First Impressions, That Important?

Maybe you heard that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Maybe you have heard it takes 60 to 20 seconds to make a lasting impression. Well got news for you. A series of experiments from a couple of psychologist reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t really alter those impressions. This concept was first presented in Psychological Science under an article called “First Impressions.”

Wild right? So the question is, how is the ‘Meet and Greet’ in your store? Of course we all know the power of the ‘Meet and Greet’ as well as this is being the most basic part of the sales process. But I wonder if we really understand the psychology of this step.

Customers are incline to follow and be impressed with someone who gives the impression of authority. Customers also trend to do business with people they like, the likability factor. It’s these two factors that is usually missing in that tenth of the second in many commission based retail environments. So if these two factors are missing, how do we insert them back into our store’s ‘Meet and Greet’?

Want to shake it up and give off that likability and authoritative image? If so, here is a short cut to use until you can dive deeper into the impression you want to your team to present.

  • Set your intentions (what image do you want to present)
  • Think about your look (does your style of dress and jewelry give off the impression of a professional expert that is successful)
  • Be aware of your body language (video tape yourself to view your habits and your body language, make changes as needed)
  • Be interested and interesting (be interested in the customer, want to know them as a person, be open to learn who they are)

Know your inventory, your specials, and what marketing the dealership is currently doing. Have a 30 second welcome prepared to use when you meet your customers either over the phone or in person. Do not make them wait, make sure the customer is not waiting on the phone to talk to someone or have to wait either on the lot or in the showroom as your team is trying to find someone to assist them.

It’s simple and yet one of the most confusing steps. There is a science and art to the ‘Meet and Greet’, get third-party feed back on your meet and greet, role play, and be excited to approach the next person.

Thank you for reading this evening’s vent. The art of the meet and greet is not dead, it is just not part of our everyday life anymore. It’s time to bring it back and in a big way. 

 

It’s Emotional

We have been told decisions are made based on logic. But maybe we have been wired to make snapped decisions such as love at first sight, trusting someone at first glance, or having that gut feeling. How many times do we say “I should have trusted my instincts”.

When training, we talked about getting so in tune with the process that it becomes a part of you or in other words it becomes instinctive. We all have been around someone who we believe was a “natural born salesperson’ or a sports player that was “in the zone”. This is the person that just seems to know what is going to happen before it happens.

Maybe what we are describing is a person that has the ability to take in all of the available information around them in a super fast fashion and sort out this raw input of information to decide what is most important or urgent without having to work out a slower more regular rational thinking process. In other words they have the ability to think on the fly. What makes this amazing is that it appears they are doing this unconsciously and they are making sound decisions.

Psychologists even have a name for this, it’s called ‘thin-slicing’ and what we believe is snapped decisions is really just a selection process that has always been working in our heads for months or years. It appears for this to work, our mind makes these snapped decisions based on what we personally have in our mental history or what we could call ‘known beliefs’ that pushes back or ignores facts that might be considered more complex when it comes to making a decision. In other words, we take a short cut base on our impressions of the given situation we are in.

The more our mind has a history of diverse social experiences; these files can be used to assist in this snapped decision. Without a range of diverse experiences, we are more incline to make decisions that limit our ability really read the situation.

So our mind will affirm some known beliefs and ignore more complex inputs we are actually receiving at the time. This action takes our first impression of a person and infuses or embodied this person with what we want them to be based on looks and action. We make the person we are just meeting into the image we want them to be without really getting to know them. This impression becomes hardwired in our head so it’s almost impossible to change it at a later date.

While this might seem unfair, its how first impressions are made. Hopefully with this knowledge, we can prepare ourselves to take certain actions so we can increase our chances to quickly get into someone’s good graces. Knowing what is consider being positive traits within a social environment and acting on those traits, allows us to gain the upper hand in a meet and greet.

If we mirror the image of what others consider to be a trustworthy and charming individual, we become that individual in their eyes.

Now if this is true, what does it take to make a good impression? Well that’s for another article.

Can We Really Do Better?

Can We Really Do Better?

Is it possible to really do better? Do more sales, make more money, and have fun doing it? It is quite possible that our team is performing at its peak and we are tapped out. Without the right inventory, marketing, training, and people….we are toast. In other words its our ‘People, Processes, & Product’ that rules the day.

Do we have the right product? Face it even with tough market conditions and other retailers going after the same target audience, we must be able to offer a quality product at a decent price and still be able to make a profit. Are we really researching the many options we have to obtain the right product or are we just visiting the same old sources? Do we test out difference sources to find the products we need to take our business to the next level or are we so set in our ways that we just follow the path to obtain our product line up? Do we really research what the customer is really looking for? Well you get the idea.

In marketing it is the same thing. Are we still using the old method of marketing? By now we all know that over 80% of our customers use the Internet and mobile devices to find products and services. Even this is old news by now. If we are not proactively reaching out to our customer base using permission based marketing, we are already getting passed up. Cyber or social media marketing is not just placing product on the net, its reaching out to the customer at the right moment and right time to provide information so when the time comes for the customer to pull the trigger they naturally think of us.

When the time comes for the customer to reach out to us, is our team ready? Can we interactive with the customer in a professional way by providing information and still provide an incentive to get them to buy? Is our team able to work the phones, the net, and the showroom in the way our customers expect to be treated or are we still locked into the old ‘knock their heads off’ concept of selling? Is our team trained on what the customer is expecting in today’s market place?

Now to the last pillar, our people. Do we have professional people that see a career path with our company so they want to invest the time needed to improve their skills? Are we paying them a wage or commission which allows them to make a decent living? Do they see us as a mentor or leader or just a boss?

Yeah, I am preaching to the faithful..right? We do this all the time..or do we.

Before we start to push our employees, let’s make sure we give them the tools and lead by example.

Prospect Like A Lion

Prospecting was the subject of our last conference call. It became apparent many of us do so little prospecting that we are unsure how to greet prospects and ask the right questions. Of course we all know different situations call for different approaches, so it’s easy for even experts in prospecting to get confused about what works and what doesn’t.

If conflicting advice or lack of understanding is holding us back from prospecting and becoming the great closer we know we are, maybe it ‘s time for us to break it down to the most basic concept. The direct marketing industry uses a formula of AIDA which is Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Prospecting is all about creating attention and interest. Once you have the interest, you earn the right to enter into a conversation.

How do we get the attention of the prospect? Let’s first determine who we are going to target. Stop casting a wide net and narrow our search, in other words let’s target a segment of the market that our product or service can really provide an impact. This way we can become an expert in one segment of the industry and approach our prospect as an expert. Let’s determine their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). By keeping a narrow focus on just one segment of the market, we can bring valuable information to the prospect that places our product / service to the forefront. In other words, it will become easier for us to create attention which will develop interest in what we are pitching.

Sometimes we get lost in the action of prospecting for the sake of prospecting. We do it to fill our calendars and our actively reports. So we end up targeting everybody and the result is we go out unprepared. We are not able to get the attention to create the interest, so we end up getting the brush off. No one likes rejection and after a few failed cold calls, we call it a day. We can turn this around by focusing on a smaller section of the market that can use our product or service, we can do our homework on that section of the market, become the industry expert of that market, and attack it with the confidence of a market expert.

Who knows, maybe by keeping focus on select segment of our industry, we can target the right individuals which will increase our success rate. Remember the lion hunts by focusing on a herd and then targets the closest prey. The attack is short and powerful. In other words they get the attention of the prey.

The Justice Department Alleges “BHPH” Used-Car Dealerships Engaged in Illegal Lending

Attached is a link about the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of North Carolina filing a lawsuit on a pair of BHPH Dealers. The State of North Carolina is stating these dealers have violated the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The government is seeking customers who entered into sales contracts with these dealers since 2006, former employees of these dealerships and any other individuals with information about the sales practices of these dealers. These individuals are encouraged to contact the U.S. Department of Justice as they move forward with this lawsuit. If this seems intense, you might want to consider what these dealers are alleged to have done.

The complaint states that these dealers used predatory terms on customers that had limited credit options. They alleged these dealers increase prices on add on services such as vehicle service contracts, and changed prices on vehicles when they had to be finance using sub-prime lenders. The complaint also alleges that the defendants fail to provide the customers with reasonable notice of repossession and even repossessed vehicles of customers who were not in default on their contracts.

Now before you say, that is not me …consider some of the following:

  • Do you increase the selling price of the vehicle because you have to finance the vehicle?
  • Do you not post your dock fee in your Internet prices but instead list them in the small print that discusses the tags and fees?
  • Do you adjust the selling price of your vehicle service contracts based on what you feel you can get away with?
  • Ever change the price of your vehicles just because you have a “hedge fee”.
  • Do you bump your “buy rate” to make reserve?
  • Ever attempt to repo a vehicle without giving a written notice?
  • Have you ever told a customer they must get a vehicle service contract or GAP policy to just make the deal possible?

If by chance you are wondering if your practices and policies might be out of date, most likely they are. Reach out to the ones you trust and make sure you have a compliance and sale process in place that can protect your assets while giving you the edge in the market.

This is not going away. If you are a license dealer / retailer, your business practice will be audited. Be ready and do the right thing.

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Adventures with unplanned challenges

Just recently I got stranded in Detroit due to a cancel US Air flight. Forcing me to find a local hotel to stay at until my return to the airport at 4:00 AM.

As I started the process of canceling appointments and reshuffling my schedule, my inner child started to surface thinking how unfair this all was.

It was not until I was in the air looking out the window at the morning sunrise reflecting off the storm clouds that it hit me; my troubles are nothing compare to what was going on around me.

Sure I could stay in that self pity mode or enjoy the moment viewing the sunrise with a recently acquired new friend sitting next to me.

Life is too short and we are not that important in the scheme of things to get so worked up over small changes to our set plans.

By mid morning, I had made a few new friends. Enjoyed a 30,000 flight to clear my head, and view the start of an amazing day while others still slept.

So was getting hit with a cancel flight really that bad? Yeah it was not planned, but sometimes our biggest adventures start with a unplanned challenge.

With that thought, I wish you find your next adventure when your plans get side tracked.

Go out and make it a great day!

What Makes an Finance Director

                                           What Makes an F&I Director

“Congratulations, you are getting a great deal!” says the salesperson to the customer (says the spider to the fly). “All you need to do now is sign the paperwork”. This is usually how our customer / client is introduced to the Finance Manager.

Many survey’s clearly show our customers believe the Finance Manager is the man / lady in the suit behind the desk that works his “magic” to dazzle them with the figures as they bump the monthly payment.

Recently www.edmunds.com had an article titled “Confessions of an Auto Finance Manager”; it was an update from the first article published back in 2008. While the article appears to be right on reviewing some of the practices we have all witnessed in the F&I department, it also gave the impression that the F&I Manager and the Dealership was out to rob the customer. The man / woman in the back office is the closer or heavy hitter that will work the “magic”. I do not believe in it and I believe the days of pack payments, playing with the information on credit applications and playing the shell game is gone.

In today’s market, we all know that the only way to stay in business is to work with the customer / client. To provide honest information and answer their questions while providing options. The F&I Managers play a very important role in all of this. It is the F&I Manager that has the duty and responsibility to review the numbers of the purchase, review the information that will be used to complete the documents and inform the customer / client on all the warranties/services offered by the factory and dealership.

When we say the F&I Manager is the ultimate closer, what we mean is that this individual has the ability, talent, and knowledge to confirm the information, complete all the paperwork, protect the interest of the customer / client and the dealership. This person has to do all of this as well as handle any fears or concerns the customer / client might have. For the privilege of doing all of this compliance, the F&I Manager are given a very slight opportunity to promote the services of the department and to make a decent profit for the dealership.

The truth is preparing contracts and arranging financing is a job for a financial expert. With reduced profit margins, the F&I department is indeed, a “stand alone profit center” designed to provide several F&I related products and services for a slight profit. This concept benefits the customer / client as well as the dealership. Without this department many of our customers /clients could never receive the “discounted deals” they enjoy so much when selecting a car or truck. The F&I Manager is an important part of the entire process and holding this position requires a great deal of knowledge, talent, and ability.

The F&I Manager and F&I Director in our industry today are true professionals! They are a student of the industry, they are aware of all the latest trends in the financial community as well as in the automotive industry. This individual works the longest hours in the store, has nerves of steel and the ability (actually the love) to work in a high stress environment. But the rewards are great! For a proven F&I Manager, they are rewarded with one of the highest paying jobs in the dealership. That is why only your brightest and most proactive individuals should ever be in that office.

As we view the importance of the F&I Department, we also need to review the talent we currently have.

Is The CFPB Targeting BPHPs?

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau targeting the automotive BHPH community?

Of course not, who could even think such a thing? While the CFPB has expanded its look into the automotive lending process and industry by issuing subpoenas to various auto lenders in our industry, it does not mean that they are focusing just on subprime lending practices or going after the smaller more independent automotive community.

The bureau is just checking out if terms, pricing of auto loans are being properly disclosed and if subprime consumers are subjected to high interest rates compare to rest of the retail buying community. It appears this focus is so far just on the BHPH community and not on the franchise dealers, which might be better prepared for such a probe.

All of this is the result of the recent 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law that we already discussed in the past. It does appear the U.S. Justice Department will also be joining this by investigating retailers that provide in house financing to consumers with poor credit ratings and subject them to higher than normal interest rates and conditions.

Now to say the CFPB is targeting the BHPH community it not fair. Just so you know, under the terms of Dodd-Frank, the bureau has no jurisdiction over franchised auto dealers, but they do have authority over the Buy-Here, Pay-Here Retailers that conduct in house financing. The bureau has gone so far as to warn BHPH retailers in March of this year against charging high interest rates and requiring additional services / products when presenting a loan which might be consider a form of practice discrimination. The bureau has already presented research showing that BHPH retailers attach higher markups on loans presented to certain minorities which might lead to other bad faith practices.

Well I guess if you do in house financing, you better make sure all of your records are up to date and that you have kept at least 7 years of your past sales and loan documents. This is going to be interesting.  

Is Your Pre-Owned Vehicles Investments?

One of the questions we usually hear from Dealers that has just recently enrolled with Credit Acceptance is “what type of vehicle will work with your program?” I am sure at one time in our history this was a legitimate question. Let’s face it our core business is the credit challenge consumer that in most cases has limited income and resources. It makes sense that this consumer would need a reliable form of transportation with reasonable payments. This translates to a limited selection of vehicles that can fit this profile.

Just a few years ago our average contract terms were just 24 to 36 months. Now it is not uncommon to see contracts coming into our office at 48, 54, and even 60 months, allowing us to place more consumers in the right new or used vehicle that fits their needs. Our 40 plus years of managing risk allows us to provide options other lenders can not. So the question “what type of vehicle will work with your program?” results in a completely different answer. In fact the answer depends on one’s local market and what mind set one might have in managing inventory.

To a retail dealer, inventory is their investment. To move that investment the consumer must be willing to pay the requested retail price by either paying cash or financing it. So what is the right type of vehicle that will result in more sales and higher profits? The answer is quite simple, buy low and sale high. Find what your market considers “hot”. But it is really that simple? With the wide selection of sedans, SUVs, trucks, makes, and models, how can we determine what is moving fast and what is just “cold”? How much should a retailer pay for any given vehicle? These concerns lead retailers to take higher risks or make speculative purchases in hopes that their instincts are correct when selecting vehicles that might fit the needs of the local market.

Maybe this is why I am a huge fan of vAuto and the company’s vision in how to increase the turn rate of pre-owned vehicles as well as the overall profitability. I believe this concept or idea takes the pressure out of finding “the right” vehicle at the right price.  This company’s philosophy is to manage used vehicles as “time-sensitive investments”, with the goal to maximize the R.O.I. within the shortest period of time with the least amount of risk. So if the retailer makes a bad selection, they have ways of getting rid of that mistake in a short period of time. On the other hand should the retailer hit upon a desired vehicle, they can hold out for a higher market price and still move that vehicle within a desire time frame. This philosophy is known as an ‘investment-driven retailing strategy’.

Most retail dealers are not accustomed to this concept and usually when looking for vehicles will fall back on several time honor practices which is to find any vehicle that can be had at a cheap price or if obtaining a ‘choice vehicle’ that is somewhat higher price, will hold on to that “choice vehicle” until a premium retail price can be obtained. The investment driven retailer is not driven by these ideas but instead will use the same investment concepts used in the financial markets to select inventory and determine how to price.

The investment driven strategy is focused around the principal of maximizing the money invested in any individual vehicle for a greater overall R.O.I. with the least amount of risk. This strategy consists of developing a series of revenue objectives as well as buy / sell guide lines. Once each vehicle is viewed as an income producing investment, emotions and speculative hunches are taken out of the decision-making process resulting in a more manageable game plan.

Consider one example, a retailer purchases a vehicle for a slightly higher than average Black Book value of $5000.00 and is willing to sell the vehicle for $7000.00 to realize a gross profit of $2000.00. This same retailer’s inventory has an average age of 90 days. Based on these numbers, this retailer would average $2000.00 every 90 days on this $5000.00 (of course an average). For comparison sake we will take out any possibility of not selling this vehicle in 90 days or cutting the price to move the vehicle.

The investment driven strategy would suggest that this retailer move this vehicle as quickly as possible (within 30 to 40 days) and be willing to take a short profit or almost any “blue sky” to move the unit. Let’s play this out a bit more or dig deeper by assuming the retailer only makes $900.00 in gross profit compare to the desire $2000.00 on the $5000.00 within 30 days.  $900.00 x 3 (a 30 day turn in 90 days) comes to $2700.00 compare to moving the same $5000.00 every 90 days making $2000.00 once every 3 months. This will result in $700.00 more in gross profit in a 90 day time period. The retailer is also putting more consumers in the street to spread the good word, their inventory does not become ‘”aged”, and mistakes are quickly taken care of.

Now you add the very strong possibility that if any given vehicle is still on the lot after 90 days the retailer is willing to take a smaller profit or might even consider moving this “cold car” by wholesaling the vehicle, with this in mind, this strategy becomes even more attractive. In other words instead of buying cheap and selling high, the focus is to buy within reason and sale at the moment any blue sky is realized.

In this example not only will the retailer make $2800.00 more in any given year on the $5000.00, the overall risk has been reduced by moving all vehicles in a shorter period of time reducing the chance of getting stuck with a “cold car”.

This strategy has never been about finding vehicles at a cheap price or below Black Book Wholesale to just move a unit within 30 days. It is about an invested minded retailer understanding the market conditions on any given vehicle while making the logical choice in pricing his / her vehicles base on current market conditions. At the same time, it allows for the ability to hit more “home runs” because the retailer gets more opportunities at bat to select a greater number of vehicles on the same $5000.00. Now consider this, if this is your return on just one vehicle or money set aside for that vehicle; consider how strong this can be if you carry more than 15 vehicles on your lot at any given time.

I have to take a moment to say thanks to Dale Pollack, the founder of vAuto for the idea of this strategy as well as his thoughts and many articles covering this concept over the years. You will find many ideas in this blog are based on Dale’s teachings. For more information on the investment driven strategy concept visit www.vauto.com or visit Dale’s blog.

*Reference material was gathered by reviewing Dale Pollack’s past articles at www.vauto.com

Georgia’s New TAVT, Good or Bad for BHPH

Georgia’s change in how pre-owned vehicles are taxed is fast approaching. It has been almost a year since we discussed this but as you know, the sales tax and the ad valorem tax will be replaced with a title tax. This is part of House Bill 386 which was signed by Governor Nathan Deal.
The sales tax will be replaced with the (TAVT) Title Ad Valorem Fee beginning on March 1, 2013. The state of Georgia has been working for some time to bring the state up to speed with the level of technology so in turn we can stream line the title, taxing, and the tag process.

Our previous sales tax will go away and the 6.5% fair market value tax will apply to all pre-owned vehicles. On January 1, 2014 this tax will increase to 6.75% and on January 1, 2015 this tax will go to 7% and will be payable at the time of the sale.

So what does this mean to our BHPH Dealers? Well under this new law, the complete tax will need to be collected at the time of the sale and this can create a hardship to these Retailers. With the average down payment dropping and the level of risk for our BHPH Retailers increasing, this additional fee can be the breaking point for a few of these Dealers.

Currently the GIADA is working with the state of Georgia to provide some sort of payment plan for our BHPH Dealers. As to date nothing has been solved but hopefully we can find some sort of solution. I recommend that every Dealer review the changes taking place in our industry and reach out to embrace these changes.

Why Are We Not Successful?

Why Are We Not Successful?

I have had the honor to work with some of the most recognized sales trainers in our industry. I have attended so many seminars and training classes you would think that I would be at the top of my game! Yet that is not the case.

Over the years I wonder why I had to “re-start” my efforts or get re-organized. But a client of mine shared his thoughts on this very subject.  He did not have a catchy name for his reasoning so I have tried to put on paper what he was telling me, hopefully it will translate…we shall see.

This client had noticed over the years how we would arrange a day of training in his store and while the sales team would use the “gems” given to them for a few days, in a while they would fall back into the same routine. It was not from a lack of desire, it seem to come from trying to install a new concept too quickly into the sales process.  It was discovered by taking “baby steps” and introducing a small change, the entire team could move as one and achieve the desire result until it became a habit. At which time we could move to the next step.

Waiting for just the right moment was another concern. So many times he would hear “I will wait until the close of the month”, or “I am too busy now to focus on this.” It is easy to find reasons to push-off a change of a routine or to add something new to the mix. So how do we overcome this? The simple answer is not to over think this, just do it! Do not worry about the outcome or failure, understand it is just a slight change in a process and it will not change the world either way…so why worry, just do it.

This client also found if he offered a reward system for even the smallest of change, he could create an environment in which change is fun. We all have a fear of failure and this insecurity plays a huge role in holding back on embracing new concepts or processes. He discovered when he rewarded effort; he got a better response from his team. He made “taking the lead” in fact fun and less risky. In turn his team was more willing to take a chance.

Last but not least it was his belief on focusing on the small steps and not on the end result that got my attention. His reasoning was that many times the end result just seems too large or too distant to motivate the team. Yet they could get excited about completing a simple task which in turned moved them closer to the end result.

In the end he stated that so many times we try too much too soon. So going forward, I am going to take the pressure off of myself to make a complete change and just try to take small simple steps to a better self and a better process.

Pay the Piper…or in this case the Salesforce

Every successful dealership I have ever observed has one thing in common; a sales force that has longevity!

What is the primary element that promotes this?  A sense that management has empowered each individual to be the captain of their ship and a clear path to monetary reward!  Call it a professional environment or call it loyalty, it doesn’t matter, it comes down to the rewards that are inherent in knowing that what you are doing for a living has an open road ahead and that you are the one steering your own ship. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again:  People will do things that are for their own benefit when left to their own resources.  Those who will not are not worth investing in as an employee…especially as a sales person (or any other position at the dealership).

Conversely, every dealership I have ever observed that teeters on extinction in hard times is just the opposite, filled with a revolving door of staff.

Another thing I have observed over the years is that when sales staff, GSMs, UCMs, etc. have income restrictions (and other rules that don’t make sense to them) placed on them that they resent, all kinds of interesting behavior follows; from under the table dealings to out-right stealing.  This is not an exaggeration, I have been witness to some of the most cleverly underhanded attempts of skirting ill-imposed restrictions on staff that even the criminally minded wouldn’t come up with.  This is because a professional environment addresses the basic human core:  People will act in a manner they think is to their benefit.  A well run organization structures their business so that the staff’s benefit also serves the company’s benefit.  When structuring rules and income structures for staff, the golden rule is:  Pick your battles (or issues) carefully and make sure that you have actual buy-in before instituting.  Give your staff a clear path to making money that also benefits the organization.

 

 “My good friend wrote this and seems very much on target” – Rick Wise

Do you feel lucky? …Well do you?

For publicly held corporations, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires a company listed on the stock exchange to have a compliance program. Luckily many of our retailers are not listed on the stock exchange. But it is being promoted for us to voluntarily develop a compliance program to match the current regulations and other requirements of Federal and State government agencies.

During my visits across the country, I discover everyone wants to comply and follow the letter as well as the spirit of the law. It is just no one wants to be the first to have to have to determine what the rules should be. We all know the importance of a guide book, rules that we know we can follow. I mean what would sport games be without rules, or how would be your trip to the office if we did not have any traffic laws?

Deep down we know developing a set of rules to follow is not easy. It takes a considerable about of time and effort to determine how to work around the various mind fields our local and national government has put into place, yet deep down we know it has to be done.

Recently I was on hand to view an on-site warranty and down payment audit. The organization that requested the audit was performing a general review with a well known automotive retailer. During the audit it was discovered that several VSC contracts had somehow slip between the cracks and was never sent off to the warranty company. In addition, it appeared that a few down payments did not get collected at the time the installment contract was signed.

All of this is small common mistakes we see very day in many retail operations. Nobody was planning to harm or trick any customers. But at the end of the day, the retailer was cut off from a well known bank and loss their warranty company. In addition, it appears they will be hit with a few fines and maybe have to buy back a few contracts.

You might be wondering why I have taken the time to even write this. In short it is because many retailers still believe they can get away with by passing some of the regulations and laws because they consider them “unfair” or they believe they are not large enough for anyone to notice what they are doing. They might be right, but as Clint Eastwood said one time in a movie…”Do you feel lucky?..Well do you?

This is not a movie and we are not Clint Eastwood. Make sure you understand your obligations under the law.

Harassment or compliance, does it matter?

This has been a dry topic for a few years now. The Automotive Retailer Dealer knows by now that compliance is playing a bigger part in our everyday business. Last November the Federal Trade Commission sent out certified letters to retailers requesting information about their business practices.

A request was made for copies of every retail installment contract the retailer enter into from October 2009 to present time. Many in our industry believed the FTC was looking for information about our indirect lending or BHPH practices. With the creation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, it was to be expected.

What came as a surprised was the amount of information the FTC was requesting. The letter that many retailers had received requested information on the corporate structure of the dealership, revenues from the sale of new – used vehicles, copies of all service contracts sold and other financial products, documents that discuss any policies and procedures (a compliance work book), training manuals, documents concerning oral or written complaints, and any information the owners might have concerning any lawsuit proceedings.

While it appears many more changes are coming, one area that we seem to placing on the back burner is real-time harassment risks with employees in the dealership environment. Many of our retailers have in-depth harassment training, handbooks, and seminars; but most of the time it does not translate to the showroom floor.

The back office might have a compliance work book, harassment manuals, and seminars; but it seems on the showroom floor it is still the same old game. From playing with customer’s personal information to joking with our peers to the point that it might be considered harassment is still a very real threat to the owners of our profitable as well as our struggling dealerships. With what is becoming a strong sales year, I am sure many of the agencies will want even more information from us.

Well you allowed me to ramble on here tonight, but I hope what you are getting out of this is that you must get a handle on all things we consider as compliance related. Remember it is not how much you make; it is how much of it you can keep. Violation of these rules comes with a very high price tag today and it does not need to be that way.

Is The FTC Really After Us?

 

Many of you might recall all the effort we put into trying to understand what the various government agencies wanted us to do to stay compliant. It was not that long ago that Obama had urged Congress to include automotive dealers in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and under the review of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While we dodge that with the help of the NADA and a few of our elected officials, Congress did authorize the Federal Trade Commission to speed up its review of what they consider unfair, deceptive and abusive practices. Obama went so far as to state that automotive dealers should be the focus of the FTC. This executive command lead to the FTC exploring what type additional oversight was needed and if so how to effectively include all dealers and retailers under new regulations.

Many of us had speculated that the FTC and CFPB would start to work closely together on drafting new rules on dealer involvement in auto financing, with the FTC serving as the enforcer.  We witness the start of with the several “round-table” events the FTC was held in 2011.

At the Detroit Round Table event, several consumer advocates stated that dealerships generated too much profit from the F&I office by offering a customer rate over the bank’s buy rate. Many of you will recall that I personally voiced a concern that these agencies could start to audit our F&I deals to set the stage to determine how much profit was “too much” and what limits could be placed on dealerships to limit our markup with our indirect lending. Some of these advocates have already started to push the FTC to force dealers to disclose their profits from indirect financing to the customer before they complete the purchase of a car or truck.

This year the FTC sent out “Civil Investigative Demand” letters to dealerships across the country. The agency is asking for data from years 2009, 2010, and 2011. They are asking for the number of deals the dealer had spotted for each of these years, the names and numbers of every customer that was denied financing, the number of individuals and names of those customers the dealer re-signed or obtained conditional approvals.  How many of these consumers had trade-ins and how many trade-ins were sold prior to assigning the contracts. Oh by the way the FTC wants this information now, no waiting period.

The FTC is also asking for documentation of dealer’s in house training, in store polices, and compliance procedures. Dealers that have received this request hopefully can show a Compliance Work Book, a structured compliance process and have a in store Compliance Officer.

If by chance your dealership has not received this FTC request, you still may want to review your compliance policies before your focus is taking away from selling cars and trucks. Compliance was the buzz word last year and appears to be the reality this year.

15 Steps to Sub Prime Success

What follows is nothing new, but maybe it is a re-fresher we all can use to fine tune our Sub-Prime Sales Process. Yeah sounds boring, right? Maybe it is, yet once again this was the subject of choice in a most recent 20 group meeting. So go get a beverage of choice, find a comfortable seat and start this read.

We asked 10 of our top Sub-Prime Managers to give us a blue print to success and this is what we go:

  1. Plan for the sale. If you do this you will increase your chances of selling by developing a consistent plan of attack that accounts for all possible outcomes, questions, and objections. Sales are all about the numbers, and you must have contacts, prospects, and a first act presentation. Your sales plan is your road map to achieving your goals.
  2. Attract prospects. Special finance customers need reliable transportation and want both value and variety. They are often jaded, however, by the flurry of fast-talking, unprepared salespeople who over-promise and under-deliver. They have become skeptical of offers for “Guaranteed Financing.” Your store’s culture must set the tone for a relationship that builds trust in the minds of your future customers.
  3. Master the telephone. If your entire team does not learn to master their phone skills with proven scripts and word tracks that by pass price and overcome objections, you will find your traffic count low and your customers’ credit scores even lower. You will miss out on that segment of the market that actually has the ability to shop at other stores, and more and more dealers are taking the plunge into special finance (you do not want to be just another flavor). Most customers want and will shop from the comfort of their homes and will contact you by phone or computer.
  4. Set the appointment. An appointment implies professionalism. Your time is valuable and in demand. The ability to set appointments in a way that will compel your customers to actually show up is a critical. You must be able to separate yourself and the dealership from the competition via the Internet and the telephone.
  5. Master the meet & greet. A bad first impression will put your prospect on the Be Back Bus…first stop? Your nearest competitor. Every customer must be met with professionalism and enthusiasm. By now most of us have reviewed this with our sales team and have this “in the bag”/
  6. Perform a needs analysis. Assessing each customer’s particular needs is step number 1 in your first face to face meeting. This analysis will separate you from the competition and help position your team as experts in the industry. The needs analysis also is a critical step in the process for bypassing price and taking directing the customer’s focus to the financing.
  7. Take the statement. Also known as the credit application, the customer statement is the second part of the interview, subsequent to the needs analysis. It must be accomplished accurately, with diligence and attention to detail. The information will be used to make important credit decisions and there is little room for error, particularly when it comes to the calculation of gross monthly income and time on the job.
  8. Make a credit decision. Time is of the essence! With accurate information, you can and must make a correct assessment of the customer’s credit strength and buying power. Only then can you present vehicles for sale that will sell at a profit and fit the needs of the customer. Without a detail credit application, you will make your lender’s decision needlessly difficult.
  9. Vehicle selection / re-selection. It is important to give the customer a selection of vehicles from which they can choose and never give the impression that they have to buy something they do not like or want just because of their credit situation. So do not worry about the customer getting locked into a vehicle that will not work. Most customers will choose a vehicle that meets their budget first.
  10. Structure the deal and obtain lender approval. While the salesperson is demonstrating the vehicle, the desk or finance manager is working to get an approval. Remember times are of the essence.
  11. Demonstrate the vehicle. While the financing details are being worked at the desk, the is salesperson is taking the customer on a test drive and selling the vehicle itself. It is important that you exceed the customer’s expectations as a prospective buyer.
  12. Go over the number. A presentation of financial numbers to any customer should never take place unless you have all the decision-makers present and your customer is ready to make a commitment.
  13. Close the deal. Never fail to ask for the sale. You must ask the prospect to buy your product and then gain their commitment; the true litmus test for commitment is the deposit. A prospective customer will not leave a deposit unless they are going to buy.
  14. Contract and deliver. Once you have sold a vehicle that you can get financed and on which you can still earn a profit, you must now contract the customer and deliver it to them. This is the step in the sale where there is zero tolerance for mistakes. Your contracts have to be perfect and you must collect all the stips up front. Otherwise, your contracts in transit will skyrocket and your controller will be screaming. Anyone who presents loan documents for a customer to sign must be thoroughly trained on all federal and state compliance requirements.
  15. Ask for referrals. This is last and perhaps the most important step on the road to the sale. This is your chance to ask your customer for referrals-not references, but referrals. You should ask for five referrals from every sold customer with the expectation of getting three new prospects.

Is This a Career?

Is This a Career?

 Years ago I had the honor to be introduced to a gentleman who would change my life. He was Robert Worthington, President of Royal Oldsmobile in Stone Mountain Georgia. Bob as many knew him (I always addressed him as Mr. Worthington) had a commanding way about him. He was proud of our industry and the success of his dealership.

His pride did not come from what he had done, but rather what his managers and employees had accomplished during their years with Royal Oldsmobile. You see Mr. Worthington was one of those rare men who believed in mentoring and coaching. Do not get me wrong, he drove his managers hard and himself harder. He expected 100% the moment you walked into the showroom floor to start your day.

When I expressed an interest in the industry, Mr. Worthington was quick to point out the hard work and long hours it would take to build a business. Did you notice I said “business”? Robert Worthington would let you know from the start that this was your own business, your success or failure rested completely on your own shoulders. Yet the potential was without limits.

Believe it or not, I had to endure at least seven interviews with several managers before I could even be considered for a position as a salesperson. I had to take a primitive personality test, spend a day on the showroom floor watching how business was done, and be interviewed by several of the senior salespeople on why I was even considering the automotive business.

Once I was accepted, I became part of a rookie team which had to attend training at an offsite campus in Birmingham, Alabama. After three weeks of training, I was assigned to a manager by the name of Mark Rotruck who was to mentor us over the next year as we hopefully moved from rookie to seasoned professional. Mr. Worthington would direct us to a local gentry shop to get our suits, ties, and shoes. We had to have our hair cut to mirror the classic IBM look of the day and had to pass inspection in our dress as well as the way we kept our offices. It was not just a job, it seem as if I had enter the Army by way of the car business and expected to stand tall as I learned my trade.

You might be wondering why I am traveling down memory lane here, sharing this rosy view of yesteryear. Well on a recent tour of several dealerships in my local area, I noticed how many of the salespeople did not treat this position as a possible long term career. During our brief talks, it was voiced that they did not even see this as a business opportunity.

Now I realize it has not been easy to work the showroom floor for some time now. Reduce margins, limited inventory, and the Internet have all played a part in changing the face of our industry. Yet we still have professional individuals in some of our stores who are treating this as a career and making a respectable living.

I know that when I got started, we had double digit interest rates and gas shortages. I do recall times when we had no traffic at all, but what we did have were managers and business owners that supported us and somehow guided us through those times. Looking back on it now, I realize how lucky I was to have such a wonderful base of leaders who not only shaped my outlook about this industry but also taught me how to respect the career.

Rick Wise currently has the honor of working with MarketSource to bring best practices to a select group of Ford Retailers.

Was it the presentation or the price?

My daughter wanted a car. A new sporty vehicle that in her mind was either a BMW, Audi, or Mini Cooper. So here it was, a chance to show my daughter the art of the presentation or what we called the “walked-around”.

For years I would tell my children about the art and science of the sale. How the presentation was at the heart of the process and it was the presentation that entertained the prospect that soon became your customer and hopefully your fan.

Yet when we walked on the lot of many of these well known respected dealerships, we did not get the “Billy Mays” winning, entertaining pitch or anything like it. In fact we did not even get a true walk-around providing us with information about the $40,000 plus product we happen to be looking at.

We did not get the meet and greet telling us about the dealership and why we are important to them. We did not get the introduction to the vehicle combine with the over the top presentation showing the feature / benefits. In short, no one gave us the sizzle so we could fall in love with the vehicle of choice.

So what happen! We selected a Mini Cooper and took it out for a few hours. I gave an old fashion presentation to my family showing off the entire cooper. Giving the history from a movie called “The Italian Job” to taking them for a ride of their life zipping into extremely small parking places and showing off the rare talents of this amazing car. In the end, I did what I was taught so many years ago by some of the best in our industry.

At the end of the process, my daughter purchase the car for way too much money, bought all the F&I products and is to this day an extremely happy Mini Cooper owner. In short, she fell in love with the car and felt the value was greater than the price.

It is a good thing we understand compliance

The Federal Trade Commission has held a series of round table style meetings to gather information on possible consumer protection issues concerning the sale, lease, or financing of automotive vehicles. This, in addition to other recent moves by the FTC and CFPB, really requires our retailers to take a closer look at compliance and what it takes to comply.

The good news is many of these retailers now have an in-house Compliance Officer who has a working understanding of how to comply with the Dodd-Frank Act, Red Flag Rule, the Risk-Based Pricing Rule, and OFAC. These same retailers have a real compliance solution that provides an F&I process that includes; credit reports, credit application submission, menu presentations, and document storage. Included in these solution packages is a series of in-house training on various compliance subjects which all employees are required to take.

At first it was not easy for these retailers to stay on top of the important changes in the regulatory arena. It was challenging to gather, filter, and interpret the ever-increasing material of regulatory information. Once they gathered this information, the retailer had to analyze it and share the information with their management team as well as their employees. Even after this was done, the question was ‘does this information apply to their company and their situation?

While many of these retailers pushed forward, some essentially started to ignore the compliance requirement and tried to fly under the radar. Subjects such as the Privacy Notice, Safeguarding Policies, OFAC, Red Flag Rule, Risk Based Pricing Rule, and Adverse Action Notices became something the F&I department handled behind the door of the finance department.

In the end, it is amazing that so many Owners and General Managers are prepared to risk their careers, families, and the entire organization to unfairly hand this off to the Finance department. It is also unrealistic to expect the F&I Manager to be the sole expert of what it takes to keep the organization compliant.

How to Move from Goal to Reality

How to Move Goal to Reality

 

I have a wedding to attending in September and need to lose at least 20 pounds over the next few months. Of course my record of success has not been that high recently with my previous attempts. What I have been told is that our ability to lose weight is based on our willingness to suffer through a great deal of discomfort. It is the balance of my ability to be hungry and yet resists the desire for a pizza.

You know, trying to lose weight is very much like making any goal a reality. When it comes to the discipline and willpower that is required, most of us feel the need to ‘break’ at some point.

So how can we reduce the amount of pain in making a change? A good friend of mine and my mentor lost his weight just by getting rid of all bread and pasta out of his diet. He focuses on protein and veggies. He cooked with spices vs. oils. In other words what my friend did was change the environment he was in to assist in reducing his weight. By changing his environment, he reduced the temptation around him which reduced his need for will power.

Have you ever wondered why someone can lose so much weight, look good, and receive the praise of family and friends; only to gain it all back? It is because while all of us can learn a new habit, such as how to eat, we cannot keep it up if we still have junk food at home. What I mean is, unless we change our environment the temptation is too great to go back to what we use to do.

A client of mine assigned us with the task of increasing the closing ratio of two green peas (new salesperson for anyone reading this who is not in the car business). Every morning we had a conference call to review what steps we had taken the day before. We reviewed all aspects of every minute that we planned out with each of these ‘grean peas’; we perfomed role-playing both in person with them as well as on the phone. At the end of the day this process resulted in higher closes and even higher grosses. Now you would think they would be happy and would continue down this path we had laid out for them, but as soon as we backed off from the everyday phone calls and mentoring, both of them once again fell behind.

What we forgot to do was change their environment and their life style. Of course how we do this is by setting up priorities, sounds simply right? But as we all know it is not quite that easy.

Most of us set our goals for the month or year. We have all good intentions, but as soon as we get out of bed we fall back to the same old set of habits and it does not get any better once we make it to office. As soon as we enter the office everything is thrown out of the window as we start to put out fires. We have to return phone calls, answer e-mails, and handle “issues” that has popped up. By mid-day any thought of our goals or objectives are “gone with the wind”.

So what are we to do? Well let’s start by shaping our environment by changing how we start our day. Below are a few things we might want to try:

  • Identify three to five things you want to get done over the next month. Try to stay with three but no more than five. Write these items on a pad and keep the pad with you. Take anything off the list that does not get you to your goal. Make sure this list consist of action plans that you can give at least 90% of your time and effort to. To make this work you should prepare your days so your other activities do not take you away from these goals or tasks.
  • Determine what would be the result of these goals. Will it be more money, a promotion, a higher level of security? Once you achieve these goals what would you do to reward yourself? Will it be a new car, home, or boat? Maybe a vacation. Whatever it is, get a photo of it and place it on your bathroom mirror so you see it every morning and every night before you go to bed. This action alone will cause you to keep it near and dear to your heart.
  • Every morning get up and view that photo, make time to review your list and determine which item on the list is the most important for you on that day. Make appointments with yourself on your calendar for that day to address these items. By doing this you will start to make careful choices in your day with the limited time you have to achieve these goals.
  • Sit down with a manager or peer to discuss these goals. Have this person be aware of your game plan so they can monitor you on a daily basis. Talk about your goals and why you have them in the first place. Have your peesr or manager challenge you on your goals to make sure these are the right items for you to focus on. One of the biggest mistakes we make is focusing on the wrong set of goals. Find someone you trust who has your best interest at heart and can assist you with this. It will be important that you review your goals everyday with this person.
  • If you set a 30 day time line for your goals, set up a weekly review to check how far you have gone. Set up your own round table with others you believe in so they can review your goals with you and your progress. This will become your support group.
  • At the end of the day view the picture of your reward. Review your list before you sleep as well as review the actions of your day. Make adjustments as needed. But know that unless you learn to manage your time and stay focused, nothing will happen.

Oh, a word of advice, be careful what you choose as your reward. Your mind is very powerful and will create a mental environment for you based on your desire. Soon you will see your current environment as being uncomfortable and not where you should be. The discomfort your mind creates will push you to achieve your goals. You will get what you want in the end, so choose wisely.

As I say, “fake it until you make it”. Place yourself in your new environment in your mind and your body will soon follow. Good luck on your new adventure.

John Williams the founder of Key Royal Automotive — A Great Group!!

This bio was featured in the UA News (The University of Alabama) sometime ago, All credit of this bio goes to the UA News 

John Alexander Williamson, by his own admission, was a risk taker, a characteristic which, as he wrote in his book, “would stand me in good stead in the Pacific.”

Williamson was born in Brighton and moved to Birmingham at age 2. He attended Hemphill School skipping several grades, and starting at Ensley High School a year and a half younger than his classmates. He graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1939 with a degree in mathematics and a minor in English.

He began his professional career selling Chevrolets for Drennen Motor Co., but World War II was brewing and Williamson joined the Navy, eating extra heavily in order to gain the needed weight to be accepted. He was a Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean conflict and was decorated for bravery and leadership. Mr. Williamson commanded a subchaser in the Caribbean and a destroyer escort in the Pacific during World War II. As executive officer of the Destroyer Escort, USS England, he directed his ship in attacks that sank six Japanese submarines in 12 days. His ship was credited with materially impacting the course of the Pacific campaign, and he received the Presidential Unit Citation.

Williamson also held the Legion of Merit for Combat and the Silver Star Medal for Combat in the Pacific Area. While serving as an instructor in the Anti-Submarine Warfare and Seamanship in the Subchaser Training Center in Miami, he developed a man overboard recovery procedure that was later named the “Williamson Turn,” which is still used in the U.S. Navy, as well as in other navies and the merchants marine, and is credited with saving countless lives at sea.

After his military service, Williamson returned to Birmingham and worked as a car salesman with Don Drennen and later as a district manager with General Motors. Williamson became prominent in American automotive affairs through his consulting and training activities, which developed into a life long mission of developing businesses based on finding and filling customers’ needs with high levels of professionalism and integrity. These activities led to the creation of several allied business firms, including his career-long core consulting firm, John Williamson & Associates, later known as Williamson, Merrill, Taylor, & Darling and then Vantage Associates. He was founder and chairman of Key-Royal Automotive, whose mission was to increase professionalism in the automobile business and to increase success of automobile retailers. Key-Royal sought to attract bright young people into the retail automobile field, teach them the business, and help them to become independent dealers. Key-Royal grew to over 25 retail dealerships throughout the United States and operated a training arm that worked with automobile manufacturers and dealers around the world. Williamson was also a founder of Birmingham-based CARS Inc., which was an early pioneer in the integration of computers and technology in the automotive business. CARS eventually became publicly-traded DYATRON which later merged into SunGard Data Systems, a specialty company in the operations of computers and computing systems with products utilized in the automobile, banking, personnel, brokerage and mortgage banking industries. John Williamson founded each of these firms and served each as perpetual advocate, board member and, from time-to-time, chairman.

John Williamson received the National Freedom Foundation Award for his open address to Congress, “After 200 Years, A Citizen Speaks to Congress,” published July 4, 1976.

In 1999 he was presented the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the highest medal that can be bestowed on a civilian. Williamson is well known in the Defense Department establishment and has lectured military students on numerous occasions, including at the War College. He served on the boards of numerous defense-related organizations. Williamson also was extremely active in religious and civic affairs, serving on and often chairing the boards of numerous organizations. It was once said that he was such a prolific and determined fundraiser for charity that people would hide behind a tree when they saw him coming down the street. In addition to his business career, he tirelessly sought to help others, both directly and through charitable and civic endeavors, devoting particular attention to the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Boy Scouts, IMPACT Family Counseling, Re-Entry and KAIROS prison ministries and the Rotary Club.

“The Key Royal Automotive Group launched so many careers in our industry. I am proud to say I got my start with Royal Oldsmobile so many years ago.” – Rick Wise

Are we afraid of the menu? (Confessions of an F&I Manager’s fear of the Menu)

Are we afraid of the menu? (or Confessions of an F&I Manager’s fear of the Menu)

 

All around us in life we experience the use of the menu. Going out to dinner with your loved one, you are given a menu. Drive into our service lane and you are presented with a menu of services. Even our insurance companies provide a menu when we select the type of coverage we are seeking.

The use of the menu makes our decision making process so much easier. Consider that the next time you pull into the drive thru of a local fast food restaurant with a SUV full of children! Yet even with the proven ease of the menu concept, many of our most productive F&I Managers push back when it comes to using a menu system in the F&I office. I know this for I was one of those F&I Managers.

I, for one, had taken a great deal of pride that I was considered the top closer in our dealership. My team could send me anyone and with my charm and my magic dust I could package a deal in such a way as to keep the customer happy while packing in a few of my F&I products. Well at least that was my belief…I was a legend in my own mind.

The reality was that I would select which products to pitch to the customer. Sometimes I would just pack a payment and offer a few “take-away” products so the customer would feel they won the negotiation. The goal was to make as much money as possible (in many cases it was easier to make money just by jacking up the rate vs. selling a product). This song and dance worked well for a period of time until the curtain was pulled back to reveal what was really going on in the  F&I scene.  The public and our management team now could see firsthand the “man behind the curtain” and things changed.

The menu came about to provide an open approach, without the smoke and mirrors, to share with the customer all of our services in a group setting. You remember the old saying; “present 100% of our products, to 100% of customers, 100% of the time.” The menu allowed us to do that in record time. It was also the menu that became the paper trail used to enforce the 100% rule.

Many productive F&I Managers believed at the time that the menu would take away our ability to build value or use our talent to sell the product. The reality was the menu provided us with the opportunity to present all of our products up front at one time so we could create value through deep communication of a customer’s needs and our solutions to those needs.

We all know the menu allows us to present 100% of our products / services to the customer in the shortest period of time. The menu provides a way for the customer to say “yes” many times over as we present each of the products / services. It is also the menu that provides a complete overview or disclosure of all our services, which is an important part of our compliance policy.

In short the menu assists us in providing a consistent presentation that allows us to monitor and track our performance. The menu helps our customers make an informed decision when it comes to our products and services.

So why are we so afraid of the menu? Maybe we are fearful of the menu because it can track our performance. Even the most experienced F&I Manager has a fear or uneasiness when it comes to reviewing his/ her numbers. Many times these fears pushed us to keep our numbers in the shadows. It was very easy to do that in the past. We would present our F&I reports with a list of non-qualifying units so to maintain a higher PVR and penetration numbers. Many times we disputed the finance statement or defended our numbers by pointing out how many “fleet deals”, “wholesale deals”, or “deals that were not T.O.’d properly” that kept us from hitting our numbers.

When we use a menu, our presentation is more consistent. It becomes a paper trail which shows that all of our customers where shown our products and services and that we did, in fact, have the opportunity to present the “Features, Advantages, and Benefits”. This consistent process pulls back that curtain even more so while measuring our ability and maybe that is why it makes many of us fearful.

The menu scared me for that very reason. My concern was the menu might take away from the image I had of myself as the top closer (the top dog) of the dealership. In fact the menu assisted me and my team to become even better. Once I got over my fear, I was able use the menu to measure my performance and adjust what needed to be adjusted. The menu led to some of my most profitable years in the business.

If you are not using the menu 100% of the time or embracing the menu concept, you are leaving opportunity on the table. The menu will provide your customer with a more pleasant experience and an easier way for you to promote your products. Oh, you will also notice a more profitable department as well, when you use the menu.

Rick Wise is a F&I Development Consultant who to this day works the F&I Desk or what we use to call “the box”. He enjoys a good discussion over the value of the menu system vs. the up sell approach. Rick can be reached at 404.217.2233

Compliance and how it affects you

I have been asked to re-post this. With all the compliance concerns, recently and the thought that compliance will take away from us “closing deals”, I wanted to suggest that maybe a good compliance policy will instead increase our ability to “close deals”. A good policy is just part of the Road to the Sale….take a look below.

 

Compliance and how it affects you
Some of my friends suggested that we find a way to bring the best practices we view to a central location. As we attempt to do that, we want to find out what is important to you, the Automotive Retailer and of course you’re F&I Director. So going forward, we are asking for thoughts on what subjects and areas of opportunity you would like for us to explore.

Recently the word “Compliance” has beeen dropped around the showroom and back offices. With the current and new regulations that have been imposed come to light over the last few years and, of course,our tendency to push our worry about such “boring and dry concerns” for another day, has placed a few of us in a pinch. How do we best embrace these regulations and still not interfere with the day to day operation of our business.

With the enforcement of these regulations starting this month, many Retailers have been reaching out to various vendors, consultants, attorneys, and almost anyone to find the “fix” or the “solution in the box” usually with mixed results. The reality is that we already have that solution in house and should be looking at what we have always called our SOP or Standard Operating Procedure.

As a business and more important as a sales driven organization, one of our main contributing factors to our success is our ability to manage our time, energy, and focus. As managers, we are always looking for ways to ultimately find tools to assist our sales professionals to become more efficent. The standard proven tool used in every industry has been the SOP or Standard Operating Procedure.

You know what the SOP is; it is our process on how we do something. The better the process, the more successful our team is in achieving the desire outcome. Regardless if it is prospecting, the presentation, closing, or even staying compliant. The SOP has been the map, the step by step instructions on what and how to do a task.

I am sure many of use already have an Adverse Action Notice procedure or a Safe Guard procedure. But is that procedure in print? Has it been taught to our entire sales team and staff? I wonder when was the last time we actually taught our basic road to the sale from our own SOP manual. Many times we view training as something we must do, but it does not compare to “real life experiences”. Sometimes we view training on compliance or even the sales process as something we can push off for another time.

I hope that most of you reading this blog believe that our sales and management teams are only as good as the ongoing training that we have provide. The intense but mentoring form of coaching such as leading by example, show by doing. If so, we have a responsibility to provide our employees with a real understanding of what we do and more importantly, WHY. Why we follow the processes we place in front of them; what better way than to provide them and teach them using our written Standard Operating Procedure.

Rick is a certified F&I Professional holding various insurance and financial planning licenses. He has conducted training and coaching seminars in China, South Africa, and the United States. He can be reached at rick_wise@earthlink.net

Stop trying to create ACTION at your dealership

Dealerite Blog

You want to create Action?

Give cars away!  Sell them for $6,000 below cost and advertise the hell out of the fact.

You’ll have to fight the crowd off.  You’ll lose money on each deal.  You’ll spend money on advertising AND you’ll soon go out of business.

Creating excitement is what you want, right?!! – Well stop it and start thinking logically.

Successful marketing strategies require consistency.  It requires Logic and keeping your name and message in front of potential buyers on a regular basis.  Face the facts, people buy when they are ready to buy – maybe from you – maybe from someone else.  Your performance in the market (i.e. market share) depends on just a few people choosing you over your competitors. It’s a game of inches, not yards…or crowds…or the appearance of activity.  To grow market share it’s a fine edge, not a battering ram.

Okay, so…

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Be a shark, take control of the floor

Rick Wise

our steps to work the floor

Work the Floor:
The F&I Manager is to have all general paper work completed before or after operating hours. The goal is to spend as much time as possible out of the F&I office and on the showroom floor, sales desk, or the lot with the sales staff. During operating hours of the store, the F&I Manager is to be aware of every deal being worked and at what stage each working deal is. This will include, but not limited to: standing outside of the salesperson’s office listening as the deal is being worked, assisting the desk on providing finance options, and preparing to assist in the close of the deal.

Just a thought of the day,
Rick Wise

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Honesty as a sales strategy

Dealerite Blog

Sales is a science, albeit an often botched science, but a science nonetheless.

When a sales person is perceived as ‘honest’, customers tend to systematically lower their defenses.  Lowered defenses lead to a more satisfactory buying experience.

Can you be strategic in establishing your ‘honesty’?  Absolutely!  Blocking or evading questions are two easy ways to start off on the wrong foot.  Ok, how then do you positively impact being perceived as honest?

Product knowledge is a good place to start.  Here is where strategy comes into play.  I’ve discussed the ‘negative sales’ concept in earlier blogs http://wp.me/p1lzak-3A and http://wp.me/p1lzak-3x

Being able to bring up something negative about a product or service creates an excellent launching site from which to work.  You then counter the negative aspects of the product or service with at least 2 positive aspects that can be used to differentiate your product or service from the…

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Another Week

Just got off another conference call with grand plans for our group, why is it that every time we get off one of these calls we have a full agenda yet nothing happens? Is it that we just get too busy reacting to what we get hit with during the day? Maybe it’s because sh… happens.

Well for me no more! As a single father, I am tired of dirty dishes in the sink. No more waiting for the last moment to check the kid’s homework, rushing to get them ready for school and off to the office. It’s time to plan out the week and do laundry in small batches compare to a growing pile of cloths gathering in each of the bed rooms resulting to a marathon Sunday night cleaning session.

No more having 5 separate alarms going off in the morning just to get out of bed and start the day. As a family we are going to take our morning walk, have a well plan breakfast and have time to compare notes so we are all on the same page.

This week is going to be different! We will get our act together.! …..oh just notice it is raining outside and a cold front is moving in. Maybe I just need another cup of coffee and wait until traffic dies down before I hit the road…I know I should get the week off to a great start, but I always have tomorrow.