Learning from Mistakes

When I started this blog I promised you I would address three audiences:  salespeople, sales managers and trainers. I think I’ve done a good job for salespeople, offering models, tips and other best practices, and in my newsletter I usually offer sales management ideas and coaching tips.  But as I look over my previous posts, I see that I’ve pretty much overlooked the sales trainers, so today and this coming “Fable Friday” I want to speak only to you, the people responsible for training the other two groups.

First let me say that there must be a certain narcissism involved in even starting a blog.  What makes me think I know so much more about something than everyone else? Well, in my case it isn’t because I’m smarter. If I’m honest I’d have to say it’s because I’ve learned what I know from the mistakes I’ve made over my career.

I often put that to good use. Two years ago I got a call from a regional bank in upstate New York.  They wanted to hear my ideas on an outbound call program for their call center to local small businesses.  They had a small group of stakeholders in the room, and after I outlined an approach that I thought would be helpful, one of them said, “That sounds pretty simple.  We should be able to do this ourselves.”  Consultants often hear this from prospects after we share our best design ideas, unfortunately.  (My wallet hates it when that happens.)

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said what was in my heart:  “I imagine you can do it yourselves, and if you do, I hope it will be successful.  Now here is what you’ll get if you engage me to do it.  You see, no matter how well you implement, you are going to make a few wrong turns and a few mistakes.  I hope they’re not major mistakes, but you will make them.  It’s important that you know that any mistake you might make is one that I probably made 20 years ago, and that I am not going to make again, especially not on your project, and that is one of the benefits of hiring me to help you.”

One way you can avoid making simple mistakes if you are a trainer, is to read the right books.  I do a ton of train-the-trainer work, and if I can persuade the client to do so, I always ask for an extra day with the putative trainers in order to help them understand the fundamentals of adult learning principles and facilitation techniques.  Then on the remaining days we practice delivering the content.  Then I ship them the “textbook” for the training, which is Peter Renner’s marvelous “The Art of Teaching Adults.”  If you don’t have this book now and you are a trainer, order it at once.  It’s inexpensive, so your company will be happy to buy it for you, and it’s pithy and practical, an easy read.  Double check all your designs and course maps against Renner’s ideas and you won’t go far wrong.

This “Fable Friday” I’m going to tell you the story of the BIGGEST MISTAKE I ever made in a training room.   Easy for me to laugh about it now, but at the time I was a wreck!  Hope you enjoy it.

Remember that the learners in your workshop are your customers, so be sure to

Think Like Your Customer!

Did you sign up yet for next week’s newsletter?  Go to my website and click the “N” on the top right.  Thanks.  Gregory


About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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