Posts Tagged ‘greatwebmeeting’

Learning without training

by Wayne Turmel on January 18, 2010

I love the word “conundrum”.  It’s defined as “A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma”. Here’s the conundrum that has impacted the training business more than any other lately: Companies complain about a shortage of skilled workers, but have slashed training budgets and the big traditional corporate training companies are bleeding customers and money at a time when what they teach has never been needed more. How can you have a shortage of skills that cost companies billions of dollars but no one’s willing to pay for it? That, my friends, is a conundrum.

The problem, I believe is a sea of change, not in what skills people need (as Drucker pointed out, the Leadership, Project Management and Strategy needed to build the pyramids aren’t any different than what we need today), but in who needs them.

Traditionally, the companies identified “competencies” that everyone needed across the organization, and either had their training department provide the content or went out and found it, brought training in-house (or to a centrally located sterile hotel ballroom) for employees to learn. This is still the model that most training companies follow- sell to the entire organization and look for company-wide initiatives… and it’s why they’re in trouble.

The audience for training is no longer the companies themselves, but the individuals in them. One manager might need to improve their business acumen while another does just fine with the numbers but can’t deliver feedback that doesn’t make people cry.  They know they need to develop these skills- if not for this job then for the next one. How do they identify, pay for and attain the learning they need?

Here’s how the players at companies will look at training in the New Year:

  • The Company– will be looking for training that is short, cheap and won’t involve travel or taking people away from their desk. This will mean a huge  increase in web-delivered training,  and if they’re smart, a mix of asynchronous (recorded, available any time) and synchronous (live with a facilitator that knows what they’re doing- and they’re in short supply).The fact that they will ask the impossible ( highly specialized but off the shelf so we don’t have to pay for customization, deep enough to show ROI but we don’t want to pay very much for it or let people invest time away from their jobs) is nothing new- customers always have asked the impossible. It does, however put a lot more pressure on…..
  • The Training Department– which is largely reduced to an administrative function. Rather than deliver a lot of training themselves, slimmed down Training Departments ( or more likely an HR professional juggling multiple jobs) will be asked to source and evaluate training  when it’s needed. This means fewer scheduled “catalog” classes that go on a schedule and are then canceled for low enrollment, and more specific just-in-time requests. What will determine what’s needed? Usually what shows up on performance reviews so an individual manager will have a different training requirement than their coworkers. This will mean they’ll need trusted sources of content, focused on niches or specialties, inexpensive and either public enrollment (so the manager can attend  by themselves but might mix with people from other companies) or scheduled for small groups of like-minded people. How will they find and evaluate this material? Well that’s a problem for….
  • The Training Companies… who will have to move away from licensing their content (because there’s no one left internally to deliver it, and each course isn’t being delivered often enough to provide economies of scale for the Companies) and into varied ways of delivering other than putting an instructor at the front of a room. Again, whether this is the most effective method of training is almost irrelevant, it’s where the market is moving, right or wrong. Gone are the days of huge corporate-wide initiatives, and they’ll be selling through their contacts at the Company to smaller groups (business units, project owners) rather than to a VP with a vision. They will also have to change how they bill their clients as more individuals will be paying (probably with a credit card over the web because who wants to issue 25 Purchase Orders for one class?) and definitely will have to move more of their training either online or into shorter chunks. The days of the 2-week “boot camp” training are gone forever. Additionally, they will have to be able to prove the value of what they do- either in Return on Investment (which for soft skills training is almost impossible but people keep trying) or in value to the learner through Continuing Education Credits, Professional Development Units or accreditation. Even a printed certificate of completion looks great in an HR file. The real change, however, will be for….
  • The Individual Learner– who will have to be responsible for learning what they need to know as they need to know it and finding it in a variety of ways. Maybe it will be traditional training, maybe it will be a book or a podcast.  The team leader who learns from their performance review, shows initiative to learn a skill and prove they’ve learned it (even if it’s just showing the certificate of completion) will be miles ahead of the worker who can’t explain what they can do or how they learned to do it. Additionally, more training will be paid for by the company (in small doses, as long as it’s not too expensive) but will be done after hours or on the employee’s time.  Online courses from trusted sources, marketed to individuals are the wave of the future.

In essence, training has gone from a B2B model with large contracts and licensing agreements to a modified Business to consumer model (the company might pay for it…they might not but if they do they’ll want to be involved in selection and pricing).

Companies that are really serious about helping their people develop skills will have to work with this new dynamic. Training companies that are serious about surviving will have to move to more web-based marketing and offerings, and individual employees will have to take their learning into their own hands.

The Worst Demo I never Got

by Wayne Turmel on November 16, 2009

demo wrongIf you’re the VP of Sales for a software or other service company I want you to listen to this cautionary tale.  It’s absolutely true and ought to make you ask some important questions about how confident you are in your inside sales or demo teams. More importantly, I can make some educated guesses about how they’re measuring this sales person’s performance and that really ought to make you go hmmmmm. At any rate I was able to avoid a painful experience and what I can only guess would have been the worst demo I’d ever seen.

A cold call/email for no reason: I got a voicemail from someone at a company who “wanted to speak to me” about their software-as-a-service product.  I suspect I know which list they got my name from but “that’s okay”, I figured… they’re trying to make a living. I then got an email at about the same time with the same kind of offer. Of course, there was nothing about their product other than the name and a hyperlink. My immediate thought was “If I don’t know what it does for me, why would I want to talk to them?” Something told me this person is cranking out the cold calls because they have a certain number of contacts they have to make. That’s fine, I’ve been there and done that, but I also know it’s not terribly productive except that it keeps their boss happy.

A kind offer to waste my time: I have great sympathy for sales people just doing their job so I emailed back and said (essentially) “tell me what it does and what it has to do with me and we’ll see”. I then got a response telling me what it is (an “email marketing tool”. Thanks for clearing that up!) in a single sentence, but I really should schedule time for a 30-minute demo so I could “really see what it can do”. Note: They didn’t ask or even assume what it could do for ME, just what IT could do. I don’t know about you, I don’t have half an hour (and is anyone foolish enough to think it will really only be 30 minutes out of my life???) to waste just watching someone tell me about a product I don’t need or want. Again, I figured their “sales management process” demands a certain number of demos a week. I know fully well the assumption is that if they do “X” number of demos, some of them will convert. Exactly what is their conversion rate? Do they measure it?  Imagine how high it would be if they only did demos to people who actually might buy the product to start with!

It would have been a complete waste of THEIR time too: Had this sales person asked a couple of questions they would have known I’m not a good prospect for them. Instead they invested a phone call, two emails and blocked out half an hour of their time (not to mention putting me in their carefully managed CRM pipeline) without ever asking a couple of basic questions which would have taken me off the list immediately. And let’s do some math: 5 minutes of questioning up front versus 30 minutes per demo to someone completely unqualified who will never buy.  It makes no sense, but if I’m being measured by how many demos a week I perform, you can bet I’m going to schedule them. And let’s face it; it’s less painful than filling that time with 15 more cold calls from an obviously flawed list of leads.

Here’s what I avoided:

By not taking up their kind offer of a “30-minute FREE demo” (are there people who charge for that honor?) I avoided several things:

  • A carefully scripted (we can only hope… either that or a rambling, unprofessional) 1-way monologue about their product and its features
  • A demonstration of all the cool bells and whistles without asking any qualifying questions about my company or goals
  • A not-too-subtle avoidance of the price and other key questions until the very end (although that’s probably one of the first questions I have and I’ll sit through the whole thing wondering about it)
  • If this person’s demo is carefully scripted, it MIGHT contain a call to action like moving to a trial account. (About half the demos I watch and review for people have no clear call to action so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here). My guess is I won’t have been asked who actually makes that decision or whether we’ve got budget for it (assuming they ever get around to telling me the price) until the very end of our time together.

I don’t blame the sales person here, at least not entirely. The big problem is some assumptions on the part of sales management:

  • Measuring activity will get results–  you can make 100 cold calls but if you’re calling people who aren’t good prospects you’re wasting a lot of time and effort and demoralizing the sales person
  • The demo itself will move the sale forward– Are we supposed to believe that a good pitch will move an unmotivated person to tears of joy and make a sale?
  • The function and features will make the sale- If I see the wonder of your product, how can I resist? I can think of 20 reasons not to buy something- starting with I don’t need it
  • All customers want the same thing and we can provide it- an interesting notion but you know it’s not true. Find out what I need and give me THAT, then we’ll talk
  • Product knowledge is really the critical part of a demo- asking the right questions, acting like you care about my business and showing me what I want to see (especially in the early stages of the sales cycle) is far more important to a customer than your User Interface or the fine details of your algorithm

Basically, I was able to avoid having a half hour or more sucked out of my life by a “well intentioned” person just doing their job and appeasing their boss. Not exactly a constructive way to do business but one we see all the time.

How are you using demos in YOUR sales process?