A tip for trainers: How do you feel about selling drugs?

“Ask your doctor if Celebrex is right for you.”

Let’s have a discussion on the common practice of Big Pharma and their DTC (direct to consumer) advertising.  What’s happening is that the drug companies show persuasive ads on TV to convince us we have some ailment, that their pill is the best cure, and finally that we must go to our doctor and insist on a prescription for that drug. How do you feel about that?

I don’t need to point out that this approach has worked wonders for drug sales. Doctors write the prescriptions in 57% of the instances when they have been asked to do so, so the drug companies now spend twice as much on advertising as they do on research and development.

On the other hand, one might argue that these ads alert viewers to recognize a recurring symptom as being a possible malady, and encourage them to have a dialog with their doctor. How do you feel about that?

I chose this polarizing issue and asked your opinions about both sides of it, because we’ll talk today about the important and infrequently used skill of managing a discussion.

Facilitators often think they are leading a discussion on a topic when in reality they are allowing participants to cite objections to the course content, and then swatting down the objections and moving on.  The real purpose of leading a discussion is to help the participants learn from each other, sharing ideas and providing their own objections to one another’s contributions, with the facilitator remaining neutral.

From time to time I put on a “Facilitator Workshop” in which I help trainers to become better facilitators. One of the first and most important skills I teach is to lead a discussion professionally.  We start by choosing a number of topics for discussion.  The DTC discussion above would be a good one.  People will have opinions about the subject, but it is not as deeply personal as religion or politics.  (Don’t use either of those!)

As practice, we have one trainer lead a discussion on a selected topic.  The other participants contribute their ideas, opinions and purported facts on the subject.  The trainer is then evaluated on his or her ability in a number of key areas:

  • Did you get full involvement?  Everyone contributed?
  • How well did you control the “power contributor” who hogs the conversation?
  • Did you ask useful questions to stimulate thought?
  • Did you summarize the participants’ contributions? Or did you “translate” them back to how you felt about the topic?
  • Were you neutral or were you subtly trying to persuade others to your own position?
  • Who did most of the talking, you or them?
  • At the end, did you fairly summarize the contributions of all participants to help them draw their own conclusions and ensure that there was value to talking through the issue?

If you’re a trainer, make a greater effort to incorporate frequent discussions to assist your learners in self-discovery, and audit yourself to ensure you are managing the discussions professionally.  Remember that even the most knowledgeable trainer doesn’t have all the answers. I know I sure don’t.

A well-managed discussion is a useful method for letting the learning bubble up from the learners.  It’s also a good way to…

Think Like Your Customer

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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