Strategies for surviving a tough market
By George Angus
I have been constantly in the field since January working with individual dealers and several General Agencies. The
truth is it’s tough out there. Auto sales are off and the customer is more sales resistant and payment conscious than
our F&I managers are used to. The facts of the housing crunch and 4-5 dollar a gallon gasoline are pummeling the
consumer on TV every night. Also, as vehicle sales decline, there is increasing pressure for the dealer to cut costs
and maximize revenue from existing resources. As a result, there is increasing pressure to increase F&I income.
Anybody feel pressure to make money in your F&I office? Sure you do. Your dealer needs that income and will
measure your performance against the “top performers” they hear about at their 20 group and dealer meetings. This
year, we are being called in by dealers and agencies we never heard from before who already had training programs
and processes that they were satisfied with but now need more F&I performance. (Maybe that’s because last year we
produced 87 of the top 100 F&I departments in the country. Sorry, I couldn’t help mentioning that).
Because we measure performance, nationally, very closely, we can respond very quickly to the changes that occur.
While every product line is different and every regional demographic has subtle nuances, there are some easily
identifiable and significant commonalities that top F&I performers share.
The first of these areas is Balance Of Income. This cannot be overstated. There is no more significant difference
between top performers and marginal performers than this single factor.
As pressure is added to the F&I departments, one of the trends we identified is an unbalanced focus on Service
Contract sales, alone. We are seeing more and more F&I departments with income distribution from a variety of
It’s easy to understand why this occurs. Many dealers pay plans offer more income for the F&I manager from service
contract sales. The F&I department doesn’t have a lot of control over how many vehicles are sold. When fewer
vehicles are sold, the F&I manager needs to make a living, looks at their pay plan, and focuses on service contracts to
make up the lost income. This generally occurs when the F&I manager reverts to a feature-benefit type, (up-sell),
value presentation of the service contract, uses up valuable psycho-neuro receptive time on one product presentation,
and lives or dies by whether the customer buys a service contract. While our research has shown that you have
between 4 ½ to 7 minutes to present products effectively, the old style, (bring out the brochure, laminated place mat,
full color 4 column menu, etc.) presentation uses up all of the effective time and leaves all the other products for last.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t produce the results intended. You will never be a top performer
relying on service contract sales as your only strategy. We know that because there are none. We could not find one
top performer in the nation with an imbalance of income distribution.
The one thing the top performers have in common is a balance of income from a variety of products.
To produce the kind of results your dealer will need and expect, you have to produce results from a variety of
products. You see, one of the things our research has shown is that customers all have a different set of value
triggers. Some will not buy intangibles but will buy small ticket tangibles. Some are the opposite. They respond to the
security triggers and choose intangibles. Some will buy both. However, every attempt to control what the customer will
buy, or placing an emphasis on one product over another, does not markedly increase the sales penetration numbers
for that product. It just reduces the sales penetration numbers for the other products.
What’s the answer? We have spent the last 15 years developing and testing processes that present all the products,
equally, in the first several minutes, without an emphasis on any one product over another. We do not sell or endorse
any one F&I product. Our concentration is on F&I performance, process development, and compliance. We would be
glad to share the best information available with those dealers and agencies who would like more information. You can
find free information and helpful process guidance at our website, www.teamoneamerica.com or call me personally at
602-501-1165. In Canada, call Matt Williamson at 519-872-2830.
George Angus is with Team One Research and Training, a research and training company that specializes in
scientific, research based program development and training programs for the automobile industry. George has
trained thousands of F&I professionals and develops programs and techniques with the top performing F&I
departments in the country. Team One can be reached at 1-800-928-1923 or on the web at www.teamoneamerica.com
George Angus has had over 100 articles published in news and trade publications. This
training, and working with the leading F&I managers in the US and Canada.