How to Sell Aviation Art at a Trade Show

How to Sell Aviation Art at a Trade Show

We had a question from Nate, (not his real name) who is an artist that will be showing aviation art at the  NBAA show in Orlando this year.   We have some advice about how to sell more!

“I’m going to display and sell art at NBAA in Orlando in October. I don’t have a ton of money, I’m going ‘all-in’ on this event. I have a great corner booth and am planning a great display. 

How do I make the most of this opportunity?”

In a nutshell –

  • Build a list of potential buyers
  • Create a fantastic catalog
  • Feature one piece of art per hour, with a guest speaker
  • Follow up with specific customers after the show about their favorite piece.

1. Buy, borrow or build a list of potential buyers.

Just showing up at a trade show, and having a great booth, does not guarantee that you’ll have foot traffic to your booth, or make sales.  You’re investing a lot in booth rent and travel.  If you’re looking for advice on how to sell aviation art at a trade show, our first piece of advice is to invite as many people as you can to come see your art!

Make a list of people who are likely buyers:

2. Create a Catalog

How to sell Aviation Art at a trade show - Build a Catalog!You’ll want this to reflect positively on your brand, whether it’s online or on paper.  (Printed catalogs are held in far more esteem by aviation decision makers!)

Besides photos, include the story behind each piece, and information about how the art is created.

There is not a lot of overlap between aviation professionals and art professionals – so you’ll have to assume that your buyers don’t have  a lot of expertise in how to buy art.

Of course they will fall in love with some of your pieces, but even so, they will have to justify the purchase to themselves, to their board, to their accountant, or their best friend.

You can help them assure themselves and other stakeholders that they’re making a great investment by providing information about other pieces you’ve sold, with the prices they’ve sold for. (If that information is impressive!)

Also list galleries and installations that feature your work.

You’ll also want to explain the differences between the types of art you’re selling, and others on the market.  Most non “art people” aren’t clear on the differences between an original, limited edition, or part of a series, or a reproduction.

(But they won’t want to reveal their ignorance at a trade show by asking! )

You can help them become more educated and confident in making a purchase by including all of this information in your catalog so they’re well-informed when they visit your booth.

3. During the Show

How to Sell Aviation Art - the BoothSome of your pieces will naturally be more prominent than others, no matter how well-designed your booth may be.

You can feature a different piece each hour in your most prominent display space.  That way, as people walk by more than once, they will see different pieces.

You can also invite guest speakers to provide a brief (5-10 minute)  lecture or discussion about the subject matter of your art. Invite a pilot who flew that aircraft, or a historian familiar with the period, or even an aircraft designer who can speak about a particular aviation topic.

Publish a schedule of these appearances, and make certain you have a few “family and friends” to attend each presentation or lecture. People will stop and listen!

Collect Leads – offer catalogs in exchange for business cards.

Make notes on the back of each business card about which piece the person asked questions about or spent the most time looking at.

4. After the Show

Send all of your leads repeated follow ups by mail and email.

  • Catalogs/brochures
  • Newsletters including sales
  • Schedules of where to see your art next.
  • Ask for referrals when someone buys a piece.  “Who else do you know that has similar taste in art?”

Wrapping Up

Each piece you sell, and each event you attend, extends you network as an artist, and improves your chances of selling you next piece at the price you want.

Need Help Selling Aviation Art?

Download our Trade Show Checklist, or  find 30 minutes for a free consultation to talk with us about how to meet your goals!

Aviation Writers, Speakers and Educators are also Salespeople!

Although sales has a (sometimes well-deserved) bad reputation among aviation writers, journalists, speakers, podcasters and educators; sales is an integral part of the job.

Convincing your readers, listeners, and students to at least listen to your ideas is a necessary step to being effective in any of these fields.

In this episode, John and I talk about where our attitudes about sales come from, how the best teachers (and even doctors) are great salespeople, and discuss how it’s possible to keep your values intact and STILL be a very effective salesperson.

Aviation writers, speakers and educators don’t necessarily like to think of themselves as salespeople. In fact, many of us, maybe without even realizing it,  carry a rather negative stereotype of the sales profession, and of salespeople.

The impressions that stick with us most effectively are the ones that are particularly good or particularly bad.

And most of us have had a particularly bad experience with a salesperson at one time or another in our lives.

Who hasn’t?

But I promise  that learning essential sales skills will NOT make you have bad breath or  closet full of bad polyester prints!

But Sales is the “Dark Side!”

My undergrad degree was in Communications and Journalism.

We learned rather quickly that advertising and sales are from the “dark side” of the newspaper and magazine business.

Editorial is supposed to be clean and impartial, sales and advertising are a “necessary evil.”

Many writers would have nothing to do with sales or advertising if they had their “druthers.”

Most of us get our attitudes about sales and marketing also from our parents.

I remember my Dad talking about salespeople, and missionaries  (he grew up in Salt Lake City, at a time when LDS missionaries were particularly persistent!

He also had a close friend that got involved with a multi level marketing company and had a really bad experience.   He lost a lot of money, felt a lot of pressure to strong-arm family and friends into buying products, and generally discolored everyone’s feelings about salespeople.

BUT. . . .

Sales Skills Won’t Make You Evil. (Unless you Already Are.)

The truth of the matter is that you can’t be as effective as a writer, speaker OR educator unless you are also good at sales.

Here’s why.

Part of the job of being a successful writer, is getting readers.  You’ve heard the term “the headline sells the article?”

Great writers also cultivate an audience that looks forward to their next article.

These writers are worth more to the publications they write for, because they bring more readers to the table.

“Bestselling” authors get paid more than . . . “best author!”

Great speakers are able to “get butts in seats.”

Aviation conventions and events are always looking for keynote and education session speakers who bring a large audience, and are able to keep them riveted in place until the end of the event.

It doesn’t matter how great your speech is if you’re talking to an empty room.

Being influential means “selling” something, even if it is simply selling concepts and ideas you’d like the audience to consider.

Great instructors also “sell” concepts.

Students remember things better when you can be convincing.

We all want to be able to influence more people.

Better sales skills help you get more article and book assignments. More speaking gigs. Rooms packed with more people. Podcasts with higher numbers. And more classes to teach, with more students in them.

And more revenue.

And more revenue allows you to travel more.

Perfect your skills.

Hire an assistant.

Get a better computer or better software.

So, since we all have to do sales tasks, why not get better at it?

We decided to do a webinar specifically for aviation writers, speakers and educators, because what they do is SO important.

Writers, Speakers and Educators are Leaders of the Aviation Industry.

There are some masterful salespeople in our industry  – Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Lynn Tilton, and many of our clients!

There are also a lot of folks who are still under the impression that if they  produce a good, honest product or service, that the wold will beat a path to their door.

I’m sorry to disappoint them.  That’s just not the way the world works. But it’s fairly easy to do some good marketing and solve that problem.

Writers, speakers an educators are the ones who influence the direction of the industry and the way the rest of the world feels about our industry. We’d like to help them be more effective. for the good of the industry AND for our own good.

Here’s an example – No Plane No Gain “Sells” Business Aviation.

In 2008, the four major auto dealers each flew to Washington DC in their own private jet.

They probably thought nothing about it at the time, it was  a standard business practice, and an expedient way to manage a crisis.

The public didn’t see it that way. There was a massive outcry about private aviation which had become a symbol of corporate excess.

To their credit, NBAA has been doing a massive damage control campaign, “selling” the idea of business aviation as a cost-effective business tool.

And they’re doing a good job.  But it illustrates how important it is to be able to “sell” our side  of the story.  The side with the best use of sales skills often wins.

And that should be you!

So, what’s the difference between effective, ethical salespeople with intact values, versus the slimy, repellent type of sales that we can’t get away from fast enough?

We think it’s intention.

If your intention is “clean,” then you can be as convincing as you need to be.

A person with clean intentions is looking for win-wins, and is honestly looking for the best possible outcome for the prospect, rather than looking for his own next paycheck.

Come to our Webinar

Free Webinar - Essential Sales Skills for Aviation Speakers, Writers, & EducatorsWe also announce our latest free webinar – Sales Essentials for Aviation Writers, Speakers and Educators, to be held on May 2, 2018 at 1:00 PM. Join us here!

Participants will receive a set of email (or LinkedIn) templates for tasks such as:

  • Pitching articles and/or press releases to editors and publishers.
  • Pitching guest appearances to podcasters
  • Speaking engagement proposals
  • Follow Ups

We look forward to seeing you there!

Book Club Discussion – Aviation Sales – Same Game, New Rules

John and I discuss the business to business sales classic Same Game, New Rules by Bill Caskey, especially how it relates to aviation sales. Featuring a “top ten” list by Jeremy Cox of Jet Brokers.

How This is Different from Every Other Sales Philosophy?

John and I have attended a LOT of sales training, from everyone from insurance companies to auto specialists – Dale Carnegie, Sandler, etc. etc. etc.  And we’ve read a LOT of books.

Most sales advice out there is great, but every program or every book seems to throw in something that would be dangeFather of sales training - zig-ziglarrous or even insulting to try on an aviation industry client.

Most of the sales philosophy in the United States has been heavily influenced (if not downright adapted from) Zig Ziglar .

With Richard “Dick” Gardner and Hal Krause, Ziglar was a charter member in the establishment of American Salesmasters in 1963. The company’s objective was to raise the image of salespeople in America by providing seminars. They began with cities across the Midwest (Memphis, Atlanta, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, etc), featuring speakers like Zig, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Ken McFarland, Cavett Robert, Bill Gove, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Red Motley and many more. They booked an auditorium, put together a slate of speakers and contacted local businesses to sell tickets. Audiences included insurance agents, car salesmen, financial advisors, entrepreneurs, small business owners and curiosity seekers.

Zig went on to speak extensively for audiences of the National Association of Sales Education (NASE), founded by Dick Gardner in 1965, and also became a major sales trainer for Mary Kay Cosmetics. In 1968, he became a vice president and training director for the Automotive Performance company and moved to Dallas, Texas. The company went bankrupt two years later. Subsequently, Zig spoke extensively at seminars for Peter Lowe, of Get Motivated, and eventually signed an exclusive agreement to support Peter Lowe events.

In addition to speaking, Ziglar wrote over 30 books. His first book, See You At The Top, was rejected 39 times before it was published in 1975. It is still in print today.   – From Wikipedia.

We have nothing but respect for “Zig,” who died in 2012.  And we quote him often.  A few of our favorites:

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.
You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.
You don’t have to be great at something to start, but you have to start to be great at something.
Sound familiar?  Just shows how much he’s influenced popular culture, especially popular sales culture.
But, in all the good stuff in books and sales training out there, we’ve found that much of it is more suited to retail culture of the ’70s and ’80s. A few things have changed since then! Especially when your prospects are B2B and/or aviation industry decision makers.
A few key differences that aviation sales pros will understand well:
  • Customers are much more savvy and suspicious of traditional sales tactics. They can see typical “close” lines coming a mile away and have developed great strategies to avoid anything that smells like a traditional “sales pitch.”
  • Unlike retail sales in the 70s and 80s, aviation salespeople usually have a limited number of prospects for the specific product or service they are selling.
  • The sales process for B2B products is much more technical and involved than the average retail sale.
  • Quite frankly, many of the old style sales techniques are seen as insulting by savvy aviation decision makers.

I was first attracted to Bill Caskey and Bryan Neale’s podcast, the Advanced Selling Podcast, nearly ten years ago when John and I first got into the aviation marketing industry and I realized that as the owner of the company, I had to be the salesperson.  As much as I resisted the idea, generating lots of great leads was not enough – aviation requires person-to-person sales.

The podcast was refreshing because of its tone – low key, laid back, and comfortable. None of the “salesy” Ziggy enthusiasm I’d come to expect from sales training people.  So, I recommended the book for our Book Club.

How This is Different from Every Other Sales Book

Aviation Sales - Book Review of Bill Caskey's Book - Same Game, New RulesJohn and I really liked the way Caskey’s book contrasted “old thinking” with “new thinking” in a neat little table at the beginning of each chapter.  That really helped summarize and make the stories, examples and insights from each chapter much more interesting and applicable, because that little table really crystallized the concept.

Caskey’s “Fundamental Shift” is really a mindset change.  Before discounting this as unimportant, we have to recognize that at least 80% of communication is nonverbal. If we’re communicating nervousness or fear to a prospect, it might just be that sales calls or sales presentations are not our favorite activity. But when a customer hears “fear” his brain jumps immediately to “scam.”

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking of salespeople as repellent or unpleasant, it’s likely because we naturally find fear or desperation repellent, and many salespeople are scared to death.

They’re scared of not making their quota, of getting yelled at by their boss, of not being able to meet their financial obligations, etc.

In aviation sales, we can’t afford for people to have that repellent feeling.  We have to get past that quickly with prospects who have VERY highly developed sales resistance.

Imagine if you could reduce the fear and risk from the sales situation – that’s what it’s like listening Caskey and Neale’s podcast,  or reading this book.

Our Book Club is part of our Aviation Sales & Marketing Lab –  we review one sales or marketing book each month and discuss how it relates (or not!)  to the aviation industry.

It’s also a great conversation piece for networking among our clients.   And it’s a great supplement to our Aviation Sales Courses.

Join us!

Have  you read it? Do you have a favorite sales book?  Let us know!



Closing Aviation Sales with Credibility

Closing aviation sales has become more difficult.

Why? Because salespeople and marketing folks are increasingly seen as the “villain” in the story, until they prove otherwise.

Like it or not, all the shenanigans that salespeople in aviation (and every other industry) reflects badly on the rest of us. So, we have a much higher “burden of proof.”

We share three techniques to get out of “villain mode,” build credibility, and close sales more smoothly and reliably, and with a lot less suspicion and friction in the process.

closing sales

Prospects are often more afraid of disappointing their boss or coworkers with a bad decision than they are of spending money on an appropriate product or service.

Why is it so hard to build credibility with aviation prospects?  Because as sales or marketing professionals, we are “cast as the villain in the story” from the very beginning.

It’s also very difficult to get the attention of busy, distracted prospects who are constantly barraged with advertising, most of which is of questionable relevance and value to them.

And once we do get their attention, it’s hard to progress the sales process.  Even people who are offering free trials have a hard to “giving it away.” Why?

While many beginning salespeople assume that sales resistance is about the money, in business to business sales, that’s usually not the biggest problem. It’s not really the prospect’s personal money we’re talking about.  But their credibility is on the line, and they’re worried about looking bad to their boss, or causing a hassle for their co-workers by making a bad decision.

1) “Borrow” credibility by associating with people and entities your prospects trust.

closing aviation salesEven if they’ve never heard of your company, they’ve heard of NBAA, and Forbes magazine, and your local newspaper, and aviation celebrities.

If you’re a member of an organization, have spoken at an event, been published in a magazine, or been endorsed by a celebrity, don’t keep it a secret!

We like to produce  a “racecar graphic” for our clients, that they can use on their website, brochures, email signature line, and other places.

You’ve worked hard to build relationships and credibility – use them!

2) Invest in the Prospect’s Emotional Bank Account.

closing aviation sales by keeping a positive balance in the emotional bank accountMaking sales is not just about making sales.

Before you can gain someone’s trust, you need to build a positive “balance in their emotional bank account,” to borrow a term from Franklin Covey.

Offer useful information. Make introductions. Keep promises. Overdeliver.

Every “deposit” increases trust and credibility.

  • Provide useful information.
  • Solve a problem.
  • Have positive conversations.
  • Show respect.
  • Make introductions to people they will find interesting and/or helpful.
  • Show a personal interest in the prospect, not just his wallet.
  • Make promises, and deliver on them!

Every “withdrawal” decreases trust and credibility.

You might be unknowingly making withdrawals. This happens every time you

  • Waste the prospect’s time.
  • Start with a “cold call” – without having done any research.
  • Arrive late to a meeting, or don’t call when you say you will.
  • Dress inappropriately.
  • Withhold important information that he would find important.
  • Make promises and break them, or under deliver.

3) Make Time Work In Your Favor

closing aviation sales - make time work in your favor!Some prospects will take awhile to close.  This is why we call aviation “long cycle marketing,” because  some prospects will have to wait for budgets, regulations, approvals, corporate structure changes, and other things outside of our control. The best thing we can do to make time work in our favor are:

  • To make contact early in the process, and stay in touch over time.
  • To keep a full pipeline so different prospects are “coming to fruition” at any given time.
  • To ensure each contact is “branded” so they recognize the pattern of contact.
  • To keep a low-key, low-intensity, low-cost relationship going with lots and lots of people in the industry. (A blog, podcast or newsletter, together with regular salesperson contact, serves this purpose.)

Aviation Sales Basics - Aviation Sales AssociateWe talk in more depth about strategies for closing aviation sales in our Aviation Sales Basics course!

The course includes some systematic information that’s often missing from other sales training opportunities, AND opportunities to interact with some of the most skilled sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry.

Join us!

Find more information here.


Aviation Sales at Small Specialty Trade Shows

Broadcasting live from Setup Day at the Flight School Association of North America Convention in San Diego, we bring you three tips for improving aviation sales at small specialty trade shows.

Here are three tips for making them successful:

  1. Choose these specialty shows carefully to ensure you’re in a “target rich” environment with lots of your ideal customers in attendance.
  2. Ask show administration about other advertising opportunities for exhibitors and attendees.
  3. Get there early, set up & test, help your neighbors set up! Make friends with the infrastructure people – you’d be surprised how much they can help!


One thing NOT to do (but that everyone seems to do!) is to arrive late and frantic and to be demanding of everyone around them.

Live from the Flight Schedule Pro booth at the Flight School Association of North America conference in beautiful San Diego California,  we talk about small, specialty aviation trade shows and conferences and how to make the most of the marketing opportunities there.

Did you know that John and Martha King are big fans of aviation sales and marketing? Note – after this was filmed, we had the opportunity to spend a little time with John and Martha King, who were featured speakers at a dinner.  They hung around and chatted with attendees, and graciously posed for a photo.

And yes, they are JUST as delightful in person as they are in their videos.

Download our Trade Show Checklist to learn more about how to sell more aviation products and services next year, by attending or exhibiting at aviation trade shows!

New to aviation, or new to sales? 

Check out our Aviation Sales Basics Course – it’s a quick, efficient and FUN way to get up to speed quickly! (And spare you all the mistakes because we’ve made them for you!)

Aviation Sales Basics - Aviation Sales Associate



How to Avoid Desperation in Aviation Sales

How to Avoid Desperation in Aviation Sales

We’ve all been there – with ambitious sales goals for the month, quarter or year, and not much time left to accomplish them. It’s ideal to avoid these situations, because desperation is not attractive. But, there are a few things you can do. We share them here.

We’d be negligent as aviation marketing consultants if we didn’t tell you – it would be better if you didn’t put yourself in the position of having to work so quickly to make sales, because desperation is not an attractive quality in any salesperson, and especially in aviation sales, because we have such a long sales cycle. (It’s a marathon, not a sprint!)
But, this is a judgement-free zone, and we’ve all been there. So, we’ll first talk about how to avoid this type of situation, and then talk about specific tactics you can use if you find yourself in this situation despite your best intentions.
avoid desperation in aviation sales - Christmas vacancies
The problem – people in aviation are usually not focused on purchasing during December.   Charter organizations are flying the wings off their aircraft keeping up with the holiday demand, and larger B2B organizations have their most senior executives taking sometimes mandatory (use it or lose it by the end of the year!) vacation time.

Planning Goals To Avoid Desperation

Some aviation companies spread their sales goals over the other months of the year, so that salespeople are not dependent on actively closing business during certain months of the year when they know they’ll be busy with other activities, or when conditions are just not ideal for closing business.
In this example, this salesperson has a million dollar sales goal, (we wanted to make the math easy!) and spread those goals over nine months of the year, excluding February (when he’s busy preparing for and building relationships due to the Heli Expo) October (when he’s preparing for NBAA) and December, when his prospects are most likely out of the office for the holidays.
Of course, if sales occur during those months, that’s fine, but it’s usually best to plan around the ideal sales environment to give yourself every advantage possible and avoid desperation in aviation sales!

Sell Your Smallest, Simplest Product

how to avoid desperation in aviation sales
If you find that you ARE in the situation of having to make sales with a short timeframe and you have more than one product to sell, sell your smallest, simplest product.
That one person left in the office who is trying to get something done probably has the authority to spend a certain amount of money without consulting colleagues and getting approval from superiors.
If you propose she buy a small, simple product that’s easy to understand without a lot of consultation and consideration by a whole committee, she’s more likely to be comfortable making the decision quickly.

How to Create Urgency

On a related note, you want to give your prospect a reason to act quickly.  Some possible reasons you might use:

  • Taxes
  • Regulations
  • Guarantees
  • Dollarized Value (How much money are you LOSING every month if you don’t buy this?)
  • Incentives
  • Discounts  (Last resort!)

Many desperate salespeople jump immediately to discounts, but those should be avoided if at all possible.  Long-term damage to your price integrity and the race to the bottom with your competition often result from an ill-considered discount.


The Bottom LineHow to avoid desperation in aviation sales - our calendar template

If you find that, in spite of your planning, desperation in aviation sales has set in, and you’re in the position of having to make sales quickly. If this happens to you, focus on sales of your smallest, simplest product; and find a compelling reason to create some urgency for your ideal customers. (Which are the holiday refugees left in the office near the holidays!)

Download our Aviation Marketing Calendar template!

Have a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to helping you sell more of your products and services next year!