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Resetting the Clock

There’s nothing more agonizing than a visit to the doctor’s office. But it’s not the fear of getting bad news that makes it so excruciating; it’s the wait to see the doctor. Minutes can seem like hours. And just when you begin to settle in, your name is called.

But the wait isn’t over. No, once the doctor’s assistant escorts you to one of the rooms, you’re forced to wait some more. And once the doc appears, he rattles off a bunch of terms you don’t understand as he checks you from head to toe. And you get to do all that waiting just to get a prescription.

The experience leaves you wondering about all the things you could have done during that time. The doctor and his or her staff, however, probably feel like they made record time. They’re just so busy that they’re oblivious to the amount of time you spent cooling your heels. Sound familiar?

It’s not that we in the F&I office don’t care about the customer’s time. Just like the doctor’s office, we want the experience to be as stress-free as possible. But it is funny how customers have no problem spending hours in the sales department, but then become trolls when they’re forced to wait to see the finance manager.

What we have to remember is, to the customer, our process is the last remaining roadblock to them driving off in their new car. That means time is not on our side. The good news is there is a simple way to buy yourself a few additional minutes to run through your process. It’s called the meet and greet.

To those of us who once walked the lots for “ups,” the meet and greet was the first thing we learned. It served to open up dialogue between us and the customer. Well, this simple step can be modified for use by the F&I manager. Not only does it reset the customer’s clock, it sets his or her expectations. More importantly, it puts a face on the last person the customer has to see before taking delivery of his or her new car.  

Listen, a visit to the F&I office should not feel like that long walk to the principal’s office. So get out there, introduce yourself and make the customer feel like he or she is the most important person in the dealership. Now here’s how I do it:

“Good Morning, Mr. Jones. My name is Marv Eleazer and I’m the business manager. Part of my job is to take care of the final paperwork. I have a few things left to do before finishing your deal, and I want you to know I’ll return to get you in a few minutes.”

Some F&I pros will use this process to kick off a customer interview to uncover information they need to set up the menu. I personally don’t subscribe to that. To me, it just adds too much time to the process. And since you’re going to offer them every product on your roster, why not just get to business?  

Keep in mind that most of the vital information you need is already in the deal. There you’ll find the mileage on their trade-in, which you can use to calculate their per-year average. The deal information will also tell you if they are in a negative equity position. It’ll even list their occupation. For the skilled practitioner, this is all the information you need to present the menu using language the customer understands. More importantly, the customer will appreciate how quickly you get to business.

In fact, I frequently hear from salespeople how much customers like the way my department conducts business — quick and easy.

It’s quick and easy by design. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for just a minute. Don’t you just hate waiting in the checkout line? Shopping for your purchase is time consuming, then comes the wait. Just watch customers trying to get in line at the register with the least amount of people.  

Buying a car is a lot more stressful than a trip to the hardware store.  When it comes to purchasing a car, I firmly believe the ones who obtain their own financing before coming in do so because they don’t want to wait. Some would rather spend more at their bank instead of waiting on us. The quicker we can finalize the deal by getting them in our office and getting down to business the better, I say.    

Remember, all customers want is a stress-free transaction. They’re tired and ready to leave, so go out and see the people. Then keep everything else simple. 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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