Aviation Sales – How to Revive Dead Prospects

Most aviation sales professionals give up on prospects way too soon!

There are three types of prospects that sales folks might consider “dead.” Those might include

“Left for dead” a la “Hang ’em High”
“Mostly dead” a la “The Princess Bride”
and, of course, “Actually Dead.”

In this episode, John and I talk about the difference, and how to revise the ones that can be revised.

AMHF 0158 - Aviation Sales - How to Revive Dead Prospects

In our case, we evaluate everyone we’ve talked to this year that hasn’t made a purchase, and decide several things:

  • Are they qualified to make a purchase now?
  • Are the things that are keeping them from purchasing anything within our control?
  • If those factors are outside of our control,  is it possible that they will change at some point in the future?
  • Do we have permission to stay in touch with them?

Why Do Salespeople Leave Prospects for Dead?

Prospects are tougher than you think! And they don’t die easily.

Like Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie “Hang ‘Em High,” being “left for dead” is not a great thing.

Especially in the aviation industry . Someone who is “not interested” might actually be saying:

  • “I’m not yet convinced that I need this, I was just curious.”
  • “I am looking at multiple options”
  • “I don’t know enough yet to talk intelligently to a salesperson.”
  • “I’m allergic to salespeople.”
  • “I’m in the witness protection program”
  • “I don’t have the money to make a purchase yet, but might in the future.”
  • “I’m too low on the food chain at my company to make this decision, but we need your product or service so I’m looking for something to recommend to my boss.”

Any of these reasons is perfectly valid, but it’s just simpler (and habit!) to just say, “I’m not interested.”

Many novice salespeople just check the box in their prospect file that says “Not interested,” close the file and move on.

The problem with this is that these novice salespeople miss out on 80% of their sales!

 

So, when your prospect tells you he’s not interested, what do you do?

Ask for permission to keep in touch in a low-key way.  Offer to send them your newsletters. Invite them to have coffee at an upcoming trade show just to talk about business.

Then, add them to a “holding pattern.”  Like a holding pattern at an airport, a  holding pattern works best if it’s as planned and practiced as possible.

If you have a CRM or email program, you can send regular updates, and use a tickler system to remind yourself to call this prospect or check in on a regular basis.

Send birthday cards.

Use any excuse you can think of to stay in touch in a non-salesy, low-pressure sort of way. Ideally, one that educates the customer about your products and services.  A “tip of the week” with useful information goes a long way toward building a long-term relationship.

How to Revive a Mostly Dead Prospect

If you’ve seen the movie “The Princess Bride,” you may remember the scene where Westley is almost killed.  His friends, Iñego Montoya and Fezzik carried him to the home of Miracle Max.  Miracle Max declared that Westley was not “actually dead,” he was only “mostly dead,” which means “partly alive!”  Miracle Max and his wife administered a magical pill and said Westley would eventually  revive.

Inego and Fezzik bodily hauled Westley around for the rest of the movie until the climax.

Westley miraculously revived just in time to rise to the challenge and demand that the evil Prince Humperdink:

“DROP. YOUR.  SWORD.”

And, of course, Westley the unassuming farm boy saved the day and everyone lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story in our case is that sometimes you have to carry your “mostly dead” prospects around for a good length of time.  And often then end up being your very best customers.

What if Your Prospect is Actually Dead?

If someone has ACTUALLY opted out from your mailing list,  is literally out of business, or has actually died, of course you can save yourself the time and postage.

In fact, if someone asks you to stop sending emails, you’re legally required to stop.

No problem.  There are plenty of other fish in the sea!

In our experience, 80% of your “dead” prospects were only “left for dead” or “mostly dead.”

 

Sales Enablement Tools – AKA BattleCards!

John and I talk about the pros and cons of Sales Enablement Tools, including a list of three that you MUST have in your wallet to win sales.

 

Aviation Sales Enablement Tools AKA Battle CardsWe’ve been hearing about sales training that involves “battle cards.”

Wow, what a great idea!  And also, wow, what a terrible idea!

Reasons Battle Cards are Great Sales Tools, if Used Properly

We’re all in favor of sales enablement tools, which are references your salespeople use to get up to speed and use key information about your company, products, services, customers and competitors.

Great reasons to think of sales enablement tools as “battle cards:”

  • Concise
  • Easy to understand
  • Graphic & visual

After all, the more information they have, the better they will do, right?

Not so fast. . .

Caveat – Sales is Not A Game!

sales enablement tools - battle cards your salespeople should haveThere are also good reasons sales enablement tools should not be thought of as “battle cards:”

  • Sales is NOT a battle!
  • You and the customer are ON THE SAME SIDE.
  • Treating sales as a game could trivialize customer concerns or prevent careful listening.

Many salespeople also suffer from an “us versus them” mentality, and this analogy might actually contribute to that problem.

If you’ve ever watched kids playing with battle cards, they are slapping cards down as fast as they can do the calculations.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately!) aviation consumers don’t like games. They don’t like to be treated as opponents.  And they’re sure not going to let some salesperson “win” a game they’re playing with their hard-earned money (or budget.)

No reference tool should ever be more important to the sales process than listening to, and truly understanding, the customer.

This is one great reason that new salespeople tend to do really well. If they don’t know much about the product or service, they spend MORE time and energy working really hard on customer research and make no assumption about what they think they know.

So, with that caveat, here are three “battle tools” that will improve the performance of your sales team:

Battle Card #1 – Key Statistics

Create an easy reference sheet that includes the basics about the company, the primary products, the ideal customers, the main competitors, and the expectations customers have about what the brand can do for them.

  • Key statistics
  • Success stories
  • Customers
  • Competitors
  • Expectations

Battle Card #2- Feature Comparison

Many of your customers will be doing their own comparison about how your products stack up against the competition. You can do this work for them and lay it out in a simple matrix.

  • Key features
  • Main competitors
  • How they stack up

Battle Card #3 – Objection Analysis

Brainstorm the most common questions and objections your customers bring up in discussions, and spend some time writing out thoughtful answers.

  • Top 5 or 10 objections
  • A deep understanding of each objection
  • Methods to counter it

Building (regularly reviewing and updating) these three battle cards with your sales team is a great way to ensure everyone is up to speed on important facts, and that your team is consistent in the information they’re communicating to prospective customers.

This is also a great vehicle to communicate changes.   When you roll out a new product upgrade or acquire a new customer you can use as a reference, update and redistribute your Battle Cards and review them in your next sales meeting!

 

17 Key Credibility Markers for Aviation Salespeople

Credibility MarkersWhy are Credibility Markers important for aviation salespeople?

 

Ideally, the world would be a perfect meritocracy and every decision would be made after carefully considering all relevant information.

Unfortunately, customers may not know as much as they should about the products and services they’re researching.  And they’re busy.

 

So they may subconsciously use a “shorthand” for a first impression about how credible a person is, and how much weight they should place on his or her advice.

 

Many of the people who seek our help in aviation marketing and personal branding are concerned about credibility markers.

 

They find that their competitors are being quoted in industry magazines, asked to speak at events, and most importantly, and are able to sell their products and services with a lot less resistance.

 

Why?

 

In many cases, it is not because their competitor ACTUALLY has more authority, credibility and expertise, but because that person has more PERCEIVED authority, credibility and expertise.

 

“It’s not my style to blow my own horn,” said one client who we won’t name, “But I can see how customers, who haven’t studied our company and our competitors, might jump to the conclusion that <<the other guy>> is more credible.   Things have improved a LOT since we started accomplishing a few of the more obvious markers.”

 

Credibility Markers for Aviation Salespeople:

Here are a few of the things that aviation salespeople can do to be seen to have more authority, credibility and expertise.

  1. Write a Book.
  2. Publish a Press Release
  3. Give a Presentation or be a Guest Speaker or Panelist.
  4. Build a Social Media Audience.
  5. Be a guest on an aviation podcast.
  6. Host a podcast.
  7. Create live videos
  8. Make sure your website is clean, current & correct.
  9. Host a webinar, class or workshop on your topic.
  10. Join/be active in associations
  11. Form strategic alliances
  12. Ask for, and publish testimonials
  13. Ask for reviews on Yelp, Google or Facebook (or endorsements on LinkedIn)
  14. Use Before/After examples or Case Studies
  15. Publish a Buyer’s Guide, Checklist or Tip Sheet.
  16. Write the Five Key Stories Every Aviation Company Must Tell.
  17. Win industry awards.

Make Your Credibility Markers More Visible  (Without Bragging)

Lions don’t need to roar.

You’ve probably acquired some of these markers, but it’s also important to make sure people SEE them. The more visible your credibility markers are, the less you have to talk about them.

 

Credibility marker - publish a book

For example,  ensure your book is available from Amazon and has reviews from people who have read it, even if you serve a very small niche and are not likely to reach New York Times Bestseller status.  Put a link to your book on Amazon (or your local bookseller, if you prefer) on your email signature line.   We give away more books than we sell, but many people searching for “aviation marketing” or “aviation social media” on Amazon will find us through our book.

You can put logos together from outlets that have published your press release and include it on your website, or incorporate them into a brochure that you send to prospects and customers as part of a new customer welcome package or an annual update package.   You can include them in the footer of your website or newsletter.  You can feature them on your social media profiles.

The more visible you make your credibility markers,  the less you have to talk about them.

Credibility Markers - Wall of Sold Planes

JetBrokers hung photos of each aircraft they sell in their office.  (Until the frames were discontinued, and they ran out of wall space! ) Brokers like Jeremy Cox who use this office to chat with clients (or prospective clients) hardly need to mention the success record of the firm.

Credibility markers

This hallway of credentials and award in Turbines Inc’s office in Terre Haute leaves little doubt about their qualifications as visitors enter.

This hallway of credentials and award in Turbines Inc’s office in Terre Haute leaves little doubt about their qualifications as visitors enter.

Key Takeaways for Credibility Markers

  • Make the Credibility Markers you have already accomplished more visible.
  • Choose any three and make plans to accomplish them in the next 90 days.
  • Make plans to accomplish ALL (or most) of them over the next three years.

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.