by Mo Zahabi
While digital retailing in automotive is on the rise, dealership staff still play an important role in customers’ car-buying experiences. Six in 10 consumers would still want help from dealership staff even if they could purchase online, according to the Cox Automotive Future of Digital Retail Study.
But the roles of the salesperson and F&I manager have changed. In the past, dealership staff were only there to make money off a customer. Oftentimes, the customer knew more the vehicle than the salesperson. Today’s dealership staff, on the other hand, have responded to customer needs and shifted to a much more product-oriented approach. According to the same Digital Retail Study, today’s car buyers prefer staff who are product specialists – people who are highly knowledgeable about features and technology who will also act as consultants and listen to their needs in a low-pressure environment.
This consultative approach is particularly important in F&I, where consumers are critical of the traditional pitch, according to the 2015 Digital F&I Experience study. To connect with your customers – and make the sale – you have to take a more personal, friendly approach to F&I selling.
Empower Independent Learning
In the old approach to selling, there was a one-way flow of product information: the salesperson would tell the customer information as they sat in front of them. It was a belly-to-belly, in-your-face approach. But today’s consumers are hungry for resources that allow them to do their own research. 71% of car shoppers would prefer to do F&I research at home prior to purchase, and 63% say they would be more likely to purchase F&I products if they had the option to learn about them before finalizing their vehicle purchase, according to the Cox Automotive Maintenance & Repair Study.
Consider offering F&I product information on your dealership website, and also give your customers opportunities to do their own research once they are in your store. Mobile menu selling solutions, like Dealertrack’s eMenu for iPad®, enable independent customer learning. These technologies allow you to load a tablet with key F&I product and payment info, giving customers the opportunity to digitally explore your F&I offerings on their own – and better understand the value of F&I products.
Sit Shoulder to Shoulder
Most people use the phrase “shoulder-to-shoulder selling” figuratively, and that imagery is important when thinking about your approach. Customers need to know you’re not selling at them, but consulting with them. But the literal sense of the phrase is important too.
Literally sitting shoulder to shoulder with your customer as you review F&I product information can change the entire mood of the presentation. Without the physical barrier of the desk, the “me vs. you” mentality that can leave customers feeling intimidated in the F&I office is removed. Consider implementing menu selling technology that is specifically developed for tablets like Dealertrack’s eMenu for iPad®, which enables you to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with your customers – figuratively and literally.
Leverage Your Network
Today’s customers know there are many options for everything they can buy, and they want to know that they’re getting the best option available. Make sure you’re familiar with the network of aftermarket providers powering your dealership’s F&I selling solution, and don’t be afraid to explain to your customers where your product offerings are coming from. They’ll appreciate the transparency, and an increased understanding of how the process works certainly won’t hurt your chances of making a sale.
A version of this post originally appeared in Digital Dealer.
Watch this video to learn more about how Dealertrack’s eMenu for iPad can help you implement a more consultative approach to F&I selling.
Mo Zahabi is the Senior Director of Product Consulting at VinSolutions and Dealertrack F&I, where he educates dealers on best practices and ensures their offerings exceed industry expectations. Mo has applied his strong foundation in technology-based applications to the automotive industry for the last 18 years. Prior to joining VinSolutions in 2008, Mo was a respected Internet Director and eCommerce Director for two different automotive groups.