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Get emotional with salesGet emotional with sales

“People want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.” This expression is a common one in sales, and it speaks to the heart of the issue—that sales is a process based on emotion. We’ve discussed in a general fashion what to say, and what not to say, now let’s cover some specific examples of getting the job done in a way that works for your school.

Here are a number of real-world examples of things I’ve heard the flight training industry tell a new prospective student that I thought could be improved upon easily. Some license has been applied here to protect the innocent.

What I heard: “We have a fleet of 12 Acme Skyrockets, and six Smith Alpha-Wings. It’s the newest and greatest fleet in town. They all have the latest high-speed, low-drag avionics, and they can run on ordinary tap water. Because of our fleet, you wouldn’t want to train anywhere else.”

What I would have said: “We’ve made an investment in a new and up-to-date fleet to better serve you. Acme and Smith have been around for a long time in this business, and we trust these aircraft to do a great job for our customers. Since bringing them on board, our unscheduled maintenance has dropped dramatically, which means that they’ll be ready to fly when you are.”

What I heard: “Most all of our instructors have over 500 hours of experience, and some even have ATPs and airline experience. We hand pick our instructors and think they’re the greatest around.”

What I would have said: “Our school has a solid history of getting people done. It’s what we do very well. Our instructors have various levels of experience, and come to be with us from various backgrounds; the important thing about us is that we focus on helping you attain your goals in a time frame that works well for your schedule and your needs. Our overall first-time pass rate for the rating you’re seeking is x percent. For all ratings that we offer it’s a y percent approval rating. When you come and train with us, we work hard to ensure that the training you get will be professional, relaxed, and fun. Because flying is supposed to be fun.”

What I heard: “You should come and train with us because we’re an FAA Part 141 school. The FAA has actually approved us to offer flight training according to a specific syllabus, which means we can get you done much faster than the school down the road.”

What I would have said: “Our school has worked with the FAA to come up with a program that allows us to train you at a pace that is right for you. If you want to train eight times a month, we can get you done in hardly any time at all. If your schedule is not that flexible, we can work that out as well. We are always mindful that this is your training.”

At first pass, the difference in these answers may not seem so significant. Notice that the answers I’ve offered shift the focus from how “great” the school is in the eyes of the staff to what is enticing, interesting, and welcoming for the new customer. I’ve also avoided comparisons to other flight schools in the area (they’re not really your competition). I avoid jargon like aircraft model numbers, and any reference to the FARs. Discerning buyers appreciate sincerity: They want to know that you care, and they want to feel good about coming to you for training. In order for these emotional decisions to be easily reached in the mind of the buyer, the language you use must already be within their current vocabulary.

Finally, let’s cover some examples of open-ended questions to get them talking about themselves and why they’re coming to flight training.

  • What got you interested in flight training?
  • Have you had any formal flight training in the past? How did it go?
  • When you think about having your pilot certificate, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
  • What do you want to do with your pilot certificate?
  • What kind of work do/did you do?
  • Do you have any friends or family that fly? How do they like it?
  • What kind of time can you devote to flight training each month?
  • How did you hear about our school?
  • What have you heard about the flight training process?


These are just a few of the many open-ended questions you can ask new prospective students that will give you an opportunity to listen to what they have to say.

Listening is a very important part of sales, perhaps the most important thing in the whole process. It’s no wonder that the best listeners often make the most effective salespeople.

P. Jerry Lee is president and founder of aviation marketing and sales training firm Mach1 Consultants.

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