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Wed, Feb 10, 2010

Aero-Marketing 101: 'ITBOA BNITBOB' Revisited

By David Juwel

A number of years ago, Aero-News published an article that I wrote titled, "Does Your Aviation Business Suffer From ITBOA BNITBOB Disease?" ITBOA BNITBOB is an acronym for "In The Business Of Aviation...But Not In The Business Of Business."

I came up with this acronym to identify a common problem that I was seeing in the management of aviation businesses, namely, incompetence and laziness when exhibiting at a fly-in. I gave numerous examples in that article.

Over the years, and especially in this economy, one would think that companies would have resolved this problem with their staff. But the problem still thrives among the various aviation businesses. Here are some examples seen at the recent Light Sport Aircraft Exposition, which is an excellent venue:

Too Busy Talking To Do Business

I stopped at one aircraft display to see if it met my needs for a future purchase. Four of the company's personnel (wearing company shirts) were gathered by the aircraft talking to each other. Nobody noticed me looking inside of their aircraft. Finally, after being ignored for a while, I walked up to the four men and politely asked them if any of them were in the business of selling this aircraft. One of the men joined me and then answered all of my questions.

After I left there, I approached another aircraft display and the salesman was hanger flying with another person. I politely stood next to them in sight of the salesman so that he would know that someone else was waiting. I wouldn't have minded if they were talking about the aircraft because a lot of my questions would have been answered just by listening. But he never stopped hanger flying with the person. So I finally went to the RV and knocked on the door to ask if there was anyone available to assist me. A person then got up off the coach and came out to assist me.

This happened over and over again. As an experienced sales and business person, I left the area wondering if talking with each other, and ignoring potential customers, was a new kind of profit area that I didn't know anything about.

Too Busy Relaxing To Do Business

I went to another aircraft exhibit. Five people were sitting at a table under the RV awning. I walked all around the aircraft, spent several minutes there. Nobody got up to see if they could help me. I even waved at them to try and get someone to assist me. They still ignored me. I finally left the aircraft and went over to the RV and politely asked if anyone was working the display. One person finally got up and assisted me.

I went to another exhibit and there was nobody at the aircraft. Nobody in the RV either. I guess I was supposed to answer my own questions and sell the plane to myself.  I've seen this happen at event-after-event.

This happened over and other throughout the exhibits (but thankfully not at all of them). If you didn't grab the salesman by the shirt and get in his face, you could hardly get some of them to talk to you.

Nearly every place I went, company employees sat in the shade, the tent, or the RV, talking with each other, while potential customers looked over the aircraft and grabbed brochures. Very few of the company representatives were making an attempt to develop customers, or to sell the plane.

There was a time when I was tempted to present companies with the ITBOA BNITBOB trophy as a way to help them motivate their staff. But I saw so many examples everywhere I went, that it would have been difficult to make a selection.

Of all the exhibitors in this exposition (and I visited nearly all of them), only ten of them made any self-motivated effort to identify my needs, to try to close the sale, or at least get my name for future sales development.

A friend of mine in the media actually overheard the following conversation between a fly-in attendee and an aircraft anti-salesman.

It went something like this:

Potential customer: Can you answer some questions for me about this aircraft?

Company Salesman: That depends. Do you have $132,000 you can spend?

Do you see why I call him an anti-salesman? For all that salesman knew, the person he was talking to could have been the proverbial millionaire next door wearing levi's and a cheap watch, but with the ability to pay cash. Nice way to run him off.

Too Busy To Provide An Answer

I stopped at the display aircraft of a major manufacturer. Since many of the LSA aircraft have pilot seats that are weight limited (usually 250 lbs), and I'm a big guy, I asked the factory representative if their seats were weight limited. He said he didn't know, that I would have to contact the factory to find out. I then asked him to let me look at the POH. He said they didn't have one with the aircraft. So I went into the tent and asked the same questions of two other representatives. They both gave me the same answers.

One of them finally asked me for my name, and stated that he would contact the factory and get back with me.

Shouldn't sales representatives be thoroughly familiar with their product line? And why would you fly a company demonstrator to a fly-in and not have a POH with it? And since when is it the responsibility of any customer to do your product research for you.

We Only Brought Some Of Our Products

I was at one display area talking to a sale person. They did what they should be doing. They identified my needs and attempted to fulfill them. But, then we ran into a problem. They sell an aircraft that would meet my needs perfectly, but they didn't bring it! Here, will a brochure satisfy you? Sure, I traveled several hundred miles to get a brochure. No thanks! Partial products = partial success.

I'll Say Anything To Make A Sale

I complained to one salesman that the seat of their otherwise excellent aircraft was limited to 250 lbs. I really like the aircraft too, but because of the weight limit, the flight schools won't let me fly it. That limitation is actually in the aircraft POH. The salesman told me that I could still fly it with my weight. Other people do. It won't hurt the airplane. That's just a legal thing in case of an accident. What!

The only person who shouldn't work hard - I have found that there are some people that have small aviation business's that are comfortable making $10,000 in profit, when they could be making $100,00 in profit. The reason they don't do more of the things that make a profit is because they really don't want to work; they just want to be a part of the aviation glamour with just enough profit to justify their existence. If that's you, and you own the business, you certainly have that right. But your employees don't have that right, at least not ethically.

But If You're Serious About Sales

I know some of the companies I visited at the exposition were very serious about their business. After all, some of them probably paid thousands of dollars in exhibition fees, printing, hotels, food, salaries, and transportation expenses.

The owners of these companies know that aviation fly-in's and expositions provide them with a tremendous opportunity to reach out to the aviation consumer. The consumers all come with a dream or a need. Their responsibility is to help them fulfill that dream, or meet that need.

They say that the last car dealership you go to is the one you buy from. Naturally, if you bought the car, that WOULD have been the last dealership you went to. Every aircraft salesman needs to do whatever he can to make his dealership, the last one you go to.

I've read testimonies where companies state that they sold everything they brought to the event, and wish they had brought more (both planes and related products). And yet other companies go into the hole for having attended. What makes the difference? Perhaps they need to revamp their exhibition sales culture.

If those companies are walking away from such an event without sales, and their employees blame it on the economy, they might want to take a closer look. Maybe their employees need more sales training. . .or better business ethics.

Many of the companies that I wrote about in the initial article about ITBOA BINITBOB, have since gone out of business. For lack of exhibition prowess, will yours be the next aviation business tragedy? I certainly hope not.

FMI: Comments/Criticism? Let Us Have It!

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