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:


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.”


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!



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!