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CRM means businessCRM means business

When you take the time to look at the value that CRM and a well-crafted lead tracking process can bring to your business, you’ll come to realize that it’s a very affordable way to increase your opportunity for new business.

1) Choose a CRM provider

When I work with clients, I often recommend the Salesforce.com CRM service. It is cloud based, widely used in many industries, highly rated, and very inexpensive. The last time I priced it, the Contact edition for Salesforce.com (their most basic subscription) is $5 per user per month. Many flight schools often do not need more than one or two users.

2) Develop a bulletproof system for collecting leads

For many schools, this is the key. The easy, simple, and inexpensive solution is to develop a pre-printed 4-by-6-inch note card with five or six questions on it. These questions can include:

  • First and last name
  • Best phone number
  • Best email address
  • Interested in
  • Today’s date
  • Proposed start date

It’s important to avoid asking too many questions when you gather the lead information. Once you build and print these cards, make them accessible to all staff in your school. Then, create a central repository (comment-card box) for your staff to deposit these cards once they’re filled out.

3) What and who constitutes a bona fide lead?

Sometimes, this can be a tough question to answer. In my experience, here are the people that you want to build a card for, and follow-up with in a professional and friendly manner.

  • Anyone of flight training age that takes an introductory or discovery flight at your school.
  • People who call your school and inquire about flight training. Let’s take this one a bit further. I know that some who call your school are simply “lookie loos.” If you want to filter some of these people out, one thing you can do is gauge their level of interest by asking some open ended questions, such as: “What got you interested in flight training?” or “When you get your pilot’s license, what do you want to do with it?” If they have no idea as to either answer, or can’t respond with a good counter-question, they may not be sincere in their interest. They also may not be very talkative, which is something else entirely. Another typical yellow flag is people who will ask the price of flight training and nothing else. A common error that many schools make is simply assuming that people who are very interested in flight training will arrive on their doorstep ready to go. Remember: Not everyone has the same buying style. This is particularly hard to determine on the phone. In the beginning, err on the side of allowing a new lead into the system versus culling them out.
  • People who email your school asking for information. A best practice that I recommend is compelling people who contact your school in this way to use a contact form that is part of your Web presence. By doing this, you are able to capture their phone number. It’s important to remember that email is a one-dimensional method of communication where things often can be misunderstood. You absolutely want to be able to contact them via phone and share with them your personal passion for flight training and aviation. It is not possible to do this via email alone.

4) Maximize the leverage CRM can give you

Once you’ve captured the bona fide leads, you need to get them into CRM on a daily basis. New leads are a lot like fresh milk. They’ll spoil quickly if not acted upon. A best practice for this is to get them into CRM and follow up with them within 24 hours. Initially, a phone call and a thank you style email are more than sufficient. If no initial response, make it a policy to follow up with them once a week, and include this follow up data into Salesforce.com. I also recommend the “three strikes, you’re out” policy. This means if you have no return phone call or email from the prospect after three weeks or three tries, cull them from your system.

For the vast majority of small- to medium-sized flight schools, the utilization of an organized CRM/lead control process can represent a real shift from how they’ve been doing things in this area of their business. The flight school owner/operator must be ready to develop a process that works for their school and be willing to stick to it. Many schools also should be ready for some pushback from staff and CFIs who are “used to the way it’s always been done.” Utilization of CRM in the vast majority of other industries who rely on a sales process to get new customers is a given. In flight training, it’s very often the exception.

CRM is not designed to replace or pave over your customer database program, or any other software in your business. View it as the tip of your sales spear. It is solely for managing prospects that can come to take flight training with you.

One final thought to remember: Sales is a process way more than it is an event.

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

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