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Learn from the mastersLearn from the masters

I recently paid more than $1,000 for water. Not reluctantly mind you. I couldn’t wait to part with my money.

Typically I’m a very research-driven consumer. Sites such as Amazon play right into my desire to make sure I’m getting a good product for the money. But this purchase was all about emotion.

My family just moved into a new house that has well water. During the inspections we discovered the well was slightly high in nitrates. Having a young child at home, we knew we had to do something to mitigate the problem. After looking briefly at all the options, we quickly found that reverse osmosis is the most effective and least intrusive way to go. I called Phil, the local Culligan Man, and set up an appointment.

Within minutes of being in our house, I knew Phil would be walking away with our money. His technique was perfect, and the lessons can be applied seamlessly to selling flight training. Here’s how:

  • He offered to set up the appointment over the phone: My initial call was simply to get general information, which Phil gladly gave me. Before getting off the call he made sure to ask for my name and number, and ask if I wanted him to come to the house to evaluate the situation. It was without obligation, he explained casually.
  • He showed up on time: Our appointment was for 2 p.m., and he showed up exactly at 2 p.m. with everything he needed. He was respectful and friendly without being at all pushy.
  • He was knowledgeable: As in flight training, the technology of water filtration can be over a novice’s head. He didn’t use acronyms or jargon. Instead he showed his experience and depth of knowledge by answering our questions either directly or with stories about past customers.
  • He played to our emotional side: Knowing we were still under the stress of moving into a new house, we were unsure about the water, and we have a young child to protect, he was able to physically show us the nitrates with a test kit, schedule the install for only a day or two in the future, and guarantee it would take care of the problem. I had offered that we were concerned about the health risks and he made sure to mention it casually once or twice.
  • He was armed with literature: To better describe the system, he had photos, any technical specifications we wanted, and a full price list that was basic and easy to understand.
  • He closed the deal: Even though it was likely obvious we wanted the system, he didn’t take any chances. After pointing out the system options he asked when we wanted to have it installed. All we had to do was pick a date. There wasn’t even a need to say yes or no. He had done that for us.

Although Phil isn’t a pilot, I have no doubt a flight school could hire him and see its business increase. Basic sales techniques translate well across products, and Phil has those skills in spades.

Think about a major purchase you’ve made recently and how the salesperson closed the deal. Was it too pushy? Too soft? What did the person do to make you buy? Sales is about making the customer feel good, which is exactly how Phil made our family feel. If you show up on time, keep the conversation light, cater to the student’s emotional side, have the right reference material, and properly close the deal, chances are you’ll see success as well.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

"Flight Training" Editor
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.

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