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Seb Anthony

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Selling intangibles


Although all our clients love our product, "behavioural change - Creating champions" the outcomes are about creating self reliant people in their organisation, very intangible, so any one know how to successfully convince HR and CEOs that although behavioural training is different and you have to try it yourself to understand it, it has real power? Our clients have sent in testimonials but in front of the prospective buyer I am at a loss, it just seems so obvious that powerful staff increase retention and margin??? What else can we say, have it free?
Cliff Edwards

7 Responses

  1. Making the Links
    The challenge here is to make the links between achievements at the behavioural level and at business level.

    You may need to follow-up with participants and, for instance, uncover successes they’ve had afterwards that impacted on the business that resulted from the programme they attended.

    I’ve worked with clients before on examining the follow-up “chain” and generally, we’ve been able to translate intangible concepts into tangible and therefore measurable changes.

    You mention increased retention and margin, so now need to establish the tangible links back to your programme in these areas. If your testimonials are positive, then some more questioning may lead to an underlying analysis that will persuade your prospective buyers.

  2. Pre-measure for results
    You’re stuck in an evaluation hole. You think your product is good because people tell you it is – but that’s only ‘happy sheet’ validation. If you want to see £ signs from your product you have to start with baseline measures. See the Bitesize Business Partner series at



  3. Selling skills

    A strange thing to advocate here on TrainingZone, but have you thought about taking some sales skills training for yourself?

    As trainers it’s often easy to assume that we know how to sell, or we had some sales training years ago and that should last us. Trainers and consultants who are often running their own businesses, or at least responsible for promoting their services, need to be competent sales people as they often find themselves selling complex and intangible products. We’d certainly recommend that clients underwent training for skills that their employees were struggling with so how about taking on some new learning. There’s plenty out there, here’s a few you might consider:

  4. 12 boxes
    In addition to the good advice already given, let me suggest you do some thinking around “the 12 boxes” – visit – I have no connection with the author, but find the idea intriguing.

  5. Sadly pondering….!
    Sadly (?!) I’ve been pondering this question for a couple of days now, and offer the following thoughts:

    1 – What is it about self reliant staff that would be valued by the client? For some clients it might be that field staff don’t wait for decisions to be made by higher authority – they just get on with things, in which case their productivity must be higher. If that equates to increased shareholder value, then I can see how that client would be interested. But self reliant staff might also mean that less supervision is needed, releasing managers to either do more strategic value-adding stuff (like getting ready to survive the future!) or it releases managers to draw the dole – i.e. they aren’t needed any more. So, a cost benefit for the organisation, but one to be realised by the very people at risk – so politically that could be a non-starter! I can think of a number of managers who are scared at the prospect of managing powerful staff!!

    2 – What does self reliant staff mean for the staff? For some individuals it might mean feeling more valued as an employee, being treated more like an adult. This in turn could be a benefit in retention terms – i.e. staff turnover drops, thus saving money that way. But how can you be sure?

    I think what is emerging here is the problem of describing just what it is you are selling! A typewriter is easy – it types!! If you are not in need of a typewriter, then you won’t necessarily be open to being sold one! If you are confronted with something whose purpose and benefits are unclear, even though its features may be very clear, then making a ‘buy’ decision is really hard, no matter how good the sales patter I guess!

    And this brings me to another thought – you need to think less in terms of “I have a solution for your problems – it’s a self reliance course” and more in terms of “what is the issue that is causing you sleepless nights Mr Customer? What is the outcome you are looking for? Where is your evidence and data to support this and to highlight the root causes?” The next step then is a simple decision – the root cause(s) will be fixed by the self reliance course – here it is – or, No the root cause(s) won’t be fixed by the self reliance course so I won’t even sell you it! I have some more info on this in the web site in the Useful Stuff section!

    Saying ‘No!’ to a customer for good, clear, open and transparent reasosn can be quite powerful!

    I hope I’ve help move your thinking on!

  6. What do YOU want to achieve
    Yes, I think we are stuck in an evaluation hole. And a hole called “If only I could sell better.”

    When a line manager demands to know the benefits of a training course, it may already be too late. I have absolutely no idea what the benefits of a training course will be to that manager, the individuals or to their organisation.

    We know, in general terms what the benefits are likely to be. And we know specifically for a number of other organisations.

    Turn the question round: “What do YOU want to achieve?” Then, we can say whether we feel training might acieve that. But the benefits (objectives) remain the responsibility of the manager, not our responsibility to present or sell.

    If we insist on selling benefits, we will continue to bear the sole responsibility for training.

  7. What do the testimonials say
    You mention testimonials – but from whom? What you really need is testimaonials from the line manager that say “as a result of this training we improved x by y and acheived z” Then turn the whole story into a case study. That will get you away from trying to explain the method and start talking about a result that makes sense to the buyer.


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