Cross training isn’t a new idea and it certainly isn’t unique to our industry. But perhaps now is a good time to review the benefits of cross training for your dealership and to discuss some keys to success.
You probably have used cross training for functions like cashier, receptionist or billing out deals. Let’s talk about F&I and why cross-training for this department is particularly appealing.
Why cross train? There are several reasons to have more people cross trained in F&I:
- First is providing coverage. When your core F&I team has weddings, funerals, vacations and emergencies you need a solution. We know these things are coming so why not be prepared.
- Secondly, it provides elasticity. When all at once you have five deals drop at once on a Wednesday night who’s going to sign them out? If you don’t have back up how long will those customers wait?
- Third is optionality – when an F&I Manager comes forward and demands a pay raise you want options. When an F&I Manager comes forward and quits to go to another dealer you want options. Having other people cross trained provides you these options. By having a trained backup, you may actually be able to run leaner and have your best F&I professional talk to more customers.
- Fourth is running lean – too many dealerships employ extra F&I Managers for coverage of days off and to make damn sure a sales manager doesn’t have to sign out a deal on some lonely winter Thursday night.
- Fifth skills development – if you have a talented salesperson that you think might be a future Sales Manager there is still no more important stop on their career development journey than F&I. From here they get a unique look at how deals get put together, how different salespeople work with customers, how the software systems all work, what it takes to get loans approved and what all the state and legal requirements are. It’s a development step that you can’t afford to have them miss.
- Sixth – the Ability to assess talent. Are they a future Sales Manager? A salesperson can have a lot of success with personality, building trust and relationship building. But those skills won’t necessarily translate to Sales Management. To be successful at the next step they will need to be process oriented, have tremendous follow through and see the big picture. There is no better development step or test for these traits than F&I. Selling to 60 or 75 customers per month in F&I vs 15 or 20 per month in sales gives a person the unique amount of repetition needed to master closing skills. It’s their first chance at leadership and you can see how they respond to the pressure.
- Seventh – you are demonstrating a clear career path in your dealership. Do you want to have lower employee turnover? Show people a career path, develop and grow people. Not only will these people be more naturally loyal they will help you develop a culture consistent with your values and how you want things done.
Avoiding common pitfalls. There are a few major pitfalls that can be avoided when cross training. Who we select matters! This shouldn’t be a mad experiment – select the person who has earned it and that has the highest likelihood of success and as a real fulltime F&I Manager. I’ve seen people selected for this job because they have a degree in finance, because they once sold insurance, because they dress more professional, because they are a family friends kid or because they are a person who will work for the least. Seriously? Choose your future managers – if you start with this in mind, it will best guide your decision.
Be clear about expectations. The more complete you can explain the full scope of the job, the hours the responsibilities the pay and how their performance will be evaluated the better off everyone will be. Most of the failures in doing this start in the first 30 minutes.
Remember to promote humble, hungry and smart. A shortcoming in any of these three areas is a sure-fire recipe for failure. Please know that the smart you are looking for is a commonsense person who can think on their feet. The hungry should be self-explanatory, but I want to make sure that you don’t miss on humble. As a backup being cross trained into a new position it will be imperative that the person have a deep inner confidence and not be an arrogant or brash person. These people won’t make it.
Done properly the cross training of a key person into F&I will help you as a leader move your entire dealership forward regardless of what the future has in store.
For more information, please contact Francis Fagan with Automotive Development Group at 312-608-4979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Francis is the Regional Training Director for Illinois and Indiana. At Automotive Development Group we put the emphasis on training. Visit our website for our training calendar and to meet our nationally renowned trainers. AutomotiveDevelopmentGroup.com