Influence: The Key to Cooperation

The challenge for many dealerships today is how to achieve high levels of productivity from every department while keeping cost of operations in check. The classic performance model typically incorporates a series of "carrots and sticks" to encourage employee engagement and proper focus on business outcomes.

This approach, while popular, has some real limitations with today's workforce. Imagine if you could, the need to produce high levels of output from your team (F&I, sales, etc) while being restricted from utilizing neither the incentive of "money" nor the consequence of "termination". How much harder would it be to run your dealership?

Fundamentally, it would mean gaining cooperation based on your team executing a plan not because they "HAVE TO" but because they "WANT TO". This is a tall order in anyone's book, yet represents an accurate reflection of your store's culture and business philosophy. Influence is after all, the ability to gain voluntary cooperation versus coercion or manipulation. Yet our industry is filled with messages that say well just do so because I said so, rather than taking the time explain the "Why" behind the purpose of executing the plan in a particular way.

The interesting thing about developing a strategy to become a more influential person is that it will positively impact all aspects of your operation.

When an F&I (Finance and Insurance) manager is trying to gain the cooperation of the salesperson to support the turn to F&I and setting up the sale of aftermarket products, he or she must influence the salesperson in order to effectively increase penetrations? The same holds true for the interaction with the desk manager and of course ultimately the customer.

The idea that all the coverage's and protection programs are optional is fundamental to the success of presenting any F&I menu. The moment the customer feels excessive pressure they will either resist by digging in their heels or worse they will simply disengage completely by retreating from the purchase of the vehicle all together.

So how can influence be increased and thus cooperation gained? In a word, Relationship.
In order to achieve greater influence and thus cooperation, a connection between both parties must be present. The need to make a human connection with genuine sincere rapport that communicates "I want to serve you at the highest level" is paramount. The customer interview must then become the foundation of establishing this rapport to tailor the protection packages on the menu and build a bridge of trust before entering the F&I office. Presenting the menu from the perspective that customers don't have to buy these protections packages, but rather explaining why they would want to reduce risks by protecting their investment is significantly more effective.

The conversation between the Business Manager (F&I) and the salesperson/desk manager should be the same. It starts first with a relationship (investing the time to get to know them personally), and follows with the reasons why these protection packages will benefit the customer. The increased retention that results from the customer purchasing the VSC or Prepaid Maintenance Program may be obvious to the dealership, but not so obvious to each salesperson.

After all, when the customer does return to purchase the next vehicle from the dealership who will receive the commission?

The disappointing aspect for many within the automotive industry is that they were often subjected to a philosophy of persuasion that thinks it's somehow OK if the person "in charge" walks around with a hammer in their hands, since everything and everyone is simply a nail! A heavy handed approach has limitations in that your people will only do what they have to. Delivering the type of inspired performance that you or customers desire will mean connecting on a much deeper level both internally (with staff) and externally (customers).

One suggestion for achieving a real connection with your staff is to order a set of Values Cards for each of your managers from the The instructions for how to use the cards are included in the package.

Good luck and good selling!
Kirk Manzo
Kirk Manzo> all articles
Kirk Manzo is the Owner and Founder of The Manzo Group, a firm specializing in working with Automotive Dealerships in Sales, Sales Management and F&I Management to increase profitability.

Sales success and Leadership are about influence.

The ability to gain the cooperation of others determines your success. So I guess what I'm asking is, "How well do you play with the other children?"

Often in performance based occupations (like sales) we are seduced into believing that success is somehow measured by one's ability to "will" the prospect or team member into cooperation (code for intimidate).

As a John Maxwell Certified Trainer and Coach I can guide you and your team through Maxwell's programs on communication, self growth and Leadership. With more than 25 years of sales & marketing experience in industries like healthcare, building materials and retail automotive I have successfully trained and coached individuals and organizations to achieve their sales objectives.

As an independent trainer and consultant since 02', my straightforward and practical approach has produced immediate and lasting results for clients. Being bilingual is invaluable to my Spanish speaking clients in Puerto Rico and Latin America.
I am also a professional member of the American Society of Training and Development, the National Speakers Association, and IMC USA -- Institute of Management Consultants.
By implementing John's Leadership philosophy and communication strategies you will help each member of your team grow to their potential! I look forward to beginning our journey together.
I can be contacted at our offices 770-995-7808 or via email at