7 Killer Training Tactics You’ve Never Even Thought Of

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Asking more of your corporate learners than ever before?  Are they challenged with having to remember more, perform better and deliver faster than ever?

No problem.

I’ve been training at some level all my working life.  But more importantly, I have been stealing shamelessly from amazing learning professionals for the last 20 years, many of whom I get to work with every day.

Time to Train it forward.

  1. Hide the product and show it to nobody. Product training? Keep it hidden.  Wrap in a blanket, hide it until the 27th slide and never give it a name until you absolutely must.   Instead focus 70% of your product training on what this product does and not what it is.   What problems this product solves or what opportunities it creates is what you obsessively train about!
  2. Quit asking people to participate in training. Instead, call on specific people to participate.  No volunteers unless you’ve already called on at least two people to answer questions or offer insight.  The small tension of not knowing when you might be called on (and potentially embarrassing yourself) is enough to force learners to focus harder (especially in virtual training) and thus retain and retrieve knowledge better.
  3. Training should be harder than you think. Adding a little more stress to training (live, virtual or self-directed) and the more likely it sticks.  Are learners nervous about the training?  Anxious?  Worried about a tough test at the end?     Remember to disregard all the adult learning theory blather from the 80’s you think is the gold standard and latch onto all the recent credible research about the brain and how people truly learn. 
  4. Video Should Be Part of Every Training. I still believe the skill of a training facilitator is the most important factor in any successful facilitated training.    And that’s why video is a win-win.   Every training should have a video element.  When it’s short (less than 3 minutes please) it’s therefor retrievable and repeatable and of course it’s imagery on steroids.  When done well, video can tackle aspects of learning that leave the facilitator able to focus on the application of learning and not obsessed with the X’s and O’s.
  5. Skip the positive feedback in role plays: Make it clear in advance of any role play (live or virtual) that we are all going to focus on what you can do better, not what you did well – we know what you did well, that’s fairly easy to see – so focusing equally on the good or “sandwiching” or “starting with the positive” is drivel and a waste of time.  We’re here to learn and drive performance, make more money or get promoted – let’s get to it!
  6. Every training should have a Game(s) element however small. There are so few humans who don’t take a little joy, a little pride out of winning something – and that adds focus.  Example: The learner or team with the most chips for great answers gets to leave a half hour early and skip the Wrap- Up ( heck they won- they probably don’t need the wrap up) or perhaps the winners take only the 5 question quiz ( again—they paid attention more and probably don’t need the 20 question quiz).  Here’s a fantastic book by Karl Kapp
  7. Flashcards Flashcards Flashcards: One recent neuroscience study proved we did get it right back in the day when the use of flashcards in corporate learning improved retrieval of information at a clip twice as effective as just studying the material.  Flashcard use actually leaves memory traces in the brain more resistant to forgetting.    Here’s a simple flashcard maker site I’ve used.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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I am Joe’s Incentive Plan

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Hey.

How ya doin?

I am Joe’s Incentive Plan and I’m not very happy, so listen up.  I got something to say.

Don’t worry, Joe can’t hear us – he’s not thinking about me right now, which is an amazing and rare thing.  He’s in the system now trying to figure out how to add another contact with a different address cuz’ he needs to send the quote to yet another guy in the decision making process….

You probably don’t know this but….

Joe swears at me sometimes.  Like bad.  He does.   And that hurts.  We’re supposed to be close.

Usually it happens at the end of the week or the month when we’re walking down the hall together;   I’m computing away figuring out his paycheck in our head and all of a sudden he’s calling me this and that and how much I stink and how stupid I am and how I like other people more than him and that it’s not fair.  Except he really lets it fly with words I’ve never seen – even though I’m 13 pages long if you include the sign off page.

And then I get ticked off.  I gotta live with this guy and he freakin’ hates me.   I know some things though.  I really do.    And you guys got it wrong.

I’m too smart.  I’m too complex.  I’m too long.   And I knew it when you built me two years ago as you passed me around in all those Reply All’s picking me apart with everyone adding their drivel.   I knew it too when you made me sit for 40 days on that HR SharePoint site where I had nothing to do but look at my pathetic, drug out, butchered self until you’ll finished your Turkey dinners or something.

Then I sat in like 5 more meetings getting longer and longer and with as many asterisks as Barry Bonds will have (what you don’t think I read? His incentive plan is legend).

Let me just say what I know is in my DNA about the best Incentive Plans, before Joe gives up on the CRM and (I’ve seen him do this) jumps in the car and delivers the proposal himself;

Rule 1: A New Incentive Plans’ complexity should be of inverse proportion to the degree of change or results needed.  That’s a fancy way of saying that the bigger the degree of behavior/results changes you need Joe and his group to make – the simpler I must be.

Rule 2: Quit putting specific products/ qualifiers all over me.   Your products and focus aren’t going to stay the same.  Joe isn’t going to be asked to sell the same thing every month or in some cases even the same day.  Get Real!  Give me letter designations like  A, B, C, D.  That gives you and Joe the flexibility to change focus in the business on a dime.

Rule 3: I don’t want to be computing all the way down the darn hallway.  Make it as much as you can, something that  when Joe is done for the day or the week, he’s knows what $$ we made and doesn’t need a degree in calculus and blackmail photos to  use against the Reporting and Analytics guy to get him to run numbers .  Stock broker guys don’t have to do it, nor do the waiters or the brain surgeons.

I gotta go, Joe figured it out in the system.  Now he’s thinking about me again.  Do me a favor; help us enjoy our walks down the hallway.  I don’t want to fight anymore.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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The Most Important Question Never Asked

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Do you help small businesses in any way, shape or form?

If you do, my guess is you aren’t as helpful as you think you are – especially when that small business reaches out to you for help.

Let’s back up.   I’ve witnessed in the field (trade shows especially) and on the phones, thousands of interactions between small business owners and providers of everything from office vending services to website creation to customized printing over the years.  Nary do I hear the right kind of question asked when that glorious opportunity arises.

Usually I see or hear a face palming like fail (though few realize it till it is pointed out to them).

When that small business person inquires about a product: the sales/ service/ company rep will often say something like:

“That’s great, it’s a very popular widget as you know, is there a specific model you’ve been thinking about already?”  or  “Sure, let me fill you in – most clients choose from 1 of 3 types,  each with its set of services….”  Or  “OK – it’s time for a new vendor you’ve said – you are looking around and you are probably wondering what sets us apart…”

Ugh.  Even worse is that the above examples are trained still today as good things to say in some organizations.

Here’s how to stop doing that.  And actually help your small businesses better 🙂

When a small business owner calls you, emails you or stops by looking for some help, information or assistance, you must first ask:

“What’s happening in your business that is driving your interest in ________?”

There are variations of the above but here is the point:. Whether you represent payroll services, website development, custom printing, insurance products, widgets or trinkets;

Knowing the businesses’ motivations helps you match your product or service exactly to those motivations (improving immediate sales success) and can help you articulate any expanded portfolio ( now or in the future) of your products/services that truly help that small business. 

Here’s an example done right;

  • Prospect: – “I’m curious. I know you build widgets and I’m looking for some pricing and info..“
  • You: “Sure – let me ask you first, what’s happening in your business right now that is driving your interest in the widget?”
  • Prospect: “. Well we’ve added a whole new group of products nobody knows about yet and I’m breaking into 2 more states is the plan – so I’ve got to look a little more professional I think too…”
  • You: “Perfect.  Let’s take a look at some widgets that get your name out faster and wider and there’s a couple of widgets that give a customized look too..”

It sounds obvious.  It’s not.

It’s not about what product or service the prospect is interested in; it’s about what is driving that interest that matters.  The motivation, the challenges, the dreams and the drivers are what you must discover, remember and leverage in the selling process.

Challenge yourself, your business or your team to do better with these opportunities.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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The Luckiest Man In The World

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I’m sorry, this post has nothing in it to help you be better in your job.  But I’ve said I’ll always publish it each year on this date.

Nothing’s changed.  Except I feel even luckier.

**** 

The Luckiest Man In The World

I admit I’m not an expert on marriage and have the track record to prove it.   But my guess is that you’ll be alright if

You marry someone who feels it is more important to be there for others who have less or are in need, than to be there for everyone.

You marry someone who works hard, never misses a day, and defines her performance only by the happiness of her customers.

You marry someone who when she first met your child of 6 years old, knelt down, looked at him eye to eye, said hello and then gave him a big hug.

You marry someone who loves with all her heart, the movies from the 30’s and 40’s because they always have happy endings.

You marry someone who cries tears of joy almost daily just upon hearing that a total stranger had a baby or if she happens to she see two toddlers walking, holding hands.

You marry someone, a single mother who from her teenage years has raised a beautiful person in her daughter with the crazy belief that “I want to raise her not to be like me”.

Susan, your daughter is just like you and it is the greatest gift you have given her.  My son has known you nearly half of his life and I swear, he loves you as much as I do.

Saturday, I get to marry you.

I think we are going to be more than alright.  It’s a trite statement but there is a reason someone came up with it.  Now, I know.

I am the luckiest man in the world.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Originally published June 2009

The Most Interesting Sales Rep In The World

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The Most Interesting Sales Rep in The World

His commissions are greater than the GNP of Denmark and Finland combined.

His typical sales contest is winning first, second and 3rd prize.

He’s made The President’s Circle so often he may just run in 2016.

His Sales Manager cries softly just looking at him.

He has his own instance of Salesforce .com

He throws live objections into his sales pitches just for fun.

His business card simply says “You’re Welcome”

He is, the most interesting Sales Rep in the world.

*****

Let’s put aside the hyperbole and fun for a moment and think about what this sales person really looks like because you know he or she must exist somewhere!.  My guess is the following is true about the best sales person in the world.

She gets cold calls from prospects asking her what they need to worry about in their industry and if there’s any way she can help them.  And why shouldn’t she? She’s known for not solving problems buyers already know about but rather the one’s they don’t.

She hasn’t prospected since Thanksgiving; her customers flood her email with friends they want her to call on.  And why would she? If you are truly the best, your raving fans do so much of the prospecting for you.

She often tells clients to hold off signing an agreement because she wants to see the right infrastructure in place first to ensure the product will deliver.  And why shouldn’t she? She knows in today’s competitive global marketplace that selling often really begins after the sale.

She’s got a killer professional social media presence that is seen as a credible resource for evolving solutions and industry trends and dynamics.  Of course she does.  She gets that buyers are researching well ahead and she’ll not wait for the phone to ring or the email or lead come in.  She’s there right from the beginning.

I may not always post a blog inspired by a beer commercial but when I do, it makes you think, no?  Stay thirsty my friends.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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I Don’t Care What You Want

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I don’t care what you want.    What I do care about is why you want it.

In sales today, it is more important than ever to get after the why because it is so dang easy to skip it.

You see, buyers of all types today walk into your business, or ring your phone, or fill out that form online, or open a chat box, or saunter up to your trade show booth or  even drive onto your car lot and tell you what they want.

They do that because they’ve done so much advance research online that they know (or think they know) exactly what they want.

Some of us think that is so cool, that this internet thing is doing the selling for us and by the time the buyer comes to us in our office or in our store – it’s a done deal.

But it ain’t.  And you know it.  Never before have buyers come in droves telling you what widget they want and then walk away, don’t call back,  don’t take a sample, don’t take a test drive and just don’t buy – let alone become a long term fruitful customer.   And we throw up our hands and say “What the heck, they wanted this thing!”   Some of us think it’s because of fierce competition, or that the leads are weak, or that the same internet that drove the prospects to us is making them too choosey.

But I’m here to tell it’s because you’re so enamored that the customer knows what they want that you are likely forgetting to take the time to ask why.

  • If I know why you want this widget and what good it will do for you or what problem it solves, then I’m going to be better at articulating why my business will be the best at providing it today and in the future with additional products and services I can provide.
  • If I know why you want this widget and why you’ve chosen me to bring this request to and what inspired you to swing by my doors or ring my phone then I’ll have a better sense of what is important you in a partner or provider – not just today but in the future as I look to retain and enhance your business with me.
  • If I know why you want this widget and how comfortable you are with this technology or space and perhaps who you admire who uses this widget then I can tailor my language, my sales approach and tell stories a lot better not just today but in the future when we are working together to expand your services with me.

There’s a lot more and different why’s to get after based on what you do – take the time to think them through and apply in your buyer interactions.

The point is this: More than ever, the prospect has something specific in mind when they come to you but that does not lesson the need of figuring out, as all great sales people do, the why behind the request.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Why Don’t We Practice Enough at Work?

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On Saturday I got to hear something beautiful from one of the best saxophone players in the game.  Jaleel Shaw, a 2000 Berklee College of Music grad, came back to speak to accepted students for the fall semester but didn’t play a single note.  He didn’t even bring his saxophone.

Yet his contribution was as moving and inspirational to the hundreds of students and parents listening in Saturday as surely his music is when played.

Thoughtful, so very humble and endearing – he kept genuinely and transparently falling back on the value and need to “practice”.   He must have mentioned the word more than 20 times eventually having  said it so often he had the crowd laughing (and for sure learning).

He told of his days at Berklee being long and grueling yet each semester he would map out where and exactly when he would fit in at least 8 hours of practice each day between and around his full class load.

Surely his renowned teachers, the Berklee connections, the theory courses, the performances and the education degree he acquired were essential to his success today but practice, practice and more practice was his sincere message.

And the message is a great one far beyond the study of music. In fact practice should play a much bigger role for us in our business lives.    But what do we really do about it in our jobs today?  Do we really practice unless we are forced to?

  • How often in the cubicle aisle does a salesperson grab a colleague out of the blue and practice dealing with difficult objections or articulating better what problem the product really solves?
  • How often as trainers, do we really stand up in front of that mirror or virtually with a colleague, practice our messaging and presentation before delivering our training?
  • How often as managers and supervisors and coaches do we prepare and practice a difficult conversation with an employee or for that matter, practice a nurturing conversation to maximize the conversation’s potential?

It’s obvious that a college like Berklee should be  a culture of ardent practice and it makes sense.   I’d contend that Practice Culture has a value far wider than just at a Music school and would do quite well where you work.

Till Next Time,

Grow The Business.

Mark