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Sun, Jan 23, 2011

Research From The 2011 US Sport Aviation Expo: The Business Of LSA

For Some Companies, It Was Sadly Lacking At Sebring

By ANN Special Correspondent Dave Juwel

Aviation has such a strong mystique and charisma to it, that anyone can make money in it. Aviation is not a get rich quick field. It's a get rich slowly, consistently, doing what you want to do, while being paid for flying field. And anyone can do it. There are even numerous opportunities for the non-flyer. If you love the field of aviation, but don't want to be a pilot, or own an airplane - there are various opportunities in the aviation support areas that are perfect for you.

That is what's exciting to me about the new field of Light Sport Aviation. It is a cornucopia of business opportunity, and 100 plus new manufacturers apparently have agreed, because they've all jumped aboard.

So everything should be going just perfect, right? Everyone's making money and having a great time in this wonderful industry, right? Unfortunately, that's not the case. Light Sport Aviation has not yet become the aviation profit panacea and spawning ground for new pilots that we hoped it would be.

Why is that? Doesn't diligent application plus opportunity equal profit anymore? Yes, it absolutely does, and therein lays the problem. Let me explain. . .

Each year I go to the various national fly-in's. I go to each booth acting like a potential customer (which I am) that can afford their product (which I can) with the hope that someday someone will so practically help me with the realization of my dreams, that they'll actually separate me from my money. But so far that hasn't happened. What I run into (more typically than not), are some of the most inept presentations of a business product that I have ever seen. It turns me off to their product every time I experience or see it.

Here are some examples from the LSA Expo in Sebring this year:

  • At 10:00 A.M., the second day of the show, there were a number of booths unattended. How do you sell if you're not there? I was there! Shouldn't you be set-up and in place before the potential customers arrive? One booth had a sign that said they'd be back at 10:30. After waiting for them approximately 20-minutes, I walked off at 10:35 shaking my head.
  • I stopped at one exhibit and patiently waited my turn while the salesman was demonstrating some aviation accessories. All of a sudden his cell phone rang. Without saying a single thing to his potential customer, he just walked off from the middle of his demonstration and took the call. Consequently, they (and I) walked off too.
  • Over and over, I would walk up to an exhibit. There might be several other people looking at the product as well. We all have questions to ask. Potentially, we're all a business opportunity looking to be engaged and completed. Time and time again, we'd all stand around while the salesmen would be hanger flying with someone (discussing aviation but not the product). Eventually, one by one, we'd all walk off to the competitor's booth. This is by far the biggest issue with sales rep's at the fly-in's.
  • One exhibitor that I went to had two representatives sitting in the booth, I walked around their aircraft and looked in it. They didn't move or make any attempt to engage me. I finally went over to them and asked for a business card. They didn't have any. No brochures either. I asked to talk to the company owner. He wasn't there yet, "we're just watching the booth for him until he gets here." This was mid-day of the show.
  • I went to another booth where they were selling an aircraft that sells in excess of $100,000.  One salesman was answering questions about the aircraft and the other salesmen were just standing around watching him. I entered their booth and started looking through their brochures and not one of the other salesmen noticed me. So much for situational sales awareness.
  • One booth had a muffler on display. The salesman had his hat hanging on the muffler with his bottle of water sitting in front of it. I couldn't decide if he was selling an expensive hat and bottle rack or a muffler!
  • What is it about DVD sales? I found companies more interested in making a $30 DVD sale than a $50,000 aircraft sale. Are companies so clueless about selling that that's the only thing they can move?  Once the master is made, DVD's cost almost nothing to produce. Don't focus on selling your advertisements, sell your product. Give your advertisement away!

Sometimes, when I go to a fly-in, I feel like I'm in a zoo where all that is expected of me is to just walk from exhibit to exhibit, experiencing entertainment without interaction.

As a business owner, you might find it interesting to know that of all the exhibitors I talked with, only ONE aircraft manufacturer asked me for my name and address. That means only ONE aircraft manufacturer can follow-up and continue to finesse me toward a sale. Only ONE aircraft manufacturer out of the various exhibitors has the ability to continue the sales process in my life. You almost never make the sale at the first presentation. But you'll never make the second presentation if you don't initiate some interaction that gives you the ability to follow-up.

And this wasn't all I experienced. There were numerous other companies that had some degree of  ITBOA BNITBOB disease (In the business of aviation, but not in the business of business).

The failure to make the multiples of income that the LSA segment of aviation is capable of producing is not due to the quality of product. It's not because you're not reaching out to the public. Want to make more money? Try increasing your sales and visual presentation acumen. Here are five companies at the LSA Expo that did exactly that. Notice what they did.

Heavens Landing. They had it all. A great picture display. A running video designed to entice you. Free DVD's. Well designed and informative brochures. And best of all, enthusiastic representatives.

Evolution Trikes. Great display of their products. Good customer attention. Flight experienced representatives. They satisfactorily answered the one question that keeps people out of trikes. Progressive in their product design. Constant flight demonstrations.  I could smell the sizzle just walking by their booth.

Globalnavsource. I loved the fact that they were offering a 3-month free trial of their product. Talk about reeling in the fish. They got names. They got addresses. Because you try before you buy, they got customer appreciation. They got my attention!


SeaRey At Sebring

Recreational Mobility. They're a dealer for SeaRey. The SeaRey exhibit had fancy displays of their aircraft up on low pylons. Great visual presentation, but you couldn't get into the aircraft. I needed to know if I fit (big guy!). No problem. Jim Ratte walked me all the way out to the ramp (you need to rent a cart next time Jim) and stuffed me into the airplane. Personal attention. Meeting the customers needs. Privacy. Focused conversation. Now that's what salesmanship is all about. I loved it!

Eastman Aviation.  Whenever I asked the salesperson for something, he negotiated by asking for something in return.

Can I sit in your airplane? Sure, can I have your name and address? 
Can you tell me how this aircraft is better than your competitors? Sure, can you tell me how you want to utilize the airplane? 
Can you tell me how you'll outlast your competitor's? Sure, can you come over into my booth with me?

Congratulations to Frank Woodward, an excellent sales person.

There are 10 basic ways that 90% of the people in aviation make money. But there are over 200 different ways that companies can make money in the aviation field. Are you aggressively pursuing all of them?

FMI: www.sport-aviation-expo.com 

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