The 12 P's of selling your Sport Aircraft (or...anything!)
We are all relatively experienced at selling, especially if we have a few years behind us. We actually do it everyday, in our lives, perhaps even unwittingly. We sell ourselves and ideas / values to our colleagues, friends, families and even to our pets, and it's for a range of reasons; acceptance, love, self-esteem, or to even influence them in some way.
Image: Flightline aviation
But often when the are consciously engaged in putting ourselves (or a product) forward to sell, we 'freeze', or we don't put in the thought and effort that's required to get a great result. Like anything worthwhile, selling is an art that needs just a bit of practice to get 'right'. At very least, we do need to remind ourselves that we can always do it better, and the difference between a good result and a great one is usually the last 10% of thought!
So here's 12 points as a gentle reminder of what you should be doing, and perhaps how to reflect on whether you need to fine tune your skills to be really effective at selling (in this case YOUR SPORT AIRCRAFT), to the marketplace!
Anyone who has studied business or marketing will know the '5 p's' of 'Product, Price, Place, People and Promotion'. It's a very simple way of not forgetting one of the elements that best gets your message across, on behalf of your product, communicated in the right way, to the right people, and matches its perceived value to the asking price.
The light sport aircraft segment is growing in Australia, and right now it's a niche market. What this specialised 'corner' segment positioning does though, is really makes marketing your aircraft to the sector highly dependent on how well you do it and means your focus must be on the segment and its own prospective buyers. For instance, if you're targeting the right audience (enthusiasts with cash to spare), and tapping in to the emotional part of a sale by presenting the aircraft well and ensuring its features and benefits are well-communicated, you're half way there.
You see, right in the centre of an excitable & passionate, small (but growing) segment of an otherwise disinterested market is where you need to be and the light needs to shine on you and your aircraft. Get it wrong, and your pride and joy will stay in your hands for years. Get it right, and the buyers will come knocking at your door. Job done!
Let's explore this in more detail and take each of the 5 P's separately and then add (yes I bet you're wondering), the last 7 = 12. Don't worry, this won't take long - but it's really important!
1. Product. You should ask yourself if your aircraft is fit for purpose, ready and right for the Sport/General/Commercial Aircraft market (whichever it is). Back in the late 18th Century, Ralph Emerson said that if you "Build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door". Unfortunately, the theory doesn't quite work in modern times. Now, you need to build (have) a great product and make sure it's absolutely fit for purpose, ready to 'fly away' and ensure everything is cared for (like maintenance issues) before the customer takes it away. And, you need to ensure that you've marketed it to the right buyers, explained the Features & Benefits, and why their needs are exceeded by your product! Phew...! Sounds hard. Kinda. But stick with me here and you'll be fine.
2. Price. There is a simple fact in a capitalist economy in the 21st Century; EVERYTHING has a price, from a bag of rice to a used (even chewed!) pencil, to a professional service. And, of course, you have a fair idea what the asset is worth, right? Hmm, not so fast there. There is often a significant discrepancy between 'market value' (this is the value that prospective buyers place on the product or service), and the asking price (this is the value that vendors want). It's to do with the economic principle of supply and demand mainly, but also personal circumstances and emotion. So, a few tips here: The first is that your own emotional attachment (understandable) usually adds significantly to your perception of the right asking price, but unless you market the aircraft perfectly to the right buyer, this rarely has any bearing on the buyer's perception of its value. Equally, what the asset has 'cost you' or 'owes you' has no consequence to the buyer in real terms. I understand that this is frustrating, but just because you paid 'X' for your aircraft and subsequently added to its value with a new interior and paint (which cost you 'Y'), doesn't necessarily mean you should ask 'X+Y'. It's a matter of what you did and how much perceived value that 'Y' added. If the upgrades and work added value, fantastic! But you need to look at it from the buyer's perspective, always!
3. Place. This is where the product is seen, sold and distributed. It's important that it's accessible to the market. Being on one general aviation sales website only or telling your friends that the aircraft is available to buy ('pass it on') won't cut it. It needs to be accessible to everyone, ready and available to the marketplace and to be viewed day and night. You also need to be accessible if your broker calls or a prospective buyer needs to see the aircraft. That means, that you might even offer to fly it to the buyer! It makes such an impression and shows them that it's airworthy and you're keen to do business! Offer to bring the broker to the aircraft too and to fly it! It can help significantly in the broker's true appreciation of your aircraft and why he/she needs to sell it quickly (before others) and at the right price!
4. People. This is so important. You (the vendor) may be a fantastic salesperson and great communicator, but being attached to the sale is usually a huge disadvantage. The bigger the 'distance' that you are from the sale, the more you are likely to get for the asset. That's why Real Estate Agents are needed in housing and brokers are a genuinely good investment in most high value sales. The fees you pay them reduces the burden on you, but also means that you can 'be stepped away'. Allow a third party to negotiate on your behalf. If you sell to family, for instance, you'll usually do a better deal for them because you're so close the the buyer! So, sometimes leaving it to a broker makes huge financial sense. It's something to seriously consider before putting the aircraft on the market. Take on a broker that knows your segment and is professional, communicative and is interested in your aircraft. And don't offer exclusivity. Make them work hard for the sale, and make sure there's no commission payable unless (and until) it's sold by them!
5. Promotion. This is self-explanatory but often under-researched and poorly executed. Effective promotion means choosing a few really well-regarded media channels to sell the aircraft. Don't just choose one and expect miracles. You may, for instance, want to consider Print Media (Specialist Aviation Magazines are fantastic) and Online Listings (2 or more) as a must-have. Plus put some stickers on the aircraft (or ask your broker for some!) Social media like Instagram and Facebook is ok, and it does often net significant activity, but sellers are usually disappointed when nobody seriously calls to enquire. It's worth a shot, but it's historically 'hit and miss' in terms of getting the results you want. You might also ask your broker to help design A3 posters for the local Aeroclub (s) in your region. Pin it up in the club house or reception and see what happens! You'll likely be surprised!
So, what are the last 7 P's?
It's an aviation term drummed in to you as a student pilot and one of the most recognised when you're building an aircraft too! But whether you're building, flying or selling, the last 7 P's are all the same and very, very important:
PROPER - PRIOR - PLANNING - PREVENTS - PATENTLY - POOR - PERFORMANCE!
Be prepared and make certain that you know how to execute the plan above using the 5 P's BEFORE you do ANYTHING!
Prepare the aircraft correctly, realistically price it with a professional market valuation, ensure easy accessibility, recruit the best aircraft broker for your aircraft type & ensure that you advertise effectively to the people who will buy.
If you prepare, plan, and execute properly from day one, the aircraft WILL sell fast, and at a price that you pleases you more than you might have first imagined.