Selling Corporate Training: Why You Should See Learners As Customers

Why Seeing Learners As Customers Is The Secret For Successfully Selling Corporate Training 

Metaphors can be very powerful, and they are often useful (even necessary) in helping us understand and think through new issues. But when a metaphor takes us down the wrong track, we can sometimes be pretty far down that road before we realize the mistakes we’re making. Corporate trainers often refer to their audience as “learners”, and, as a single term, this isn’t a metaphor. They are, in fact, learning (we hope). The problem with this designation, however, is that it leads us into a broader school metaphor in which we see employees as students waiting to receive instruction from those who can give it to them. (As a former educator, I feel compelled to point out that this is not a terribly effective idea of school, either, but it’s all too common.) The courses are presented, and our main task is to get people in the room (physical or virtual); if they’re there, learning happens. Except, of course, it doesn’t – at least not necessarily. Engagement means more than offering donuts at the end of a class so a bunch of people show up. We need to see why learning matters to us, why it will make our lives better. We need to believe that the course will improve something I value. In short, we need to be sold. But what is the key to selling corporate training successfully?

Changing How We Think About Learners

I claim that a change in how we think of our learners will lead to a change in how we present our learning and development offerings. Specifically, I believe we should treat our audience as customers rather than learners. If we truly believe we are dealing with consumers, we will be confronted with (at least) 3 differences in how we view our audience:

  • Learners are students who have to sit in class; customers are free agents who have choices about where to spend their time and money.
  • Learners are subordinate to those with knowledge; customers are equal to those with a product.
  • Learners may or may not be interested/engaged; customers make an investment and are interested in maximizing that investment.

Simply put, education is not compulsory. We can require attendance, and we can require completion, but we must inspire learning. To produce training that changes behavior, we need to treat our learners as potential customers who have to be sold on the value of a product.

Inspiring Learning Vs. Requiring Training

A view of learners as customers will change both the way we produce (and market) training and the way our learners receive it. First, we will produce training that does more than simply check a box or fulfill a compliance requirement. We will build training that respects our learners’ time, piques their interest, and inspires them to action. And our learners will strive to improve their job performance, know where to find new information, and create momentum for training throughout the organization.

It’s not just that I think we should SEE our learners as customers – we want them to BE customers. We want them to know enough about the training to understand its value. To paraphrase the old Cheap Trick song, we want them to want the training.

It will make them not just engaged but excited. They will participate more fully, complete it more enthusiastically, and apply it more thoroughly. Let’s get to know our learners so we understand their values, and build training that connects the company’s needs with our employees’ values. Then we will be able to succeed in selling corporate training to them, and they’ll want to buy it.

Learn more about how to engage employees and why it matters in AllenComm’s Engaged Employees Provide the Best Customer Experience eBook.

eBook Release: AllenComm
AllenComm
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