I have sat in courses where I was bored. I’ve sat in courses where the trainer was bored! Courses where the instructor didn’t know his stuff. Where she did know her stuff, but had no idea how to communicate it to a roomful of delegates.

But I’m not talking about any of these things. It’s worse than that.

Courses that are designed to be a waste of time

It’s worse than that because I’ve run courses that were a waste of time. Were designed not to give the delegates what they wanted.

Actually, let me rephrase that – I’ve trained such courses. But I wasn’t responsible for running them in the managerial sense.

“Don’t give them what they need!”

Let me report – as accurately as memory will allow – a conversation between senior people at a training company I once worked for.

The scene was this – a training session for sales managers, being run by the EMEA sales director for this very large training company. The sales model for that company went like this:

  • Sales executive calls prospect and asks to speak to the person responsible for training at that company
  • Sales executive: “If I offered you a day’s training free of charge, would you be able to use it?
  • Prospect says yes – hopefully – and gets the day free of charge. During that day, the sales exec takes 15 minutes to tell the prospect why training with this company is such fantastic value that they can’t possibly say no.

There was no catch to the offer – it was a genuine day of training free of charge. The two catches were (sorry – did I say there weren’t any?) that

  1. It had to be the training decision maker attending the course, and
  2. It had to be a Level 1 (beginners) course

So back to this Sales Managers’ training session. The EMEA head honcho tells a story as follows

“I was at a training centre a month or so ago and got talking to a delegate on their evaluation course. But here’s the thing – it was an intermediate (Level 2) course. So I found the account exec in question and I said – ‘So buddy – what’s this person doing on an intermediate course?’ And he says to me: ‘It was the only course they were interested in.’ [Emea bod pauses for dramatic effect here] ‘So let me get this right…. this client only has a use for one course that we offer…. and you’ve just given it to him for free????!

Of course, it got a laugh as a story, and there was general consensus among the sales managers that “It makes you think…”

Well, as someone who was there, but was spending 4 days a week as a trainer, it certainly made me think. And it’s made me think regularly over the years.

The customer’s perspective

Here’s what it’s made me think. A customer has given up a day of their time. How much do you value your time? I’ll bet that the value of your time is greater than the value of the average one-day training course – it’s your time that’s the true investment in training.

So here we have a training company – and I’ll bet they’re not alone – who will happily take a day of your time in order to give you an extended sales pitch. Worse, a company that will explicitly not give you what you’d really find valuable, because they’re afraid it’ll damage the sales figures for the month.

It’s unethical, it’s wrong, and it deserves to fail.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at why – even when the training model isn’t as cynical as this – training too often fails.

In the mean time, tell us what you think! Have you been offered similar non-deals? Have you been offered a service like this, but had the sneaking suspicion you’re being taken for a ride? Fill in your comments below and let us know.