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Back to basicsBack to basics

It’s a great time of year to take stock in what your school has in the way of basic sales skills and review the least common denominators for effectively selling any service, widget, or product.

Sales, defined. Sales can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. One of the least complicated definitions of sales reads like this: Sales is a transference of feelings. Most of the people your school speaks to either in person or on the phone actually want to buy your products. They just need to feel good about it. How you get them to feel about your offering is where the rubber meets the road. People come to you with a lifetime of established feelings, expectations, and emotions. All you need to do is capitalize on these feelings in a positive and professional way.

The best listeners make the best salespeople. If sales is transference of feelings, then accepting that great listeners make the best salespeople is not difficult. The problem in so many schools is that the principal people who interact with your customers are your customer service staff and your instructors. Your customer service staff is hired to work directly with customers, but they may often find themselves trying to handle multiple tasks at once, making good listening a real challenge. On the other hand, if your instructors are like so many in our industry, they just aren’t good listeners. As an instructor, their primary role is to fly, teach, and talk (all at once, sometimes) in a way that is safe, legal, and efficient for training. Doing this kind of work day in and day out doesn’t always lend itself well to the formation of a good salesperson.

No sale is ever final. With an attrition rate of more than 70 percent, the idea that no sale is ever final rings true for those of us involved in flight training. It is a misunderstood fact that the sales process is perpetual in most industries, and flight training is no exception. Signing a new flight student is only the beginning of a new sales process within your organization: The quest to keep and finish the student will last a number of weeks, months, and sometimes longer.

Ask for their business. Even with experienced and professional salespeople, this one often gets missed. The biggest challenges are timing the question, and having the intestinal fortitude to actually ask.

These four basics are a must for any business. They are practices that every school can adopt, and they cost very little to implement. Let’s take a look at some easy practices that help make these basics happen in your school.

  • Make sure your team understands what motivates people to buy and stay. Money and price are important, but I’ve seen a lot of schools that charge at the upper end of the norm for their region that also do quite well. What makes these schools different is that they are often very good at making the prospective customer feel good about coming to them—and they know how to get customers through the process. Remember that customers want to know how much you care before they will care how much you know, about flying or anything else.
  • Using your experience with scenario-based training, set up some very basic listening exercises for your customer service and instructional staff. Design the exercises to have a measurable outcome. Conduct them over the course of three to five months.
  • Slow down your conversational pace with prospective customers on the phone and in person. A slower pace of conversation both in person and on the phone gives the customer an opportunity to speak and join in the discussion, instead of being just an audience.
  • Realize that your school may portray a “members-only” atmosphere to newcomers. This is common, but mostly unintentional for many schools. If you have even a hint of this at your school, find out where it’s coming from and make the appropriate changes yesterday.
  • Teach and expect your staff to ask for customers’ business, for the next flight booking. If a mistake is made, and they feel like they want to leave training, ask them to reconsider. I think asking is often humbling because it’s sometimes awkward.

The art of good sales is simple. It goes beyond industry boundaries and even most cultural boundaries. It is not hard or costly to implement. On the other hand, not engaging in effective sales is very costly. As a flight school owner or leader the choice is yours to make.

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

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