Carmie and attendees in a public speaking class

Five Tips for Persuading Your Company to Invest in Soft Skills Training

Professional Presentation Skills Improve Bottom lines

I recently got a call from the sales manager for a large technology company based in Chicago. He was seeking information about our professional presentation training for his company’s key account executives based in four major cities: Montreal, New York, Washington DC, and Atlanta. The headcount was for 25 people.

After a detailed discussion about his needs and goals for the training, I shared an overview of my recommendations for a customized training approach that I was confident would best meet his objectives. He was delighted and said, “This is perfect! It is exactly what we need.” Then he added, “Now, I need your help for something else. I need you to help me make a business case to present to my VP of Training and Development. He thinks the only training account managers need is product training.”

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard similar frustrations from other business professionals. For many, getting their company to pay for soft skills training, such as public speaking and B2B presentation skills, is more difficult than getting approval for “hard skills” training that focuses directly on the product or services your company sells.

Of course, strong knowledge of your company’s products and services is essential for salespeople. But, The Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and other respected business publications cite numerous studies showing that buyers are ultimately influenced more by something less tangible than an encyclopedic overview of your company’s bells and whistles and pricing. The dominating deciding factor is how the presenter made them feel about your brand. That’s where soft skills training comes in.

Every individual in your organization who interacts with your customers is representing your brand. When a positive impression is made on customers, your brand benefits. When a weak or bad impression is made, your brands take a hit, both financially and reputationally.

A study conducted by Caliper, an employee assessment, and talent management company, found that 55% of people making a living in sales do not have the right soft skills to be successful. Ultimately, this leads to lost business opportunities for a company and higher turnover in the salesforce.

Investing in first-rate B2B presentation training can ensure your sales team deliver the most influential ROI: The Return on Impression.

Still, for some employees and training managers, convincing company decision-makers that investing in soft skills training contributes directly to their company’s bottom line success is a challenge. That’s where making a business case to invest in professional B2B presentation training comes in.

Last year we surveyed 50 corporate training managers who invested in business presentation training for their employees within the last three years. We asked, In a few words, what advice or information would you share with someone inquiring about the ROI for professional soft skills training, such as B2B presentation skill development, vs hard skills training, for an organization?

Below are highlights from their responses and insights into what motivated their company to put more money toward professional B2B presentation training and coaching for employees who interfaced with customers:

  1. Review examples of lost sales because of poor presentations: Don’t ignore reports of weak/boring/long/confusing presentations given by members of the organization. Listen to your employees. If they are asking for presentation training, invest in it.
  1. Realize that knowing the art of connecting with the customer has a stronger impact than product pitching to the customer: Sometimes, decision-makers responsible for training don’t know what they don’t know. Being a product or service expert isn’t enough to make a positive impression on a customer. B2B presentation skills training with a reputable instructor teaches salespeople how to develop and deliver a business presentation that connects with customers. Good instructors teach techniques for immediately capturing a customer’s attention and developing more engaging customer-centric content with relevant examples and stories. The result: Heighten buyer’s interest in your brand, more sales.
  1. Learn that buyers prefer a lot less talking and a lot more listening from salespeople: A study conducted by the Purchasing Management Association reports that customers don’t like long-winded data dumps. This isn’t earth-shaking news, yet, customers complain that most sales presentations are still too long, too detailed, and too boring. Customers are busy and impatient. They tune out quickly if the presenter doesn’t get to a value proposition fast. Learning how to create brief and informative presentations that are also engaging is an overlooked skill! Learning how to get to the point quickly and then have a conversation will have a much more positive outcome.
  1. Compare training fees against potential revenue from a sale: Compare the cost of the presentation training you recommend to the additional revenue your company could gain by winning a large contract – or lose by not getting a contract with a target customer. Professional training is typically a comparatively small investment that pays long-term, much larger dividends.
  1. Present the qualifications of the B2B presentation instructor: Not all presentation trainers are created equal. Research the credentials of the instructors you contact. Like any profession, the public speaking training field has great, mediocre, and plain out questionable instructors. Share the credentials of the firm you recommend. List some of their clients. Speak to actual client references and share their comments. Review the training agenda proposed by the trainer you recommend with your decision-maker.

Soft-skills training definitely contributes to a company’s success. Remember, customers don’t usually remember all the facts and data shared in a presentation, but they do remember the overriding impression the presenter made. They remember whether or not they felt a mutual connection with the speaker. Those are the feelings that determine the overall perception they have on your brand, either positive or negative. And, those feelings carry a lot of weight when buying decisions are finally made.

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