When a training department or training vendor touts itself as a “learning and development partner” this partnership is usually limited to creating training content and programs that address specific learning objectives. That type of partnership is important, but what if the group that develops your training programs could do more? A true training partner will look at training as just one way to achieve your overall business goals and will keep those goals top-of-mind while designing a training program.
Most internal training departments or training vendors ask basic questions at the outset of the training project: What are your learning objectives? How many people need to be trained? What is the desired modality? These questions speak to the logistics and content, but not strategy.
There is a deeper level of questioning that only the smartest training partners can do effectively. Examples of these types of questions include:
Where does the product we’re training on fit within your overall company strategy?
What’s the product’s marketing strategy? (Marketplace positioning? Managed care strategy? Pharmacy strategy?
If training participants will be certified, what should they be certified on? Objection handling? Key messages? Skill in executing the selling model? Product knowledge?
How involved should managers be in the training process, and how will they drive pull-through and accountability down the road?
What challenges might the customer-facing team encounter in the field?
Is the training modality you requested really appropriate? (e.g., Would a coaching interaction tool, when reps are back in the field, be more effective than a live training workshop?)
Most importantly: What is the strategic goal of the training? In other words, in what way do you hope this training program will positively impact your business?
This deeper level of questioning informs the design of the overall training program and allows for the creation of meaningful application exercises. For customer-facing teams, training partners should create more than just “fun, interactive activities.” They should develop activities that simulate the environment team members will face and challenge them to analyze their materials and the direction they’ve been given to apply them to the real world. This analysis provides an understanding of not just what to say, but why they should say it. Training that uncovers the meaning behind the tactics makes for better, more informed customer-facing team members who are ultimately more engaged in their work and more able to adapt to this rapidly changing healthcare environment.
More importantly, a deep level of questioning that gets at the logic behind the strategy and tactics being trained can identify gaps in a company’s promotional strategy. Uncovering these gaps while training is being developed before an event or launch provides an opportunity to update promotional strategy to make it more effective.
In a recent project, the learning solutions capability within Syneos Health Selling Solutions worked with the client-facing team at Selling Solutions to ensure a more effective launch for our client using just such a strategic training approach. During this project, the learning solutions team evolved from a supporting function to a true partner. This partnership was built on a foundation of thoughtful discovery questions to ensure each component of the training program would have impact for the learner. The partnership was solidified by proposed solutions with the strategic intent of the overall launch and training program in mind.
The learning solutions team first gained information and insight on the positioning of the product in the marketplace and the product strategy, including feedback from senior executives from Sales and Marketing. The team then worked to determine the background knowledge of the learner, in this case, a junior sales force without much selling experience, so that the right level of knowledge and skills training could be provided. The team also designed a robust sustainability plan that included support of tenured managers, since less-experienced learners in any role need in-field support after live training to sustain knowledge and skills.
What made this a true partnership is that, during the design of the training program, the learning solutions team didn’t simply take direction from the client. Learning strategists with years of instructional design and pharmaceutical launch training experience homed in on the strategic intent of each component of the training plan and ensured that the solution proposed was the right solution, not just for individual learners, but for the business. Any training vendor can do what they are told. It takes a true training partner to tell a client they need to rethink parts of their original plan, and the best partners are able to then provide a new solution that will lead to a better outcome.
In our example project, after the launch training plan was created, the learning solutions team didn’t move on to the next project. The team was involved in the development of each piece of the training and helped facilitate both the live training event and the certification process. They checked in to ensure that the client team’s needs were being met and redesigned/adjusted any necessary training program components on the fly to meet new needs that came up during deployment.
This is just one example of how a training vendor that takes a strategic approach to training can provide more than just a successful training program, but a more successful launch. In the end, it’s not about the training. Training is a means to the end. A smart training team knows that and can build and execute training that adds value to your overall business.