As a training professional, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “making the business case for training.” I see one of my key roles in sales training and development as getting to the heart of the business objectives at hand. When I’m able to do that, I can then provide recommendations and ideas for training – or in some cases, other ways to accomplish the objectives.
A recent conversation with a client reminded me of this, and out of that came some practical ways to tie training and business value together.
My client was looking to create a short, self-paced product demo for their existing customers. When I heard that, I knew right away that our conversation could take two paths.
One path was a training conversation. We could have talked about the demo and its content, the learning objectives, or development tools. The other path was a business conversation, focused on the success they were looking to accomplish by making this investment.
Both are important to have, and I chose to focus on the business conversation first. By doing that, I uncovered valuable information that I may not have uncovered otherwise. I asked the following questions:
- What is the business issue at hand?
- How are you doing things today and what have the results been so far?
- How does this project fit into your overall strategy?
- If you could paint the picture 6-12 months from now, what will tell you that this project has been successful?
- Who are the audience groups and what is important to them?
In using these questions in the sales process, I found out that the business issue at hand was the need to increase the number of current customers using a particular software tool within my client’s portfolio. The tool is bundled within the overall service contract, and my client knows that when their customers use it, they’re more likely to renew their contract.
I also uncovered a few challenges involved in creating this behavior, both within the customer base and within my client’s organization.
The customer challenges:
- Generating awareness that the tool exists, because it’s part of a larger service contract.
- Getting the customer to actually pilot the tool and then implement it.
My client’s challenges:
- Knowing which features of the tool are most important to their customers.
- A time consuming demo process; each is scheduled on a live and individual basis.
- Tracking how many demos are conducted, and how many customers take the next step of implementing the tool.
Armed with that information, I could now make some tangible next-step recommendations:
- Interview 5 top customers who are fans of the tool today, and find out which features make the most difference to them. Rank them and include the top 3 in the demo.
- Find out how many demos are currently being conducted per month or per quarter. Set a goal to increase that number in a way that’s meaningful to the business.
- Create a simple tracking tool that allows for logging and follow-up with customers. This tool should be used by account teams as a consultative selling tool, tying the investment to business results.
- Create a case study that profiles a top customer successfully using the tool.
In having a business conversation first, my client could see how pursing this demo ties directly to business objectives. He also has some additional ideas for content and tools to further cement the value of the investment. This will lead into the training conversation, where we can dive into content, learning objectives, and development of the demo.
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