If your school is like most flight schools, you have a set of product offerings that remain largely static and unchanging over time. In many schools, the products relate specifically to a Part 61 or 141 rating or program.
Newcomers to your school (and aviation) are often compelled to set foot into a big commitment in order to play in the flight training sandbox. For some newcomers, this big-ticket commitment is a barrier to starting with you.
In many ways, flight training is a lot more like a marriage than a simple purchase of services. Done properly (from a student’s perspective) it takes time, money, effort, emotional commitment, and a certain amount of stick-to-it stamina to be successful. Although many newcomers to flight training are not savvy at the onset about what it truly takes to finish up, they sense the depth and breadth of what they ultimately have to give to attain their training goal.
Now imagine that you’re going to buy a new family vehicle. You go see the dealer, and all he has to offer you is the latest high-speed, low-drag 350 horsepower SUV with GPS, DVD, and mini-fridge. It’s nice. Really nice. You can easily see yourself and your family cruising to Grandmother’s house over the holidays in style. It’s a great product, but it’s also your only choice with him.
Can you see my point?
I suggest that offering some lower commitment or re-packaged flight training offerings as part of your overall sales plan for customers is a smart choice. When some prospective students hear that flight training is a four- to six-month commitment, with an investment in the low four figures, and requires six to eight training sessions per month (at least), I am sure that many have visions of their already-packed-too-full life at the front of their consciousness.
For some, it is about the money. However, I strongly suspect that for most it’s more about the full-on commitments in other areas that they’ll have to give of themselves that weigh even more heavily when it comes to deciding about starting and sticking with flight training.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at some products and practices that you can potentially offer to help positively influence people to start with you:
I think this type of offering was way more common back in Granddad’s day when you could often solo someone in 10 hours or less. In today’s world, a quick check of FAR Part 61.87 will remind you that a lot of training must be covered before you can send someone aloft on their own. At most schools, solo cost is two-thirds to three-quarters of the cost of a full-on private pilot certificate for a student. Additionally no checkride has to be performed to achieve this goal. It’s quicker, cheaper, and has most of the appeal of a private pilot certificate.
Many segments of flight training are possible with a CFI, one student in the front, and one in the back of a four-place airplane. This type of training allows for the passive (back seat) student to continue learning while the front seat (active) student is receiving training. Pre, post, and ground training costs can also be cut in half or greatly reduced for the gemini students. There is often an element of camaraderie between the two students that will help pull them through training when learning plateaus and other hurdles are reached. Obviously, this kind of program requires a higher level of schedule coordination and safety planning than typical one-on-one pilot training. Many schools find that properly and safely executed, this type of training pays big dividends.
In the next issue, we’ll take a look at some additional products and strategic selling practices that you can utilize to help keep your product bin fresh, competitive, and enticing to a broad spectrum of new and existing customers.
P. Jerry Lee is president and founder of aviation marketing and sales training firm Mach1 Consultants.