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Ask most corporate aviation participants and you’ll hear the same tired stereotype again and again; business aviation sales is largely a man’s world. They may be right. Sure- testosterone does tend to run deep in segments as diverse as sales- marketing- maintenance and brokerage- but the problem with stereotypes is that they seldom leave any allowance for those rare exceptions that make them the stereotypes they are.

Dave Higdon   |   1st May 2003
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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Fundamental customer satisfaction in aircraft sales brokerage- laced with a dose of International philanthropy.

Ask most corporate aviation participants and you’ll hear the same tired stereotype again and again; business aviation sales is largely a man’s world. They may be right. Sure- testosterone does tend to run deep in segments as diverse as sales- marketing- maintenance and brokerage- but the problem with stereotypes is that they seldom leave any allowance for those rare exceptions that make them the stereotypes they are.

For an apt example in the world of business turbine aircraft- you need look no further than Houston-based Par Avion Ltd.- and its founder and owner- Janine Iannarelli. A two-decade veteran of business aviation circles Iannarelli built on her experiences elsewhere to develop a brokerage with international reach and strength in business jet aircraft- with an accent on Falcons- Hawkers and Lears.

And she succeeded by stressing a philosophy so basic that it is nearly a stereotype- itself: Fundamental customer satisfaction.

Yet even mastering the fundamentals doesn’t mean the task is an easy one. As reflected in her choices of both at-work and after-hours activities- Iannarelli thrives on meeting challenges; 'Each aircraft project poses a unique set of obstacles that must be overcome and I thrive on the development of a highly targeted marketing plan. Knowing that I have ideally positioned an aircraft or sourced the best buy for the customer brings a great deal of personal reward and that keeps me in this business-' she admitted to World Aircraft Sales.

'I love being my own boss- with the ability to keep my schedule flexible-' she explained.

'But it doesn’t mean working any less.' Whether working with clients to acquire or sell a business jet- exercising her spirited Thoroughbred horse- sponsoring a competitive polo team or promoting one of her philanthropic causes- Iannarelli faces the task head-on- determined to prevail.

In fact- these days- the demands on her time out of the office are compounded by the demands of a soft market she faces on the job. Fortunately for both her and her clients- she possesses considerable marketing expertise- honed at positions she held prior to founding her company a few years back.

'My strength is in marketing – which was my major in school and I continue to study the discipline-' she noted. To help her stay on top of the latest methods and approaches to marketing on behalf of her clients- Iannarelli maintains membership in the American Marketing Association – something of a continuing education effort on her part.

'If price was the only reason anybody ever bought anything- you wouldn’t need salespeople-' she observed. She knows as well as any that value in a transaction usually makes the deal for the parties involved. She also realizes that accurately portraying the elements that make a deal a good value is where the work lies.

Fundamentals of Aircraft Brokering
'I have had certain prospective buyers call me and say they are value driven-' she admitted. 'But in today’s market- it still often comes back to price.'

'In reality- we are all value-added driven. In advertising- for example- the challenge often comes down to getting the prospect to recognize the elements of that value – an all too human challenge. It seems that the reader of advertising is more receptive to the message when they can readily see the benefits of the product we’re promoting-' she noted. 'I am a minimalist when it comes to drafting ad copy and a strong believer in the power of the graphic presentation- employing elements that will draw the eye.'

'With the airplanes I represent- I make sure that the value of the product is readily apparent to the person viewing the ad through use of these tools.' Making such points quickly and transparently is critical – as shoppers often have short attention spans or- conversely- are so overloaded with facts and figures from several potential selections that confusion reigns.

'Today you are given such a limited amount of time and opportunity to present to a prospect- you have to be quick and concise to emphasize the value in the aircraft you represent-' she stressed.

That’s where Iannarelli believes her background works in the favor of her clients. 'My clients benefit from my years of experience- the network I have developed and the depth of product knowledge I have acquired. Bridging the distance to the buyers who perhaps do not understand the significance of certain points that make one aircraft stand out from another is an aspect of selling that I thoroughly enjoy.'

Indeed- for the inexperienced- subtle differences can go unnoticed. For example- a Falcon coming out of a major inspection completed by a factory approved service center- versus another similar Falcon coming out of a generic shop. 'In my opinion- particularly with an aircraft that is to be sold- the investment in the completion of a major inspection at an approved facility that does this make/model of aircraft day in and day out brings added-value to the sale.

'One might be slightly more expensive than the other- and often the client sees only that price difference- but it does give your aircraft a boost when competing in a crowded market-' Iannarelli continued.

'My background and experience enable me to assist the client in evaluating the best route to take with regards to any work to be completed on an aircraft. My approach is not just based on short-term goals- but as well the enhancement of the aircraft’s future value- as long as that investment makes sense and is not to the financial detriment of the client I represent. Definitely it can be said I take the long-term view- whether it is with airplanes or people.'

Iannarelli also recognizes those areas in which she can’t be an expert for her clients – and how to cover those bases. 'I keep a working list of experts to whom I can turn for specialized needs – needs as diverse and demanding as avionics- engines and interior work.'

In the end- she offers clients a total-airplane approach to finding that perfect pre-owned business jet. 'We like to offer the clients a turnkey service- one that overlooks nothing and leaves nothing more than routine use and maintenance for them to deal with for a long time after the purchase-' she said. 'This full service approach to sales and consulting is especially beneficial to first time purchasers.'

Personal Connections
Iannarelli knows as well as any how tough times are these days- whether the product is a factory-fresh business jet or a top-condition pre-owned model.

'We saw the market starting to turn back in mid-2000-' Iannarelli recounted. 'The market was riding high until then – but cracks started to appear in other leading economic indicators and it was apparent that the appreciation of prices could not continue.' She even advised some clients to take deals on the table that had not risen to their expectations.

'We knew things could get worse and fortunately as a result of our keeping our clients constantly abreast of market conditions- they concurred with our recommendations and authorized timely sales.' A hallmark of the services Par Avion provides to the client they represent is a continuous stream of data on the status of the market as well as a historical overview.

'Good deals still landed in your lap back in 2000- but that was the end of the easy days.' Now: 'As everyone knows- things are not good. It’s a struggle for every sale- every client.' Some deals are on hold as sellers try to ascertain what is going to happen next. Some buyers are staying on the sidelines- confident that times will get even worse before they begin to improve.

Confidence. That element alone may be the most important factor in winning clients and finding buyers. To help win the confidence of her clients- Iannarelli works at developing a strong professional relationship with prospects that often transform into great friendships- using the strong relationships she enjoys with business aviation contacts around the world.

'Winning and maintaining clients’ confidence is one part of this business that does not depend solely on technical knowledge or an ability to post good advertising-' Iannarelli explained.

'The bearing and presentation of the person is paramount to establish on our first meeting-' she said. 'If the prospective client can’t develop a sense of what you offer and what you can do for them right up front- then they won’t see beyond the initial impression you made.'

From that initial encounter must come confidence and trust: The second leg of the stool. 'We have to achieve a certain level of trust in order for it to be a successful partnership-' she noted.

'That can be an intuitive thing for some prospects- but often it comes from one’s ability to convey their own conviction in the job that they can do and the level of expertise they possess.'

With particular expertise in cross-border transactions- Iannarelli uses her ability to win confidence and influence buyers to keep her business growing.

'They want to trust that I can administer the transaction in a way that will relieve them of the burden while having confidence that we will satisfy their expectations in the end.' It’s a tough act – particularly in the complex world of international transactions.

To help sustain that well-earned reputation- Par Avion maintains a strong presence in several parts of the globe. 'When I conceived a network of connections- I leaned on cities where I had experience operating-' she explained.

Those areas in which she has some personal investment in the people are the parts of the world where she feels most competent to represent her clients. 'I’m probably best known for cross-border transactions between Europe and the United States- in particular-' she continued.

Par Avion also maintains a presence in Manila- through an associate. 'I have personally done a lot of business in the Philippines- both in terms of buying and selling-' Iannarelli noted.

In Geneva- Iannarelli maintains a joint-marketing agreement with another competent affiliate; likewise through an associate in Paris. She also personally works from facilities in the New York area and- of course- her headquarters in Houston.

South Africa- has become a place of personal interest for Iannarelli who over the years has been establishing contacts and building a trade which in turn has led to her focus on the philanthropic work of one of her client’s there whose cause she supports; 'The project is near and dear to my heart as it promotes animal protection- land conservation and job creation.' In Houston- her company sponsors a polo team as part of an effort to raise money for local charities and Chairs a charity important to Iannarelli- as well.

And in typical fashion- Iannarelli gives these interests the same effort- devotes the same focus that helps make her a contender in a business that demands all of those attributes – and more – to succeed.

Read more about: Par Avion

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