When a client says, “My team needs training,” they might not realize it yet, but they have a bigger goal in mind. That goal is the real reason the project has to happen.
Unfortunately, it’s common to develop training with the wrong type of goal. Below are some typical goals. They all have a big blind spot. What are they missing?
- Salespeople will know all the product features.
- Managers will handle difficult conversations better.
- Everyone will use the new software.
- People will be aware of the dangers of the internet.
- Leaders will help people adjust to big changes.
If you had $40,000 and someone asked you to spend that money on any of the above goals, what would you say?
Here’s what I’d say: “What will I get in return?”
A business goal is the “What’s in it for me?” for the organization. It justifies the existence of the project in business terms. None of the goals above clearly shows what’s in it for the organization.
Let’s see how it works with the first goal, “Salespeople will know all the product features.”
Sell it to Scrooge
Imagine that I’m a C-level type in a widget company and I’m sitting behind a tidy pile of $40,000.
A training person, let’s call him Bob, comes to me and says, “Give me that $40k, and in return, salespeople will know all the product features.”
“What, can’t they read the product brochure?” I say, wrapping my arms around the money.
“Well, yes, but they’re not selling our widgets as well as they could,” Bob says. “Our mystery shoppers say that the salespeople just sell the micro widget. They ignore the mega and mongo widgets even when they’re the best widgets for the customer. We have a reputation as cheap widget-pushers.”
“So tell them to sell more mega and mongo widgets,” I say.
“But we don’t want them to sell the mega or mongo if it’s the wrong widget for the customer,” Bob says. “That goes against our mission and will hurt our brand.”
“You want this money,” I say, “so you can help salespeople identify the best widget for the customer?”
“Yes, that’s it,” Bob says. “I guess just knowing the features isn’t enough. They have to develop the skills to identify the customer’s needs and then match the features to those needs.”
“And then what will happen?” I say. “How will I get my $40k back?”
“Sales of mega and mongo widgets will go up,” Bob says. “Since we make more profit from those than from the micro widgets, we’ll make more money.”
“And…?” I say in my most annoying tone, still gripping the money.
“And our reputation will improve, helping our brand,” Bob says. “Overall sales could go up and we could gain market share, because we’ll become the widget company that really listens. Everyone else just pushes widgets.”
“All right,” I say, reluctantly peeling $20k off the pile. “Here’s some money. Let’s see if you can show a 5% increase in mega and mongo widget sales by fourth quarter. If so, we’ll use the rest of the money to expand what you’re doing and see if we can gain market share.”
What changed during the conversation?
Bob’s goal started as this:
- Salespeople will know all the product features
It ended as this:
- Mega and mongo widget sales will increase 5% by Q4 as salespeople identify the best widget for each customer
Bob now has a way to measure the success of his project, at least in the short term, and it’s a measure that benefits the business as a whole. His new goal justifies the expense of the project.
Bob’s new goal also shows everyone involved in the project that he’s serious and is going to measure results. It shows that “training people” like Bob play vital roles in the success of the organization.
Imagine the training that results
A good business goal helps you sell your project to Scrooges like me, but it also has a profound effect on the type of training you develop.
Bob’s original goal was “Salespeople will know all the product features.” What would have happened if I were out of the office and someone gave Bob all the money without challenging his goal? What kind of training would he create?
Bob’s revised goal aims to increase sales of specific products by having salespeople identify the best widget for each customer. How did the new goal change Bob’s approach to his design?
I’ve continued the story on a separate page to keep this post short.
If this seems like something out of a book, that’s because it is. I’m writing a book on action mapping, and it should be available in the next couple of months. I’ll be sure to announce it in the blog.
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