Airbus’s new top salesman, Eric Schulz, has a simple message this week at the Farnborough Airshow: he is his own man. He could be forgiven for feeling intimidated to follow his predecessor, John Leahy, who headlines called “legendary” and “salesman supremo” when he handed the reins over to Schulz in January.
“Intimidated? No,” Schulz said of Leahy. “I would have been intimidated if I wanted to do the job the way he was doing it.”
Unlike his predecessor, Schulz is an engineer and has extensive experience with airlines and aerospace manufacturing. “I come with an intimate knowledge of the industry and an absolute understanding of what…people [are] thinking when they buy an airplane, and what they do with it,” he said. "That makes me more focused on what an airplane can do for a customer and how to get the most out of it."
Schulz doesn’t want to simply talk over the price tag with customers, but rather discuss what they need, which airplane is the best fit, and how to get the most value out of it. That might mean optimizing configurations or signing service contracts to cut a carrier’s maintenance overhead costs.
He has some things in common with Leahy, though, Schulz said—“The fighting spirit, the determination, the tenacity, the ability to find innovative solutions to make sure we can do a deal.”
He is not taking his eye off the competition in Seattle, either. “There are only two jobs like mine in the world”—his and Ihssane Mounir’s role as head of sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Schulz said.
In recent years, Airbus has claimed annual leads in new orders, thanks to its popular A320 family. Boeing is considering a New Mid-market Airplane (NMA) to challenge Airbus’s long-range A321. On Sunday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the aerospace giant had put off a decision on the NMA until 2019. The company is still working to close the business case, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Kevin McAllister said.
Airbus already has solidified its dominance in the longest-haul single-aisle sector, thanks to the A321LR, Schulz said. “That explains why the NMA decision has still not been made.
“It’s nice to believe that you can come right into the middle of the market with an airplane that will be optimized and will do everything,” he added. But the NMA will lack commonality with Boeing's slightly smaller 737s and larger 787s. “It’s a lost airplane in the middle of the page,” Schulz concluded.