Products equal profits! But you won't know how much and from which finance and insurance products until you work it out on paper. This is no time for guessing.

This is not the time for strong-arm tactics or pushing products on those who have no need for them. The F&I presentation process requires product knowledge, proper training, regular practice in how effectively to sell off the menu, and sensitivity to customers' individual circumstances.

Which products are best for customers making a lease, cash or finance transaction? What is your dealership's percentage of each of these transaction types?

Why is it important to know your percentage of cash sales comparing them to outside finance sources? Perhaps because if your customers obtain outside financing, your F&I manager should be offering a gap policy on a cash menu, especially if you aren't in a waiver state. If you didn't know this, now is the time to dig deeper for your preparations.

What products on a cash transaction yield a better result? It depends. Dealers located in Detroit know that, because the area's weather and climate change is significant, product choices should include paint and fabric protection.

Dealers in Memphis, where the theft rate is growing substantially, usually offer a VIN security product.

Ironically, credit life/disability was the product of choice 20 years ago, less so today. But dealers should evaluate whether such products bring in the same value as before. A credit life or disability product that will significantly increase a customer's payment may generate a 50% commission.

Dealers in New York, however, will only realize a minimal commission for the same product sale, as opposed to the 100% earned by offering three other valued products while keeping the customer's payment within reason. Know your numbers. They influence your profit line.

Do many of your customers lease vehicles? If so, does it make sense to offer a service contract as a first priority? In these cases, perhaps you should offer more relevant products that bring profit to your bottom line, without significantly increasing your customer's payments.

How about a tire/wheel maintenance, paint/fabric protection, dent/ding repair coverage or key replacement?

Dealers from every state and region experience different results. The size of the market, the brands being offered, inventory, the general state of the local economy affect the number of vehicles and products sold.

Dealers, therefore, have wide-ranging expectations. But, the underlying result is the same. What percentage of sale should you expect and at what profit? How should you price each product and what is your return on investment?

Your customers can only afford so much. Knowing which products will benefit them the most and how these ultimately affect your backend profit and support your reinsurance program are the keys to your success.

Products that carry a high claim-cost factor may not be worth consideration for some dealers or to those who have a reinsurance program. Some dealers sell high-mileage vehicles, while others don't, because of their location and the customers demand for more utilitarian vehicles.

Customers who live in Eastern cities have less use for a big car, because they have public transport or drive shorter distances. Larger, more rugged vehicles are needed by those who live in rural areas or in Western states where there are greater driving distances.

Carefully evaluate your market and your customers' needs. If your dealership sells more high-mileage cars, know what kind of service contract programs to offer.

Know your products and ones that are more suitable than others. Offering a service contract that costs about the same as the car may not be wise choice.

As you add products, ask yourself if one could hinder or help the sale of another.

F&I trainer Rebecca Chernek is CEO of Chernek Consulting Inc. She can be reached at 404-276-4026 and chernekconsulting@earthlink.net.