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Stephen Walker

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Polish up your proposition for 2012


Stephen Walker reviews three key areas in which training businesses can develop the USP that makes them stand out from the crowd.

They are the business relationship between provider and client, the delivery medium and the nature of the content. The world of L&D is changing and training companies will need to keep up while continuing to differentiate themselves from their competitors. What you are doing to enhance your USP? 

Every training business seeks to have a unique selling proposition to make them better suited to a healthy proportion of potential clients. Putting the content of the training to one side, it seems there are three distinguishing propositions:
  • The relationship between the training provider and the client
  • The delivery medium for the training
  • The nature of the content


Training providers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Much training is outsourced today but some large PLCs, the banks and Tesco for example, have their own internal training provision, their universities. The outsourced training departments may be contracted to provide 'all' the training needs. In which case, only the providers of exotic, narrow niche skills have any chance of winning work from the PLCs.
Alternatively training providers can offer a payment by results (PBR) scheme. If the training produces better skills and leads to higher performance, a measure of that performance can be used to compensate the trainer.
We shouldn't ignore the effect of celebrity status and must include the favoured gurus who win work on the basis of their fame. Perhaps we should all consider narrowing our niche until we become the guru in that market.
"Face-to-face training is becoming a luxury brand, expensive and only for those with ample funds."
A lot of barter is happening between small business, sole traders and independents. There are web-based products set up to encourage barter between physically remote and even non-UK businesses. For some the use of barter is a highly effective sales tool.


There is still a need for explaining face to face for some subjects. Although, in my opinion, an in-depth knowledge, and more importantly an understanding, of a subject is vital. Face-to-face training is becoming a luxury brand, expensive and only for those with ample funds.
Correspondence courses and their online equivalent are very popular. Thousands of people earn qualifications this way every year. Whether or not the qualification allows the person to do something useful is another matter!
Webinars are widely used to deliver training in short bursts about particular subjects. These can be highly effective through the use of video to bring the task to life.
The entire web-enabled world of training includes audio, video, websites and whiteboard interactivity that is really a subset of face-to-face learning. It is difficult for the trainer to gauge the attention level of the trainee though.
Finally there are virtual training worlds emerging that allow you to do just about everything you could do physically. You still have the problem of the trainee's wandering attention. The use of webcams and headsets does at least allow the trainer to ask the individual why his picture shows closed eyes!


Not so many hundreds of years ago it was plausible to have read all the books that had been printed.
To attempt to read all published, including internet, information today is simply impossible. The knowledge content of the world is growing faster than one person can assimilate it.
Education was traditionally based on teaching the background to subjects. The assumption being that they would carry on the quest for knowledge based on their broad understanding. More recently this has changed.
Education is now aiming to deliver useable knowledge and skills. The underlying facts, theories and background are no longer deemed relevant. The newly educated will want to use their skills, not further develop the knowledge. Training, most L&D activity, is in this category: train in skills to be able to do the task more effectively.
But I think there is a third category. While the last half century has seen the rise of the jingles 'a man who can', 'get a man in' and 'find me an expert', the Facebook generation has finally got there. Today it is more important to be educated how to find out facts, how to do a task and how to find expert assistance. If you have a problem you ask on Facebook or Twitter or some such. For those of you who remember the Rubik's cube look at this short video
You don't need to learn this task now; you just need someone with the knowledge, someone with the machine and you need the skill to persuade them to help you.


The contractual relationship, delivery method and nature of the content are all changing. The difficult economic circumstances encourage innovation as the nimble seek a marketing advantage to build market share. The USP of training providers is the key to growing market share for your business.
What are you doing to develop your USPs?
Stephen is a co-founder of Motivation Matters, set up in 2004 to develop the management of motivation to inspire greater performance. He has worked for notable organizations such as Corning, De La Rue and Buhler and has been hired to help Philips, Lloyds TSB and a raft of others. A published author of articles and Conference speaker, Stephen delivers workshops on “making people more effective” across the country. It is all about making people WANT to work he says. You can follow Stephen on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Blog


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