The percentage of dealers who still do not use an F&I menu-selling system is still close to 40%. This is a surprisingly large group, considering all the benefits of that type of system.

Those dealers who haven't embraced this system of selling need to reevaluate their F&I departments, and make the switchover as soon as possible.

There is little validity to whatever excuses an F&I manager has, or for that matter, the dealership itself might have for not using menu selling. The measurable benefits include higher product penetration, enhanced satisfaction, and consistent consumer disclosure.

While menu selling has been around for several years now, a recent study of F&I offices really spells out how critical this sales process is to dealers, and how they should vigilantly enforce its usage.

Foremost, there is a significant difference in reported sales penetration levels between those dealers who use a menu sales system and those who don't. Dealers using a menu report 33% sales penetration level on new vehicle sales versus only 24% among those that use a different F&I product presentation method.

Calculate what not using a menu is costing your dealership in lost revenue. If your dealership is not hitting these averages, this should serve as additional ammunition to force a change.

Independent providers have had greater success transitioning their dealers to this type of selling system. JM&A Group, in J.D. Power and Associates' most recent dealer service contract satisfaction study, led the way with 98% of their dealer clients using a menu. Dealers who use a menu are far happier with their service contract provider.

With those dealers reporting higher service contract sales penetrations and higher sales of additional products, the additional profits resulted in greater satisfaction with the provider that assisted in introducing this selling system to their dealership.

The J.D. Power study also demonstrates how the menu design provides a structured format facilitating the selling of additional products. Dealers using a menu demonstrate a greater likelihood of promoting incremental F&I profit streams.

The study measured the emphasis placed upon the sales of traditional F&I products to determine which items were promoted to the greatest degree. One significant finding is the impact a menu had upon the sales effort at the dealership.

When measuring these differences using a 10-point scale, with 10 being the highest degree of emphasis, dealerships using a menu to sell F&I products are more likely to emphasize service contract sales by a measure of 9.1 to only 7.9 for dealers not using a menu.

The emphasis placed upon selling GAP (Guaranteed Auto Protection) is 7.4 for dealers using a menu vs. 5.8 for dealers who don't.

Credit insurance had a 5.5 sales emphasis from menu users vs. 4 from non-users.

It is hard to sell a product that is not emphasized. Rarely does a customer walk into the finance office asking what products can they buy.

And unless the Amazing Kreskin is your F&I manager, sales opportunities should not be lost due to the whim of a single middle manager guessing what F&I products a customer might want, and then only emphasizing those.

The system of clearly offering all the products to all the customers all the time provides a consistent and comprehensive approach to product presentations.

Perhaps most important, given the intense scrutiny under which the F&I department now operates, the menu provides disclosure benefits.

While it is certainly not a panacea and its usage, implementation, and presentation need to be monitored and managed, it can provide a degree of compliance that is lacking with an informal, unstructured, inconsistent selling system.

Bryan Dorfler is an F&I consultant. E-mail: bryan@automotivefinanceconsultants.com