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Negotiating Aircraft Sales

Marwan Lahoud
Former Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Airbus & Former CEO at MBDA

Learning outcomes

  • How you’re representing the firm to the customer and the customer internally in your firm as a salesman

Executive Bio

Marwan Lahoud

Former Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Airbus & Former CEO at MBDA

From 2007 to 2017 Marwan served as Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Airbus and was a member of the Group Executive Committee. Marwan is credited with having been the chief architect behind the creation of both Airbus and MBDA and also a key individual in the decision to re-engine the A320ceo to launch the A320neo. He led the strategic and international development of Airbus to position it as a global enterprise: during his tenure, the order book of the business grew from €265bn to more than €1,000bn. Previously, Marwan served as CEO of MBDA, the global missile systems company jointly owned by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo. Having begun his career at the French Ministry of Defense in 1989, Marwan was appointed Special Advisor to the Ministry in 1995. Read more

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Interview Transcript

When looking at selling the aircraft, to airlines, walk me through how you would pitch the 320 versus the 737. Or just the negotiation and the selling process, of such a product, and what lessons you can drive for working professionals, from that.We’re talking about a duopoly. The products are very well-known by the airlines. If I were in the shoes of an airline, I would keep asking Airbus and Boeing to make offers. What is the difference? What makes the difference is, you need to use your strengths. What are the strengths of the 320? The strengths of the 320 are the product range, the family. The successful planes are the larger ones, which is the 321, today. Not long ago, the 319 was a great success. It depends, very much, on where jet fuel prices are. Then it’s a matter of what concessions you are making to the airline. What is the cost of ownership? How are you supporting the sale? It’s a long, long process. At the end of the day, it’s a small market. How many airlines are there in the world? Let’s say there are 100 players. There are more but, basically, the market makers. Two airframers and, in the short range, two engine makers, in the long range, two engine makers. So it’s very personal and very much linked to interpersonal relationships. This is why you need to have the best sales people and you have to be very much involved yourself.From Enders to the sales guy, we were involved, at some stage, in the sales process, depending on the airlines. We knew we had our sweet spots and areas to avoid.What do you think defines a great salesman?It’s negotiation, mainly. When you are talking to the customer, you are representing your firm. When you are talking inside your firm, you are representing the customer. In both cases, you put yourself in the shoes of the other guy.But you also need to be humble, as well, to do that and put your ego to the side.You have to be humble; you have to be very flexible and you have to be patient. Patience is of the essence. You need to know when to ask the crucial question. The crucial question is, are you going to take this plane or not? Once the guy tells you no, you’re lost.
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