Training Industry

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  • 9 Ways to Get Business Leaders to Buy-in to Your Learning Efforts

“The Ronco Veg-o-Matic is the one kitchen appliance you'll wonder how you ever did without! It slices, it dices, and so much more!” 

How many of you remember those infomercials for Ron Popiel’s kitchen gadgets? Now, how many would admit falling victim to the affable but compelling infomercial? We all have. It is something ingrained in popular culture and while we tend to reel when it appears on TV, somehow we are also drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  

Infomercials are an effective marketing vehicle that gets us when we are most vulnerable, either tired, bored, or both. It hammers at our psyche appealing to our basic human instincts of curiosity, greed and persistence. Because the infomercial mentality is well rooted in our sound-bite society, it has subtly crept into how we try to convince others to buy into our ideas. But we can often misapply these infomercial techniques, especially when we don’t stop talking or what you recognize as the, “but wait, there’s more” part of the infomercial. 

While we reel against infomercials, the techniques that they apply are easily transferable to pitching your learning proposal, or any proposal for that matter. Infomercials wouldn’t still be airing if they didn’t work—just look at how home shopping skyrocketed QVC into a multibillion-dollar business. In an age of hot trends and shotgun marketing tactics, there are a few things learning professionals can learn about advertising from this old-school practice. 

1. Be innovative and show it.

One of the keys to building a successful product or business (in this case an internal one) is knowing what makes you unique and different. For training, it means breaking away from how internal customers perceive training. Get away from being the default “training department” and look for the qualities where you can show you’re an innovative business unit willing to take initiative. Do exactly like the infomercial does and show them that they can’t get what you have to offer anywhere else. 

2. Back up your claims with testimonials, facts and figures.

You can tout your benefits until the cows come home, but firsthand reviews and supporting proof goes a long way. People love sharing their opinions, and potential buyers (your internal clients) find reassurance hearing positive feedback from others like them. Facts and figures resulting from your training effort (what you recognize as Level 3 and 4) help support your claims and prove its effectiveness. 

3. Talk about solutions and benefits, not features.

No one is focusing on whether your training is blended or that people enjoy the donuts. Your internal customers want to know how you’re going to help solve their problems. When you rely on features, you’re not speaking your customers’ language, and they will not take you seriously, or worse, avoid doing anything with you. Focus on the unique benefits and solutions that address their problems and leads to results. 

4. Add value by showing multiple uses.

The only thing better than having a really useful product or service is having one that’s useful in lots of ways. The best infomercials not only show the obvious benefits but also demonstrate other ways you can use the product. There is a primary reason why your training exists but there are also many secondary benefits too. Show the additional creative ways the business can benefit from working with you or how they can repurpose/repackage their training investment. 

5. Don’t just say it. Show it!

Infomercials are great at showing all the ways a product works. Training doesn’t.  Describing your training effort is always helpful, but people are visual. We love examples and seeing things in action. Explain why investing in your proposal is awesome, and then show why it’s awesome. Conducting a pilot test to mitigate risk or using control groups are examples of showing why your training works. 

6. Tell stories.

Storytelling is more engaging than selling, and it helps people remember you. People want to feel like they’re having a conversation with friends, not defending themselves against a pushy sales pitch. Talk to some of your internal customers, and find out exactly how your efforts helped them in the past. Craft a compelling, but truthful, story. Then, tap into your potential buyers’ business needs and performance pain points by telling these past success stories and showing how they could benefit too. 

7. Use scarcity or promotions to get people in the door.

As humans, we suffer from loss aversion, which means we’re much more sensitive to losses than to gains. Part of the reason infomercials are so successful is they use emotional hot buttons, like scarcity and hard-to-resist deals. Create a sense of urgency around your internal buyer’s needs. Plant a seed to create a subconscious drive to take action immediately. Tell them that the longer they put off the training the more delay they will see in achieving their performance expectations.  Don’t lie to your customers or make deceiving offers, but rather, offer them a small incentive for taking the leap and trialing the training effort. 

8. Offer guarantees and assurances.

People love feeling confident and reassured. Guarantees can be a powerful way to prove your confidence in your business and convince them to act. Hearing an infomercial phrase like, “Guaranteed or your money back” may not be something that you will use but saying something like “If you’re not fully satisfied, we want to hear about it” reduces the risk for your customers and makes them feel more comfortable trusting you. Just make sure you deliver on your promises. 

9. Give your customers quick buying options.

All of your customers have different decision modes. Some make decisions quickly, while others need time to scour through the details and ruminate before making choices. For those competitive and spontaneous decision styles, give them obvious calls to action and easy ways to take the next step. 

Although infomercials are primarily used for B2C products, you can apply the same principles to the internal clients that pay for your training efforts. There are definitely downfalls to infomercials. But the next time you see an enticing infomercial, study it closely. Look past the cheesiness and seek out the reason why it compels you to watch it and, possibly, act on it. You just may find some helpful tips that could transform your next training initiative and change how your internal clients view training overall. 

Ajay M. Pangarkar, CTDP, CPA, CMA, and Teresa Kirkwood, CTDP are founders of CentralKnowledge.com and LearningSourceonline.com. They are renowned employee performance management experts and three-time authors most recently publishing, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard.” 

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