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Building a better business
Alex Berry has set up a consultancy firm to help business aviation companies drive sales and encourage repeat customers. So where is the industry going wrong?
What was your career path that led to you setting up your own firm?
After university, I trained as a salesperson with the UK arm of Pitney Bowes, the US office equipment company, which gave me a foundation in sales. Eventually I wanted a bigger challenge, and following some fatherly advice called directory enquiries, asked for the number for Cessna (I had flown a Cessna 152 as my 16th birthday present) and almost by accident spoke to Trevor Esling, the UK sales manager at the time, who is now a member of Gulfstream’s senior management. Following Trevor’s introduction to a small US startup, I joined NetJets as their first UK salesperson outside London. From there, I worked at other aviation companies – MarquisJet, Bombardier, VistaJet and Chapman Freeborn – moving from salesperson to sales manager, and ultimately to group sales and marketing director.
So what is your new business about?
I love sales – the whole process, from training and recruitment through to developing elite performance, the collaboration with marketing and everything in between. I’m offering coaching and mentoring to sales people and managers alike, and am involved with businesses wanting to grow and develop. I’ve also been asked about long-term relationships with customers, either in a coaching/mentoring role or as a non-executive director. My focus is to give businesses the information, process it, and in some cases identify the additional energies they need to achieve their sales goals. It’s all about the requirements of the customer, and achieving their goals and targets.
Why is there a need for what you do?
Every person or company can make improvements, and working with a specialist can be a huge benefit. Top athletes have a coach or trainer, and it should be no different in business. Many industries today seem to shy away from formally training and developing their sales people, leading to average or poor performance. My role is to identify where the issues with sales lie, find a solution and then implement it. A saying I like is, ‘Amateurs practice until they can do it right, professionals practice until they can’t do it wrong!’
Specifically, in terms of business aviation, there are all of the usual issues, but added to that is a difficulty with quality recruitment. Too many firms aren’t bringing in the right candidates, or investing in them to make them the best they can be. I think there is a lack of proactive sales too, and businesses just waiting for the phone to ring. Business aviation means a lot to me, and I would love to see companies leading the way in terms of training and developing their sales staff.
How will you make your business stand out?
My work with customers is unique, as it is based entirely on their needs. There are other firms that provide training and consultancy, but specific to business aviation that combination is quite rare. I have experience globally across every discipline, and I’ve worked with true industry pioneers – the most recent being Russi Batliwala, the CEO of aircraft charter service organization Chapman Freeborn.
What is the biggest trend currently affecting the aviation sector?
I don’t think enough people are considering it as part of their lives, and promoting its attributes and benefits. Business aviation is the ability to spend money, an infinite commodity, in exchange for time, a finite commodity. It should be the easiest sales job on the planet, as where else can you truly buy time? The benefits of business aviation are amazing, yet we struggle, as an industry, to make significant headway in bringing those benefits to the attention of the people who can easily afford them.
Where is your favorite place to fly to, and why?
The simplest answer of all: home. Landing in Leeds International Airport, or at a push Manchester, is the start of my return to my beloved Yorkshire home. I have had the privilege of flying around the world, but I still haven’t found anywhere that competes.
More info at www.alexgberry.com
February 1, 2017