Opinion: The Changing of the Buyers

A picture of Greg Artman of Diversified Insurance Management

As RV businesses realign to what some call the “new normal,” F&I practitioners also must update their approaches.

The F&I paradigm has changed in a few areas. The biggest shift is the changing RV buyer demographic. Baby boomers have mostly retired or will over the next few years. The baby boomer generation altered the face of the RV industry, from how they owned RVs to the dealership itself. Baby boomers were the main customer that fed the newly formed F&I departments in most RV dealerships.

Now fast forward to Generation X and Generation Y buyers. They are the new customers who blazed the path of the 21st century with a computer and smartphone in every home. These buyers are the current heart and soul of the RV business, with Gen Z just starting to climb the trail.

It is more important than ever for F&I practitioners to understand their customers and their customers’ buying motives. Yes, the F&I sales process remains much the same, but not necessarily the same face-to-face. The newer consumers are more comfortable buying without a one-on-one presentation than boomers were. Boomers invested physical time in their RV buying research.

Basic Review Areas

In a streamlined review, the easiest way to understand different buying motives across the generations is by looking at two categories. Consumers want to either see the product’s value and how the item will solve their problem or know it will solve their issue through their smartphone app.

When pitching to customer that wants to see the value, consider your physical presentation. Display the products’ features, advantages and benefits by providing brochures and marketing materials. Usually, visual imagery is the best approach to reach these consumers.

These buyers want you to build value in your products with a few basic highlighted areas.

  1. How do I know the company is reputable and will be there when I need it?
  2. Will the coverages benefit me and correct my RV’s problems?
  3. What indicates to me that the company will pay claims as needed?
  4. Does the cost of the service exceed the value I am receiving?

The F&I practitioner must understand how, for decades, consumers have been conditioned by the automotive industry with F&I products. Consumers have experienced, or heard about, companies folding. They have discovered the coverage they bought was only component coverage. In both cases, consumers were left holding the bag.

When you need to pay customers’ claims, endorsements can help build value. Data research is available online as well to support the products’ benefits.

Closing and Pricing

Have you ever encountered a salesperson who continued to sell and never switched to closing? The salesperson keeps presenting and talking but never asks for the sale. The F&I practitioners’ responsibility is to create a winning situation for the consumer, not the other way around.

Present the value and ask for the sale, regardless of which generation you are dealing with.

As for cost factors, every industry saw major increases during 2021, and consumers know about the ongoing shortages and rising prices. F&I practitioners should not be afraid to ask a little more for their company’s products and services.

Now, let me walk on eggshells around the “elephant in the room:” product pricing.

Practitioners need to keep in mind that consumers discuss their experiences and pricing around the campfire, as well as on social media. Every dealership has a distinct policy for pricing and margins, and F&I practitioners should follow their company’s policies.

In recent years, many family-

owned dealerships included a makeshift risk-based pricing policy for products to accompany their official risk-based pricing policy for lending. Family-owned dealerships may enjoy repeat business from subsequent generations of people from the same families because of this approach.

Gen X Sales Tips

Gen X and Gen Y have similar buying preferences to boomers but are more comfortable with the data provided through their phones and tablets.

Gen X will invest some physical time to shop and research. However, buyers in this generation will rely on and use technology to make their research more convenient.

As this generation is in the swirl of raising families and enhancing their careers, their free time is a precious commodity. Buyers in this generation request more emails, texts and web links to review at their convenience. When interacting with Gen X consumers, F&I practitioners are best rewarded when they expedite and conveniently make information available.

Because Gen Xers are pushed for time, their patience can be limited. Still, Gen X consumers approach purchasing with less emotion than boomers do. Gen Xers rely on logical intuition when buying intangible F&I products.

They tend to be a fun group to work with and are sometimes much more engaged during presentations. Make the most of your time with them and respect their accomplishments.

Gen Y Sales Tips

When studying different consumer generations, F&I practitioners must invest in reaching the millennial generation.

Millennials, also known as Gen Y, are now the new consumers.

They will be in the marketplace

for the next 30 years. Like boomers, millennials will expand most industries’ economic growth like a golf ball through a garden hose. Gen Y buyers will make everything bigger and bolder. They are creating new and improved ways to do business.

The millennial generation is hyper-focused on convenience, surpassing Gen X buyers’ tendencies. Millennials seek to improve and solve bulky, inefficient ways of doing things. If an app can solve an issue, they want it.

I am not a millennial, but if an app can solve my problem, I want that app, too.

Seeing how things change during the next 10 years in our industry will be exciting. Millennials are change-makers. They are bold in what they do.

When you are selling F&I products to Gen Y buyers, discussing how the programs will quickly solve problems and protect against unexpected expenses is usually more effective. Reinforcing solutions with the least amount of effort helps. Millennials mostly prefer problem-solving at their fingertips. If there is one thing this generation is dedicated to, it is doing everything bigger and better than previous generations.

F&I practitioners must continue to work on the ability to read consumers quickly, regardless of their generation. Never forget how you are in the people business. Reading and understanding the customer is your job.

Do your research and learn who your customer is across the desk. Make the most of your opportunity and have some fun. After all, you are selling fun!

Greg Artman is the national training manager for Diversified Insurance Management, a Higginbotham company. He spent more than 20 years in the automotive, RV, powersports and marine industries as a finance training and managing representative, of which the last 17 years have been with Diversified Insurance Management. He worked as management in numerous dealerships.

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