New Challenges for Finance Directors

August 30, 2023
In the News

As originally featured in Autosphere (August 24, 2023).

Author: Lilian Largier

After spending more than an hour with a sales representative validating the vehicle they want to buy, it’s still all too common for customers to have a very bad experience when they meet the finance director.

Fortunately, many professionals are implementing practices to make this moment less stressful and more transparent.

Practices that should be avoided

The lucky owner of a new car can wait long minutes for an appointment, sitting alone in a chair in a corridor. Once in the office, he may even be asked to read and choose options and products on a printed sheet, without really understanding everything, and then opt for financing and insurance. All this takes about fifteen or twenty minutes, including the preparation of the credit file.

“A car is the biggest purchase of our lives, after our home. When the stress comes and you’re afraid of being sold products you don’t need, this initially important moment becomes less pleasant. It’s essential for the financial manager to be there for customers,” explains Marc-André Lefebvre, Vice President of Quebec Sales at LGM Financial Services, a supplier of manufacturing products that supports dealers with brochures and digital platforms for mechanical, cosmetic, replacement and credit insurance.

Good customer relations are a prerequisite

The financial director often has little time to build a relationship with the customer, present options and apply for credit. It’s not always an exciting discussion in the office. “You have to explain to him that his car can be damaged and needs protection, and describe the guarantees that will cover him and his family in the event of illness or if he dies before the end of ownership. Fortunately, tinted windows can lighten the mood,” points out Marie-Ève Desautels, President of FNI Prestige, which develops the E-nov platform.

Above all, buyers need to feel privileged. “Instead of the usual 20 minutes, I take my time with my customer, 30 to 40 minutes, which is not common in the profession. There should be no grey area, because I’m building a relationship of trust with him or her,” says Maysa Zaraa, Financial Director at Luciani Cadillac, with 22 years’ experience in financial institutions, and holding banking and insurance certificates. Once the salesperson has reached an agreement, she is the one who goes to meet him and introduce herself. She congratulates him and explains why he needs to meet her. Transparency is essential from the very first contact, “it’s very important”.

The keys to dealing with customers in the right order

Before we can even talk about the product, we first need to draw up a financial profile of the customer, to understand their portfolio, to see whether or not their credit application can be approved and put together. Once this is done, it’s time to understand why the customer is buying or leasing. “I look at his needs, get to know him and find out how he uses his car,” adds Zaraa. If, for example, the buyer tells me that he won’t make it to the end of the 24-month lease, I don’t think there’s any point in imposing products on him that will last the full 24 months, but which he won’t need down the road.

Then it’s time to offer options and products. The only document the customer needs to sign at this stage is the disclosure notice, made mandatory by the AMF. They must confirm that they have received all the relevant documentation, and are aware of their rights and obligations. A summary e-mail is then sent to confirm the appointment.

T tools to simplify the process…

Platforms enable the manager to present options to the buyer on his or her computer screen or iPad in a more entertaining and comprehensive way, remotely via the Internet or e-mail. Photos, videos and dynamic diagrams explain the context and the product. Everything is simplified for both the financial products specialist and the consumer, who is perfectly informed.

“Products are presented in an open-ended way, with an outline, and the customer has to say whether or not he or she is interested, in a linear fashion,” explains Desautels. The director won’t forget anything, and will concentrate on providing advice. He or she will listen to the buyer’s needs and take the time to ask questions.

“Purchasing and delivery methods have changed,” reminds Lefebvre. It’s even possible to wait over a year for delivery of certain models. For a financial director, this may seem like a disadvantage. But on the contrary, he can use it to keep in touch with the customer, using the web to pass on information about products he might potentially want. “That way, when the time comes, the conversation will be much more relaxed,” he believes.

… and more transparent

On internet platforms dedicated to dealers, products are presented one by one. “The customer can make an informed choice. They don’t feel they’re being cheated by having three or four products added to the transaction at the same time, without really knowing what they’re getting into,” adds Desautels. One of the methods she takes from the luxury sector is to let customers consciously choose her products and then advise them. “These days, people like to buy, but everyone hates being sold to. A clear presentation of each item often leads to better sales in the end”, she notes.

The three experts consulted agree. After several proposals for supplements that don’t correspond at all to the customer’s needs, there’s a high risk of losing the customer’s trust and interest. If he’s satisfied from start to finish during the sales process, he’ll remain loyal to the dealership. If not, the chances are slim that they will return.