Some dealership personnel think it's hard enough selling the car, let alone selling finance & insurance products.

So what do those sales people do? They don't bother selling F&I at all. Or they will only pitch F&I products they are comfortable selling, such as extended warranty agreements.

That's unfortunate because F&I is an important dealership profit center, especially if predictions materialize that auto sales will soften this year.

So say William F. Curran and Ed Bradley, executives from JM&A Group, a leading F&I firm.

“It's a proven fact customers will buy more when you offer them a choice of F&I products, lay out the options and disclose the financial implications,” says Mr. Bradley, JM&A's vice president of sales administration and financial services. “You're not going to sell much unless you offer it.”

Not only will customers buy more in such circumstances, “they are happier about it,” says Mr. Curran, JM&A's COO and group vice president. “It boosts customer satisfaction.”

That message is driven home by the training staff at JM&A's Deerfield Beach, FL Performance Development Center as well as by 200 field representatives who regularly visit dealerships to reinforce and remind employees what they learned at the training center.

A consistent presentation of all product offerings on a “menu” is vital to higher F&I sales.

Says Mr. Bradley, “As dealers turn their attention to the F&I department for increased revenue, they've got to do it the right way. We use a menu selling process that's full disclosure and customer friendly.

“The first thing to tell customers is, ‘You can buy this car today for this amount, but let me take a few minutes to review other product offerings that can help you protect your investment.”

“The first thing to tell customers is, ‘You can buy this car today for this amount, but let me take a few minutes to review other product offerings that can help you protect your investment.’”

The menu lays out the options, costs and monthly payment plans to the customer.

“It's much faster than the traditional way of selling F&I,” says Mr. Bradley. “Customers get the whole story. They understand the whole payment plan. They are able to make intelligent choices.”

Moreover, such a process protects against a customer later claiming the dealership duped him or her into buying a bill of goods.

Many dealerships' F&I presentations are inconsistent. Big mistake, says Mr. Curran.

He explains, “You might have a dealership with five different sales people using five different F&I approaches.

“Or you might have the same sales person using five different approaches on five different customers, treating each differently. That's a real weakness in the process”

Mssrs. Curran and Bradley say all JM&A trainers and field representatives are dealership veterans. JM&A actively recruits them, but not from its dealership clienetle.

“That wouldn't be wise,” says Mr. Curran.

The two executives say it's important for the field representatives to visit dealership clients regularly to reinforce training and to make sure staffers are not lapsing back into old habits.

The visiting field representatives, to drive home a point, will go so far as to say, “I'll do the next customer. Watch how I do it.”

The firm's F&I training mothership is the Performance Development Center. The facility is expanding its curriculum to include sales, sales management and fixed operations training to clients and non-clients alike.