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The Absent Objector

This month I’d like to share with you a recent experience I had while working in a client’s store. It was a delicate situation, but one F&I pros run into enough to warrant it being the focus of this month’s column.

The situation involved a business manager who thought he had a new-car buyer sold on a vehicle service contract (VSC) and road-hazard protection. But the woman returned the next day with orders from her husband to cancel the service contract.

Now I’d like to share with you how this situation played out, as well as a few insights that will help should you face a similar situation.

The Objection: “I’d like to cancel the service contract I purchased. My husband said I don’t need it.”

Tony’s Take: It’s always difficult to sell intangible products when one of the parties involved in the buying decision isn’t present. It limits your ability to overcome the absent party’s objection. And the business manager I helped out did try. But every attempt was met with a “My husband said ‘No.’”

Back to the Basics: The business manager brought me to the customer the moment she said she wanted to cancel the VSC. I sat down and introduced myself. The business manager then provided a recap of what she had purchased and what she wanted to cancel.

I opened up by asking her why she wanted to cancel the VSC. She responded the same way she responded to the business manager: “My husband said ‘No.’” What I found interesting was she wanted to keep the road-hazard contract but wanted out of the VSC, so I asked her why that was. The customer said she was keeping the road-hazard product because she didn’t want to bother her husband should her car suffer a flat tire.

I responded with this: “So the convenience of making sure your wheels and tires are always taken care of is important to you, correct?” She responded with a “Yes.” My response was she shouldn’t cancel the service contract for the same reason.

Worry-Free Repairs: But the convenience of a service contract doesn’t stop there. Think about the concerns customers have when they bring their vehicles in for service. Don’t they worry about being price-gouged and that their car is repaired properly? They also have trust issues when a service advisor recommends additional service work.

So I explained to the customer that not only will her vehicle be taken care of, she wouldn’t have to call her husband about a price quote or a repair recommendation made by the service advisor. I also told her she wouldn’t have to worry about whether she had enough money in her bank account or enough room on her credit card to pay for the repair.

“With the VSC, you simply drop off your vehicle, pick up a loaner car and have the confidence that all the repairs that need to be done are completed with the right parts by trained professionals,” I said.

She looked at me and agreed with everything I told her. I then asked if she wanted me to speak to her husband directly, but she declined my offer. I guess she realize she didn’t need her husband’s opinion after I explained what the VSC provides, as she decided against canceling it and drove off even more satisfied than when she left the day before.

Lessons Learned: The experience forced us to rethink our approach when it’s apparent the main decision-maker isn’t present. So here’s my recommendation to you: When presenting your service contract or any other products, spend a little time talking about the convenience of having a service contract or any other product you sell. Yes, you still have to review all the features and benefits, but make sure to explain to the customer the convenience factor.

Word of Caution: As a business manager, unless you work in a state that requires you to ask a customer about their relationship status, you cannot do so, according to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act’s Reg. B.

In Review: So remember, our products do more than fix issues a customer may have with their vehicle. They provide customers with access to a host of services without them having to worry about additional out-of-pocket expenses. Customers also don’t have to worry about whether a repair is really needed, if the service advisor is telling the truth and whether the price for the repair is fair or not.

Tony Dupaquier ( is director of training for F&I University, a division of American Financial and Automotive Services Inc.


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