LAS VEGAS – An old selling technique calls for dealership finance and insurance managers to present “100% of the products to 100% of the customers 100% of the time.”

But many of today’s F&I specialists contend that’s all wrong. “Realistically, it is not going to happen,” says Steve Lynch, western regional insurance manager for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

Trying to sell everything to everybody is flawed for various reasons, say attendees at the 2012 F&I Conference and Expo here.

The number of F&I products dramatically has increased, with assorted offerings ranging from service contracts to windshield-replacement plans to fabric-protection treatment to gap insurance.

It becomes impractical to pitch every product separately, especially in the F&I office where sales success and customer satisfaction depend much on brevity, experts say.

Customers don’t want or need everything. A vital part of an F&I manager’s job is to learn what they need most, and tailor presentations accordingly, says John Vecchioni, national trainer for United Car Care, an F&I provider.

“You don’t show a customer every vehicle on the lot,” nor should F&I managers do the equivalent in their offices, he says. “You can have a million products on the menu, but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t selling them.”

Even if an F&I manager were to cover everything in a mass presentation, he or she runs the risk of overwhelming the customer, says Peter Velau, president-training division for SouthWest Dealer Services.

“If you are presenting too many products, the customer is lost,” he says. “It’s like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking to the class. In the end, they’re not there anymore.”

Although the 100%-100%-100% rule might seem overreaching today, it was created to address two shortcomings:

  • The tendency of some F&I managers to sell only products they personally like, while dismissing others that a customer might actually want, if offered.
  • The inclination of some staffers to skip a presentation for a particular customer after presuming he or she is a cold prospect who won’t buy anything.

Experts at the conference recommend bundling products rather than trying to sell them individually. “Bundling is more prevalent than ever before,” says Jeff Jagoe, senior vice president-sales and marketing for F&I provider IAS.

“You can’t pitch every product but you can bundle a lot of them,” Lynch says of an approach in which a customer can choose from various packages.

“People are accustomed to having things presented to them as a package,” says Peter Chafetz, national sales training manager for Allstate Dealer Services. “If you don’t package products, what are your options (when trying to sell to a clock-watcher)?”  

The problem is “sometimes weaker products get bundled with stronger products,” says Bart Carpenter, director-training and consulting for GSFSGroup.

That is why it’s important for dealers to know what’s in their presentation packages and ask, “Is this right for me?” Chafetz says.

Packaging is a must, Velau says. “Otherwise, you go to step selling to people who end up wanting to get out as fast as they can.”

While presentation is important, it doesn’t trump salesmanship. F&I managers use different selling styles that typically are expressions of their personalities.  

For instance, Ray Borg, F&I manager of Suburban Toyota in Troy, MI, is a reserved person. His approach when dealing with customers is to “just have a conversation,” he says. “You do it over and over, and it doesn’t feel like selling.”  

sfinlay@wardsauto.com