Guest blog by: Tony Dupaquier, Director of The Academy

With the right program, the right incentive plan, and the right ongoing training, you can staff any dealership with solid F&I managers who will exceed expectations. But true superstars – the people who just seem to have the knack for selling F&I products and coming in above expectations, every month —are rare.

They question is: how do you find those superstars, and how do you keep them once you do?

A recent Automotive News article had a great approach: start recruiting early.

In many parts of the country, high schools have programs designed to start introducing students to various career paths. But how many dealerships are going to these Career Days to talk about sales and F&I opportunities? Typically, when dealers attend Career Day events, it is more likely to be for service department jobs. Not talking about sales and F&I is a missed opportunity.

There is no business that is NOT show business, and the retail auto industry is about show business. Seek students who are in drama. This student has the ability to retain pages of information and present it, in the specific manner the director requires. And for our industry, the ability to know the information and present it the correct way is a necessity.

Another approach is to expand the dealership’s outreach program: offer internships, and/or form relationships with local schools to enable students to earn class credit by shadowing employees from every department. Granted, following a sales person around the lot in the middle of July is not going to be of much benefit to staffing the F&I department, however working as an assistant to the Business Manager will produce positive results. Interns will learn a fair amount about the industry and compliance, with the added benefit of reducing some of the more mundane tasks today’s business office requires.

In addition to the local high schools, dealerships can form relationships with the trade and technical schools, community colleges, and even any nearby big universities. College students are making decisions that will govern their career paths for the rest of their lives, but how many of them even think about the car business in general, much less F&I, as a viable option?

Once again, drama or communication majors are a great fit for our industry, however there are more possibilities. Marketing and finance majors both do very well in the retail auto industry.

The average F&I manager can make more than $130,000 per year — and that’s the average. How many students across the country are aware of just what a lucrative and rewarding career F&I can be? In fact, how many of them even know what F&I is? Now is the time to reach out and attract our future dealership leaders.

For dealerships, these are some great opportunities to cultivate talent. At the same time, this younger generation may have interesting perspectives and skillsets that bring value to dealerships as the way we sell cars evolves in the Digital Age.

Retaining the Talent

Attracting new talent to the business is only half the battle. Once you find a viable candidate with the potential to be a long-term asset, the challenge then becomes keeping them.

As Wards Auto pointed out, the Millennial generation has, in some cases, vastly different ideas about what a job should look like. For example, they don’t necessarily believe that working 16-hour days is the best use of their time. The article notes that this generation is more likely to ask about hours and schedule before asking about salary and advancement.

However, that doesn’t mean the pay structure is meaningless. There has been much debate in recent years over the best pay plan structures for F&I managers, with salaried and commissioned plans each having their own sets of advocates and detractors. The reality is that the best plan probably falls somewhere in the middle, with Millennials tending to like a higher guaranteed salary base they can count on to start with, with perhaps fewer — but not zero — chances for bonuses and commissions. It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario; what works for one dealership in one part of the country might not work for another. The key, for dealers, is to not get locked into a mindset of “this is the plan we’ve always used, take it or leave it.”

It’s also about providing the right training – at the beginning, and on an ongoing basis. Today’s young professionals expect to be properly trained for any position, and the old approach of the “tiger training” program sets up young recruits for failure. These graduates may be coming in with little or no experience, which means they are a blank slate.

Invest in professional training to ensure new recruits know the right way to do the job, giving them the tools they need to succeed while remaining compliant with all the relevant laws and regulations. Also, make sure employees understand the value proposition every F&I product brings to the table: each consumer has a different set of needs, and a great F&I manager has not only the right tools, but also the knowledge and skills to effectively determine those needs and present the F&I products in a way that will best demonstrate value to the customer, by aligning with the customer’s priorities and lifestyle. Ongoing training on sales techniques, products, and compliance is key to ensure that professional F&I managers stay at the top of their game. This will set up the employee — and the dealership — for a lifetime of successful sales, high profits and happy customers.

Tomorrow’s biggest stars are in high school and college right now — is your dealership reaching out to get them excited about a career in the F&I industry before they decide on a different career path altogether?

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This post was written by: Tony Dupaquier, Director of The Academy

Published: June 30, 2017

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