Would you like some training with your coffee?

Your sales force may be the hardest group of employees to train. Matthew Mercurio suggests you get to your salespeople before the day begins.

When is it a good time to deliver training to those who need it? Mornings, afternoons, maybe after hours, whatever time is good for the employees? Corporate America is usually backed by a busy sales force. Salespeople are always coming and going, making appointments and bolting out the door to meet their next client. Squeezing training into their routine is sometimes hard to do. For example, my company has nine different sales groups that consist of 10 to 15 people each. Setting up a rigid time for training these folks is almost impossible. Our IT staff has learned to fit training in every chance we get.

Get to your users before the day starts
Let’s start with deciding when is the right time for training. Do your salespeople have more time in the morning or afternoon? Are mornings usually better suited to train the busy people? The salespeople are most likely out of the office in the afternoon; this makes mornings prime training time for us. If your company is anything like mine, the day usually starts for most of the employees in the break room. Everyone gathers around the coffee machine gabbing about the previous night’s events.

At Clear Channel, we have made good use of this time. Our trainers have taken this early morning ritual and turned it into a training opportunity. We have set up a small television and a computer with video output right in the break room. As the employees drink their coffee and eat their doughnuts, we ask questions like, “Hey John, what did you say you were having trouble with in that Word program?” As we help John, others watch and take in valuable tips. Now we have turned the daily gossip at the water cooler into a productive training session. Granted, it isn’t a controlled environment where good solid training can be delivered, but it does place helpful information in the hands of otherwise very busy folks.

Morning’s not good, but how about lunch?
If you can’t deliver training with the morning coffee, then how about sneaking it in at lunchtime? We have taken the morning concept and expanded on it at lunch. We like to call this situation, “Lunch and Learn.” We have an auditorium at our facility, but a large boardroom would do just as well for this project. I made a deal with management to spring for pizza once a month, and we invite 10 to 15 of the “busy people” to join us for lunch in the auditorium. As we serve the pizza, we also deliver helpful advice and training tips on our latest software. Just like the break room, we set up a television and computer and take questions from the group. This usually turns into a good training session.

These little quickie training classes are not the best of environments, but when it comes to busy schedules, you have to take what you can get. This type of training is unconventional — but very effective.


Matthew Mercurio is IT manager for Clear Channel Broadcasting. Follow this link to write toMatthew .

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