“…this month we’re adding a little something to the sales contest. As you all know, first place is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”
-Alec Baldwin as ‘Blake’ in Glengarry Glen Ross
What does a movie about real estate boiler room sales have to do with the business of flight training? We are fortunate that in a direct sense it’s not much.
In many industries that are widely understood as heavy-duty sales organizations (e.g. used car dealerships and time share properties, to name a few), sales techniques can sometimes be overbearing and unpleasant for the client. With that said, it is important to realize that the existence of these kinds of companies relies solely on moving a commodity from point A to point B and making sure the flow of money takes place. I agree there is no place in flight schools for some of the kinds of tactics that these industries will often use with customers. However, if we can look beyond some of what we prefer not to emulate from these organizations, I think there is still a lot to learn from them.
There is a high level of focus within the organization on sales. With only a commodity to move, these kinds of industries are able to focus like a laser on sales. They often have very little control over the quality of their product or sometimes even the kind of product they’re offering. In a sense, it just doesn’t matter that much to them. In contrast, our industry is compelled to invest a necessary level of bandwidth every month on regulatory compliance, safety, maintenance, employee, and product development. Most flight schools create, build, and deliver their very own product, which is a really great feature of our business model. Often times we can find it easy to get mired in doing all the other things we must do to run a flight school, and just hope that sales will take care of itself. Be sure to devote time each week to the sales advancement for your flight school. Make an appointment with yourself if you have to.
They tend to tell everyone what they do. Have a friend or family member who’s always telling you what they do for a living? How many times have they offered their services to you? Do they tell you how effective they are? Don’t go overboard with this kind of behavior, but you should be telling everyone about your school and how effective you are with finishing students every chance you get. It’s not a secret.
They tend to ask for business. This is such an important part of any sales process. Ask people if they’d like to come fly at your school. Ask people who come in or call your school if they’d like stay and finish their rating. Ask your students to come back for the next lesson while they’re wrapping up and settling up on their current lesson. Asking is a big part of ABC.
They tend to be experts in guerilla-style marketing. Getting the word out in some of the most creative and low-cost ways possible is the hallmark of many of these industries. How does your school stack up for high-concept, low-budget ideas on getting the word out?
No one likes a pushy, overbearing sales process, including me. While I completely discourage heavy-duty or unscrupulous sales tactics in our industry, I wholeheartedly recommend looking to other industries (even ones we might love to hate) to learn more about how they move product.
P. Jerry Lee is president and founder of aviation marketing and sales training firm Mach1 Consultants.