The perfect fit

Words by Ilze Pole
Photo by Dmitrijs Šuļžics (F64)

Jana Indrāne,
Area Sales Manager

With airBaltic’s new base in Tampere now up and running, the airline’s sales team also has new duties to make sure the planes flying from Tampere are as full as possible. As the area sales manager at airBaltic responsible for the Finnish market, Jana Indrāne does exactly that. Born in Estonia, she moved to Latvia eight years ago, bringing her one step closer to fulfilling her dream of working for airBaltic.

Tell us about how the sales team at airBaltic operates here.

As the airBaltic Network grows ever wider, we have up to 35 markets to focus on. So, in order to keep a close eye on every destination, they are divided between area sales managers. We also have colleagues responsible for key accounts, such as dealing with different programmes, incentives, and the biggest clients, such as online travel agencies and tour operators. Let’s say, for example, if Tez Tour, our long-time partner in Latvia, wants to organise a charter flight to Turkey, the corresponding key account manager’s job is to make sure that happens. We’re well equipped with dedication to our clients!

Before I began working with the Finnish market, I was responsible for Estonia, and there was also Poland and Hungary to look after. Then I left on maternity leave, and when I returned, I got the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, and Scandinavia – a lot of interesting new markets I had never worked with.

You returned right after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yes, and so many things had changed during that time – within the world, within the country, and within the company. I was a bit nervous before returning to work, not knowing how it would go, what actual impact Covid-19 had had on the industry. But luckily, everything was quite good, because the basics of my job – sales principles – have not changed. On top of that, I got a new market to work with.

As a salesperson, how does one approach new markets?

The first thing to do is to understand the market as deeply as you can – the mentality of the people living there, the travelling trends, the competition. Before approaching a client directly, you have to get to know the person or the company. And you have to be very sure about the product you’re promoting, why and exactly what results you’re expecting. If it’s a tour operator, for example, it’s dealing with groups, and I’m coming with a relevant offer.

Sales means doing a lot of research, attending events, meeting people, and listening to them carefully. airBaltic has sales representatives in some countries, which is a common practice, and they provide us with a lot of useful information about the local market.

But let’s hear about your own career here at airBaltic!

I’m from Estonia, and, to be honest, for a long time I dreamt about working at airBaltic and living in Latvia. When I was a child, my family and I travelled to Latvia a lot, especially around Christmastime. And every time we came here, it felt like home, so I started wondering about what it would be like to live here some day…

I was in Riga with a friend in 2013, and that’s when I met my future husband. Three months later, I moved to Latvia. So then I thought: now that I’m in Latvia, I’m one step closer to working at airBaltic, so I have to start checking out what vacancies are available. I found an opening for a position at the call centre – right then, they needed someone who spoke Estonian. I applied and got the job!

How did you get into sales?

I was working at the call centre, but I wanted to move further within the company. Because aviation is a very international industry and the main language is English, I hoped that I might get a position in another department and move my career forwards.

Apparently, the Estonian sales manager had just left, so I applied for a job in the sales department. After some time, which included several interviews, tests, and presentations that I had to prepare, I was offered the position of junior sales manager in Estonia.

Working in aviation is very exciting, especially in the sales department. It’s my dream job – I get to travel a lot, I meet a lot of people, I’m always experiencing something new, and all of my colleagues are very professional. We all have one goal – we all want to boost the company’s sales and get people travelling.

What qualities do you think a good salesperson should have?

A salesperson should be proactive and ready to fight for the business. A salesperson should spend time researching and understanding the markets, which I already talked about. And a salesperson should be ready to act quickly, because in sales it’s always… everything had to be done already yesterday (laughs). Salespeople also need to find ways to approach clients who are used to flying with other airlines and offer them the opportunity to try an airBaltic product. It’s all very interesting for me!

What does airBaltic offer that no one else can?

We’re definitely not attracting new clients by offering cheaper prices. The price factor is always important, but nowadays so is sustainability. Scandinavian clients are especially interested in that. They really care about an airline’s approach to sustainability and what it’s actually doing. Therefore, our biggest advantage is the fact that we’re the greenest airline in the region. We have a very young and modern fleet, and we care about sustainability not only through our words but also through our actions.

Another very important factor is our destination network, which includes the most important hubs. When clients choose airBaltic, they choose comfort and connectivity as well. When travelling, you really want to enjoy the ride, which starts as soon as you enter the aircraft and are greeted by our friendly crew. It’s important to make the client aware of how important it is to us, too, to provide safety, comfort, and the best possible flying experience.

What do you think has changed over the past couple of years? Is there anything you have to do differently now?

I think sales still remains very traditional in its approach, and it makes me very happy that after Covid-19 we’ve started meeting people face to face again. As good as online meetings were, they’ll never replace face-to-face meetings, especially in sales, where it’s all about emotions and contact. You have to see people in real life to understand them, and it’s way better in person than on a screen.

But the biggest difference in client behaviour is that people are buying their tickets very shortly before departure, and that also reflects on our B2B segment. Deals are not signed for long periods in advance.

airBaltic’s new base in Tampere is operating at full speed now. Why was the decision made to open a base there, and how successful is it?

It was a decision made by our network department. Before airBaltic begins operating a new route, the network department makes all the business cases, evaluating where we’re going to fly or expand.

There’s been a strong history of airBaltic’s presence in Finland; we’ve served many destinations in Finland over the past several years: Oulo, Lappeenranta, Koupio. Now it’s Helsinki, Turku, Kittila, and Tampere. The second factor is that our new Airbus A220-300 is the right type of aircraft – Finnish people really value its sustainability. Tampere also offers a perfect combination of less competition, a growing community, high purchasing power, and a high investment rate.

It’s only been a couple of months since we opened the base in Tampere, and we’re happy to see that demand started to grow right away after the first flights took off. A massive marketing campaign is taking place in Tampere now, making people aware that we’re there, we’re serving Tampere, we’re serious, and we’re not going anywhere. This is our commitment. Malaga and Rhodes are extremely popular destinations from Tampere.

What do you love most about your job?

I think it’s the right one for me (laughs)! I also like that the work environment here at airBaltic is so open-minded. Even now that I have a family and a baby, I’m happy to fly somewhere to attend events and meet new people. It’s a 100% fit with me and the job; I feel I’m in the right place.

Source of publication — Baltic Outlook inflight magazine