10/20/2020 7:14 pm | BY GWC Warranty

Protect F&I Profit as the Customer Journey Evolves

The automotive industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. But the rapid shift to online we’ve seen this year has exposed gaps in just how well dealers are prepared to adapt to a future where early steps to the sale happen just as much online as in-store. Read more about the two fundamental things you need to know to sell to today’s educated customer in a way that still optimizes F&I sales, protecting both your business and your profitability.

Understand the New Customer Journey
The days of the linear, one-size-fits-all sales cycle are over. Focusing on making appointments and protecting pricing quotes to draw customers to the showroom floor won’t succeed in today’s digitally-dominated market. A successful sales process has to work in an environment where customers do most of the legwork online. But what does that look like?

A customer-centric sales process is more circular, with four components that should work for customers at any point in the sale.

  • Transparency Incorporate clear information, pricing details, and open communication to cover more potential roadblocks and learn more about what customers want before they walk in the door.
  • Discovery Buyers can find the right car and the right price on their own—and expect no surprises. Dealers who appreciate the research their customers have already done and use that as a place to start a conversation can find out exactly where the buyer is in the process and discover what it will take to move the sale forward.
  • Presentation A customer who’s done hours of research and completed multiple steps of the process online has given you clues about what they need to see. By building a personalized presentation that engages with buyers at critical touchpoints, dealers can convert an online “shopper” into a buyer.
  • Advocacy The earlier you introduce F&I in your sales cycle, the more chances you have to close the deal. Customers who are more informed upfront about the protection products and other add-ons your dealership has to offer are more open to their value, no matter what stage of the buying process they’re at.

Introduce F&I Early and Often
Customers have unprecedented control of the buying process, with the ability to see market-based prices, trade-in values, and financing options before setting foot on a lot. In an aggressive market, dealer profits can come down to your F&I sales.

  • Enter Early

Your F&I department needs to be available to customers where they’re the most comfortable making buying decisions—and that’s online. Buyers will come to the table with a price in mind because of the extensive online research they’ve done, and trying to sell a product they haven’t had the time or resources to factor into their budget can be a recipe for disaster.

Being upfront with F&I products can give potential buyers the information they need to get a feel for pricing and how much they want to spend before they ever speak to anyone in sales.

Start a productive conversation online with buyers about how they can protect their investment. In addition to merchandising each vehicle with photos, comments, and walk-around videos, introduce F&I products with descriptions, visuals, or videos that explain their value. Your F&I partner should be able to provide digital assets that explain the coverage they offer.

In store, spread the message and build awareness about F&I products in your showroom with educational point-of-purchase materials like window stickers, floor mats, banners, and other hands-on promotional materials. If you’ve successfully merchandised your store and offerings, customers will already have some awareness of your protection plans by the time you greet them in person.

  • Enter Often

Repetition is a fundamental sales technique, especially in a time where our attention spans have gotten even shorter. Don’t assume that your first mention of the benefits of a protection plan will be absorbed. Every time you bring up your financing and protection products, it’s another chance to create a sense of their importance and maximize your profit potential.

Some ways to work F&I repeatedly into different steps of the sale include:

    • Detailing your F&I options on 3rd-party sites listings, just as you would photos and price. 65% of buyers start there first and THEN make their way to your website
    • Illustrating the cost to repair expensive vehicle parts such as the engine and transmission on your website
    • When preparing your vehicle pricing proposal, include the protection product that you think best fits your buyer’s needs. Showing how a monthly VSC payment might fit their budget more than they might realize can help them justify a few extra dollars each month

It’s worth revisiting F&I best practices often. The industry is constantly changing, and a fresh look at how you’re doing business can help optimize sales. Your dealership should evaluate all the tools and resources you have in place to educate buyers on how critical financing and protection products are, from the start of the customer’s journey to close.

The best F&I partner should have the resources to guide you and your customers every step of the way. Learn more about how GWC can help by contacting your sales representative or if you’re interested in becoming a partner, fill out the form here.