Aviation sales accountability is particularly hard because we have smaller pools of qualified prospects and longer sales cycles. This can make it more crucial to have a good sales accountability practices to keep revenue high.

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Transcript –

Announcer: You’re listening to aviation marketing Hangar Flying. The community for the best sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry. You can’t learn how to fly just from a book, you learn from other pilots who know the tools, the skills, and the territory. Your hosts, John and Paula Williams, are your sales and marketing test pilots.

They take the risks for you and share strategies, relevant examples, hacks, and how to’s. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes so you won’t miss a thing. [NOISE]

Paula Williams: Welcome to aviation marketing Hangar Flying, episode number 96, Sales Accountability. This actually will be almost as interesting as last week’s episode about sex, right?[LAUGH]

John Williams: Yeah, well, we’ll see.

Paula Williams: We’ll see, exactly. I’m Paula Williams.

John Williams: I’m John Williams.

Paula Williams: And we are ABCI. And ABCI’s mission is?

John Williams: To help all you ladies and gentlemen out there selling our products and services in the aviation world.

Paula Williams: Absolutely. So please use the hashtag #AvGeekMarketing that’s A-V GeekMarketing.
We look for those hashtags on social media, so that we can find any questions, comments, anything else that you have on this or any other episode, or webinar, or post, or anything else that we do. And reply to those and make sure that-

John Williams: You should really change the automation of that last picture.

Paula Williams: Yeah?

John Williams: Yeah, cuz it makes it look like we’re falling on our face.

Paula Williams: Man.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: If you’re listening to this instead of watching me, actually, I just had this slide effect where it looks like the slides fall. So it does look like we’ve fallen on our face.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: So we’re not going to do that, so-

John Williams: Yeah, we need to fly up.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Okay.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: I will change that for the next episode.

John Williams: [COUGH]

Paula Williams: So yeah, you’re also welcome to comment on a post, or a YouTube video, or anything else.

We do watch those, and we do try to make this as interactive as we can, because we know it’s very important to listen to you guys. And that’s where we get our best ideas and things like that. So, all right, big ideas for this week. Sales accountability is a failure point in many aviation businesses.

We also want to talk about putting pressure on the system, not on the salespeople.  (Learn more about our aviation sales basics course for aviation salespeople here.)

Aviation Sales Basics Course

John Williams: Absolutely.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] And the third thing, we want to talk about the fact that the buck stops at the top. If the boss has a bad attitude about sales, the organization has little chance of success.
So this is something we we run into more than one.

John Williams: More than you would think.

Paula Williams: More than you would even believe. [LAUGH] So, if we had to point to one reason that a business in the aviation industry struggles or fails, this would have to be the number one reason.
Would you agree?

John Williams: Very likely. People just don’t get it. I mean, everybody sells every time. They talk to somebody, even if it’s only selling them on an idea or an approach, or something that they’re trying to convince them of.

Paula Williams: Absolutely. So, we like to say, and we say this a lot.

Nothing happens until somebody sells something. It doesn’t matter how many airplanes you have. It doesn’t matter how great your product is. It doesn’t matter that it’s better than the competition. It doesn’t matter how well capitalized you are. None of that matters if you don’t make any sales.

John Williams: That’s right.

Paula Williams: You have no reason for being in business, unless you have passengers, customers, clients, patients. Whatever it is that you call the people that give you money, or whatever it is that you do, right?

John Williams: Right. So product and service and whoever’s giving you the money, is the point where you’re selling something.

Paula Williams: Absolutely. And in aviation, the interesting thing is, there’s less tolerance for bad sales. Bad sales abilities, bad salespeople, bad sales processes and things like that, because there’s such a high fixed cost for most aviation businesses. They’ve got insurance. They’ve got hangar rent. They got airplanes sitting on the ramp.

They’ve got maintenance. They’ve got a lot of things that are fixed costs, that don’t matter. It doesn’t matter how much they’re selling, they still have to pay those fixed costs every month, right? There are some variable costs that go up and down, depending on how much business you’re doing.

But there’s such a high percentage of those expenses that happen, regardless of how many sales that you make. That one month of poor sales, or three months of poor sales matters a whole lot more to an aviation business, than it might mean to somebody that doesn’t have those, really high fixed costs, right?

John Williams: And what’s interesting is, in an economy down turn, the first place they cut is in marketing and sales [LAUGHS].

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: It does not make sense.

Paula Williams: That is so short sighted, you know.

John Williams: That ought to be where they increase the dollars.

Paula Williams: Right. If there’s any place that you can cut back, it would be on the tail end, cuz you can always beef that up as you get customers.

John Williams: Mm-mh.

Paula Williams: Right. And get the nice seat covers or whatever, you know? [LAUGH]

John Williams: You say even if you have a product or service, you sell it and then you go make it if you have to.

Paula Williams: Yeah, in fact, that’s become a very common trend in a lot of businesses, is to sell and have the customers help define your product.

Get their money upfront and then develop the product as you go forward. So as long as that’s all understood, if you’ve got great sales people and no product, you’ll still do all right.

John Williams: Yup.

Paula Williams: Okay, so, one of the problems that we run into is very narrowly defined job descriptions for sales people, especially commission only or majority commission sales people, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Where they will say, “This is not my problem.  give me leads, or I’m not doing anything.” They’re not out there beating the bushes, because they really don’t care. This may be one of many companies that they’re a hired gun for. So to them it’s just a job.

What you really need are people who are bought into your company and who are drawing a salary, so that you can tell them what to do. And you can have a bigger impact on their behavior, you can make them come to meetings. [LAUGH] You can have them be part of the product development process, all of those things are worth investing in.

So that your sales people are really part of the company and not just hired guns, right? Okay, so you want to make sure that those job descriptions for sales people are broad enough to encapsulate everything that you need them to do. And also, make sure that you’re hiring the right people, who are really pitch in and own it kind of folks.

And not just the kind of folks that are going to shrug their shoulders and say, not my problem, when something goes wrong.

John Williams: Yeah, there was a time when I worked for a very large technology company. And a couple of us guys worked in there, and what we did was we pieced pieces and parts together.
The developers would come to us with all these things and say, we developed this product. Now tell us how we can sell it.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] That’s backwards.

John Williams: Well, I know, but this particular company was able to afford to have people out there doing that. And then, they hired people like us to go put pieces and parts together, and say, you know, if you did this, and modified the product like that, then this is would work this way.
And they’d go do it, and we’d prove it, and then they would sell it.

Paula Williams: And they would find a way to sell it-

John Williams: But they were very well capitalized.

Paula Williams: Yeah. Most of us are on the other end of that-

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: And we have to find the customers and adapt often, our products or services to the customers’ needs.

Especially in aviation where people expect things to be very custom. So we’re not just taking something and sticking it into a round hole. Taking a square product and fitting it into a round hole.

John Williams: Well we didn’t either. We told them, knock the edges off.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] There you go, okay, so you customized on the fly.

John Williams: Yep, pretty much.

Paula Williams: That’s cool, all right, another thing that happens pretty frequently, that doesn’t work, is massive crackdowns.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: I’m going to say, intermittent crackdowns on the sales people. This is not going to help, right?

John Williams: Nope.

Paula Williams: If you have the boss come down with a big hammer and just say, everybody’s fired, and everybody needs to do this differently.

And we’re going to have weekly, daily reports, or hourly reports, and we’re going to go crazy, and do this, this way, and get all draconian and silly. That does not work. Anything that really is going to work over the long term needs to be something that’s part of the ongoing culture, and is part of the expectations.

And you’ve got the right people in the right jobs to begin with. And you’re not just beating up on people who are in the wrong place and who are afraid of their own shadow, and you’re sending them out on sales calls. And it doesn’t matter how upset you get with them, they’re not going to be the right person all of a sudden.

John Williams: That’s like yelling at somebody, relax, dammit.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH]

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Right, it doesn’t work that way. They have to be the right people, and they have to have a good job description. They have to be really well-suited for that job description. And they have to have good sales training as well, right?

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: Okay. I am going to read a very short little piece of this book. This is the No B.S. Sales Success In The New Economy, by Dan Kennedy, who some of you know and love, and some of you know and do not love.

John Williams: [LAUGH] But nonetheless you cannot argue with success.

Paula Williams: Exactly, so this is how to tell a good sales manager from a bad one. A good sales manager teaches strategy, coaches skills, and works with you to solve the problems and manage your opportunities. He does not regurgitate any of the above five BS cliches, and you can read the book to find out what those cliches are.

He understands and supports sophisticated lead generation and pre-qualification efforts, to make your time more productive. In fact, he is a serious student of marketing and direct marketing, not just sales. So, a word to any sales manager reading this, including those who I’ve just defended. It’s past time for you to reinvent yourself, your know how, and your toolkit, your modus operandi, for success in a new economy.

You can be an enormous asset to your company and greatly improve the productivity of your sales force, by bringing in direct marketing to replace the old fashioned beating the bushes and prospecting. So that your salespeople spend more time selling to people who are more likely to buy. A bad sales manager spits out the about five BS cliches, so frequently and repeatedly, it’s like he has one of those pull stings in his back and a computer chip for a brain.

Saddled with such, you have only two choices, one, ignore him, or two, get away from him and go find a better opportunity. So there are ways to really help your sales staff, and we’re going to talk about some of those in a little bit more detail going through this.

The first one is to get and use a good CRM system. If you have got more than one salesperson, there is no excuse for not having a good CRM system. If you are the only salesperson in your company, you might be able to get away with a spreadsheet or some other thing.
But it’s a lot harder to do, right?

John Williams: I remember when, well this might age me a little bit. Back when the company I was working for, put together one of the first CRM systems. And all of us think he’s going, you got to be kidding. You guys can’t figure out who you’re calling and make notes?[LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Don’t you have a note book? [LAUGH]

John Williams: But it started there, and it has progressed to the point now were it’s interfacing. Heck, they even have them interface with telephone systems, so that when you make a call that automatically makes notes for you, takes down the number, does all this other stuff.

Paula Williams: Records the call.

John Williams: Records the call.

Paula Williams: Right, absolutely.

John Williams: So.

Paula Williams: So depending on much you’re, or how little you’re willing to spend, you can get some of these larger systems that will integrate with your phone system. And do multiple levels of commission and do all kinds of fancy stuff.

But the main thing is that you keep track of every single lead, and what happens to it. And who has touched it, and who is responsible for each step in its progress through your sales process. You should be able to tell, how long does it take for each step of your sales process?

And how much money are you spending on each lead? So, you need to have a sales person responsible for every one of those leads all the way through the process. And I did put some less expensive options over on the left hand side. So of course, the big ones if you’re listening to this are Sage, Salesforce, NetSuite, SAP, Oracle, Siebel, Nimble, Sugar.

Our favorite is Infusionsoft. We use that for ourselves and for a lot of our clients that are full service.

John Williams: That’s the middle of the road one that-

Paula Williams: For small to medium sized companies.

John Williams: Yep.

Paula Williams: And it’s a really good one.

Paula Williams: We like it a lot, but there are some less expensive options that are getting better.
We didn’t used to recommend these, but you can actually Google, Voca CRM, and it will give you a list as well. The ones that I came up with, Perfect Audience, Capsule, Highrise, Insightly, Less annoying CRM, I actually I really like that name. [LAUGH].

John Williams: [LAUGH].

Paula Williams: Nimble and Pipedrive. Now, whatever you put in,  everybody’s going to hate it, because it will be the thing that is telling you what you’re doing wrong, and telling you what you have to do everyday. So, a lot of people will complain that it’s the system that’s the problem. But it’s actually the work that’s the problem.

[LAUGH] Sales is hard. And if Infusionsoft has a bunch of stuff for you to do every day, it’s because there’s a bunch of stuff to do every day. And that whether Infusionsoft is telling you that, or whether a spreadsheet’s telling you that, or whether your boss is telling you that, it’s still going to be annoying.
So it really isn’t the CRM that’s the problem.

John Williams: Yeah, what it does, it takes away the spend time, that you would spend away from being on the phone.

Paula Williams: Right, and when we-

John Williams: Cuz it does it for you.

Paula Williams: Yeah, and when we talked about taking the pressure off the sales people and putting it onto the system, that assumes you have a system.

And to have a system you really have to have something, either a whiteboard or a spreadsheet, or one of these CRM systems that is working for you, and you need to use it. And crank down on all the bags and just slog through the process of making it work for you, refining your process So using that system, whatever system you have.

Whether it’s the back of an envelope or a whiteboard or a CRM system, there needs to be a person who is responsible for each step in the process. And you have to have reasons that people go from inquiries, to qualified leads, to opportunities, to revenue, right? And whatever steps you have in your process, you might have something like inquiries, then a proposal, then a second proposal, or a negotiation process, and then revenue.

Whatever your sales process is, you need to make sure that you follow it every single time. And you use that process long enough to get some good data, and have some results before you change it. And say we are going to revamp everything and then we have no idea where we are, right?

Okay, so, that was our second point, is about putting pressure on the process instead of on the people.

John Williams: And see, it’s like today, I called a company and made an enquiry into their products. We talked a little bit and helped me develop the products I wanted of his.

So I said would you mind mailing that email, that information, and he did that. So now, I’m in their CRM.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] CRM, you know this, because you’re on the other end of that too.

John Williams: Right, they don’t know if I’m a qualified lead yet because I haven’t emailed them back, and its a little price that I wanted, but it does everything I want, so.

Paula Williams: Cool.

John Williams: Just gotta wait and see what I’ve got, do some research now with the data they provided. And then, I’ll either get back to them and say thanks or no thanks.

Paula Williams: So you are probably now a qualified lead and/or an opportunity for this person.

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: And you might think, I can keep track of my stuff. I don’t need to do this because I’m a mature person, I’m intelligent, and I don’t need to be following a process. You know what? I thought so too, but this year, I started making myself have sales appointments on Monday mornings with John.

We go to a coffee shop and we take our pipeline and we go through it and we talk about ever single person in the pipeline. And this is not a huge pipeline, we’re a very small company. Just the two of us, right?

John Williams: But there’s 30 or 40 every Monday.

Paula Williams: Exactly. And if we don’t talk through them, we forget about somebody heaven forbid or-

John Williams: But you have them in the CRM.

Paula Williams: Yeah I have them in the CRM but even with them in the CRM, that’s just a tool, we still have to do the work.

John Williams: Yeah you print the reports out and you update to CRM with each step of the way. And we have got to the point now, where I think based on, how much you’re making, what, 15% of inquiries, roughly?

Paula Williams: Becomes?

John Williams: Sales.

Paula Williams: Customers?

John Williams: Yeah customers.

Paula Williams: Right, so they get through the whole process, and we kind of know what the turn rate is at every step.

John Williams: Yes.

Paula Williams: Which is nice. And a year ago our sales were a lot less, because I could catch up on this year whenever I had extra time, right? Like that’s going to happen.

John Williams: [LAUGH].

Paula Williams: But [LAUGH] having those meetings on Monday mornings and having that time set aside, where I’ve got no other appointments and I can’t be distracted from that.

Really makes sure, number one, it puts me on the spot to make sure that the CRM is updated every Monday morning, because the CRM is no good if it’s not updated. And number two, it also keeps all of those folks top of mind during the week and we plan our weekly activities.

Okay, well we gotta plan some time to get a proposal together for this person, cuz he had some very specific questions. And if we didn’t do that, we would be losing out on a lot of sales, and our sales have been much better this year since we started doing those Monday meetings.

John Williams: Yeah, and then, I follow up with the financial report.

Paula Williams: Mm-hm, exactly, so then we see-

John Williams: Then she can see what she’s been doing and the fact that it’s making a difference.

Paula Williams: Exactly, and then I can see, I can spend more money on my opportunities phase.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Because we’re making it and that’s where our problems are, right?

John Williams: Yeah, exactly.

Paula Williams: Okay, cool. So, that’s about the system. Now let’s talk about attitudes, especially attitudes of the people at the top. I love this character on Downton Abbey.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: The [LAUGH] grandma, the Dowager Countess.

The actress is fantastic, to start with. But she does such a good job of-

John Williams: Being a snob.

Paula Williams: Being a snob. What is a weekend? Explain this to me.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] But the point is we run into a few of these in our practice. Where we run into a company where the boss doesn’t really want to participate in sales, because he feels like there’s something dirty about it, or something dishonorable about sales and marketing.
So he wants to be above all that.

John Williams: That’s like saying you’re not technical in today’s world.

Paula Williams: Yeah exactly. Those companies we tend not to work with, and the reason is, that’s part of the reason we do our free consultations, so we can weed some of those out.

If the boss is too good for sales and marketing, then it is very likely that that attitude is going to trickle down throughout the company. And everybody’s going to be working, cuz they hire people like themselves, right? So they’re going to hire people who are squeamish about making sales calls.

And they’re going to hire people who feel weird about marketing. And feel like customers should just come to them, because their product is better than everybody else’s, you know? Which is a falsehood that doesn’t do anybody any favors, and a lot of companies have gone out of business because they were too good to get into sales.

John Williams: Well, I’ve told this little story before, but I went with my daughter down to a couple of higher end automobile shops, to look for a car when she was trying to find one. And we went into this one shop, and they escorted us to a sales guy at a desk, and he started doing his thing and talking to her.

And she said, well I have a few questions and she started asking questions, he says, we don’t bother with that. These cars sell themselves. Now I didn’t say it, but I came real close to saying, if that’s true, where’s the kiosk with the keys that I put my credit card into, and what in the world are you doing here?

Paula Williams: Right, there are very few things in this world that sell themselves. And if you think about the things that they sell from vending machines, how much money do they spend on those?

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, they are some of the biggest spenders on advertising. So you end up paying for it one way or another.

And you look at the most successful CEOs, or the bosses at successful companies, whether they’re CEOs, or wherever their title is. And they are consummate sales people. Richard Branson with the Virgin brands, Steve Jobs, of course with Apple, he was the consummate product demo guy. His product demos really set the standard for everyone else’s.
Akio Morita for Sony, incredible dude. And Howard Schultz for Starbucks, he puts his face out there. I mean, he really takes a stand on just about anything, and is very willing to stand behind his people and his products. Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX. Mark Cuban with Shark Tank, and he owns more companies than you can shake a stick at.
Sundar Pichai of Google. He’s a very consummate salesperson of Google products and services. And Safra Catz of Oracle. She is out there. And these are people who are not afraid to put their name and their face behind their products and services, right?

John Williams: Right.

Paula Williams: And if we put that behind our customers, same thing.
You’ve got Paxton Calvanese, he’s at the EAA convention demoing his product WX24Pilot. And he uses it himself, and he puts his name and face behind it. And Gene Clow, with Great Circle Aircraft, same thing. Chris Kilgore, he will do just about anything that Pat Lemiuex tells him to do in the video [LAUGH] .

John Williams: [LAUGH] Pat Lemiuex being a marketing director.

Paula Williams: Yeah, Pat being the marketing director, and Chris being the CEO of C&L Aviation up in Maine. They do a lot of shows and things like that, and a lot of video marketing, where Chris will do any skits and other kinds of things.

John Stewart of Francis Aviation down south in El Paso area, down in New Mexico, down on the border, he runs a company that does charter-

John Williams: El Paso is in Texas.

Paula Williams: El Paso is in Texas, Santa Teresa is in New Mexico, but it’s very close.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: And if you don’t know where I’m talking about, if I say Santa Teresa, you’re going to go, what? But if I say El Paso, they’ll go, okay, I have a general idea.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: So yeah, down in the border area between the US and Mexico, there’s a lot of King Air passengers, and cargo that can go back and forth there.

Doug Goldstrom, Greenville, South Carolina Company, Special Services Corporation. He’s a president there, and does a really good job of standing behind his products. Shane Ballman, master pitchman, does a really good job of pitching to investors and other kinds of things for Synapse MX. Ken VeArd, you can see he’s got his Pilot Partner headset on.

And he’s got Pilot Partner t-shirts. You almost never see him without some kind of Pilot Partner logo somewhere on him.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: When he’s doing flying or doing videos and other kinds of things. And, Aaron Hill.

Paula Williams: XSPEC Aviation, they do remanufactured simulators.

John Williams: Yeah, remanufactured simulators.

Paula Williams: That is such a cool idea, because they take an old simulator and remanufacture it around the core, and save people a whole lot of money.

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: So, the point being, these are people that stand behind their products and services. And in the aviation industry, it’s a very trust oriented industry.

So people want to know, who is this guy? I don’t trust companies anymore, but I do trust people, and if I’ve shaken hands with any one of these people, I know they’re going to come through, with whatever it is that they said they were going to do, right?

John Williams: Yep.

Paula Williams: Okay.
All right so, big ideas once again.

Paula Williams: Sales accountability is a failure point in many aviation businesses. We want to put pressure on the system, not on the sales people. And the buck stops at the top. If the boss has a bad attitude about sales, or wants to hide in his office and [LAUGH] you know, and not get out there, and be speaking, and pitching, and selling.

Then the business has little chance of success, right?

John Williams: Yep, absolutely.

Paula Williams: Okay, so subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Sticher, Google Play, or wherever fine podcasts are distributed. And please do leave us a review. Thank you for joining us, and have a great afternoon. [SOUND]

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for aviation marketing Hangar Flying.
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