Many years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a progressive, market-leading company in Denver. I’ll never forget that day because it changed the course of my business, my life and my training focus forever. I attended a technician sales and customer service meeting at this company, and what I witnessed was an effective training machine in motion. This was prior to my experience as an industry trainer, before we had weekly meetings at my own plumbing company and before I truly understood the value of training in the contracting business.
Since that pivotal day, many things have changed. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to train and impact thousands of people in the contracting industry. Based on my experiences, I’ve learned what it takes to implement training that pays for itself and provides considerable return on investment. This month I’m going to explore a few of our industry’s training formats and share some tips and tools I’ve discovered while investing in my personal growth as an industry-leading trainer.
First, some truths about training:
This is one of the reasons so many contractors remain small, continuing to waste time and resources repeatedly addressing the same issues.
If your team is thriving and you have the correct systems in place, you’re sure to increase your profits.
Training is only as effective as the level of engagement you’re able to establish with your participants. In regards to training in your own organization, are you simply a talking head, telling them what they need to know? Training involves asking thought-provoking discussion questions, facilitating practice sessions (role-plays) and making sure that everyone is engaged at some level.
Connect With The AudienceMany contractors don’t value training because they haven’t seen their training investments returned in tangible dollars and cents. I can understand this perspective since I used to have it myself, but I learned that three factors must be present in all training to create lasting, productive results.
1. The message. The message you’re conveying must be relatable and understandable to anyone whose behavior or results you’re attempting to improve. If you’re training technicians to discover additional opportunities during an in-home service call, they must be able to connect with your purpose and objectives.
2. The messenger. The individual who is providing your training must be credible, confident and passionate about the topics he or she is discussing. The trainer should have a clear agenda for the session, complete with specific audience takeaways. This person doesn’t need to be a skilled professional trainer; his or her effectiveness will increase over time with dedication and practice.
3. The power of story. The most effective, impactful trainers understand the power of conveying a message through storytelling. I’ve invested a lot of time learning from the very best storytellers in the professional speaking business. During a five-month period of touring with the great motivator Les Brown, I witnessed firsthand how strongly Les was able to connect with the audience by sharing stories from his personal experience.
A word of caution: Stories must directly relate to the content that is being trained. If they don’t, you will be unable to use the story’s emotion to successfully change your audience’s behavior.
Don't Forget The FollowupThere are a variety of diverse formats in today’s world for training contractors - live training events, on-site hosted training at your location, webinars, teleseminars, video training and other creative avenues. I believe in strategically combining the available formats, working to keep the topics fresh and relevant.
The most common education issue that I encounter is what I refer to as “event-based” training. This type of instruction aims to improve results, where you create or attend a one-time “event” to train your people based on a certain topic or process. An example would be if a company had one independent training session focused on improving service agreement sales, with no plan for accountability or follow-up coaching.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s tremendous value in event-based training, but the results you receive are affected more by the follow-up process than the training itself. You might think it’s strange that I’m saying this as one of the top trainers in the industry, but it’s the truth. When I’ve done speaking events, I’ve seen people get extremely excited and ready to create massive change, but then their enthusiasm fades over time. I’ve observed this exact scenario numerous times in companies I’ve trained, as well as in my own contracting business.
Without a properly structured follow-up strategy in your company, the training’s value will dissipate very quickly. One of the most powerful ways to ensure lasting training success and continued behavioral change is through implementing ride-alongs. The only way to truly know what’s happening is to witness skill levels and communication techniques firsthand. Ride-alongs can be utilized in virtually every position in your company, not just with service techs or salespeople. They are an excellent approach to monitoring real-time team member interactions.
The reality is, what is inspected gets respected. If you inspect a behavior, process or action, your team members will respect the fact that improvement is required in a certain area. It’s not about catching people doing things incorrectly; it’s about being supportive and playing an active role in your team’s development.
Most contractors fear implementing coaching and follow-up systems because they feel it’s too time-consuming, they’re unsure of what topics to emphasize or they don’t know how to structure the conversations. This fear diminishes quickly once it’s realized that coaching, training and follow-up processes are all simply communications with other people. It doesn’t have to be a laborious process. Make the training interactive, have a plan, stay focused on a topic, and the coaching process will continue to get easier and more effective as it progresses.
Once you implement a training system with a strategic follow-up program, you’ll realize that you are developing consistency, clear objectives and shared understanding within your company. This, in turn, will give you a commonality with the market-dominant company that inspired me to implement my own effective training systems years ago.