Better Together - The Case for F&I Training Up Sales Managers
Most people would agree that the dealership environment works best when all the managers across departments work together for the common good of the store. Each department is in some way interdependent on the other for support for the common goals of profitability. Service can support sales efforts in F&I, Parts and Service fit together like a glove on a daily basis, and F&I managers often lean on Sales Managers to help bring in buyers that are qualified before they come into the office.
It’s all about working together and unfortunately, in some cases, Sales managers and F&I Managers don’t work as closely as they should either by design or a lack of awareness. Some dealerships simply insist on doing things the old fashioned way and in today’s changing dealership climate, that can be a big mistake.
So how can F&I and the Sales Managers (this includes GM, UCM’s GSM, etc for purposes of this article) work better together for a smoother process overall? What would it look like to have both managers working in concert on every deal?
Simple…have F&I train the Sales Managers.
Not really. And it’s not about training the Sales Managers in how to do their own job, which is arguably one of the hardest in the dealership between sales, inventory management, training sales staff, managing daily appointments and BDC outreach, etc.
It’s about F&I Managers becoming more involved in helping the Sales Managers understand better the processes and procedures that take place in their office…what really goes into getting a deal bought, what new regulatory compliance issues are here now and on the horizon, and how the post sales process works (back-end administration).
This level of understanding and experience can help all parties work better together and cultivate a deeper level of understanding with respect to the unique daily challenges of the F&I department. After all, it’s really much more than ‘Sign here, sign here, etc.’
The Evolution of the Two Managers
In all fairness, the last few decades has brought about more inter-managerial overlap when working a deal from the lot, through the showroom, and into F&I. Back in the day, the Sales Manager and the F&I Manager were often at odds when it came to how a deal was desked and what F&I had to do to get enough reserve and/or products to make the deal a winner for everyone. Anyone who remembers those days can attest to the fact that on a busy Saturday with dealers stacked up, egos and miscommunications could easily get out of hand.
With dealerships increasingly embracing digital retailing and a more modern approach to F&I presentation, the roles are not as easily defined as they once were. With streamlining the buying process being key, sales managers have taken on tasks at the desk that were once only performed by the F&I manager later in the process. Pulling a credit, helping the sales staff initiate the credit interview are just a few steps often taken by the Sales Manager well in advance of the deal reaching F&I. A big help for sure but not every dealership has embraced this more advanced way to manage the process.
What Training Must Look Like for Success
Consider a monthly training conducted by F&I to help all Sales Managers understand more about the current lending environment, the paperwork process, and compliance ‘hot button’ issues. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy meeting but it should be heavy on details and showing the process from beginning to end with an emphasis on how important it is for the Sales Managers to get practical tips on how they can help F&I get the best shot at a solid deal every time. Sharing current finance requirements for each lender is important here as well.
Highlight the importance of situational awareness by walking through either recent deals or role play common scenarios. Bring them into shadow a few deals each month so they can see the nuances that help make a deal a home-run. Make it clear that as a key stakeholder in the success of dealership as a whole, F&I values their willingness to learn and commit to being an active partner in their success.
Goes Both Ways
For as much as Sales Managers with no operational knowledge of F&I procedures need to be trained up, it’s equally as important for F&I managers to be just as willing to make sure their knowledge of the showroom floor is up to speed, too. If your store doesn’t already, offer to be available for T.O. 's when necessary to help make sure buyers are in the right car for the deal they want. Be a part of their sales staff meetings to share knowledge and strategies.
Step in to help a deal that is falling apart due to challenged credit goes a long way to helping to strengthen the relationship between F&I and the Sales Managers. Always strike a collaborative tone and be generous in transferring your knowledge to help sales construct good deals right from the start.
Increasing the F&I knowledge of all Sales Managers is the right move and the smart one. Don’t assume all Sales Managers understand F&I like your staff does and be willing to offer the training they need to help your staff make the most of every deal.
Your F&I administrator should play some part in making sure that training between the two departments is easy to help build a cohesive and mutually beneficial relationship. TruWarranty sees the value of helping to facilitate training between the two departments…let us know how we can help.
Given the staffing challenges in the dealership environment, how do you bring more diverse applicants back into the dealership environment, particularly in F&I? And are there better ways to attract more women and minorities to apply? At a time when businesses are focusing more resources and attention on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) for their employees, dealerships should, too. It’s more than just hiring people from diverse backgrounds…at its core it’s about looking at the entire organization and making it a welcoming place where everyone’s potential is encouraged, and everyone’s voice is heard.
Headlines are rather bleak these days with most automotive analysts saying that low inventory could linger into next year. So while it may look like there is no way to uncover anything positive about this situation, that may not be the case…especially in F&I.