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No matter how much you love airplanes, business is still about selling the product!

Airplane Business 5 Comments

Working with flight schools has taught me one thing about aviation, and that is most of these small business entities don’t understand the simple fundamentals of building a profitable business.  Most completely IGNORE the fundamentals, and are so simplistic in the approach, they just can’t understand why they are failing.  In fact, when AOPA tries to figure out the 80% + washout rate of student pilots, they attribute it to FAA regulations being too cumbersome.  How naive this is, when the reality is – the industry if full of engineers and highly skilled people, what it truly lacks is someone with SALES SKILLS!  Hello!

I know, everything hates the idea of having to sell something, because the perception is completely wrong about what selling really is.  Most believe selling is about pushing someone to purchase a product or service the buyer isn’t interested in.  This assumption is completely false, and is a HUGE reason why aviation isn’t going anywhere too soon!  Selling is about developing relationships first and foremost, while providing solutions to people who have an interest in the product.  Instead of trying to demonstrate to a prospect why aviation is so expensive and they can’t afford it, why not come up with solutions to what they are looking for instead?  I know this sounds stupid, but in reality that is what about 99% of the aviation enthusiast do!

It’s crackers for sure!

Here is the road to a sale as I have studied over time, and what flight schools…who by the way are front line to the long term health of this industry!  I can’t tell you how many times I listen to calls or witness someone who stops out to inquire about learning to fly. The prospect is trying to get a feel for what it is all about, because before they make the commitment to spend their money, they want to have the objective clarified and be comfortable about making this decision.  Ready to learn something about sales and how easy it really is?  Here we go.

So…instead of going through the typical 40 hours, average hours of 55 to get the license, etc., why not start asking questions about the prospect?  All too often, the prospect is overwhelmed with negative answers when in reality, if you have someone on the phone that is making $250,000 per year, isn’t there something else the prospect may be interested in?  I actually think it is easier to learn how to fly now then it was in the late 70’s when I started flying, because there is so much information you can gather on-line, AND with GPS and videos about landing airplanes etc., why are we talking about money all the time?  Shouldn’t we be talking about flexibility, great instructors that are motivated to helping them get their license, etc.?

Learn how to accentuate the positives and don’t get caught in the negatives.  The positives would be a response like this, “thanks for inquiring about learning how to fly with us.  We have been in business 15 years teaching people how to fly, while making it an enjoyable experience.  Safety is our number one priority, and we just don’t teach you how to fly, we teach you to be a safe and competent pilot!”  People already know learning to fly isn’t going to be cheap, they already have it in their head how much it is going to cost, YOU have to offer solutions that fit their needs.  IF you are asking the right questions, doesn’t it make sense to find out the person that is seeking lessons may be timid about something like…they weigh 280 lbs, so why go on about learning to fly in the El-Cheapo Cessna 150 they won’t be able to fit in anyway?

The problem is we don’t approach sales as a solution oriented approach, we approach sales as – “people should want to learn how to fly, because it is MY PASSION!”  ALL WRONG!!!  Triple exclamation point!  The car business would NEVER have the success it does, if it didn’t have aggressive approaches to the business, via marketing, and the sales process.  And this is exactly what general aviation has as it’s number 1 problem, the lack of an aggressive marketing and sales business model.  It takes a little bit of courage to ask for the sale, but if you have offered solutions, it shouldn’t be that difficult to move it to the next level by signing someone up for lessons. Not that you have to be a used car salesperson, you really need to learn how to make sales presentations that emotionally tie the prospect to the product!

I know, because of your passion, this is enough.  Go ahead, keep standing on the deck of the Titanic all you want, but all the passion in the world isn’t going to get you anywhere until you get something sold! I have never seen such a lack of interest in making their business better than those that are involved in the aviation business.  Most assume everything is a zero sum game, when in reality there are plenty of ways to increase business revenue, and I have proven this time after time, and the formula is simple and it works every time it is tried.  I don’t disclose any clients, because privacy is important to those that have worked with me so that secrets aren’t given away, but in reality, there aren’t any secrets other than good business fundamentals.

For those with the AOPA thought process, I ask the question why are so many instructors unprofessional?  This is the largest complaint of why people quit flying, and we all stand around thinking we are so smart because we had to do an instrument approach without the autopilot?  This is what is wrong with the industry, is that the opportunity is available, we have to grow up and start being professional and build a business that has growth and profitability as it’s number one goal.  Guess what?  Everyone wins at this point because not only does the entity have long term sustainability and opportunity, BUT the student becomes a pilot AND buys an airplane?  Think about that..how weird????

I don’t think I have ever worked with a flight school that, if they take at least half of what I teach them and they employ it, that the return is thousands of percentage!  Most flight schools will put the competitors on the field out of business in a few years, because all the customers are going to the flight school that “GETS IT”!  This is a service industry, and everyone expects a great experience, considering the money they are spending.  Sure, you can tell them how great of a pilot you really are, and how you have GUTS, but to the prospect, they just want to be sold something, and they just aren’t getting that excited about this half baked maneuver you are trying to accomplish.

In conclusion, it is my contention that aviation needs more business oriented approaches to getting things done, instead of talking about instrument approaches!

5 Responses to “No matter how much you love airplanes, business is still about selling the product!”

  1. Ben Says:

    Plus how to keep pilots motivated and flying on a budget. Training is expensive and post-training very costly to rent worn out 40 year old airframes.

  2. admin Says:

    I was just reading about this topic on GA news…well, it wasn’t the topic, but they were going over the new rebuilt Skyhawk and creating a dealer network. I don’t think it really matters for the most part, trying to sell an airplane rebuilt from the 1970’s is like trying to sell “new” Ford Granada with 1975 vintage…just isn’t that exciting.

  3. Ben Says:

    Unfortunately that will not work. Consumers want sexy affordable fun. Look at a new sports car or motorcycle or boat. Way less costly in every way. Why pay 200k for a plane with an interior like a beat up Corolla?

  4. Rod Beck Says:

    Hi Ben; glad to hear your with us-as usual! Like my “lady” of 24 years say; “You can’t make a sows ear into a silk purse”

  5. Ben Says:

    Thanks Rod,

    If I had a dollar for every critic on the aviation forums, then I’d be a billionaire by now! I’ve had a few 50 year old airframe junkers fail prebuy inspections that the broker/owner wanted 40-60k for and required over 20k in repairs to be airworthy! At this point, I am looking into a Vans RV as the least I can buy a near new airframe, low time newer engine with updated avionics for under 100k.

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