Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Dealership group finds success in its approach to finance and insurance


Dan Mason offers monthly training for Brandon Steven Motors’ F&I managers.

F&I transformed

Wichita, Kan., dealership group Brandon Steven Motors has transformed its finance and insurance operations and lifted F&I profit per vehicle by updating training techniques and adjusting processes.

Dan Mason, corporate platform finance director at Brandon Steven Motors, has transformed the dealership group’s finance and insurance operations and lifted F&I profit per vehicle by putting his managers in the hot seat.

Mason trains the F&I managers from the group’s nine stores together at monthly meetings. The subject matter of the meetings changes but the overarching focus is always the same: a transparent and effective F&I process, he said.

At the April and May meetings, for example, Mason asked finance managers, two at a time, to overcome an F&I product objection in front of more than two dozen of their peers. Then the group voted on who overcame the objection better.

“Not only are they getting feedback and ideas from me, they’re going to pick up things from each other that are a little different,” he said. “Being up in front of your peers doing objection handling is the hardest place you can do it. If we can get graded doing it for each other, doing it for the customer is easy.”

Fewer chargebacks

The group has six new-vehicle franchised stores and three used-only stores, with several operating under the name of Eddy’s Everything. The Wichita, Kan., dealership group, which also has stores in Lee’s Summit, Mo., sold 5,660 new vehicles in 2017. The new-vehicle franchised stores sold 5,019 used-vehicles, while the used-only stores retailed 2,965 units.

Mason, who joined Brandon Steven in October, says the meetings let F&I managers share feedback.

In addition to the training meetings, an emphasis on transparency and collaboration has helped the dealership group boost F&I profit per vehicle $300 to more than $1,400 on average and decrease chargebacks by 50 percent in less than six months.

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Many of the finance managers are veterans in their roles, but because of Mason’s experience in F&I, they’ve been open to changing their F&I strategies, he said. Before joining Brandon Steven Motors in October, Mason was a general sales manager and finance director. He has worked in dealership F&I departments for 13 years.

Trainers from finance companies, he said, often previously worked in F&I on a limited basis or haven’t actually worked in a dealership in as long as two decades.

“When I come in, they know that I’ve actually done the job. I actually build out a deal for every one of my finance guys,” he said. “That’s the best way to garner respect, by leading by example. And when you see results, that always speaks for itself.”

As a result of Mason’s training, the group’s F&I managers have made process adjustments. One such change: dropping the traditional interview.

In a traditional interview, the F&I manager asks customers about their buying habits, mileage and how long they plan to keep the car.

“Bombarding customers with those questions isn’t personal. It actually puts up a wall,” Mason said. “That kind of detracts from the entire positive experience.”

‘Just a conversation’

Finance managers at Brandon Steven Motors get the interview information they need through informal conversation and a glance at the customer’s credit report. If the customer has a trade-in, the F&I manager can find out how often they trade and about how many miles they drive each year by scanning the credit file. For other information, Mason asks customers to tell him about themselves.

“I can ask a mileage question different when they tell me their kids play travel soccer. I can say something like, ‘I have friends that do that. I bet you travel all over the place. How many miles per year do you think you’re driving doing the soccer thing?’ Now it’s not an interrogation; it’s just a conversation.”

Mason trains his F&I managers to offer menu items without actually going through the menu.

When discussing the benefit of roadside assistance, for example, Mason might tell customers who work night shifts to picture themselves leaving work late on a cold night. He asks: “You go to start your car and it’s dead. What would you do?”

When salespeople sell a car, they do a walkaround of the vehicle, a tangible product. “Obviously what we sell in the finance office has tremendous value, but it’s not something you can [see],” Mason said. “I have to do a visual walkaround of the customer using the [F&I] product.”

F&I transformed

Wichita, Kan., dealership group Brandon Steven Motors has transformed its finance and insurance operations and lifted F&I profit per vehicle by updating training techniques and adjusting processes.



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