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After the intro flightAfter the intro flight

I used to think flight lessons were an easy sell. Who wouldn’t want to become a pilot? All it took was someone to walk through the door, take an intro flight and sign up for lessons. That was then. Today, people are selective about where they invest their discretionary income. A candidate may shop around before making a decision to buy.

Here’s a familiar scenario. You’re at the scheduling counter, after what you think was a successful intro flight, and suddenly there’s an awkward moment. You want to secure the sale by getting your candidate on the schedule, but what do you say?

Securing a sale starts with understanding and qualifying your candidate. Qualifying begins at hello and continues during and after the flight. Your candidate must meet three criteria: time, money, and motivation.

If any of these criteria are suspect, then you do not have a candidate.

Use a consultative approach to determine where your candidate stands. This is nothing more than having a conversation, asking the right questions and showing how your services will meet the prospective pilot’s needs. The strategy is not to sell flight training, but rather, to understand the reasons your candidate will decide to buy or not to buy. To be successful at the counter, it is essential that those buying reasons are understood beforehand.

For example, during the flight, you determine the candidate has the money and motivation but not the time. After the flight you might brainstorm possible solutions or share examples of other students’ flight schedules. Be flexible, and offer to work together to arrive at a realistic solution prior to trying for an appointment.

Back at the counter, assume implied consent unless the candidate indicates otherwise.

  • What’s your time frame for starting?
  • We recommend getting your medical prior to your first lesson. Let’s schedule your lesson after you see the doctor.
  • Are weekends or weekdays better for you?
  • Is there anyone else you’d like to invite on your first lesson?
  • Would next week or two weeks from now be better?
  • The TSA requires proof of U.S. citizenship. Will you be able to present your birth certificate or valid passport before your first lesson?

Next, determining your candidate’s financial qualifications can be touchy but there are subtle and effective ways to address this issue. Avoid, getting caught up in the “how much does it cost” question. It’s on the candidate’s mind, so take the lead and address it early on.

  • You’ve probably given some thought to funding your training. Your lessons will range between x and y dollars. Are there any financial concerns that would delay your ability to start or finish?
  • Are you familiar with our pilot financing program?

Finally, what about motivation? It’s hard to believe, but occasionally someone shows up at your school who outwardly appears very motivated but later reveals uncertainty. Confusing? You bet. After all, when you show up at a restaurant, you’re hungry and motivated to eat right away. Why would it be any different?

With flight training, candidates may be a passively assessing your school to determine if it’s the right fit. The candidate wonders: Is your training “menu” going to satisfy my appetite? How will your school meet my value expectations and emotional needs? Can I trust you and your instructors over the long term? Are you worthy of my financial investment? Can you deliver? If so, support your claim with evidence, testimonials, and how you add value.�

What if your candidate wants to think about it, or, my favorite, needs to “talk with the wife.” Always agree, but don’t stop there. Thinking about it doesn’t mean no. It may mean the person is honestly undecided, may not be convinced about your operation, the instructor, the aircraft, the ability to commit, the flying, or the value. Alternatively, hesitation may be due to knowing the dream is about to become a reality. It pays to ask more questions.

  • You might consider attending one of our ground schools first. You’ll gain some insight and it will give you more time to think about it.
  • That’s understandable; let me show you our introductory packages designed for those who want to ease into training.
  • Would you like to take another flight before you decide?
  • Would you like to get in touch with one of our students to talk about his experience?
  • I’d be happy to sit down with your family to discuss flight training.

The key to securing sales is avoiding awkward counter moments. Know your candidate’s money, time, and motivation needs before asking for a commitment. Continue to qualify throughout your interactions, and make it easy for your candidate to say yes on their terms.

Deanna King is the vice president of flight operations at a busy New England flight school.

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