Do as Marketing Does – Part 6 Objections

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Anticipate and handle the objections

Marketers and sales leaders spend a lot of time anticipating the barriers to adoption for their brands, products, solutions.   In my 15 years of sales work, I  spent a huge amount of work digging for potential objections to the productions and services I was selling.  In many cases, it’s not the features and functionalities of a product or service that makes or breaks a buying decision.  Objections may be emotionally based.  We need to anticipate that there will be resistance to change.

Twelve years ago in my first meeting with an IT colleague who was a key stakeholder to L&D’s success I was promoting the “new”  concept of workflow, just-in-time learning.  This dialogue was a part of that meeting:

HIM: “To be honest with you, Dave. The only training I go to is the training I can’t get out of.”

ME: “So, I assume you are coding in a different language than what you were taught in college.  Where did you learn the language you use today?”

HIM: (looking at me a bit puzzled) “On the job.”

ME: “In other words, learning in the workplace as you needed it.”

Because I anticipated his objection (training is boring and irrelevant) I was able to address it and I eventually won him over.

Trust

Now, it’s seldom that a stakeholder will be so upfront and as clear about their objections to your project or idea as my colleague was.  It usually requires an amount of trust before they are willing to share with you at a level where objections can be uncovered.  As I mentioned above, objections are often emotionally based.  In many cases, emotions that they may not want to surface in the workplace.  Perhaps they wanted your job (whether they applied for it or not) and are jealous you got it.  This has happened to me twice.  Once I was blindsided and my proposal went down in flames.  The second time, I overcame this objection by building trust with her by involving her in the project planning.

As I mentioned above, objections are often emotionally based.  In many cases, emotions that they may not want to surface in the workplace.  Perhaps they wanted your job (whether they applied for it or not) and are jealous you got it.  This has happened to me twice.  The first time, I was blindsided and my proposal went down in flames.  The second time, I overcame this objection by building trust with her by involving her in the project planning.

Maybe they are afraid their objection is petty (I just don’t want to deal with one more change.), will place them in a position outside the majority (I know this is exciting, but should we really be spending our limited resources in this way?) or make them look stupid (I barely understand what you are talking about so how can I support it.). Ironically, they might be holding back their objection for fear that they might hurt or offend you (yeah, because they actually like you).

In other cases, it may be a legit business concern (cost, it doesn’t address their issues, concerns about the reaction of their employees, will it be effective in meeting their operational goals, etc.).In either case, they need to trust that you will take their objection seriously before they will share it, even indirectly, with you.

Time

It takes time to uncover objections. Building trust takes time.  Time for conversations with them.  Time for them to process the proposal. Time for you to listen to the grapevine.  They might have shared their objection with their boss or a colleague – sometimes actually wanting it to get back to you.  If you have a strong Needs Assessment practice, you may already be doing some of the necessary work to uncover all aspects of your stakeholder’s needs.  If you aren’t hearing objections, then look at revising your questions.  Make sure you are asking probing questions about their goals.  Get to know their motivations.  Ask questions like:  Where do you think this proposal will run into resistance?  Do you think I have all my bases covered?  What else do you need to know/have included for you to be supportive of this project?

Uncovered Objections are IEDs

Why spend all that time looking for objections?  If you fail to uncover stakeholder objections they can end up acting like an IED (Individual Explosive Devise) along your project path.  They can do massive damage to your proposal if not found and handled.  They could be the deciding vote in a decision.  If they voice their objection in a meeting, they could shut down further discussion until you present on the objection at next month’s meeting.  They will look for “legitimate” issues with your proposal that they will then try to influence others with those concerns (rather than expose their emotionally-based objection).

Ultimately, anticipating and handling objections is a matter of really getting to know your stakeholders – those people who will have influence – formal or informal – on the success of your proposal or project.

What do you think?

  • Have you ever been blindsided by an unanticipated objection?  What could you have done to overcome it had you known about it?
  • What are good questions you use to uncover objections?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Do as Marketing Does – Part 5 Action

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Get them trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly

In marketing, one of the most important practices is the implementation of a carefully-crafted Call to Action. To understand, go to an effective (and gorgeous! Get the aesthetics right!) website like Nike, and note the buttons inviting you to do something right now.

In marketing, you never leave the customer with a question about what they are to do – “Be one of the next 25 callers and we’ll…”, “register to our website to a free download of the ebook”.  The best Calls to Action have an intimate or emotional.  Registering for a website, we have to agree to give our personal information to that organization.  Being “one of the next 25 callers” makes me a winner and special.  Everything in marketing builds to the call to action.

Building in Calls to Action in all our experiences and communication would assist us in two critical areas – knowledge retention and expansion and promotion of a learning culture and a curious mindset.

How about these ideas:

  • The first 25 participants from this course to register to Slack and answer the three questions in the Welcome room, will receive …….
  • if you enjoyed this course/activity/simulation, then you’ll want to register for this course/activity/simulation.
  • You’ve passed the final evaluation, click here to register your score and activate your badge on the company intranet to let everyone know about it.
  • Text LEARN to 222-222-2222 to receive a weekly reminder about…….

In the same vein, L&D professionals are already incorporating serious games and gamification of curricula to provide more realistic practice of desired behaviors.

Learning booster activities intended to help offset the forgetting curve effects on performance and knowledge can be used to assure more practice of the desired behaviors.

Build a culture of follow-up.  Whether through learning booster activities, manager/employee review, targeted special projects, or traditional Kirkpatrick level 3 and 4 evaluations, Build an expectation that employees will be expected to be applying the new knowledge and skills learned in training to their work.

Too often, one a learning experience has been completed, we assume that our learners will have learned what we were planning they would and applying it accurately in their daily work.  Yet data shows that this is not the case.  We need to look at new ways to drive application of learning.

Next: Do as Marketing Does – Part 6  Objections

What do you think?

  • What “Calls to Action” do you think could work with your learners?
  • Are you currently, or exploring, implementing follow-up activities to assure application of concepts?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Do As Marketing Does – Part 4 Cognitive Load

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Manage cognitive load

Marketers know that the human brain can only absorb so much, and since so many of the scenarios marketers advantage themselves of can be called micro-encounters – 30 second commercials, quarter page ads, billboards – they know that they must keep it to one or two key messages.

Here Kasenberg applies a well-known concept to L&D professionals in a slightly different way.  He’s talking about the ability to deal with learning in an overcrowded worker’s mind and workload.  He mentions microlearning and Cathy Moore’s work in this area.

But I do think we have more work to do in understanding just how much our learners can digest at any given moment.  How much can they add to their day-to-day work before losing their attention?  Does embedded learning make it easier to absorb the learning?

My personal experience with online learning and face-to-face training is that we overwhelm learners with too much information.  I’m concerned that the current trend toward learner curated content and self-managed learning will only add to the burden that our learners currently perceive learning to be.  Perhaps if they create it, it won’t feel like work?

Moving to a continuous learning approach will help.  In the traditional event-focused, “we’ve got one time to teach them everything” approach we had to pile as much as possible into every training course.  When we build multi-contact learning experiences, we can give learners a chance to breathe and digest the content.

We also need to build in feedback loops to understand when we are overloading and when we are getting it right.

What do you think?

  • Do you think there is an optimal number of objectives we can address in a lesson?  in a course?
  • What factors do you take into consideration when considering cognitive load?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Do As Marketing Does – Part 3 Channels

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Get your channels right

Marketers know that you match the message to the stage of the buying cycle, and then figure out what channels will get the message delivered most effectively. There are whole toolsets that help marketers figure out “channels” and “channel enablement”.

Kasenberg isn’t very articulate in making his point on this concept, but he’s right.  Marketing, particularly social media marketing, has the understanding to deep drill on customer data to understand which channels speak to each customer.  We all witness now with the ads that are delivered to us in every online environment we work in.

The know the right time to post the right content to the right sites to enhance their exposure to the right customers.  Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer help them schedule engagements with their customers.

L&D understands that there are multiple channels to deliver.  A recent #lrnchat Twitter Chat was dedicated to discussing how multiple channels will impact our work in 2017.  But many of us have fallen into an assumption that delivering to multiple channels means delivering the same content to each channel so that learners will have the same experience regardless of how they access it.

I believe this is missing the mark.  I blame part of it on responsive design efforts that assure content renders well on any device – desktop, tablet or phone.  When content needs to be rendered across all platforms, responsive design is awesome.  But not all content needs to be rendered across all platforms.

Devices aren’t the only channels available to us.  Email, enterprise social networks, communities of practice, newsletters, manager’s team messages, any form of communication in the organization could be a channel for learning.

We need to get to a point where we develop our learning experiences to be multi-modal delivering different bits of content, assessment, review, and reinforcement in different channels that we know will have the best possible impact.  Imagine if we created a microlearning module on team communication and used the company calendaring system to know when each individual was heading into a team meeting and sent the module to them 1/2 an hour before their meeting.

There are folks like Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping and Catherine Lombardozzi’s Learning Environment Design Framework that are leading the way, but overall we have much to learn and our social media marketing colleagues have solutions that we should be borrowing.

Next: Do as Marketing Does – Part 4  Manage Cognitive Load

What do you think?

  • Do you use multiple channels to drive learning?  Which ones?
  • What’s the coolest experience you’ve had using non-standard channels?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Do As Marketing Does – Part 2 Relevance

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they  fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Be relevant

“Our learning programs need to be shaped by this same thinking that is prevailing in marketing – we need to deliver, just in time, that, what the learner needs to accomplish tasks and change behaviors.”

Of the six things that Kasenberg proposes, this the one that I feel the L&D profession has a good handle on as a goal for transforming our work and deliverables.  Microlearning, self-directed learning, embedded learning are the hot topics at conferences and across the internet.  But our focus seems to be on the end products not the processes that will get us there.

What we can learn from marketing is how they build integrated campaigns.  Google Analytics provides instant information about what we as consumers care about and targeted micro ads are created delivered into nearly every web page we surf just as we are thinking about a topic.

But the real secret is in between the data collection and the delivery of the ad.  Individualized customer profiles, big data,  and predictive analytic algorithms aid marketers who then create an array of actions across multiple channels in an effort to present you with the right message at the right time to impact your decision to buy their product or service.

Am I advocating for throwing out ADDIE, SAM, Agile or any of the other instructional design processes we currently utilize?  Not necessarily.  Though changing labels can be beneficial.  What needs to change is the nature and quality of the inputs to our processes.  For far too long we’ve been depending on limited amounts of information that has questionable quality.

  • We really don’t know our learners – not like a social marketer knows me.
  • We are just starting to understand how humans learn and how to apply that knowledge to what we design.
  • We have very little insight into how our learners are interacting with our learning experiences.
  • We have next to no factual knowledge of how/when/where our learners learn.
  • We seldom have measurable data regarding the performance changes we are trying to effect.
  • We seldom make data-based decisions regarding the experiences we design

It’s no wonder we have a difficult tying our results to business objectives.  We have no data to do so.  Even if we had the data, generally we don’t currently have the skill set to analyze it.

The success of microlearning, embedded learning experiences, and the other current hot topic solutions will likely be equivalent to most of our past efforts if we don’t radically change the inputs into our processes.

Relevance in today’s world is ephemeral.  There is an expectation that knowledge will be available when we need it.  We don’t have some remember something we learned 6 months ago nor do we value learning something today that we’ll use 6 months down the road.

Relevance in today’s world is personal.  Marketers try to know customers better than they know themselves.  They know our patterns of behavior, the history of 0ur actions, who we associate with, what we believe.  Social learning tools have some of this information.  There are initiatives in the works, like the xAPI data interoperability standard, which will make collecting it easier.

Relevance in today’s world is actionable.  Every marketing effort includes a “call to action.”  If a customer can’t take an action toward a buying decision in the moment, the likelihood they will return to take action is very low.

Next: Do As Marketing Does – Part 3 Channels

What do you think?

  • What “Calls to Action” do you think could work with learners?
  • Are you currently, or exploring, implementing follow-up activities to assure application of concepts?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Do as Marketing Does – Part 1 Motivation

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they  fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Address learner motivations to get engagement

Marketers, of course, spend much of their time working towards provoking the emotional response, knowing that about 75% of any “buying” decision (read “learning” decision and you’ll get the drift…) is dependent on emotional response.

I have spent much of my career in customer facing, sales positions.  In sales, you quickly learn that the customer makes buying decisions for a myriad of reasons.  They also make decisions to not buy ruthlessly – and often for non-rational reasons.  In reality, the quality of a product is usually well down the list of buying/non-buying decision factors.  Convenience, price, what my friends will think of me, will I look smart/dumb, will I be happier if I buy this are more powerful than quality.

Adult learners are motivated by intrinsic factors (increased job satisfaction, self-esteem, quality of life, and the opportunity to self-actualize) to a far greater extent than extrinsic factors (job promotion, compensation, threat of negative consequences, required events).

Do we consider talking about the consequences of not knowing what needs to be learned in safety or compliance courses?  Do we share real success stories as part of leadership training?  or do we jump right into learning objectives and how they are met?

Do we understand our learner’s worries, fears, ambitions, and desires?  Do we know why they have chosen the work they are doing?  What makes them want to get up in the morning, commute, and deal with the challenges their work presents them with?

Another factor in any buying decision is the reputation of the seller among the buyer and those she trusts.  What this means is what people think of Learning and Development matters in the effectiveness of learning.  Yes, this means L&D should drive a learning culture and building learning campaigns that promote continuous learning.  But is also means attending to some tougher questions:

  • Does senior management trust that the L&D leaders understand the strategic and operational needs of the organization?
  • Do learning interventions interrupt the workflow or enhance it?
  • Are managers bought into the learning strategy or do they portray L&D as a necessary evil?

Let’s face it.  Learning is hard work.  In the end,  training may be mandatory, but learning is a choice.  When we ask employees to learn something and to change their behavior because of it, we are asking a great deal from them.  So the motivation needs to be powerful.  Emotion and aspiration are the most powerful motivators.

Next: Do as Marketing Does – Part 2 Relevance

What do you think?

  • What do you do to help you learners to buy-in to learning?
  • Do you market learning to your organization?  How?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.