Stop Trying to Sell Training to the Business
On a Monday afternoon about a decade ago, Wendy Kirkpatrick, at the time an energetic training manager for a manufacturing company, called a sales manager. She was hoping that he would be interested in holding a soft skills training class for his team of salespeople.
When he answered the phone, he seemed distracted. Wendy asked if she had interrupted anything. Here is what he said.
“You didn’t exactly interrupt anything, but I just got out of a meeting with our director, and we have to increase sales in the new product line by 10% before the end of the year. Got any training that can do that?” he asked, tongue in cheek.
This moment, which came about due to sheer luck, was the proverbial foot in the door for Wendy. What ensued was a conversation about what they could do together to help the sales manager and his team to accomplish the sales goal. The resulting plan included a brief product knowledge refresher, a template for a sales conversation, a system of ride-alongs and tracking of the number of sales presentations made, and an incentive program with an awards ceremony to be held at the end of the year (in the likely event that they were successful in reaching their goal).
Thereafter, she never had to call them to go fishing for an opportunity to conduct training for this particular team. Instead, when they received a new goal or encountered a challenge, they called Wendy to ask for her help.
- Wendy got lucky here. She was not trying to be a disruptive learning and performance professional. In fact, she was following a traditional pattern of offering training to a business leader whose mind was more focused on “the business.”
- You can create the same opportunity for yourself by changing your questions and dialogue with the business. Instead of relying on good fortune, implement these tactics for becoming part of the business team.
- Disruptive learning and performance professionals:
- Meet business leaders in the business world, and spend more time watching and listening to business needs and pain points than talking about training solutions.
- Ask questions about the business. How is it going? What are the goals for the year? Are they being met? What could be done to improve performance and outcomes?
- Learn the language of the business on topics such as executing strategy, prioritizing work, reducing re-work and managing difficult staff members so they can converse with them in their terms.
- May concern other learning professionals who think their (and your) job is to work in your territory, not the workplace. They will likely be upset that you are spending time away from design/development and the classroom.
- Ultimately benefit their organizations by helping to create an active business partnership culture rather than an “us (learning) vs. them (business)” situation.
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