50, 40, 30, 20 … it seemed like it was never going to get there, but finally there was that familiar thump, touchdown. I was a little right of the centerline, so I applied a little left rudder as I pulled back on the reverse levers to hear the roar of the two V2500 engines as they slowed our pace. 80 Knots, feet on the brakes, back now towards the centerline and the Airbus A320 came to a stop about 7,500 feet down the 12,000-foot runway at Orlando International Airport. I had just landed an aircraft roughly 123 feet long, almost 40 feet high, with a wingspan of 111 feet, capable of carrying 180 paying passengers, 3,300 Miles. It was not actually the airplane but was as close as you can get, an A320 Level D spanking new flight simulator at JetBlue University in Orlando, Florida. I was there for a two-day training course to see if I could learn to fly this very sweet airplane.
Some of you know I have been a pilot for a long time. Although it was never my career, I have stayed close to the industry taking a special interest in commercial aircraft over the years. In fact, before the A320 training, I took a similar course a few years back to learn to fly the Boeing 737. These are both iconic machines within the airline industry, and no doubt, if you have flown commercially over the last 25 years, you have travelled on these aircraft. One might wonder, why would I do this? Partly because I love it but more so because I never want to stop learning. In my mind, learning is the key to growth. And I am not going to lie, it is pretty cool too.
JetBlue University is an amazing facility specifically designed for training and learning. As I entered the facility at six am, it was already hustling and bustling with activity. Pilots from all over the country were there to train, whether it be new Hire training for pilots, recurrency training for existing pilots, or conversion training for pilots switching aircraft types. In each case, there was a professional instructor there to greet the pilot and take them through their paces. All of these trainings involve briefings, class time, and simulator time. Now you can imagine that new hire pilots and those switching aircraft would need training the most, but the largest number coming through the facility are existing pilots for recurrency training. At this carrier, every 12 months, each pilot essentially goes back to learn and practice it all again. As a passenger, that makes me extremely happy knowing that so much effort goes into the training of the pilots I fly with often.
As I sat there, I began to wonder about my own profession, Sales. Granted, we in Sales do not hold the lives of hundreds of passengers or a $110 Million Aircraft in our hands, but when do we do recurrency training? The answer, unfortunately, is not often enough and sometimes never. And when we are doing training, what exactly are we focused on? Sadly, I see many sales organizations fixated on results. How much have you sold for me this week? What percent to goal are you? What do your metrics look like? What does your pipeline look like, and where are you in the sales cycle with that prospect? And if it is not these questions, and I have spoken about this before, companies focus salespeople on product training, not tactical training. The job of figuring out your pitch is often left up to the individual or their sales leader, who is sometimes underqualified as a sales trainer and really never has the time for it. FYI, all the Instructors at JetBlue University are former pilots. That makes sense, right?
Sales is the lifeblood of every organization, whether you are a part of a dedicated salesforce or you are the owner, it is what drives the engines of a business with revenues. So, why do we neglect this important function, treating its cost as an overhead or non-critical service, expendable with the first cuts a business makes in expenditure? Imagine if an air carrier thought about their training in this way. “Mr. Pilot, you are good to go, you learned to fly 20 years ago, just keep doing what you are doing.” Sales organizations have to address the reality of learning. It can never stop because when it does, you stop growing.
So, as you board your next flight, look left into the flight deck, take a good look at the pilots, knowing that they have been well trained and are continually trained. As you turn right and head down the aisle, you might see me. If you do, relax, if anything happens to the people up front, I got you covered! I was also well trained. I can get this airplane on the ground; not bad after two days of training.
A very special thank you to Capt. Wayne Phillips of ATOPS for making it possible and for the very welcoming nature of the folks at JetBlue University.
Roger McNamara Bio:
Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple Industries and across the globe that include : Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR’s, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales, B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $200 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchant pay to accept Credit and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and the associations. Roger has also developed the insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces in general to be able to better position their products and gain share particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at Guide2Interchange@gmail.com