At the last NBAA convention an interview conducted with a business aviation OEM executive generated the now oft quoted phrase “flat is the new normal”. For those of you who do not track the aircraft sales side of the industry, this statement was a reference to exactly that and that it is. While we are seeing some signs at least in the U.S. economy that typically would indicate a recovery is on the way, the reality is that there is still plenty of product available and sales are, well, flat.
That’s not to say that salespeople do not see bright spots in the overall marketplace for business aircraft or at some point during the course of a calendar year experience a robust sales period. The point is that not enough simultaneously are having that experience and thus inventory levels are not dropping to that magic ten percent or less figure across the spectrum of aircraft models offered for sale. The buyers have simply not returned en masse to the marketplace.
The reasons as to why we do not see the buyers coming to market have been flogged enough. The tradespeople can lament all they want over the reasons, but that’s not going to change the fact that a flat market makes for an extremely competitive market. Instead of solely focusing on what is my airplane worth the client should be asking: What are you going to do to move my aircraft in this new normal? How are you going to differentiate my airplane from the forty or so Falcon 50s that are out there or the twenty-five Global XRS? What’s your plan, Stan?
Everyone who peddles an airplane today will quickly identify themselves as a salesperson. Heck, I run into people who are doing an assortment of other jobs in this industry who think of themselves as a salesperson because they have a buyer in tow or are selling a friend’s airplane. The guy of yesteryear at the payphone now has an Iphone. Get my point? However not everyone is a marketer. A classic marketer not only understands market dynamics, but knows how to position a product so as to achieve the maximum exposure and be competitive without selling on the basis of price alone.
Another famous quote from the American Marketing Association comes to mind, “if price were the only reason anything sold, then we would not need salespeople”. Marketers possess great depth of historical knowledge and make use of primary and secondary information sources to keep abreast of change. They are able to build a marketing plan tailored to suit the particular product and develop collateral marketing materials that tie the whole package neatly together. Don’t confuse this with buying up tons of ad space or following the pack in terms of ad placement or design. A marketer encompasses all aspects of the marketing function into their plan, only one of which is sales.
Especially in times like this a solid and proven marketing strategy that is adaptable to current market conditions is a requirement when traveling down that path to a sale. Going into the sales arena without one is like jumping into an abyss. Why would anyone commit a tremendous amount of time and money in pursuit of a qualified buyer without some idea as to when you will see results? Yet, look at all the stagnant listings out there.
Perhaps the new normal will actually result in change.