It’s happened: The customer says, “I want to buy this car.”

The thrill of a sale extends to both the customer and the salesperson. And as that salesperson opens the door to the showroom, and ushers in the excited customer, the exuberance comes to a screeching halt when he utters the words, “Now let me introduce you to my F&I manager and see what kind of a loan you can get.” Instantly, the glow fades to a gray cloud of dismay. It’s time to talk money.

Numerous consumer-research studies have been fielded, assessing the maximum amount of time a new customer is willing to sit through the F&I process when purchasing a vehicle.

That magic number appears to be 45 minutes, a miniscule amount of time considering everything that must occur. But there are simple steps to renew that customer’s new-car glow.

Set the Timer

Just as football coaches practice the 2-minute drill, dealerships should practice the 40-minute F&I drill. Here’s how:

  • F&I checklist: Have one for each and every transaction jacket.
  • Interview early: Have the F&I manager meet with the customer early in the discussion to get basic information to begin the process.
  • Lenders on call: Lenders should be ready and able to process deals when contacted. If not, get in front of them and cultivate relationships.
  • Right product portfolio: Compliance regulations require presenting all available products to all customers. Have the right products for customers. Don’t waste time with a menu filled with too many products.
  • Crystal clear: Marketing material should be clear and easy to understand. Have product FAQs updates.
  • Teamwork: Everyone should know their role  be  prepared to step up when it’s their turn.

Practice this 40-minute F&I drill frequently and make adjustments as necessary. Establishing an efficient process will keep everyone in the flow and supporting that new-purchase glow.

Be Prepared

Customers play a role in the 40-minute F&I drill. Make sure they are onboard and have a clear understanding of the process to improve the overall experience. Here’s how:

  • Set time expectations: Break down the entire F&I process into 10-to-15 minute increments. At the beginning of each increment, inform the customer how long the process will take.
  • Outline the steps: Explain the F&I process at the beginning of the discussion. Flag any issues early to prevent a derailment down the line.
  • Details please: Make sure the customer has proper identification, insurance details and employment information on hand. Put the process on hold until everything is in place.
  • Good fit: Do customers have an idea of their monthly budget and a comfortable payment? Does a short-term or long-term loan work better? Putting money down on a car note can make a big difference in financing terms.

The 40-minute F&I drill starts when the customer enters the F&I office. Other than driving the car off the lot, the F&I process can be the most pleasurable part of the transaction. 

It’s truly the time when aspirations are affirmed and financing is confirmed. So set the timer, be prepared, and make that next sale exceptional.

John Stephens is executive vice president-dealer services at EFG Companies.