A recent article in Wards Auto noted that with the arrival of the fall season, so too has the sell-down season arrived dealerships across the country. As dealers clear out their remaining 2016 stock to make room for the incoming 2017 models, and as OEMs push end-of-year, consumers will be flocking to the dealerships to take advantage of the deals.

And this is an ideal time to work on building relationships.

Customer retention is a wonderful thing. As we all know, it is far more profitable in the long term to retain current customers than it is to go find new ones. For dealers, this means taking advantage of heavy “car buying” seasons like the fall to bring in consumers who might be looking for an upgrade. And F&I plays a crucial role in helping convince those customers to return and give their business back to the same dealership, rather than going to the competition.

According to Rob Christman, Director of Sales & Fixed Operations at Cox Automotive, it all hinges on the connection. In today’s world, consumers can go online to view the stock at all the dealerships in a 100-mile radius and order the car they want to be delivered to their specifications to the local lot. So while having the right stock is still an important factor in making a sale, it isn’t what is going to turn a one-time sale into repeat business, or a regular customer into a brand ambassador who not only buys all their vehicles from the same dealers, but refers their friends and family members (and online connections) as well.

So how do we turn one-time buyers into our regulars and our brand ambassadors? What makes the difference is the sense of connection customers have with the people at the dealership. The salesperson is important, but the F&I manager can have just as much of an impact on the customer experience, and often will dictate whether that consumer leaves feeling great, or like they were taken advantage of.

Therefore, it’s up to the F&I manager to not just sell products, or get paperwork signed, but to help build a lasting relationship. Taking the time to ask questions and learn more about the consumer means the menu can be tailored to their actual needs, yes, but it also shows customers you care about their needs, and not like they’re another tally in someone’s quota. If your goal is a connection, the sale will follow.

It’s also about transparency, which leads to trust. If the customer walks out of the F&I office feeling like they were pressured into something, or feeling like they weren’t getting the whole story, not only are they not likely to return for their next purchase, but they are less likely to buy F&I products even at a new dealership. Instead, being up front about the costs, and ensuring they understand each product and the value proposition of what they are getting, actually leads to an increase in sales. Wards cited that it actually leads to a 31{137f86425451f0eed4391b215cab1f0aedcc26ced4aeb45d9a5267c3194b8614} increase in F&I sales, and 73{137f86425451f0eed4391b215cab1f0aedcc26ced4aeb45d9a5267c3194b8614} of consumers are actually willing to drive out of their way to return to a dealership where they feel they have had a great experience. Those are powerful numbers.

We built RoadVantage on the idea that the people are just as important as the product. Relationships are the heart of the industry, and as the fall season gets into full swing, it is worth remembering that and making sure the connections with consumers aren’t lost in the rush to sell more cars, and more products.

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This post was written by: Garret Lacour, CEO RoadVantage