Sales Skills for eLearning Developers?

May 06, 2011

I want to know how you sell yourself and your product.

If you work in an organization how do you sell your ideas, concepts and theory to your internal customers?

If you are a consultant how do you sell your ideas, concepts and theory to your external customers?

How do you market yourself?

6 Replies
Phil Mayor

Hi Zara

You always save the good ones until friday, I am really interested in this

Until recently we had no customers, sounds strange!  I work in a department that I set up, my job was education lead and I saw the need (following a training needs analysis) for an lms and elearning.  I used the results from the TNA to determine which courses to develop and in a previous life I was a trainer so I was my own SME.

For over a year there was just me as Developer and SME and I did not need to sell myself.

I now have another developer on board, and we have taken on some contracts outside of our organisation, we now have to work with SMEs and sell our ideas, I initially found this difficult and explaining concepts to the technophobe is difficult, I find building an initial draft to show the concept etc allows them to see what can be done and it is easier then to discuss what is and isnt possible.

We are keeping a low profile, becuase with our current projects we have enough work until March/April next year.  So will follow this with interest


Saenna B Ahman

I find that it's really important to show how the investment in e-learning can help my customers meet a business need. if it's just a cool project, or if the only benefit is that learners will have a "positive experience" doing the training, that's not enough.There needs to be some tangible value. The e-learning needs to fill some sort of identifiable gap.So I guess what i'm saying is, to "sell" a course or your services, you need to be thoroughly convinced (and even have evidence) that you will improve the organization's business results.

Some of my past projects have been easy to 'sell' because they provide obvious cost savings. I.e., on online job aid that reduces the time necessary for workers to perform a task, because the info is now more accessible or easier to understand. Or, another example is a course that reduces travel time... a 3-day ILT course was reduced to 1 day because we were able to use e-learning interventions both on the front end as a preparatory tool, and as a follow-up. So even though learners still needed to travel for the 1-day ILT, the travel expenses and time away from work was drastically reduced as compared to doing a 3-day course. That can really start to add up into big cost savings.

In some cases, the "business need" is simply that the company needs an efficient and effective way to meet their compliance obligations. E-learning can do that inexpensively and efficiently.

So I would recommend putting your MBA hat on (tough for me sometimes because i don't have an MBA, lol)... analyze what would really help the business succeed? What would help the learners do their jobs better or more efficeintly? If you have evidence that you can improve a business process, i think you will have sponsors lining up to ask for your services. Good luck Zara! I always appreciate reading your posts.

Bob S

Good questions.

Having first come into training / design as a sales SME, there are a few lessons I brought with me from my former life. In no particular order, here are some tips I've found useful when trying to "sell" what we do.

1) It's not about you, it's about them.

Sounds simple, but all too often we forget to frame things from the customer's/stakeholder's point of view. Focus on the customer's expressed needs and probe for additional needs they may have. Yes the end users are important, yes all of the other benefits we can offer are important. But at the end of the day the decision makers need to hear about thier needs being addressed, and how you are going to do that. Everything else is a bonus. Which seques into the next point...

2) People buy on emotion, and justify with reason.

An old axiom, but no truer words were ever said about the buying process. Your customers / stakeholders have a pain point. Something is is bothering them and whether they say it or not, there are emotions involved. Perhaps they are angry a particular business unit isn't performing. Perhaps they are embarrassed because they appear to be behind the times. Perhaps they want the bragging rights of one-upping a peer.  What matters is that to spite all the veneer of reason and rational thought we layer over the buying decision, there is an emotional decision underneath. Don't believe it? Think about the last new car you bought...  you told yourself all sorts of reasons why getting a new car was a good decision, but the bottom line is you WANTED it. It solved an emotional need for you. Perhaps freedom from worry, perhaps the pleasure of having something new. Who knows? Then you justified it by saying it was good on gas, you got a great price/financing, it would be more reliable, etc.  The point here is to be effective in selling , you need to remember that reason is only half the picture. Try and tap into the emotions involved too.

3) Don't assume they know what they want or what's possible.

Just because a customer / stakeholder is smart and intimidating, doesn't mean they have all the answers. Or that they even know all the questions! Help them see other possibilities with examples, demos, a few clear options to choose from. Paint the picture of what could be done and how it will play out. If during that process you uncover additional needs or emotions then great (!) , tap into them and be sure to include those in future discussions. Along witht his, don't assume that whatever they have asked for has to be the final approach. Sometimes it will be, but because they are not the training expert, they may not understand the ramifications of the choices they are leaning towards. Honor what they said, validate it, then show them how a different option might yield these additonal benefits that fulfill their needs.

I could ramble on forever, but the three concepts above are good foundations for selling what we do. 

While we are on the topic...  if you have never had the chance to hear about ethical persuasion or the principles of ethical influence, I personally recommend Dr Cialdini's work on the subject. I've based entire selling skills and soft skills programs on his principles with outstanding results.

Hope this helps!

Zara Ogden

Thanks Bob S I love your responce and printed it for my wall.

Working Corporately I don't need to sell myself typically. But then you run into issues with SME's or others that just don't get it. Elearning that is.

I am trying hard to look at my personal approach and the structures I have in place to find ways to make them work better. Ways that will open communication. Today I showed a new info Map (Table) to my manager and he said "you sound like a consultant". I took this as a compliment and a sign of progress.Not success, progress.

It is hard to know what someone else will visualize when you talk about a topic or concept but I think that if you communicate you can open doors. 

What are some things that you do to Open Doors? Do you use forms, specific conversations, or marketing tactics?

Danny Simms

Hi Zara,

Excellent question and one I am asked to justify; often.  What I find as a consultant is 99% of clients I deal with see elarning as a 'login, read, click next, and test' process. It is often a reactive approach to fulfilling a training need; i.e. we need to train these staff quickly and cheaply rather than actually addressing the longer-term learning needs of the organisation and the individual.  

Further to the comments from other forum members, which I agree with, my marketing approach is to explain to the concept of leveraging a smart LMS with relevant elearning content that provides the learner with a multi-modal, ongoing experience rather than a hurry up and do a test situation.

Interactive content, collaborative learning forums,a skill-gap recognition process that acknowledges their current competence and provides them with an individual learning plan, automated and human feedback, and online skills journals are some of the things I discuss to sell the concepts of introducing elearning and blended-learning.

Elearning is about the journey as much as the destination and I try to build a process that encourages learners to visit, participate and actively learn; much like this community.  

I tend to use the word I-learning to describe the shift in staff training perception once they realise the benefits of effective, engaging elearning. Whether a staff member attends a standard facilitator-led training program or undertakes a self-paced, elearning program, its pointless if they don't wish to participate.

There are 4 main areas I target  when discussing where the above mentioned points have measurable results within an organisation that also highlight to management, end to end uses for elearning :

1. Learning to improve Recruitment

2. Learning to Improve Inductions and Orientations

3. Learning to Improve Performance and Retention

4. Learning to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Gain Grants and Funding

(These forums were certainly the inspiration for my 4 target areas, in particular Tom Kuhlman's Rapid Elearning blog).

Not every client wishes to implement a full-blown elearning environment, some just want a standalone course. Regardless,  I find it important to provide them with the options.  

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