The Number One Question
The Number One Question

An F&I professional who is committed to consistent growth in their ability to help customers knows that skills are not something to be demonstrated daily but something to be developed daily.

We know the two main ingredients that lead to a successful F&I office are great products and well-trained people. Dealers today demand we help them create consistent improvement in customer satisfaction and profit levels.

We need to take a look at where the F&I department is currently and then consider the question that follows: Where do we go from here and how do we get there?

Evaluation and the Law of Entropy

Each F&I manager should be evaluated as to where they are in their professional development. The numbers are the easy part. However, we must determine what activity each team member is involved in that will increase skill level and how often this activity takes place.

The law of entropy works in thermodynamics and in F&I offices. Simply stated, it reveals that any system or process that does not have fresh energy introduced into it on a regular basis will disintegrate into chaos over time. We must determine if an F&I manager is committed to growing up or just showing up. When “skill entropy” sets in, it will produce an effort that shortcuts the process and blurs the lines of compliant selling, both of which are unacceptable.

Once we know the production level and the current growth pattern of each F&I manager, now it is time to talk about where we’re going and how to get there. The goal should be consistent improvement month after month and a commitment to the activities that will assure that happens. Three elements are crucial to ensure that we facilitate a dealership environment that promotes growth:

1. Growth Must Be Pursued With Consistent Practice.

All professionals practice and F&I professionals are no exception. A training calendar should be developed monthly that clearly shows activities to be involved in on a daily basis. Spending 20 to 30 minutes each day to develop skills should be expected and tracked. Training then becomes viewed as a process, not a one-time event.

Everyone tracks performance. However, to motivate and move people to grow, you must track effort. We have seen numerous examples demonstrating the top performer in a dealership is the one who has the highest commitment to training. It reveals more than just completion of assignments. It’s a mindset that says no matter what level of success I obtain, there is always more to learn.

2. Growth Must Be Compensated.

Training activities on a monthly basis must be part of the F&I compensation plan. There are two ways to grow your skills: by instruction or by consequences. Including expected training activities in the monthly compensation plan provides consequences for those that want to demonstrate, more than develop, their ability.

We provide an online training program to dealers that incorporates a weekly training module which takes from 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Many dealers tell their F&I teams, “If you complete 100% of the training each month, I will pay for it. If you do not complete 100%, then you will pay for it.” If it’s important to the dealer, it will make it into the compensation plan. Including training in the compensation plan will let every F&I manager know there is the expectancy of growth and a commitment to the activities that make that happen.

3. Growth Must Be Celebrated.

When training milestones are reached, that should be celebrated. Many dealerships have a Saturday sales meeting where cash is handed out for accomplishments during the week. It not only provides instant gratification for a job well done, it tells everyone in the room that individual did a good job.

To many individuals, the recognition is as important as the money. Make Their Day, an employee motivation firm, recently surveyed 1,200 American workers. Among the study’s highlights: 76% found peer praise very or extremely motivating and 88% found praise from managers very or extremely motivating. And the reward of recognition in front of their peers was rated higher than monetary rewards. Growth that is celebrated is repeated in others.

If the growth of the F&I team demands daily practice, is tied directly to their compensation plan, and success is celebrated in front of their peers, then the question of where are we going and how we will get there has officially been answered. That is a recipe for success and a win for the dealer — and for the agent!

Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates Inc., an F&I training company providing classes, workshops, in-dealership and online training.