Good trainers and good educators often love to be in the training room. It’s where they feel most comfortable; it’s what they do best – helping people to learn and to grow, and develop new skills. Many trainers don’t love the marketing and sales side of things, which is often involved in developing your customer base, often because of the mindset which is that you need to be a ‘hunter’ who chases possible clients; cold calling, convincing, this type of thing.
In this Educast we will take a first look at some approaches to marketing, strategy and the sales process, to help you focus more on being a ‘farmer’, cultivating your customer base over time.
We will be looking at three steps in the marketing and sales process. Firstly, defining for yourself what your offering is, or should be. Secondly, we will look at a model for actively defining and filling your pipeline constantly; and thirdly, we will look at the sales process and the steps you can undertake to go from first contact through to your sale.
Our approach to defining your portfolio is adapted from a model by the Boston Consulting Group (called the BCG Matrix), designed originally for the lifecycle of products and services. We think it’s very helpful for you as a trainer to sit down, maybe once a year, and ask yourself ‘What is it I’m offering now that is paying the bills?’ and also, ‘What are future offerings I might want to develop now for my success in the next few years?’
The BCG Matrix defines these in four steps: Question Marks; Stars; Cash Cows; and Dogs.
What are your Question Marks?
Question Marks for trainers are those ideas you’ve had recently, in the past, for new innovative content, for example in a format that nobody else is offering, that sets you apart from the market. The Question Mark is still the ‘idea’ stage; however, you might think ‘If I roll it out, if I develop it, if I market it, will this make me stand out from the rest and bring me higher margins?’
What are your Stars?
Stars are those training products and services that you have which you’ve taken from the Question Marks stage and turned into something different, unique, special, or where you at least have limited competition in your market. These are the ones that make you stand out from the rest. The benefit, of course, is that you will get more business this way if you can market it properly, and the margins you can request from your customers can be higher.
What are your Cash Cows?
Sooner or later your Stars, in many cases, will become your Cash Cows. This happens, for example, when others jump on your bandwagon and start offering the same topics you’re offering, or using the same format that you’re offering, and so on. So, people do it as well, or the demand from your customer target group decreases. This means, for a while at least, your Cash Cows are the standard services and training you are well known for that you don’t need to market too much: they pay the bills, they put food in your fridge and so on.
What are your Dogs?
Poor Dogs. Be careful with these. As a trainer, there are only so many seminar days you can deliver in one year. Poor Dogs are those training courses you offer, and the seminars, which many moons ago used to be your Stars, and they had better margins; they were great fun to deliver and they gave you a certain amount of renown. Then they became your Cash Cow which you were able to live quite nicely from for a while; then demand decreased even more and you had even more competition. This is where you reach Poor Dog stage where the demand for what you’re offering is much lower: your customer can buy that type of content just about anywhere. In many cases you have done it so often you could do it in your sleep, and you don’t really enjoy it. And for all that, the margins are not very high. If it isn’t worth it, often it takes the courage to say, ‘No, I’m not doing that as a Poor Dog’ and instead reinvest your time in your marketing and in developing your Question Marks and your Stars, because they bring you forward into the future. Too much focus on Poor Dogs means you end up in the low margin, low end of the market, treading water for a very long time.
What’s the Foundation of your Marketing Strategy?
As a trainer, the foundation for your marketing strategy is your pipeline which you are constantly filling and refilling. On the one hand you have your prospects that you aim to attract: people who need to be made aware that you out there, that you are credible and good at what you do; who haven’t yet expressed an interest in buying the training services that you are offering. It also means establishing your network of contacts, be it face-to-face, networking or social media and so on, to keep yourself on people’s radar so they can recommend or pass on your name. Leads are those possible customers who have already expressed an indication of interest in what you do, and referrals are those active recommendations that your existing happy customers pass on to others.
Let’s take a look at Referrals
Referrals are fantastic. You have a customer who likes what you do, who passes your name on to someone in a different corporation, for example, and pretty soon you have a new customer. That’s great. My issue with referrals is an assumption or a belief many trainers have that that’s the only way to get new business. A marketing pipeline means it doesn’t have to be like that. It means you can constantly be thinking, ‘What can I do to increase my visibility and my credibility to let people know I’m out there, to attract prospects who might want to find out more? What can I do to establish my network of contacts so if somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who needs what I do, my name might get passed on? Or how can I actively pursue leads where someone says, ‘I’m not going to refer you but I think this person might want what you do. Here you go, good luck with that’? The marketing pipeline is a constant process. You might, for example, attract a prospect, then be fortunate enough to put forward a proposal that may lead to a pitch that might lead to a sale. If it leads to a sale, that’s great; once you’ve delivered your first training, ideally it will lead to repeat business, and certainly that person will go back into the pipeline. If it doesn’t lead to a sale on that particular occasion, be it from a contact or from a lead or whoever, it doesn’t matter. It goes back into your pipeline, so you can stick with it: the idea being that second or third time lucky is also a helpful way forward. It’s quite possible that somebody who didn’t want what you offered on that particular day because it didn’t suit them, is still willing to refer you to others. So as you can see from this pipeline model, with active effort for those different types of possible customer and possible ways forward, you can keep your pipeline flowing and moving all the time. Think, ‘How can I increase awareness of who I am and what I do; what makes me special?’ What can you do to stay in people’s minds all the time?
In overview, here are the seven steps of our sales process.
Step One: establish a personal connection, an emotional level wavelength with the person you’re talking to. Establish trust.
Step Two: a short statement, an ‘opener’ to create curiosity, to make the person want to hear a bit more.
Step Three: gain agreement to talk to you; before you continue, clarify whether it’s appropriate or it’s a good time for that person to talk to you on the issue – and if not, when might that person have time?
Step Four: spend some time digging, asking questions, understanding, reflecting, summarising, to try and work out the needs that your (possible) client is facing, so you can think about what you have to offer in order to create the right proposal.
Step Five: clarify very carefully with the client: does he/she have the money, the budget for this? The irony is many clients who are very keen to buy what we offer as trainers, don’t always have the resources to do so. It’s worth finding out before you invest all that time in writing your proposal.
Step Six: handling the objections, the concerns, the mismatches between what you think the client might need and what the client sees as their perceived, implicit or explicit needs.
Step Seven: winding it down, bringing it together, helping the client to reach a decision to buy your training, product or service from you.
Thank you for watching this Educast. We hope you’ve enjoyed it. To find out more about what we do, on this topic or any other, please take a look at our website or drop us a line.