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Chris Costner

Chris Costner Account Executive

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Many dealers across the United States will be closing out a great month of sales today and all of you should be congratulated for the efforts put forth.  It’s not over yet.  The great news is that we still have this wonderful Saturday to dig down deep and make it a month we haven’t seen in some time. Again, well done.

Now that we lived that moment for a few seconds, what is your game plan for April? Do you have one? Do you approach the day wondering what will become of it or do you approach the day having a pretty good idea what will become of it? Are you spot on with every customer interaction, product presentations and handling objections the proper way rather than on the defensive?

I have noticed over the years, in all capacities, that customer’s objections haven’t changed much yet dealer personnel still stumble many times when challenged. Especially in one of our biggest profit centers:  The F&I office.

Most of the objections we are confronted with can fall in one of the four categories:

  • Affordability
  • Product Misconceptions / Lack of Information
  • Need Perception
  • Fear Of Making Poor Decision

This upcoming week is one of my favorites for sports ending with The Masters golf tournament so naturally I have to throw in a sports analogy.  Imagine you are the basketball coach for one of the Final Four teams playing.  It is your job to prepare and condition your “team” in the fundamentals, develop a winning game plan and execute that plan properly.  A big part of this game plan is to know what your team will be up against.  If your team has been beaten by the same four plays, game after game, you need to start questioning ability.  To all the F&I professionals out there, you have watched the game films, gathered your important information and also had a chance to see the playbook ahead of time.  How do you plan to win?

It is very important to understand how customers like to make a purchase.  Intangible products sold in F&I are made by a transfer of beliefs and enthusiasm mainly, in my opinion.  It involves a super star presentation that is based on solid product knowledge developed with empathy for the customer.  If you approach your presentation in this manner, you will sell the way they want to purchase.  Your customer’s are buying a majority of the time because they want to, not because they need to.  I can think back on many occasions when I have put off making a purchase on something that I needed but didn’t want, compared to how many times I have purchased something I wanted but didn’t need.  Anyone else? I think selling is more motivational rather than persuasive and knowing that will help close more sales.  We have heard over and over that people make a purchase when their perception of value exceeds the “cost.”  Cost can be in terms of money, time or aggravation.  Without a perceived need, all of the features and benefits of any product create no value and without value, no pricing will be cheap enough for the customer in front of you.

You see, each time a purchase is made; an internal conflict takes place with an emotional desire to have the product and the fear of paying too much or being taken advantage of by the seller.  Customers then search for answers to help resolve this conflict by a series of questions listed below but not limited to:

  • Do I or can I trust this sales person?
  • Reputation of company?
  • Will the product serve my needs?
  • Does value exceed price?
  • Do I want it now?

Looking at these questions, we need to ask ourselves if these are logical or emotional decisions.  Is there any logic in trust?  The customer may have your trust but their spouse may not.  Your dealership’s reputation is subjective too.  This is definitely an emotional thought process and value is the customer’s personal judgment.  Customers are buying emotionally with just enough logic to justify their decision.  Knowing this, is your F&I presentation built solely on facts, features and benefits?  Many times I can remember as an F&I manager thinking if I can explain enough features and benefits, I will close on more products.  Then “menu selling” made its way into our dealerships that taught F&I managers to present 100% of products, 100% of the time to 100% of the customers.  Now please don’t get me wrong, I believe features and benefits along with a proper F&I menu presentation are key but “value” is created only when the product presented fulfills a desire or solves a problem.

With all this in mind, presenting that beautiful, well-prepared F&I menu and overloading your customer with features and benefits will only get you so far.  Sure you are going to sell a few products but you will definitely end up with even more lost opportunities unless you, the F&I manager, take the time to sell yourself and the dealership.  It’s time to truly identify “buying motivations” and demonstrate how the products presented can satisfy your customer’s perceived need.  If you help your customer answer the five questions I mentioned earlier in a positive way, you will increase your chances of closing on more products.  Only then will you no longer be in a win or lose situation with the customer but both of you will have won with you closing on more products and helping the customer by solving a problem.

Close strong and make it a great April 2012.

Bryan Armstrong
Awesome points Chris. Value (which includes Trust) has to exceed price whether it's Front or Back-end profit and Products. Taking the time to build both not only increases Profits, but also CSI and is a MAJOR "heat" reducer. :)
Jim Bell
Great points and Bryan brings up a great point. You think back on all of your deals, and the most happy customers are the ones that you made the most on. Hmmmm...
Jim Bell
Great points and Bryan brings up a great point. You think back on all of your deals, and the most happy customers are the ones that you made the most on. Hmmmm...
Chris Costner
Thanks Bryan. You are 100% on the money. Some things get turned into something more complicated. This business is pretty darn easy when you think about it. I have said many times that everyone should see it as an honor to be of service to anyone that chooses to engage with our marketplace. If you know it, feel it and live it, the customer will see it and feel it too. It's a great thing.
Chris Costner
Exactly Jim. No doubt about that. Then they're in the showroom after the sale more than anyone can count, chatting it up with the staff and bringing friends. Having no other reason to be there other than that. We made a huge impact with this positive customer experience. How much does that impact the dealer's reputation and future profit? Not sure a value can be placed on that. Interesting thinking about it definitely.

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