Bryce Sanders suggests a few ways to turn a one-off training booking into many more.
Selling training services is a transactional business unless you also sell coaching services to attendees as individuals. Your business might pay well on a per diem basis, but how do you get yourself invited back? You are after recurring revenue.
A few words about coaching
People in sales need plenty of motivation and training. It’s a business where people often say ‘not interested’. Many successful people work with coaches, just like professional golfers. They often pay for the coaching services themselves, although successful producers might have a business development budget provided by their firm to cultivate business and improve their skills.
That’s the ideal. The reality is often a training presentation that’s actually a commercial designed to sell coaching services directly to the attendees. ‘Here’s a little bit of knowledge. If you want more, personalised to your unique situation, it’s going to cost you.’
That approach often gets pushback in the form of audience complaints to their managers.
Who pays for training, anyway?
In some organisations, sales training is outsourced. Instead of the overhead expense connected with a training department, they either bring in people from the outside or put staff training on the local manager’s plate.
Sales training is often funded in one of three ways:
- The roadshow. The parent company hires a sales training firm to make the rounds of the offices delivering training. From the trainer’s point of view, this is ideal.
- The sponsor. A product provider wants face time in front of the sales force. They offer an outside trainer’s services at the provider’s expense. The trainer is a shelf product, which is also ideal.
- The self-marketer. You sell training. You initiate contact with managers in the field and establish a need. They find the funding. It’s often a one off transaction. It’s more common. It’s harder.
10 strategies for getting that return booking
Let’s assume you are in that third category. You’ve delivered training for a group of salespeople at a local office or conference. You want to be invited back.
- Evaluation summaries. You want to own this process. Use your own evaluation sheets, even if the organisation says they do it too. Be upfront. Give them copies of the individual forms before you leave. Send the summarised data the next day. Go for print and email. Try to use numerical scoring. Managers like that. Include text comments, good and bad.
- Attendee lists. Own this process too. A large turnout shows the training was popular. A poor turnout combined with great evaluation scores shows it was well received, but not enough people attended.
- Evaluations from elsewhere. When you present at other offices within the same firm, share those evaluation summaries too. (Absolutely do not share summaries from training at competitor firms.) This is useful when you are introducing new topics. The manager can call a peer in another office and ask questions.
- Deliver on follow-up. You promised webinars. Summary emails. Access for attendees with questions. Do everything you promised. There are people who move on once they get their check. There are others who make it available, but only if you ask.
- Ask attendees to talk with manager. You promised aftermarket support. Someone called. You answered their questions. They were thrilled. Ask them to tell their manager they called and received the help they needed. In many cases, feedback from the sales force carries more weight than compelling marketing material.
- Align content with firm strategy. Unfortunately, some firms work under the ‘Throw lots of stuff against the wall and see what sticks’ philosophy. Although topics like client acquisition and retention are evergreen, firms usually roll out new strategies annually. It might be engagement through social media or selling non-traditional products. The manager’s compensation (and possibly continuing employment) is tied to how well they perform relative to these metrics. Provide training that drives the firm’s strategy. Square peg, square hole.
- Share published articles. If you are a published author, this is a great advantage. Send along links or printed copies, consistent with the publication’s copyright rules. Visibility is credibility. Are your competitors also published authors? Maybe not.
- Learn their schedule. They might run a training meeting every quarter. They might book speakers for one big annual conference. Find out the timing and market at the right time. You’ve heard ‘Timing is everything.’
- Offer to do more. You promised two webinars. They’ve got a special situation. Maybe they took on new hires from a competitor. They would like something done for these folks. You’ve delivered on your promised webinars. Offer a third, for free. Help them out. Now you are helping drive their agenda.
- Make it easy. The stumbling block is often finding funding. Keep records of which product providers sponsored and the cities. Without revealing competitor names, give them a few ideas from this historical data. Let them know you can’t commit any sponsors. They will likely think about where there’s a good fit and talk with their local representative. This requires discretion. Also, some sponsors may only want to initiate bookings themselves while others want the access and are happy to be included on a larger list.
When the last shall be first
Keep the sponsor happy. There’s plenty of reasons why this should have been first. They wrote the check. They are expecting a bump in business or at least access for their people to top producers in local offices. Share the same feedback with them. Remind the branch managers and the attendees who footed the bill for that training. If they are happy, they might turn you into a shelf product. Wouldn’t that be great?
About the author
Bryce Sanders is President of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.