resources succeed and in turn, they will help you as well.
How can I help my sales resources with their business? Everyone in the retail automotive business seeks to build a business that will yield additional income each year. Sales people look for repeat customers, referral customers, and walk-in customers. How can you help? Each customer who finances an automobile is required to fill out at least two complete references. It’s a wonderful time at the end of paperwork to ask, ”Did Joe do a good job and explain everything to you? Did he answer all your questions and address all your concerns?”
The answer should be “yes” because they just completed all the paper work. Give them an opportunity to share the referrals on the credit application by sliding a post card in front of them that says, “Joe did a good job and we recommend visiting him at the dealership when you have transportation concerns.”
If the average sales person sells ten vehicles a month and six of those customers are financing, you should have at least 144 post cards going out a year for your sales people. You are helping create a marketing campaign for your sales associates and monitoring customer satisfaction at the same time. Reciprocity makes the world go around; providing opportunity to others will bring you more opportunity. The law of large numbers will procure customers and ultimately more profit for your finance office.
So look at your opportunity as one that has no ceiling, no obstacles and plenty of resources that can help you build a successful business within a business. It’s an opportunity to build and prosper; it all depends on how well you organize your business.