A. IF YOU PROVE IT, WILL THEY BUY?
So what if you can prove your training
will turn doltish employees into balls of fire. Don't reach
for any validation studies or post-training performance
statistics until you uncover a real purchase intention.
Consider a line of questioning like the following:
"Bottom line evidence? That's a
tall order -- and I believe we can address it. But first
tell me about the nature of your business challenge. What
are you up against and what sort of plans do you have in
place? Is this an urgent need? Has any sort of budget been
set up? Who all is involved? How will you be measuring your
B. IF YOU PROVE IT, WILL THEY CARE?
Let's suppose your prospect does
have a sincere business need supported by real plans and
resources. Is now the time to blurt out any training performance
data? Nope, not yet. See if you can get more of your prospect's
purchase considerations on the table. Who knows, proof of
performance may turn out to be no big deal. Try something
"Wow, with all you're up against
I can understand why you want to be certain any training
you choose is cost effective. Would you say that's your
primary requirement in choosing a training solution?"
Suppose your prospect says, "Well,
we also want someone who's expert in the semi conductor
industry -- and it would be good if they could help certify
our training delivery personnel in Eastern Europe and China."
Well, then you will want to say something like, "So, all
things considered, what's your most important consideration
in choosing a training solution?"
C. HOW TO PROVE IT
Assuming "bottom line proof of training
performance" is still paramount, try asking your prospect
what sort of proof they are looking to see. Too many training
salespeople panic because they assume that prospects want
to see rigorous scientific studies complete with control
groups and statistical confidence levels. Or they subject
a prospect to a dog and pony that would baffle Albert Einstein
-- when all that was really needed was a little confidence
Let's examine a number of ways to
demonstrate training proof of performance.
KNOWLEDGE = PERFORMANCE: Demonstrate
that your training results in measurable improvements
in job-related knowledge and skills. Speak to typical
pre and post training test results and the integrity
of your Certification program (if you have one). Most
customers will accept the connection between improved
know-how and improved bottom line performance.
PROOF BY ASSOCIATION: Cite your
blue chip client list as proof of the pudding that your
training leads to bottom line results. Maybe your training
isn't the only reason why Company X and Company Y are
dominating their industry and racking up unheard- of
earnings gains -- but there must be some sort of connection.
SINGLE INCIDENT PAYBACK POTENTIAL: Compare the reasonable cost of your training with the
payback if just one incremental $5 million sale is made
-- or one $250,000 employee grievance is prevented.
It doesn't take more than one home run to cost justify
most training investments.
JUSTIFICATION BY HYPOTHESIS: If scoring a home run seems a bit far fetched, try justifying
your training using hypothetical, infinitesimally small
performance gains spread over many people and many transactions.
For instance, calculate the savings if each software
programmer who has competed your IT application development
course is able to complete just 3 more lines of code
every day. Rarely does this approach fail to make a
SHARE THE CHALLENGE: If your
prospect is still insistent that you prove training-related
productivity and profitability gains in a scientifically
infallible way, offer to partner with them. Tell them
you'll contribute your expertise and resources in helping
them (a) set up sample sizes and control groups; (2)
administer your training in a consistent way; (3) measure
the results within a statistically significant level
If they take you up on your challenge,
fine. If they decide bottom line validation is more trouble
than it's worth, then you can fall back on one of the more
intuitive justification methods described above.
D. ARE YOU S*U*R*E* YOU'RE CALLING
Let's return to Square One. Yes,
it's perfectly appropriate for a prospect to be concerned
about the effectiveness of your training offerings. But
if they put you through the wringer to demonstrate statistically
infallible proof of performance, you are almost certainly
calling too low.
Corporations cheerfully spend big
bucks on all sorts of gear with only the sketchiest idea
of what the payoff will be. Let's see -- $50 million for
ERP or CRM software, $20 million for those ultra slim laptops,
$150 million for a new headquarters building, $3 million
for an updated logo, $12 million for a Superbowl TV campaign.
Compared to this, the typical chickenfeed, what-could-go-wrong
investment in training should be a no-brainer.
So if you find yourself sweating
blood to cost justify a $25,000 supervisory training curriculum
or a $45,000 IT public course volume agreement, stop sweating
and start walking. Pick up your feet and head in the direction
of someone who owns a genuine business problem and has the
budget authority to deal with it.