Dealership F&I veterans probably remember the emergence of menu software providers.

They arrived at a time when it seemed computers were ready to take over every aspect of our daily lives. Menu software programs were no different.

Sure, they eliminated the frustration of having to fill out menus by hand. And yes, they went a long way toward reducing errors. But they couldn’t do some vital things. Nor should they be expected to do those. That’s where people come in.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology has its place. I also have great faith that, when used properly, it can help speed up the buying process by giving customers the opportunity to take the reins.

What I don’t believe, however, is that investing in new technology is a cure-all solution for selling more cars and F&I products.

The bottom line: Software systems don’t sell products. People do. And no amount of computer processing power or top-of-the-line software programs will overcome the imperative trust factor that is the key to increased sales and improved profits. Cars often sell themselves, but customers only buy from people they like, and from people who understand their needs and communicate that expertly.

Meeting the customer on their terms at the sales person’s desk is an important first step that can make all the difference in the world in F&I sales performance. But it has to be implemented regularly. Not just occasionally, or even most of the time, but every time.

Finance managers must develop a bond with the customer early on. This is imperative to reducing a customer’s natural urge to resist additional menu offerings.

Aside from the trust factor, there is the issue of organization and fluidity. Every finance manager should facilitate a seamless transition from the sales floor the F&I office. An early introduction on the sales floor is an easy way to facilitate that. Let customers know where they are every step of the way.

Organization also influences the presentation of menu products. A disorganized presentation can only lead to disaster. An organized presentation paves the way for success.

It’s not only important to be consistent in the products that you offer your customers, but you also should offer a value proposition with each. This addresses customer concerns and helps them to see the inherent value of a product, as opposed to looking at it as just another cost they’d rather not incur.

Menu software can make the work more fluid and reduce errors. But true success in F&I is about conveying concepts that resonate with customers and educating them on which products they’ll benefit from the most, based on their needs.

It’s about the basics. It’s about committing yourself to the core principles of menu selling, regardless of what platform you use to do that. It’s about deepening your product knowledge and learning to interact with customers on a human level. That wins their business and trust.

F&I veteran Rebecca Chernek is the founder and president of Chernek Consulting. Her online F&I learning platform, Chernek Consulting Virtual Pro, is in use among dealerships throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visitwww.chernekconsultingvirtualpro.com