Creating Opportunities During Slow Times
Recently, a woman told me that the dealership where she had worked in for the past two years, had cut her position due to slow sales. Sales had fallen to 15 units per month. She also confided that the dealership provided a guarantee of $4,000 a month during her employment.
F&I producer compensation plans rarely have a guarantee of any sort; it is a selling position. Compensation for sales personnel is usually commission based on production. Top performers expect to share in the profitability of the deal-they do not require guarantees.
When business is slow we all need to think of ways to save on expenses and maximize opportunities. Slow periods allow time to follow-up on previous customers who said “no thanks” to various protection packages at the time of delivery.
Take stock of the resources at hand. How can the F&I department use the Internet as a follow-up tool? Does F&I have a page on the dealership Website? Can F&I use the space to promote the protection plans to either past or future customers?
The time is right for follow-up emails and phone calls. Due to extended financing and the increase cost of new vehicles, experts say customers are retaining their vehicles beyond the limits of factory warranties. The great thing about service is that they always get paid. The big question is by whom? The choices are the factory, the dealership, the customer, or a service agreement company.
In today’s hectic lifestyle, not every email or mailed post gets ready. Any correspondence that expects action should be follow up with a telephone call. While you do not want to appear pushy, you should not leave any opportunity unattended. Customers are your life’s blood. You want them to feel wanted and appreciated. If there is a special in the service lane, you want them to know about it; if there is an event in the sales department, again you want those customers to be informed; and when you have a plan that protects customers’ future repair budgets, you should share it with those who would benefit from it.
When I recommend that F&I personnel send out written communication to the customers, I often receive a negative response. Follow-up, however, is the key to capturing lost opportunities. Think about it like this: If customers are not coming into the dealership, the dealership needs to come to them.
Follow-up is time consuming, and it will seem as if you are expending a lot of effort writing and telephoning without getting a huge response. The production at the end of the month, however, is a result of every effort, every policy, and every customer. Remember, F&I is an accumulation of efforts and all of them count.
Persistence ends resistance.
The follow-up plan should begin with a written communication, usually six months after delivery, followed by a telephone call five days later. If the customer declines to purchase the policy try again in another six months.
This is why I love email so much. You can send the follow-up letters as PDF’s or as notes within an email, and the cost is almost zero. You will need to check with the IT department prior to email blasts, however, use the resources at your disposal to minimize cost and maximize returns.
Dealer Marketing Magazine, July 2008, P. 42-43