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First Impressions

Hammers are flying on the construction of our new Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center here at Langdale Ford. The work draws quite a fair amount of attention from passersby since we’re the last dealership in the downtown area. While interesting to watch, one must consider all the time and planning that goes into a project like this.

There are planning department requirements to satisfy, electrical lines to run, and plumbing and drainage considerations. And all of that needs to be planned to perfection before the foundation is poured. Once that happens, there’s no turning back.

During an afternoon break, I was venturing out for a closer look when I ran across the site manager. We struck up a conversation about all the little things that go into a job like that. “You only get one chance to get it right,” he said proudly as he gazed over the progress being made.

Naturally, our conversation got me thinking about all the things I do before a customer walks into my office. These are things I do to ensure my customers get a well-tuned, professional experience. And I’d like to share them with you.

1. Credit Reports: Studying this often overlooked tool can provide you with the information you need to seal the deal and possibly avoid a chargeback due to the customer refinancing. For example, if the customer financed his last car with ABC Bank and the credit report shows it was paid off by State Farm or USAA a month later, then you might want to rethink what your rate markup is going to be.

2. Used-Car Book Out: Make certain the book-out sheet has all the equipment listed. Discovering the car has an extra $800 or $900 worth of equipment the used-car department missed could be the difference between getting the deal bought or a lower fee from a lender.

3. Deal Rehashing: Put down that keyboard and get on the phone. Yeah, it takes a little longer, but getting on the phone to establish and maintain that relationship with your buyer can make all the difference in picking up an extra product or turning a heavily conditioned deal into one that makes sense.

4. Study the Competition: This goes hand in hand with my first point: Local credit unions, banks and insurance companies are getting aggressive, and the battle is only going to get tougher. I suggest subscribing to The Greenbook Lender’s Guide as a way to stay abreast of what the bank down the street is offering. And I’m not just talking about rates here, as this  online tool also reveals terms for certain model years, minimum credit criteria and bank fees — all of which can be used to your advantage. Knowledge is power, especially when it helps customers see the value in financing with you.

5. Housekeeping: Do yourself a favor and walk to the doorway of your office and take a look around as though you are a first-time visitor. See the clutter? How about all those bank notices and things pinned to your wall above the printer? How does that brochure rack on the desk look to you? How about those items lying on floor in the corner?
Take the time to clean your office so it projects a professional environment. Hey, you’ll never see a cluttered banker’s office, so get to it.

6. Locked and Loaded: When you escort a customer from the salesperson’s desk to your office, make sure the only thing sitting on your desk is a folder containing all the forms you’ll need to deliver the vehicle. And make sure all your attention its trained on the customer in front of you. In other words, don’t take phone calls while you’re working with a customer. That’s just rude.

Listen, I know you’ve heard this before, but to those still with me, I can assure you that following these six best practices will help you realize more F&I dollars and products sold come month end.

Yeah, some customers won’t care how disorganized your office is, but I can assure you there are customers who will. Everything you do (and everything the customer sees) from  the moment you get the deal from the desk until the final handshake will have some impact on the outcome of the deal. And remember, you only get one chance to make a good impression. Good luck and keep closing!

Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at


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