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Prove It! When Prospects Seek Bottom-Line Evidence Your Training Works.

Why do purchasers of training products and services frequently browbeat training salespeople with demands for proof of performance?

All too often, it's because: (a) they know true bottom line training justification is next to impossible to demonstrate; (2) they have no budget or decisionmaking authority; (3) they're looking for a face saving way to give your salesperson the brush off.

But not always. So let's look at how to handle this typical selling challenge.


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 success?"


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 like this:

"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?"


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 booster.

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 convincing case.

  • 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 of confidence.

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.


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.

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