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Are We Not Men?

The first time I saw the band Devo was on “Saturday Night Live.” It was sometime in the 1980s, and they were mesmerizing with their robotic moves, conical hats, darkened goggles and heavily synthesized music. Then there was that chant: “Are we not men? We are Devo! D-E-V-O. We are Devo!”

I’ve recently noticed a trend taking hold in F&I offices. Some of our industry’s F&I schools are turning out pre-programmed menu zombies who mindlessly recite memorized scripts devoid of inflection, empathy or personality. Look, I’m a huge advocate of the menu, but what I find lacking in many of today’s F&I managers is the ability to shift gears and deviate from the script.

Selling F&I involves a relaxed, empathetic conversation. It’s not a stiff, rehearsed, lecture-like presentation. But when I visit dealerships and observe F&I presentations, I can almost always tell what school produced these guys and gals.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen presentations go down in flames because the manager presenting the menu as if he or she was reading from a script. I can almost hear the words, “Are we not men? We are Devo!”

The menu is a visual aid that is incapable of selling anything. At best, it offers a track to run on. The problem I see is today’s crop of F&I managers tend to fold up when the customer says, “I want to tell you in advance that I’m not buying any of this.” It’s game over for these guys and gals, mainly because they’ve been taught to believe menus actually sell stuff.

Look, the only thing a menu does is identify what the customer wants to buy, whether you applied any salesmanship or not. In my F&I classes, we stress that the F&I menu doesn’t sell anything. We also remind trainees that the reason they were hired into F&I was because someone suspected they had a personality.

See, when it comes to F&I sales, it’s all about empathy, persuasion and finesse — whether you’re using a paper menu, a computer screen or an iPad. Again, are we not men (and women)?

My advice is to run through your menu presentation without trying to sell individual products. And if the customer interrupts with a question, answer the question immediately. But whatever you do, don’t respond to objections when there are none.

Let me repeat that: Don’t respond to objections that don’t exist. I write that because I see so many F&I managers blow sales and profits because they assumed the customer meant something when they asked a question. For instance, when a consumer asks how much the extended service agreement costs, don’t be ashamed to say it costs $1,985. If they customer says that price is expensive, don’t apologize or respond by discounting your products.

Look, just because the customer said the product was expensive doesn’t mean he or she isn’t going to buy the protection. All he or she did was remark about the cost of the product. Comments like that also don’t mean you dive into your features and benefits presentation. Wait until the customer actually voices an objection.

See, the beauty of the F&I menu is it allows us to make the menu presentation with an air of detachment. Remember, your only job as an F&I manager is to make the customer aware of their financial options while also having them sign the appropriate waivers, releases and agreements.

Stop being so anxious during your presentation and let your salesmanship kick in after they’ve rejected what you’ve presented. That also means not putting pressure on your customers. In other words, remove the emotion from your presentation and let them feel like you don’t care whether they buy anything or not.

Look, you won’t sell anything unless you have the personality to get the consumer engaged in conversation, and the only way you can do that is by not pressuring your customer to buy. And remember, the words you use are what make up your toolbox. You must also be able to conduct a thorough walkaround on every one of the services and products you present.

Regardless of where you learned your profession or which schools and seminars you attended, you need to develop a conversational style when presenting product. And your pitch must be free of anxiety, and you must know your products inside and out. Remember, deep knowledge creates confidence.

If you can’t or won’t do the things I’ve suggested in this article, then get a little plastic cone hat and dark goggles to complement your robotic presentation. And remember to chant, “We Are Devo! D-E-V-O.”  

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. E-mail him at


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