Follow-up: How do you change behaviour?

Bryce Sanders gives us strategies for that post-training hinterland. 

Proving the effectiveness of training is extremely difficult, especially if it’s a one-time event. No one ever says: “I couldn’t get out of my own way, but this training set me on the right track.” Even if they did, the credit belongs to their manager. 

They made the training available and provided the environment where they could succeed. The most effective proof is increased sales, morale or productivity following the training. This requires efficient follow-up.

The landscape

If you are in the business of providing training internally or are external, providing it for a fee, you have a few obstacles to overcome.

  1. Inertia – It’s a powerful force. Your session attendees return to their desks. Work has piled up in the meantime. They are back to their old behaviours, just trying to catch up.
  2. Staffing – Wouldn’t it be great if the on-site sales manager said: “Now let’s put this training into action! Here’s what we will do…” It doesn’t happen. They have their own goals to hit. That’s where they focus.
  3. Coaching – Often companies that provide training also sell individual coaching. It’s common in sales. Attendees often discount the training as a vehicle to sell coaching.

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Four follow-up strategies

Let’s assume the above points are true in your situation. You need to change behaviour by providing follow-up from a distance.

  1. Action plans – A big obstacle is often “What do I do next?” Attendees hear great ideas, yet don’t know how to implement them into their business. 

Solution:  Each training session they attend should include a step by step action plan with deliverables. They see it at the session and again when they return to the office and review their notes.  Measurable deliverables provide sales managers a way to track progress without much additional effort on their part.

  1. Summary emails – Most people don’t review meeting notes.  They go into a drawer.  They return to their past behaviour. Six bi-weekly summary e-mails covers a three month period.  They serve another purpose:  If the training was sponsored by a product provider, they are reminded six times of their identity.

Solution:  Send a short, summary e-mail addressing one or two strategies discussed. Five lines max. for each strategy. Either send to attendees directly or your local contact for further distribution.

  1. Answering questions – You might not provide coaching, but people will have questions. They need someone to call for help. This might sound daunting, but assume if one in twenty attendees ever calls, that’s a lot.

Solution:  Those summary e-mails are designed to encourage attendees to call with questions. Often those who call are the most motivated attendees.  Help them.  Encourage them to keep calling. Ask them to tell their manager they called and you helped them.

  1. Conference calls, webinars – A good way to keep attendees engaged while laying the groundwork for future training is to include a couple of webinars or conference calls in the training package.  This allows you to address additional topics that drive that firm’s results or reinforce training you’ve already delivered.

Solution:  Provide a menu of topics to your contact. They likely hold monthly calls anyway, especially if the attendees are geographically dispersed. The firm will likely allow you to use their webinar platform.  This is another way you encourage attendees to call with questions.

What have you accomplished?

Follow-up is more often promised than delivered. Often it requires initiation on the manager’s part, yet they are now involved in different projects. You provided support requiring little or no intervention on their part.

  1. Action plans – On the day of training they realize there’s an implantation strategy;
  2. Summary emails – Managers see attendees being reminded of ideas.  They see attendees are encouraged to call.
  3. Webinars – Managers hear your voice teaching and engaging with attendees.
  4. Questions – Attendees have a no-cost channel to get help without relying on their manager’s involvement.

They want their employees to initiate activity. They know you follow up.


About the author

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides High Net Worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. 


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