Get the learners engaged before the training starts. A few tips.

I’ll bet this has happened to you before.  You’re doing a training program for a client and not everyone in the room is sending you those warm body language signals that say, “Oh am I thrilled to be here today!”  How do you handle it?

One evening I attended a kickoff cocktail party for a big sales training program in Perth, Australia.  Everyone was excited about getting started and the participants who would be in my workshop the next day were enjoying the food and refreshments. I was with a happy group and wanted to make the most of it by introducing myself and joining different small groups to say hello.

One exec took me aside and said, “See that guy over there?” He pointed to a competent looking older gentleman who appeared to be sharing a story with his colleagues.  “He may be trouble for you. He doesn’t like to go to training and he’s probably right. He’s the best salesman in the group, very experienced and a good coach to the others.  They look up to him, and they’ll go where he goes. Lose him and you’ll lose the group.”

I didn’t need to be told twice. I found him during the evening and took him aside, asking for a word.  “I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow,” I said.  “You see, I come from Dallas, Texas, and although I know selling, I know none of your culture, your experiences, your own stories, and it’s hard to do training without useful examples.  I wonder if you will help me.  Tomorrow, if I make a point about a good practice, I’d like to see if you can provide some examples from your own past experience, what has worked for you, or what hasn’t.  This will give us some great discussions.”

Well, he loved that idea and promised to help.  Sure enough, when I got to a place that needed some local color, I asked him, “Paul, what’s been your experience with this?”  And he told a great story that got us rolling.  And after that, it was hard to shut him up!  He supported everything, encouraged others to contribute and work hard.  It was like having a training assistant in the room.

This was easy to do, and makes sense once you think of it.  You often get warnings like this.  “Oh, the lenders won’t like this program.”  Is that so?  Then get them on the phone, ask them what areas they would like you to focus on.  Make sure they know you are providing the training to be of help to them and that you need them to help you. People love to be asked their opinions and told they are needed.

On training day, work the room and introduce yourself to everyone, shaking hands. In your program introduction mention the names of those who helped. “I’m sure glad I had help in putting this program together from Bill and Sandra.”

At mid-morning break, grab two or three learners and ask, “How is it going for you so far?  Did we get off to a good start? I’d be grateful if you could let me know the pulse of the room, or any ideas about important areas to cover.”  Also, thank any of the learners who volunteered to contribute to a discussion.  “Thanks for getting that discussion going Tom. Your idea was very interesting. I hadn’t thought of it before.”

Once you begin thinking of your learners as a group of customers whose feelings are important, you’ll remember to

Think Like Your Customer

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

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