Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can You Satisfy My Concerns?

When sales employees have a choice between working with an existing charter customer, or working with a prospective new customer, most employees will choose the existing customer. That's because they seldom push back, raise concerns, offer objections, and generally make employees uneasy.

But where's the fun in that? Anyone can generate a quote or book a trip from a happy, satisfied, repeat customer. It's pleasant and rewarding to work with such folks, but it's not challenging. And you won't drive home with that glow of satisfaction having overcome objections and gained a new customer!

The most exciting step in the sales process is inquiring about concerns, drawing them out of the prospect, and then converting the concerns into benefits from flying with you.

"Inquiring about concerns," you say. "Do you mean you actually want us to ask if the customer has objections? Why on earth would we do that? We've been crossing our fingers hoping we could get right from our presentation to booking their first trip!"

Unless and until the prospect raises concerns or objections, it's unlikely you will get the sale. That's because of a very well-established fact. Customers make the buying decision emotionally, then justify their decision rationally.

Objections and concerns are almost exclusively about what "they" will say to the emotional decision. "What will my boss, or the CFO, accounts payable, the Board, my colleagues down the hall, our employees, and maybe even our customers say when they find out I'm chartering a plane"?  That's what your prospects are thinking when they raise objections and concerns.

Your prospects already have said to themselves, "I want it, I need it, I've got to have it." Prospects need you to arm them with facts so "they" will agree that the prospect has made a sound business decision.

If you read my posts, you know I like to quote Jay Abraham. He would tell you that when customers object, they are silently begging to be lead. I've always liked that phrase and the image in conjures. Objections are simply a prospect's way of saying, "I really want to fly with you. Now give me some excellent business reasons to do so."

In the AirPSG Learning Library, we have the six most common objections to using air charter for the first time. The materials explain precisely how to handle each objection. For your company, you should sit down with your sales team and list  your most common objections. Try to pull that list together soon, because in next week's post, I'll give you a formula and template for handling common objections.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Should I Buy From You?

The single most important question everyone in sales must be able to answer is, "Why should I buy from you instead of your competition?"  The answer to that question is your Unique Selling Proposition or USP. (A tip of the hat to Jay Abraham who first taught me this term.)

The key is the word 'unique.' What sets you apart from your competitors? What are you doing that your competitors aren't? What will the customer get from you and not the others? The USP does not have to be difficult, time consuming, or costly. It doesn't need to be an could be passive such as advice, knowledge or experience your competitors lack. 

A client recently asked me to help them think through their USP for a jet card program. It was challenging because their product proposal read just like a dozen other jet card programs.

To help them figure out a USP, we analyzed the competing jet cards, looking solely at publicly available information on their competitors' websites. We constructed a table listing every feature and everything identified in writing as a benefit. It was easy to see where the client's proposal matched one or more competitors' programs.

As we worked on our USP, we constantly referred to the table to see if we had found something unique. After many false starts, I asked the client's team to stop thinking about the features, and instead focus on the unwritten benefits to the customer. (My assumption was that if a benefit wasn't listed on a competitor's website, it probably wasn't being mentioned in their sales presentation.)

We finally discovered a powerful benefit that could be obtained combining a common set of features. What made this unique was that, as far as we could tell by comparing websites, none of the competitors had discovered, or hadn't mentioned, this hidden benefit.

Although your USP starts out being unique, there are very few things that cannot be copied. At least annually, your team should revisit the competitors' websites, build a new table, and see if your Selling Proposition is still unique, or if it's been copied.

If copied, make a decision whether or not to continue using your USP or whether to generate a new one. Base your decision on how well the current USP is working. If you are pleased with your sales results, and the prospects aren't pushing back and saying, "That's the same as brand X," keep using the current USP. Once it stops working, it's time to change it.

A final note of caution. If your USP is tied to a person, such as Billy Bob's personal experience or career accomplishments, start thinking of what you're going to use for a USP when Billy Bob leaves. Hopefully, he'll be leaving for something nice like a planned retirement. But suppose he gets hit by the proverbial bus; or takes a job with a competitor? Can you start grooming someone else today for similar experiences or training? Or will you need an entirely new USP?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Not Training Is Costly

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with the CEO of one of the 40 largest U.S. air charter companies. We were discussing whether or not his company would benefit from a review of the end-to-end sales process: basically every step from “Hello” to “How Did You Enjoy The Flight.”

He didn’t think there would be much benefit because 95% of his business was from repeat customers. The CEO was confident that his sales staff had those processes and procedures down pat.

I pointed out that 5% of his business is from new customers and prospects. Looked at from a different angle, that means 100% of the new customer calls and quotes are following an exception, or non-standard process. The sales folks individually are not  getting much practice at handling new customers. That’s why every new customer call is an exception.

Let’s relate this to recurrent pilot training. When your pilots are on the simulators, would you expect them to spend 95% of the training time practicing normal operations? Or would you expect them to spend most of the simulator time training and practicing for exceptions?

Once you decide to do refresher sales training, what do you need to teach? One option is to do a review of the end-to-end process for whatever exception applies to your company. Another approach is to retrain just the parts that are different from the standard process.

I prefer a third method. I would start by role playing a new customer with each sales person, and having the sales person take me through the end-to-end process. After doing so with each member of the sales team, we’d know two things: 1) where does any individual need personal coaching; and 2) what are the areas in common where the team needs some refresher training?

Is it worthwhile spending time and money on refresher sales training? Answer these few questions: a) what is the average lifetime value of a new customer; b) how many new customer quotes did not turn into trips in the past six months; c) what’s the opportunity cost from those lost sales?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Finding And Keeping Charter Customers

The very best way to find and keep customers is to have a conversation. That’s because you learn by listening. You can identify needs, suggest solutions, ask about concerns, and provide information.

Who’s Making Telephone Calls For Your Business?

§  Who’s calling your former customers to ask what caused them to stop flying with you, and to invite them to return?

§  Who’s calling the quotes that didn’t turn into trips to ask the reason they didn’t fly with you…and to see if you can get their future business?

§  Who’s calling companies in your market to explain the benefits of business charter and inviting them to learn more?

Most People Don’t Like To Make Sales Calls

If no one on your staff is making these calls, it’s probably because most people don’t like to make sales calls. Rather than force yourself to do something you dislike, why not hire AirPSG (or even one of our competitors) to make the calls on your behalf?

Will Making Calls Get You More Trips?

Yes, but not right away. A charter flight is not an impulse purchase. Except by pure random chance, we’re not going to get a prospect on the phone the very day they were planning to book a trip with someone.

The way you get more trips is by having that conversation. We identify needs, propose solutions, inquire about concerns, and handle common objections. We ask for their future business and we get permission to stay in touch each month.

We’ll get quote requests, but they will tend to be along the lines of “what if.” That’s good! We want to help customers think through practical business scenarios where flying with you gives them a tangible benefit.

You Get More Trips By Staying In Touch

The telephone call is the icebreaker. The conversation plants the seed for using charter as an effective business tool. Staying in touch every month, by email, social media, or direct mail, is how you water the seed, cultivate the idea, and pull the weeds. Then in a few weeks, or more likely a few months, the person we call today will have an actual business need and will call you for a quote on a charter trip.

To learn more about using the telephone to get and keep customers, give me a call at 800.769.6082. Thanks. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Are You Absolutely Sure You Need A New Website?

Beware the CEO who thinks it's time to change the website. In graduate school, we studied highly successful advertising campaigns that companies inexplicably dropped, only to learn that the CEO was bored with the old successful campaign and decided the company needed something new.

Air charter operators, and I imagine other small businesses, often become bored with their websites and bet the entire year's marketing budget on a new site. Aside from the inherent risk of betting the budget on one tactic, changing the website is only certain to do one thing...give you new pages! There's no guarantee you'll have more visitors to your site or more sales. Also, a solid search engine optimization (SEO) effort can often be less costly than an entire new web site.

Before Building a New Website, Do These Things First
  1. Add a blog to your website and post useful information once a week for 12 weeks. 
  2. Improve search engine results by optimizing each site page, not just your home page. 
  3. Make sure you have a unique web page description in the meta data for each page. 
  4. Get relevant, high quality back links for your site. 
  5. Update the content on your news or press page at least monthly. 
  6. Put links to your social media sites on your home page. 
  7. Update your website with some kind of fresh content weekly. 
  8. Use landing pages on your site to promote special offers or educational material. 
  9. Install Google Analytics (free) on your site so you can track unique visitors, entry pages, and exit pages and other useful metrics (or have a professional do it.)
  10. Use social media on a scheduled basis to drive visitors to your landing pages and website.
  11. Have a mobile version of your website. Readability on mobiles devices is very important
    to searchers on smartphones.
If you're still determined to spend money, have your old site rebuilt in WordPress. That's a lot cheaper than designing an entirely new site. The advantage of a WordPress platform is that you can easily add landing pages and update content yourself; and blogging is easier.

It's Like Buying Fuel For Your Plane

These items may seem like a lot of work, because they are a lot of work. It's also the internet equivalent of buying fuel for your airplane. Getting (or redesigning) a website is like buying a plane or doing major avionics upgrades. You still can't go anywhere until you put fuel in the tanks.

The same is true of your website. It doesn't matter how fabulous you make it until someone visits it. If no one's finding you, it's like an airplane in a hangar. These ten steps are your fuel!

Save money! 

Unless and until you consistently do most of these things with your old site, it's a waste of money to build a new one because no one will see it. After you've spent thousands of dollars on a new site, you'll still have to do all this other stuff to drive traffic.

Do all this traffic enhancement stuff first! Make sure you have the time, drive, and imagination to maintain it. Then study your sales and those analytics. You may be pleasantly surprised that the old site is now performing like you hoped a new one would have performed.

And think of the money you saved!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Using Risk Reversal Made A Sale!

The week before Thanksgiving in 1995, I drove to Benton Harbor, MI to call on a division of Whirlpool. During the 2-hour drive, I listened to a Jay Abraham marketing tape. One concept he discussed was using risk reversal to close a sale. 

Later that morning, sitting across from the division president, I suddenly realized that I had lost the sale. That's when I decided to try that risk reversal idea.

I said to the president, "Let me take you off the hook. It's pretty obvious I've lost the sale. Now that it's out in the open, would you mind telling me whom you have on your short list"? The president relaxed and named two of the largest consulting firms. He also said the Board wanted the project finished by Christmas! 

I remarked, “Those are big brand names. But the people who got those names won't be assigned to your project. You're going to get the most junior people because all the best people are trying to finish their own projects by year-end; or have been on the road 11 months this year and won't want to schlep to Benton Harbor just as winter sets in." 

Then I tried the risk reversal. I told him that since they weren't hired yet, and the clock was running, why not hire me to start the project, outline the solution, and present that proposed solution next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving?

“I’ll take all the risk out of the transaction," I said. "I’ll work for free between now and next Wednesday. All I ask is you cover my travel expenses. Then, when I make my presentation, one of two things will happen. Either you will agree that everything I've told you about my qualifications is correct and you will hire and pay me to implement the solution I present; or you will hand back all copies of the presentation, send me out the door, and owe nothing except travel expenses. There's no downside because we both know even if you hire someone else they won't start until after Thanksgiving." 

Whirlpool accepted my offer to take on all the risk; and the following Wednesday I closed the first sale for my new consulting company. All by doing what an expert said would work.

What about you? Where have you had a surprising success trying something an expert said would work...even if you were skeptical at the time?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Charter Marketing Survival Bulletin Archives

Find the most popular issues, based on our readers' responses, in The Charter Marketing Survival Bulletin Archives. If you're new to the Bulletin, here's a place to catch up on past articles. For our loyal readers, this gives you a single source to find that nugget of information you need today! 

Keep reading. This is really good stuff!