F&I managers have a tough job! Personally, I love the grind, but it’s not for everyone. The hours are long, the pace is relentless, and the expectations are unforgiving. Let’s face it, a lot rides on an F&I managers’ ability to secure the deal, protect the dealers’ CSI, and add much-needed profit to each and every deal. Unfortunately, many F&I managers go down this road alone with little to no personal help from the sales team.
When I was an F&I manager, I did not have to go at it alone. However, there was one store in particular where my partner did. You see, my partner was not generally liked by the sales team, and would not accept any help from me or the other managers. It was to the point that if a good deal was coming, many salespeople would try and get it to me, whereas if a problem/difficult deal was coming they’d try and get it to him.
I am a firm believer that culture dictates behavior, but as an F&I manager you create the culture that follows you. In other words, while every dealership has its quirks, you are in control of how the team feels towards you and works with you.
I can attest that when you win over the sales team, your job as an F&I manager is much easier and more profitable.
Here are four ways you can win over the sales team:
- Don’t Criticize or Complain. Salespeople are going to make mistakes. We all do! Murphy’s Law is well known for good reason. Great managers focus on ways to get the best out of the team, not focus on the bad. What do you do when someone complains about something you did or criticizes your performance?
Unless you are an alien, you get defensive! Maybe not necessarily out loud, but certainly inside your own mind. You will immediately begin to justify yourself and your actions. Everyone does this to a fault. This is why it never makes sense to criticize or complain. All you do is put the other person on the defensive right out of the gate. In life, you either think like a victim or a victor. No one is interested in following a victim. Victims complain about others, blame others, and bring others down. Victors have a winning mindset and they know how to influence and lift others up through effective questioning and coaching.
- Remove the Curtain. You may be a magician with numbers, but don’t be like the wizard in the movie OZ the Great and Powerful! Get out from behind the curtain and communicate with the sales team. As a director, I required all F&I managers to be at the sales desk or on the sales floor when they weren’t doing deals. You want to be an active resource for the sales team.
I suggest you regularly talk with them about your F&I process, and how you and your products serve them and their customers. In sales meetings don’t just sit in the back as some mysterious high-profile character; offer to lead specific segments of the meeting where you can educate and bring real value to the salespeople. Some F&I managers buy lunch for the sales team to celebrate various achievements. When I was an F&I manager there were many occasions where salespeople even bought me lunch. I encourage you to remove the curtain and be approachable.
- Take an Interest. Your success in winning others overrides on your ability to relate. Other than your “manager title” why should anyone on the sales team want to go the extra mile for you? You can preach all day long, but no one cares what you know if you don’t know them. You become relevant to your sales team when you establish a personal relationship with them. For each member of the team you should know: do they have a family, why are they in the business, how did they get to this point, what are their primary interests outside of work, and most importantly what gets them out of bed in the morning?
When you lead with the power of your title others follow only because they have to, and they often do the bare minimum. As a manager, there are times you need to lead with power, but if you really want waste-up engagement where the team wants to go above and beyond for you, it takes authority. Real authority must be earned by taking a personal interest and building influence with the sales team.
- Invest in Their Success. At the dealership, everyone has a job to do, and all of the jobs are important. Salespeople by nature are focused on selling, not financing. While there are a number of things that salespeople can do for F&I to help the process along, if they are not successful in their job of selling vehicles, they probably will not care how successful you are in F&I. Great F&I managers recognize this and intentionally invest in the sales team to make them more successful at their job of selling. I have always felt that an F&I manager is ultimately another sales manager who happens to also finance and deliver vehicles. Few people in the dealership are as qualified as an F&I manager to develop salespeople. Why not put your learned skills and the Law of Reciprocity to work for you? The more you invest in others the more that they will invest in you.
While demanding, F&I can flat-out be the most rewarding position at the dealership, both personally and professionally. There is no reason to try and go at it alone. Level 5 F&I managers enjoy the full and active support of each and every member of the sales team at their stores, and so can you. Follow the tips above and enjoy the success that follows.