How practical learning tactics can help marketing and sales agencies achieve their training goals and protect their margins

The biggest single crunch point for most marketing and sales agency project handovers is when the implementation starts through training for the client’s employees. In a short amount of time, usually a single day, the solution needs to be learned, understood and be ready to use. Most people in the learning and development field these days concede that doing a one-day workshop isn’t a realistic way to achieve training goals.

It’s little wonder then, that most agencies see a hit on the profit margin soon after training is finished when clients ask for more training, a heavier hand in the implementation or a rework of the solution so that they can understand it better. To mitigate for that risk, smart marketing and sales agencies are planning how to roll out training that sticks and gets the solution used as intended.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your solutions critical to client success?
  • Do people in the client side need training to implement your solutions?
  • Should change implementations be converted into long term behaviours?
  • Once handed over, will the client oversee the continuation of the change?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then there is a good chance that your one-day or short training workshops should be converted into actionable learning programs.

How can you transfer training into long term behaviours?

Less is more. When thinking about converting a marketing or sales solution into training it’s best to first think about who will use what and when, then second, to divide up the participants into groups that will use the solution differently from each other in their work. Then finally, decide what can be cut from training for each group and still achieve the desired result. Think about siloing the training content into different uses, something like this:

  • Aware: Needs to know what is going on and why it’s important
  • Understand: Needs to be able to comment on and give feedback about workplace activities
  • Do: Needs to actively use the skills and knowledge in daily work

Here is an example of how that happens in the real world. Let’s say you are presenting a solution about how to improve sales activity in a pharmaceutical company and one of your ideas is to encourage the use of SWOT to do a macro analysis of sales territories.

Senior directors and sales reps will probably need to be aware that SWOT is a tool managers will use to make decisions.

Second line sales managers would need to understand how SWOT should be done to assess performance and give feedback.

First line sales managers would need to be able to do a SWOT regularly.

How you present the learning for each group is different and needs to be adjusted to make sure that it hits the spot so that it gets used in the right way.

Here’s the nerdy bit

There has been a lot of research done over the years into two important learning concepts:

  1. How do people learn best to improve recall of information and to elevate skills?
  2. Why don’t people use training in the workplace once training ends?

The answer to those questions and the umbrella term used for getting people to use training in the workplace is Learning Transfer. In short, it’s a set of tactics that enable people to:

  • Remember more of what they learn and contextualise it so that it can be used effectively
  • Up their situational skills so they can be activated and used in the moment of need
  • Create and maintain habits that enable generalised skills to be used daily
  • Get over mindset issues that prevent implementation of new ideas in the workplace

With all training, the simple tactics to enable people to use training – espoused over years of research and trial and error in the training industry – are the best and most effective when it comes to creating training that transfers into workplace actions.

How can you ensure that the right tactics are employed for each training intervention?

It isn’t enough to just know that you need to create training groups and silo information, you also need to include the nerdy stuff to ensure learning gets used. Think about the case of the SWOT training for sales managers. This is a situational skill that needs practice and feedback to get managers up to speed. If practice activities and feedback, including support for second line sales managers to give feedback aren’t present in the training then it is unlikely to be successful. So, an analysis of how to support practice and the inclusion of support tools to facilitate practice would be essential in the training in this case.

What to do first

The SWOT analysis example is just one of many possible tactics that a learning designer could consider when looking at the training information being presented to design learning content, training activities and support mechanisms to get learning used in the workplace.

Marketing and sales agencies don’t specialise in learning design, so the ideal solution to creating actionable learning would be to partner with a learning design agency. But before doing that, start by thinking differently about what training is and how it should be used.

In the learning profession we have a saying – telling ain’t training. In other words, if you just tell people what they should do, no matter how smart, entertaining, or deep that explanation is they would still struggle to implement what you tell them for all the reasons mentioned above.

If you are interested in knowing where you are in terms of the effectiveness of your client-facing training, then take this quick survey: Learning workshop scorecard for marketing and sales agencies.

Have a look at this first to get a handle on where you are, then consider partnering with a learning design agency to really optimise your training interventions, protect your margins and boost client confidence in your implementation efforts.

Good luck.

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