By Jenn Lalli
It’s part of the yearly cycle, inevitable as fireworks in July and turkey on the fourth Thursday of November. With the beginning of each new year, we naturally reflect on where we are and where we’d like to be. This is particularly true for those in the training industry, who must assess the needs of their organization— and chart a course toward improvement.
You likely already have a wish list of the training programs you want to carry out this year. Maybe you hope to reskill your sales representatives, foster greater mentorship or bolster the leadership skills of your management team.
No matter your goal, you know that one of your first tasks will be to gain internal alignment on your projects from your leadership team. Without their support, even the best plans will never get off the ground.
Fortunately, there is a key ingredient that can help you gain the support you require. No matter the training program, successful pitches to leadership all share one quality: They do an excellent job of selling their “why.”
When pitching a new training initiative, it’s easy to get lost in what you will do without adequately explaining why it should be done. The reasons are understandable. Steeped in your project, it can be easy to assume that the need you will address is self-evident and already well understood by leadership. With a limited time to make your case, it can be tempting to focus on the process details of your plan without ever explaining why leadership should allocate the budget to set this plan in motion.
But unless your leadership team truly believes there is an acute need for your program, they will likely reject even the most well-crafted plan. That’s why it’s essential you not just explain your “why” but actively sell it.
If you can make your listeners not only share your concerns but also be invested in finding a solution, they will be far more likely to support your training initiative.
To sell your why, begin with a self-assessment. The more you unpack — and come to understand — your own beliefs about the need for your initiative, the better you’ll be able to communicate the need to your audience. As you prepare, ask yourself:
Once you thoroughly understand your why, it’s time to focus on how you’ll sell it. This begins by gaining an understanding of who you’re selling your why to. For example, if you’re in sales training, you may be speaking to the head of training and the vice president of sales. However, if you’re focusing on business acumen training, you may also be presenting to the vice president of operations.
Once you identify your audience, set out to learn as much as you can about these decisionmakers, including their preferred communication styles. Be sure to speak to others on your team and your connections throughout the organization about these leaders.
After synthesizing what you’ve learned about your audience, craft your presentation. For example, would sticking solely to hard quantitative data be the most convincing way to sell your why? Or would your audience be better swayed by a presentation that tells a story? How should you style your PowerPoint? Should you do away with slides altogether? Shape your presentation to reach the audience you will address, not the one you wish you had.
No matter the preferences of your audience, it’s crucial that they fully understand your ask. This includes not only the proposed budget but also any additional help from leadership you hope to receive, such as added resources or access to senior sales leaders. As you craft your presentation, be sure you make clear what you are asking them to support.
Conclude your pitch with a focus on the business and organizational impacts of your training plan. Consider all the ways your training will improve the organization, which may include increased sales, improved customer engagement, enhanced employee engagement or behavioral change and greater organizational cohesion. Help your audience understand the overall benefits of your program by connecting these impacts to broader organizational goals.
When making claims about the benefits of your plan, ground your projections in data and solid reasoning. Most important, explain at the end of your pitch how you plan to measure the impact of your plan and be accountable for the results.
Keep in mind that if you’ve sold your why effectively, your audience will be sitting up and taking notice by this point. But to seal the deal, you’ll need to convince them that you have the right solution.
Jenn Lalli is the senior director of business development and marketing for Encompass Communications and Learning, as well as an LTEN Ambassador, member of the LTEN Editorial Advisory Board, and 2023 LTEN Member of the Year (Provider). Email Jenn at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect through linkedin.com/in/jennlalli.