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Selling the dreammarketing

Michael W. Dempsey, an aviation marketing professional in South Dakota, has an interesting theory: Pilots are the very worst at selling the dream of flying. 

In his blog, GetAviation, Dempsey says it’s because pilots—and engineers—make terrible salespeople. They will talk to you all day about how cool flying is, but they won’t ask questions about why you might want to learn to fly, or what type of airplane would work best for the type of flying you want to do. The reason is simple: They haven’t been trained in sales techniques.

“I don’t understand why there is not any value in hiring a high-quality sales team that is purely performance oriented,” Dempsey says. In this instance he’s talking about selling aircraft, but there are aspects of this discussion that carry over to the flight training realm.

“You need a driven person, someone with a Type A personality [who] is a go-getter and doesn’t care if he is selling airplanes in contrast to something less glamorous,” Dempsey says.

The car business understands this, Dempsey says. He adds, “Although we don’t necessarily like car salespeople, they have a way of getting the new car sales, which is what this is all about.”

Dempsey makes some very good points. I’ve written often about potential customers who were ignored when they walked into a flight school, or handed a folder of information about a training program without any accompanying explanation or encouragement from the flight school staff.

In another blog, Dempsey offers some advice on help your flight instructors sharpen their sales techniques.

“There are many reasons why people don’t buy,” Dempsey says. “In the case of learning to fly, it could be an apprehension and the prospect wants to be pulled into learning to fly.” A simple solution or word track would be to ask, What day during this week would you like to take your first lesson? I have my schedule in front of me and we can set something up right now.

If the prospect says she has a busy schedule, Dempsey suggests, “Why not offer solutions as far as flying in the morning or evenings to make it work?” Or, frame it to the person along the lines of Why not take two hours for yourself each week to learn to fly? “You just made that person think of themselves and devoting time to actually learning how to fly,” Dempsey says.

These are reasonable suggestions, and implementing them doesn’t mean your flight instructors will be the aviation equivalent of late-night TV shills. In fact, if your flight school specifically trains your staff in sales techniques, I’d like to hear from you. Email me ([email protected]). 
Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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