F&I, or finance and insurance department, is an integral part of a car dealership. It's the department where clients can obtain extended warranties, service contracts, and vehicle protection plans. The F&I manager is responsible for the department's performance and ensuring its smooth running. However, being an F&I manager isn't as easy as it may seem.
There are certain steps to become a certified F&I manager, and becoming successful is another challenge.
But, what exactly does an F&I manager do? What are the secrets to their success? Finance and insurance managers are expected to achieve several goals, such as increasing profit per customer, reducing turn times on the F&I process, and increasing retention rates.
Here are seven secrets to help you become a successful F&I manager:
1. Get Certified
Getting certified by an industry-recognized institution is another secret to becoming a successful F&I manager. Some institutions offer training courses to help professionals improve their skills. Customers usually prefer to work with certified professionals in their field because they’ve obtained the proper knowledge and skills to perform their jobs.
2. Be A Good Listener And Communicate Effectively
Communication skills are vital to succeeding as an F&I manager. You'll have to talk to clients, co-workers, and subordinates daily. Thus, if you don't have good communication skills, they'll be a big barrier in your work. Learning a new language can also help you gain a competitive edge as some clients prefer to work with fluent speakers of their native language.
Successful F&I managers know how to create rapport with customers and colleagues. They listen carefully to their clients’ needs so they can recommend the best products and services.
3. Know Your Products
Before one can effectively sell F&I products and service contracts, one should know them inside and out. It's because these products vary from dealership to dealership. For instance, some dealerships may sell tire and wheel protection, along with paint protection. The F&I manager should be well-versed in these products, their benefits, and why clients should purchase them to sell them at their best potential.
Additionally, it's crucial to know dealer costs on each product or service as F&I managers can use this information when negotiating.
4. Have A Tailored Approach To Clients
Outstanding salespeople know that they can't sell the same products or services to everyone. One car dealer may offer a buyer's protection plan, and another may offer a service contract. Depending on their driving habits, they'll both take care of the clients, but one is more beneficial than the other. The F&I manager should offer different products to different clients, depending on their needs.
5. Give A Presentation About Car Financing And Insurance
Many successful F&I managers believe that one of the best ways to gain visibility is to present car financing and insurance. This way, you’d also help customers better understand how it works and help them choose the right finance and insurance options for them. Educating potential clients about F&I products and services can help your dealership gain a positive reputation as customers tend to trust professionals knowledgeable about their line of work.
6. Learn How To Underwrite a Loan Application
The ability to underwrite a loan application is a crucial skillset for F&I managers. One of the best ways to gain this knowledge is by enrolling in a course related to loan underwriting. This would give them the skills needed to review, approve, and decline loans for car buyers. During the training, professionals will learn how to decipher if a client's credit score is high enough to purchase a car on finance. They’ll also learn about the industry's underwriting standards and how to apply them when determining if a customer can afford a car.
7. Know When To Walk Away From A Potential Sale
Making a sale isn't the only thing that matters; it's also important to know when to walk away from one. For instance, if the customer is buying a car on finance and insurance, but their loan application isn't good enough to finance a car, it's crucial to let them know.
Being able to say no during the sale can help F&I managers save their clients and their careers as they would be able to retain that client as they’ll trust them enough to return.
The best F&I managers are those who work with clients, co-workers, and subordinates to achieve success. They understand that communication is the key to helping everyone accomplish their goals. One also needs to know about dealer costs on each product or service, be well-versed in the different products offered, and learn how to underwrite a loan application. Listening well, communicating with everyone, and saying no during the sale are also crucial skills to succeed in this career.