Making the Pitch: Selling Your Executives on Virtual Learning (Part 2)

April 26, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As we reviewed in Part 1 of this post, more and more companies are turning to virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs to support their skill development needs and competency attainment goals. We know that gaining executive level support is crucial for vILT programs to be successful. In order to do so, learning and development professionals need to put on their sales hats and move beyond the day-to-day mechanics of how a vILT program works to communicate the big picture value. Success lies in positioning. What business need does vILT address? If leaders don’t see relevant benefits, they will not be on board. In the five-step sales process we outlined in Part 1 of this blog; steps 2 and 3 require the seller to identify the needs of their buyer and then present a solution that solves the immediate business need. In essence, we are the sellers, our decision maker is the buyer, and our solution is our product so it makes sense to consider a sale process as we determine how to win this support. So what are some common needs vILT addresses? In our work, we have watched our clients leverage vILT to address a multitude of challenges they are facing. We’ve outlined several of those challenges below, and discussed how vILT can solve the problem. Our hope is, that if you, and your executive, are dealing with the same or similar challenges this post may shed some insight on how to frame your sales pitch. Challenge: Budget Cuts Despite all the research and documentation telling us not to; in a down economy or a struggling market, training and development is, unfortunately, one of the first things to be trimmed back. Companies may eliminate some programs all together to save money, or may implement a company-wide travel ban which restricts employees and trainers from traveling to conduct or attend company training. A virtual instructor-led training program can provide an opportunity for companies to reduce expenses while maintaining or even exceeding their learning and development goals. When budgeting hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses in order for employees and trainers to attend or deliver training sessions is not practical, making a modest investment in vILT to connect training facilitators and learners virtually is a solution to consider. When proposing that vILT will solve a budget challenge, make sure you go into that conversation with some solid numbers. Any executive is going to want to know how much savings is estimated and how you arrived at your number. Challenge: Bridging Geographic Gaps Between Departments and Regions As covered in Part 1 of this post, business is done on a global scale today. More and more companies are turning to vILT programs to effectively manage globally disbursed employees, and develop a consistent culture and message across departments and divisions in different geographic locations. Virtual training sessions allow participants and facilitators to connect from anywhere there’s an Internet connection – allowing for more opportunities for collaboration and exposure to expertise and insight from colleagues across the globe. When addressing how vILT will bridge different segments of employees and help break down silos, it is important to help executives envision the potential impact. Compare the exposure people in the organization have with today’s learning and development strategy in comparison to what they will have with a robust vILT program. Challenge: Reaching Segments of the Population at a Deeper Level This challenge is related to the last one. In geographically dispersed organizations in which there are smaller pockets of employees in more remote locations, it is often times challenging to get them the same learning opportunities as your larger populations. Whether the issue be distance, facilities, or adequate employee coverage while folks are in training, virtual instructor-led training can eliminate or at least reduce some of these obstacles – thus allowing the expansion of your learning offering to these hard to reach segments. When proposing how vILT can effectively reach these segments of the population we suggest supporting this value with data. The comparison of today’s approach to vILT enabled training should demonstrate the power of the solution to combat this challenge. Challenge: The Need for Fast Delivery of More Information Virtual training programs offer an air of convenience for learners and facilitators. A virtual learning environment can quickly and visually connect employees from all over the globe, and do it in a personal way. The speed of delivery provides the opportunity to be more productive by utilizing less time. Travel time eats into productivity. With virtual sessions, learners can reserve a couple of hours during the day to complete the necessary training instead of spending days on the road or a full day in a training session. Time that isn’t spent traveling can be spent working.   Again, data is on your side when proposing how vILT provides the opportunity to deliver more in less time. Compare time investments of both the learner and the training team with today’s delivery approach in comparison to programs delivered virtually. Another angle on the time savings benefit is to compare how long it takes to deploy a training initiative today, start to finish, vs. a comparable vILT initiative. Many executives live and breathe speed to market. You’ll be speaking their language with this one. These are just a sampling of the variety of situations where a vILT training program can solve a business challenge. What are some ways that you’ve gotten executive buy-in for your VILT program? Are there other challenges your vILT program has addressed? We’d love your feedback.

Making the Pitch: Selling Your Executives on Virtual Learning (Part 1)

April 19, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Companies today often have thousands of employees spread across multiple office locations and facilities. Business today is global. In order to operate competitively and develop and retain top talent, more and more organizations are turning to virtual instructor-led training (vILT) programs to support their skills development needs and competency attainment goals. Learning and Development Professionals probably understand the benefits of vILT, but how do you gain executive level support to sponsor your vILT programs?  The answer to this question requires us to take off our learning and development hats for a moment and put on our sales hat. What is your sales process for gaining executive level support? Let’s look at a common five step sales model, and think about how it applies to our situation: Planning the Call. Spend time planning and preparing for those first conversations with the executive. Decide early on your approach, expected responses, and potential questions and challenges the executive may raise. Identifying Needs. Understand the problems your executive is trying to resolve, the goals they are working toward, or the projects they have on the horizon. Identifying the needs will help you understand (and later on the executive) how a vILT program can meet those needs. If you don’t understand your executive’s needs, how can you propose a solution? Presenting your Solution. Once you understand how you could help your executive, you are in a position to present your solution. Here is where you will want to demonstrate how vILT will solve their problem. (Part II of this post). Make sure you keep the conversation on track by focusing on what is important to the executive and how your vILT solutions resolves the needs discussed. Relevancy is key to success here. Be concise and stick with what matters most to your executive. Manage Feedback. Presenting the solution will start the process of receiving feedback from the executive. Feedback may come from either direction, positive or negative. If the feedback is positive: “This is great, what are the next steps?” move on to Step 5. If there are some objections or concerns: “I am not sure this type of training will truly be effective,” there is still some work to be done. If the feedback you receive is negative, start by digging in to the executive’s concerns to learn more about the need with questions. This may mean a return to Step 2. Gaining Commitment. The final part of the process is gaining commitment. We have to ask for it to get it. A simple step that is some times overlooked. Our hope is that you will find this five step sales model to be a great starting point when planning your conversations to win over executives on your vILT solutions. This process will take some time and effort on your part, but by addressing the specific needs and concerns your executives are facing within the business, vILT can be showcased as a very appealing option. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where we will explore several business needs that we commonly see our clients solve with their vILT programs.  

Conference Calls … They’re so 1995

June 24, 2014 10:23 by Rebecca Doepke
It’s Monday morning, time to lead your team’s weekly sales call. The agenda for the call is to give an update on sales, discuss what’s in the pipeline, and have the team share success stories. Everyone dials in and you’re ready to go. Sounds like a straight forward and simple group conversation, right?  Unfortunately, here is how this conference call typically goes down.Before you kick off the call and get to your agenda, you first need to find out who’s on the call. In other words, take attendance. This doesn’t exactly get the call started with collaborative enthusiasm and energy, not to mention burns another 5 minutes of everyone’s time. After you take attendance, hopefully everyone is still paying attention as you move on to share last week’s sales and year-to-date numbers. You’re not sure because no one has done much talking but you.Next, you open it up for success stories, and the real fun of managing communication on the call is about to begin. After a moment of silence, three people start talking at the same time. Then they all stop talking before saying simultaneously, “Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.” Followed by, “No, you go ahead.” More silence takes place. Then the three people start talking at the same time … again. Not only do you have to call out who should talk first, you also have to keep track of who has already shared their story and who still needs to contribute.Finally, you have to deal with those that didn’t speak up amidst this chaos. Time to call on them one by one.By the time the call is over, an hour later, there is a sigh of relief. Everyone is glad the time waster is over so they can get some work done.So, what other options do we have? Why not a virtual meeting?Let’s try it again and see what that looks like.It’s Monday morning, time to lead your team’s weekly sales meeting. Everyone logs into your virtual meeting platform and connects to the meeting audio as directed. The agenda for the call is to give an update on sales, discuss what’s in the pipeline, and share success stories. No need to take attendance, everyone present is listed right there on your screen. You also know who has connected to the audio. You’re ready to get right down to business. Now you can kick off the virtual meeting with enthusiasm and energy!You open it up for success stories and managing communication is easy. You can pose a question asking who would like to share their success story by raising their hand. You can simply call on the folks that raised their hand and avoid several people talking at the same time. If you want to stop putting people on the spot and make sure that everyone is prepared to share, give this idea a try. In your meeting invitation, ask everyone to come prepared with a success story to share summarized in the form of a written headline. Instead of having everyone share their stories one at a time, you would prepare a whiteboard exercise asking everyone to post their headline on a whiteboard. Once all headlines are posted, the group could vote on which headline they would like to hear more about first.  Virtual meetings offer participants the opportunity to interact, engage, and collaborate in multiple ways versus only verbal conversation. Through the use of collaboration tools, everyone can interact with your content, visuals, slides, web links, and video. Turning on webcams might be an option so that participants can see each other as they share their success stories, something that is not possible on a conference call.There isn’t an option for smaller groups to work together on a conference call, but virtually you could use breakout rooms.  Here’s a thought:Best practices can be shared and extrapolated through the use of breakout rooms. Consider breaking the large group into smaller teams by placing them in breakout rooms to share on-the-job experiences. These smaller groups can use a whiteboard to take notes, which can later be shared with the larger group when everyone comes back together and downloaded as a takeaway from the session. Keep in mind, breakout rooms offer a comfort level to those who prefer smaller groups when asked to participate. Switching gears to the end of the meeting:On most conference calls, there’s usually some type of follow-up. Whether it is to share notes from the call, sending out a document or white paper that was promised, or an email reminder of action items assigned in the meeting. In a virtual meeting, notes can be taken in real time right in front of everyone, and everyone can leave with the notes through file sharing. How efficient is that?Whether it’s the weekly sales update, a discussion around best practices, or a project management meeting, conference calls can be challenging and oftentimes are not as productive and efficient as you would like them to be. So, why not consider going virtual?

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Online Meetings | Sales | Virtual Meetings

Mission Possible Program Featured in Member Loyalty Group Whitepaper

September 23, 2013 08:40 by Dana Peters
I have some exciting news to share about our Learning Expert, Rebecca Doepke. One of the client projects she has been involved in over the past few years was featured in a white paper published by the Member Loyalty Group. Working hand and hand with Educator’s Credit Union Rebecca designed, developed and delivered a training and on-the-job coaching program called Mission Possible. The objective of Mission Possible was to improve service scores and increase sales (share of wallet) for the credit union. As you will read, it has been quite successful. The following is the link to the white paper. There is a lot here. You are welcome to read this cover to cover but the good parts are on pages 5 through 10. There you will find a description of the credit union’s challenge, the solution that Rebecca helped implement (Mission Possible) and the results that were obtained. Whitepaper Link Congratulations, Rebecca!

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Customer Expereince | Customer Service | Rebecca Doepke | Sales

Nurturing New Client Relationships: Observations and Ideas

March 27, 2013 12:20 by Rebecca Doepke
A colleague of mine is a small business owner and she is amazing at developing deep, long lasting relationships with her clients. We were talking about her recent experience at a bank. Since I consult with several banks and credit unions on their sales and service programs, she thought I might be interested in her observations. I was and I thought you might be too. [More]

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Customer Expereince | Sales