Why Not Try a Different Approach?
by Bill Mitchell
Many years ago when I was in high school, I went on my first ski vacation to Colorado. As I was riding up the lift for the first time in my rental equipment, I vividly remember asking my instructor this question: “Tom, I think I’m going to like this, what should I buy first if I want to get into skiing?” After all these years his answer is just as fresh in my mind.“ Bill, if you really want to get into skiing, you need to invest in everything.” He then proceeded to go through each piece of equipment individually, telling me the importance of owning that item for my enjoyment, safety and comfort as a skier.
Many years later, when I became a scuba instructor, I always remembered what Tom taught me on the lift that very cold Colorado morning. The lesson I learned went well beyond how to ski, and as a scuba instructor I applied it in the very first scuba class that I taught and in every class after that. What I realized many years later is that when I asked Tom that question, I already knew that I wanted to own my ski equipment. I simply wanted Tom to make me feel good about it so I could comfortably make that investment decision.
As an instructor I got a similar question more times than I can count, and I’m sure you have as well. That question is, “Bill, what equipment do I need to get into diving.” And without hesitation my standard response has always been, “If you really want to get into scuba diving, you need to invest in everything, and here’s why.” I then proceed to explain why it was important for them to invest in each individual piece of equipment for their enjoyment, safety and comfort as a diver. After going through regulators, octos, BCs and computers and their individual importance to the student’s enjoyment, safety and comfort, my final word in closing was, “Now, in order to take my class all you need to provide are your personal items — masks, fins, snorkel and boots. We provide everything else.”
Most of the time, the first contact I had with my students was the first night of class, so I would ask this as a rhetorical question after class introductions. “Some of you may be wondering what equipment you need to get into diving. Well, if you really want to get into scuba diving you need to start thinking about investing in a complete set of scuba equipment and here’s why.” As the lessons progressed I would reinforce this in the classroom, pool and open-water training every time I discussed life support. For example, when covering equipment in the classroom I would always say, “Now we are going to talk about (fill in the blank). When you invest in your own (fill in the blank), you will know that it…” then go into the importance of each item and how by investing in it the student will add to their own enjoyment, safety and comfort. I did this in every phase of the class.
By doing this you are planting a seed that will grow in many of your students and help them get comfortable with making that investment in a full set of scuba equipment. A general rule of thumb in sales is that regardless of what you’re selling, it takes five contacts with an individual to close the sale. If you wait to start selling life support until after their certification your close ratio will probably at best be 2 out of 10. Those are the people who were going to buy anyway. I refer to this as the “Monkey Sell.” In other words, a monkey could have sold it because the student was already a buyer.
If you are not using the above technique with every student and class, try it in your next five classes. I promise you, whether your sales are good or bad, they will increase. Ask yourself this question, “Am I happy with my current level of sales for myself or my instructional staff?” If the answer is no, then why not use a different approach? It can’t hurt to try. DCB
Bill Mitchell is Midwest Regional Manager for Oceanic/Aeris/Hollis dive equipment
* Reprinted with permisssion from Dive Center Business.