October 10, 2013

Southwest is Still the Sales Airline

I posted this one year ago and it’s a true as ever. Since the publication of New Sales. Simplified., I’ve constantly been in the air. I am grateful for how Southwest allows me (and salespeople everywhere) to do what needs to be done, and they make it as fun, easy and efficient as possible. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say one more huge THANK YOU for the great Freedom Story in last October’s Spirit Magazine. I know that many of you who follow me here or picked up the book, saw it there first.

 

The image above depicts one of my favorite views. I love to fly and I luv Southwest Airlines. And if I’m sitting in the window seat peering out at a Southwest-logo’d winglet somewhere above our great nation, then it’s likely I am energized and my mind is in overdrive. For most of my career, flying on Southwest meant I was on a sales trip en route to visit with a prospective client or to increase business with an existing customer. Now when I fly, it’s not to sell, but rather, because I’m on the way to help other businesses, sales leaders and salespeople improve their sales performance.

I am an unabashed supporter of Southwest Airlines. Everything about Southwest is better — Its people. Its pricing. Its systems. Its sales-friendly policies. I’m convinced that I’ve sold more, earned more and been more successful because of Southwest. I began flying Southwest 18 years ago, and continue to view the airline as an important resource for my business. During my days as a top-producing sales hunter, I intentionally pursued prospects in markets that Southwest served. Their model allowed me to turn what would have been overnight trips into day trips. Often, flying was more economical than driving. I was not only able to make more sales calls, but I would often bring along key associates to help with the sales effort because Southwest made that affordable and easy.

Why is Southwest the Sales Airline?

Customers not Prisoners:  Southwest treats me like a customer. On other airlines, I feel more like a prisoner. As a salesperson (and now as a consultant), the mood I’m in when arriving at a destination matters. Flying today is hard enough. Before we even get near an airplane, we’re subjected to long lines and high-ego TSA agents shouting warnings about liquids, aerosols and gels. We see full-size tubes of toothpaste confiscated from unknowing grandfathers, and young moms with toddlers and strollers treated with so little respect you’d think they were an enemy of the state. On a few occasions this year, I’ve been unfortunate enough to have to go through the naked scanner and also be groped by an agent during a “pat-down.” I thought it was one or the other, but I guess I’m just lucky 🙂  So by the time I get to the gate, I’m ready for someone to treat me like a human and remember that I actually paid for this experience! But a high percentage of employees at other airlines appear to be miserable, almost understandably so, with all they’ve been through – bankruptcies, leveraged buyouts and awful senior management. Not so with Southwest. Their agents and flight attendants are the best. They get it. You can tell they care about their company and their customers —  and turning airplanes around fast to get you where you need to be. There is a different attitude and a different culture on Southwest. (Read about the demonstration of servant leadership I witnessed last year.)  Honestly, it is a completely different experience flying Southwest, and I am in a much different frame of mind after flying with them compared to other airlines.

Sales-Friendly Policies and Ease of Doing Business:  Southwest’s systems and policies work better for people who sell. I have two favorites:  The first is the website. I can get online and purchase a ticket in less than a minute. Fast. Simple. Easy. Done. My other favorite is Southwest’s most sales-friendly policy: No change fees. Purchased a ticket, even a cheap one, and your plans changed? No problem. Just login to the website and cancel. Full-credit issued for future use (or money refunded immediately if a refundable fare). I’m a fan of pre-booking flights far in advance to save money and to force salespeople to dedicate time for prospecting. There is nothing like buying a ticket for a sales trip a month out to help focus a salesperson on getting appointments! But sometimes plans change. Just last month, a client president and I were booked to travel to a city Southwest doesn’t serve. A few days before this big meeting, we discovered that it didn’t make sense to see this prospect. When I called to cancel the trip, the telephone agent was more than happy to let me know that my ticket was not refundable and that there would be a $150 change fee when I go to use the credit. I am sorry, but that’s ridiculous. That airline is telling me in a not-so-subtle way, that if my plans ever change, I’m better off flying with Southwest.

Earlier this year I was on a panel in front of a few hundred of Southwest’s leaders and made this statement:  I initially came to Southwest because of price; I stayed because of the service, but it was the culture and the people that turned me into a raving fan. That’s the truth. I am a huge fan and will continue to proclaim that Southwest is the Sales Airline. I really do have a unique affection for, and relationship with, this great company.

And for the record, I will not rest until Southwest begins serving Memphis and Charlotte. Expect to hear me nagging and begging until it happens. Southwest, we need you there!  [Update:  they’re serving Charlotte now and Memphis is coming soon – Ha!]