Top trainer relies on the ACT system — for assess, coach, and target — when an F&I manager is struggling to meet expectations and needs a path to higher production and income. 
 - Photo via iStock

Top trainer relies on the ACT system — for assess, coach, and target — when an F&I manager is struggling to meet expectations and needs a path to higher production and income. 

Photo via iStock

Dealers look to general agents for much more than just products to offer their customers. They depend on their agent partners to provide income development to one of the most profitable areas of the dealership, the F&I office. However, when you encounter an F&I manager that is struggling and they have no strategy to improve, it’s time to “ACT”: assess, coach, and target!

Assess your trainees. Understand where each F&I manager has been in the past and how it relates to their current performance. The voice of the trend speaks loudly, so be sure to listen! Determine how their current numbers relate to the last six to 12 months. This will show if the current downturn is a temporary problem or the continuation of a downward spiral. Numbers are the symptoms of a problem. It takes a closer look to determine what might be the root cause.

Observing the F&I manager with a customer is critical to identifying areas that are hindering their performance. This observation must be part of any effort to help them improve. As you observe the transaction, ask: Are they asking a good quality and quantity of questions to uncover customer needs? Is the menu presentation a comfortable and informative process that is perceived as an effort to inform the customer of their options? Or has it degraded into a selling tool? Is the effort to overcome objections visual and interactive, or merely a verbal effort to talk the customer into accepting a product or package?

A well-executed assessment of both numbers and processes will reveal areas needing focus and even uncover some blind spots the F&I manager may not have been aware they had. This is the first and most crucial step in developing a strategy to improve profits and income.

Coach them to success! Conducting an assessment can be done in a day; a coaching effort happens over an extended period. Every great athlete, regardless of performance level, needs and values the input of a coach. With coaching, you provide the opportunity for each F&I manager to grow and achieve optimal performance through consistent feedback, counseling and mentoring.

The initial effort in coaching is to get agreement that a performance issue exists and convey clearly the consequences if performance doesn’t improve. This creates the urgency to improve and sets the stage for a productive effort going forward.

A productive coaching session involves providing new techniques and insight on how to improve various parts of the F&I process. Each area of focus should include a roleplaying exercise. The coach should play the customer, then provide feedback identifying strengths and weaknesses and specific ways to improve. An extremely effective technique is to videotape the exercise, watch it together, and discuss what it reveals. A coach does more than identify areas to improve; they provide specific steps that can be implemented to lead them down the path to more success.

Target to improve! Everyone needs a target to shoot for. That target might be a higher per-copy average, a products per retail unit goal, or an overall income level to reach. Everyone can agree that improvement is needed. Once the target is set, the coaching effort will provide the steps to take as well as the motivation and support to reach it. There must be a strategy to improve not just a demand to improve. An effective effort to be a coach to those we serve will not only make them better but will have residual effects to other members of the dealership team. Income development is all about individual development and those that help others improve will be rewarded by increased loyalty and income from their dealers.  

The most important factor is to include other managers in the targets you set. Everyone should know what you are shooting for. Then everyone can celebrate when the target is reached! Positive reinforcement and recognition will motivate the F&I manager to continue to grow and reach the next level of improvement.

Few things are more frustrating than encountering members of an F&I team that are underperforming and seem to have no strategy to improve. Some simply don’t know the path to take to make the improvement they know is needed. They need someone to properly assess where they are currently, coach them down the path to more success, and provide targets that can be reached and celebrated. Take action and help others improve. It will make you a more valuable partner to your F&I managers and dealers.

Rick McCormick is national account development manager for Reahard & Associates Inc.

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Rick McCormick
Rick McCormick

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Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates.

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Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates.

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