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Playing the oddsPlaying the odds

One of the first things I learned in my sales career is that sales is a numbers game. When hearing "numbers game" I would expect many will think of gaming like Keno, slot machines, and other gambling that relies largely on chance, randomness, and luck. And it's true that there is an element of luck, chance, and timing in the sales process. But a more appropriate adage might be "luck favors the prepared."

With these thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at the prospective customer numbers it takes to achieve a private pilot graduate in a typical flight school.

In the course of one month, our typical school will have 45 people call, email, or come in with an interest in learning more about flight training. Of those 45 who reach out to the school in that month, 15 have a sincere interest, and seven might start right away. For the seven that start right away, four will drop out or discontinue after about three or four lessons. The three who finish their private pilot program will spend $11,000 each with our school over the next four months.

So, that’s $33,000 over four months, which divides out to $8,250 gross revenue per month from these students. After expenses, our school makes 12 percent profit on revenue. This nets out to $990 a month in profit. These numbers are the “before” numbers.

What if we were able to get another three starts out of the initial 15 that had a sincere interest? Then, what if we were able to reduce the attrition rate for our private pilot program to 30 percent?

If we were able to do these two things, the monthly profit from our initial batch of 15 prospects would rise from $990 a month to $2,310 a month. Obviously, the “after” numbers look much better.

I’ve gone through this exercise to demonstrate that most all schools out there have some ability to improve the number of students they get and keep, and that these changes add up to meaningful results for your bottom line.

Sales is, in fact, a numbers game. But it’s not all luck of the draw. Improving your game in a way that helps you retain more who come to your front door, and keep more of those who start training with you, pays dividends in the long run. It’s also worth noting that those who attain their private pilot certificate with you are likely to come back and keep renting after they finish, also increasing your bottom line.

Anyone can go to Vegas and drop money on slot machines or other games of pure chance. In reality, the sales process is so much more like a poker game. If you want to win, you have to know the game well, be prepared, endeavor to be good at what you do, and make the very best out of each hand that you’re dealt.

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

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