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Dealer F&I expert offers takeaways from ProfitX

By Shabi Mohamed

Canadian dealer chain benefits from educational sessions

Editor’s note:
Contributing writer Shabi Mohamed attended the 2011 Profit Xcelerator, Powersports Business’ conference and expo in Las Vegas. She is financial services manager for Cycle Works Motorsports, a retail chain of three dealerships in Calgary, Edmonton and Acheson, Alberta. From 2005-10, she had the highest financing volume with HSBC. Upon returning from ProfitX, she compiled 22 pages of notes and comments from dealer panels, moderators, speakers and attendees. Cycle Works president and owner Jim Roth distributed the report to employees at all three of his stores. The report below summarizes her experience at ProfitX.

With more than nine years of experience in the powersports industry, I have learned that if you are not passionate about what you do, if you don’t have faith, and if you don’t believe, it’s not going to happen.

The powerful two-day conference at ProfitX was a rush and overwhelming, but truly inspired me. One of my roles in attending ProfitX was to prove how the conference would assist in our success as a dealership. Prior to the show, I met with our dealership owner and went over the agenda for the show to determine which sessions would benefit us the most. As I said to him, “I believe the conference can absolutely yield financial benefits to us as a dealer if the knowledge shared from this event is shared with all departments and some of the ideas are implemented and followed through.”

When I returned from Las Vegas, where I celebrated my 50th birthday, I presented a 22-page presentation to our dealership owner about the knowledge I had gained at ProfitX, plus an additional 15 pages of handouts from the speakers.

In addition to this, I compiled the “7 Engaging Steps to the Success of Every Department in a Dealership,” which I call “The Rules of Engagement.” Those include Value, Reason, Resource, Follow-up, Experience, Engaging and Focus.

Shabi Mohamed (right) uncovered numerous ways to increase profitability by attending the Profit Xcelerator educational sessions. She is the financial services manager for Cycle Works Motorsports, a chain of three dealerships in Alberta.

My most rewarding moments are when an existing customer calls me and says, “Can you do exactly what you did the last time?” You know right then that you’ve earned their trust, that they value your dealership and, more importantly, that they came back because you were passionate about creating a lifestyle of fun and affordability. Their experience in your store gave them a reason to come back.

Then come the products that we have on our F&I menu, which I offer all the time, like extended warranty and anti-theft. If you don’t believe it works for you as a dealer or as an individual, then don’t offer it! I have extended warranty on everything I own, including my most recent purchase on a pair of leather recliners. Because I had extended warranty on my digital camera, it paid my $300 repair bill. So I share my experiences. I show testimonials of happy customers and claims being paid because that customer had extended warranty, or when a customer received $3,000 back when his unit was stolen.

Testimonials from customers are some of the keys to the success of your F&I department. It’s all about showing the experience your customer had. Ask your best customers for them. I have a Wall of Fame, from stories to pictures of happy customers who are now customers for life.  This is where most of your business comes from — your existing database — whereby the customers share their stories with others because they value your dealership and have trust in you. It’s all about engaging and following up. It’s not going to fall into your lap.

Build relationships with lenders, and don’t let them forget about you. I visit lenders, tour their offices and meet the analysts behind the phone. When you show up in Montreal and Toronto at the HSBC, LBC and NBC Centres to do a meet-and-greet with the analysts looking over your deal, you really make a big difference, especially when you need a second review at a tough deal. I also invite lenders to visit the dealership. It allows them to have the opportunity to see what we do and that there can be challenges in the F&I world.

Finally, success in the F&I department can come from these approaches:

How many times can a dealer touch the customer? The more touches we have with the customer, the more success we will have in maintaining that customer in our store. It’s as simple as planting that seed and engaging with that customer.

Work together with service and sales, including the techs. Involve them in the customer’s warranty information, and encourage a prepaid labor discount on their first and second service.

Engage the whole store’s staff to actively talk and share experiences of a warranty being paid off when there was a claim, and about how the customer saved thousands. Include billboards and testimonials.

Ensure that the customer does not forget about you by having every department add that extra touch.

Replenish customers who were declined and call them up personally to re-apply due to ongoing credit evaluation changing with the lenders.

Remind existing customers of their warranty expiration date on an ongoing basis.

And lastly, don’t forget that you are selling a lifestyle of fun, so add that extra touch to give your customer the best riding experience.

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