How to FILL your classroom courses in 2021
As training providers continue to navigate back towards the classroom, it's important we consider what's required from us to help encourage that return from our delegates too.
The training industry has changed a great deal since early-2020; our competitors and their offering has likely changed, our delegates and key clients learning preferences may have changed and most importantly, our business has almost certainly changed. It's critical that we acknowledge this - to think our classroom offering can simply 'pick up where it left off' could perhaps be considered naïve.
So, how can we bridge the gap?
accessplanit recently hosted a webinar alongside Sales Geek, where we discussed how to fill your classroom courses in 2021. Sales Geek are a Lancashire-based training organisation that offer professional Sales development courses externally, both online and face to face. They are in a small minority of training organisations that effectively mitigated the potentially detrimental impacts of COVID through their resourcefulness and agility in pivoting to online delivery.
In the webinar extract below, we explore some key takeaways from the webinar and provide top tips on how to best fill your classroom courses in 2021.
Why are you returning to the classroom, and what are you hoping to get out of it?
Before we start discussing how to fill classroom courses, it's worth first considering why we're returning in the first place.
What we need is a top-down, holistic approach. What's actually best for our client?
Within training delivery, one size doesn't (and never has) fit all. Some clients will always prefer classroom training and are less keen on having their staff sat behind a screen. Traditional, in-person has always been associated with providing a higher ROI, along with a number of other benefits such as smaller class sizes meaning more contact time with the facilitators, less distractions and an environment that is more conducive to learning. It's also important to remember that many training providers simply don't have the option to train virtually, particularly those in the industries of construction, transport and healthcare.
Sales Geek recently held a training session that would typically be held online for a reasonably sized group. It turned out the client really wanted in-person training, therefore four 90 minute sessions were arranged in place of 1 virtual session. This allowed delegates to feel more comfortable and ensure no-one was too close. After being cooped up for 12-15 months, the opportunity for collaborative networking and a human element to the training for this particular client for was crucial.
Logistically, however, we must be conscious of the fact that classroom training is more difficult than before. When we account for things like hotel stop offs, transport costs, venue hire and preparation, arranging lunches, preparing equipment, discarding material, sanitiser etc - there's certainly a lot to think about in terms of resourcing this.
Survey the land
Before we do anything with regards to returning to the classroom, it's important we take a pulse-check.
Changing training delivery methods is something that requires careful consideration and planning - not least when the safety and health of our staff and customers are at stake. Ideally, we want to hear from everyone involved in the training process before any wheels are in motion, including:
Our delegates - Is there an appetite from our delegates to return to the classroom? If there is an appetite, what measures can we introduce to ensure they feel safe and encourage their attendance? Acknowledge that many of them haven't socialised a great deal in the past year and a half and may have reservations about mixing with others.
Our trainers & delivery team: In-person training relies on the physical presence of our trainers onsite opposed to simply opening their laptop from home, which is a lot to ask. Not to mention travel, potential overnight stays, enforcing COVID safety protocols, managing equipment for the day and accounting for the potential risk to their own health. Speaking to your trainers before making a decision like returning to the classroom is critical.
Key contacts and accounts: Contacting line managers before training starts and welcoming the chance to answer any questions or queries is a great way to reduce any hesitation or nerves and serves as an opportunity to be completely open and transparent.
Sales Geek have started sending out health and safety questionnaires ahead of in-person training sessions designed to help alleviate any concerns and answer any questions to ensure delegates are relaxed and at ease, and clients feel safe sending their delegates to Sales Geeks training centre.
It's also wise to think about the capacity of your training delivery team and the venues you work at to be able to uphold safety protocols. There has to be meticulous planning to guarantee COVID safety, accounting for everything from your parking and greeting process to desk spacing, lunches and destroying handouts/cleaning equipment after use.
Tips to fill your classroom courses in 2021
If you've surveyed the land and have come to the conclusion that your classroom return makes practical sense, it's now time to think about how you can get your courses filled. It's crucial that we drive the behaviour from delegates to book on to our upcoming classroom courses. If we don't get the uptake we desire, we could quickly find we're operating at a loss, with unviable courses leading to delegate transfers and administrative headaches.
There's hundreds of ways you can increase bookings when returning to the classroom, we've picked out some of the most effective below.
Demonstrate your safety
None of us know what to expect when we're going to a location or venue that is unfamiliar. Usually, this wouldn't concern us.
For delegates that have rarely ventured out of their house for over a year, there's no doubt there's going to be some level of caution. Easing delegates fears by announcing your many health and safety measures beforehand is a great way to overcome any hesitation. You can also use social media to display the safety protocols you have implemented which will serve to reassure clients and encourage their business.
Blend it in
One of the best ways to fill your classroom courses in 2021 is to blend it in to your current offering - ideally as seamlessly and flexibly as possible. This might mean starting off with some small pilot classes, or perhaps some 1 to 1 coaching sessions face to face.
Sales Geek have introduced a new blended learning strategy during COVID called 'The Three Pillars of Learning' that is perfectly placed to reintroduce classroom training for salespeople without putting any pressure on delegates. The overall aim of this approach is to add value in different areas and create a comprehensive learning blend with suits the styles of each learner. These three pillars consist of:
- ILT/vILT- Either in-person or virtual instructor led, bespoke training is delivered to the client. This includes real world examples and problem solving.
- Sales Geek Academy - Access to a suite of on-demand covering key themes and split into modules. Allows the delegate to learn at their own pace.
- Sales Geek Hub - Sales Geek have introduced a sales training app that allows delegates to digest bite sized content on the go- it's their gift to the industry.
Taster sessions are a great way for customers to try before they buy. It's an opportunity for potential delegates to meet your delivery team, ask any questions and get a better feel for your training environment and course options. Check out our detailed guide on running taster sessions.
Run a webinar
The vast majority of us have attended a whole host of different webinars since the start of 2020. Some have grown tired of the very mention of them, but there's many more who now rely on webinars as their main source of industry knowledge, particularly when we consider in-person events have been non-existent for the past year.
Webinars can be about absolutely anything. It could be a panel session with customers which helps you to increase awareness and exposure of your business. It could be a Q&A session with industry experts designed to provoke meaningful discussions about topical issues. It could be about new developments in your industry and how you're responding to them. There's hundreds of interesting topics out there just waiting to be discussed.
The great thing about webinars is that the benefits are endless. The increased exposure for your brand is a given, however it's also effective at positioning your business as experts, bringing in new leads, expanding your network and encouraging collaboration.
Sales Geek have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in generating new business through social channels, with the majority of their success coming through LinkedIn. The reason social channels help Sales Geek to fill their courses so effectively is because of the following three ideas:
Reciprocity - Sales Geek believe in giving back. If you're connected to any or multiple of the Geeks, you can expect they will interact with your posts. The power of reciprocity on social channels can not be understated. Try leaving a few comments and likes on the personal profiles of your connections - see what you get back!
Personality - Sales Geek are invested in building their personal brands, and showing the world that they are human. This comes in the form of celebrating achievements, camera facing videos and posts that make people smile. Hiding behind a corporate banner and consistently preaching about your training offering is a sure fire way to plummet your organic impressions. It's both unfavourable to the algorithms of social to consistently push your own content, and rarely that engaging when it does happen to appear on your connections feeds!
Value - The amount of value Sales Geek give to the Sales community without asking for anything in return is quite remarkable. Whether it's tips and tricks videos, webinars, virtual workshops or written content - they provide value without any expectation for anything back. Not only is this effective at building awareness, but also gaining the clients trust. It wont happen overnight, but the more contact and touch points you have with a client, the more chance you have of getting their business. They might not need training this second but next 6-1 2 months they're bound to need upskilling - and it's important they come to you.
If you're interested in how you can use LinkedIn more effectively, check out our top 5 tips.
If you aren't in their eye line, your competitor will be!
As mentioned above, it's important when using social for posts, interactions and ideas to come from the individual, not the brand. On LinkedIn, at the time of writing, Virgin have just over 17k followers, Richard Branson on the other hand has 18.8 million. Why do we think this is?
Offering a value-add to your classroom courses can be a really effective way of encourage delegates back in to the classroom. Particularly if you're still offering an online version of courses alongside, you need an incentive that tips the balance in favour of face to face. This might come in the form of additional coaching, subsidised course material or block booking discounts.
Should you discount your training courses?
Discounting your offering is certainly a great way to fill up your courses, but it's hard to stop giving discounts once you start giving them. Once you start lowering costs, it's a difficult mountain to climb to start raising them again. It erodes profits and margins - a good rule to follow is to only allow discounts if there's multiple bookings.
For single bookings, once you consider the marketing, cost of sale, delivery time, booking the board room, cost of travel, there's rarely a margin for which to discount your offering. However, if your clients wants to place ten delegates on a course, that's a rather different story. You don't have to go and find the nine others to fill the course or invest further on marketing.
If you're going to offer a discount first ask - what am i getting back from this?
to be right for the business, not just to incentivise bookIf you're discounting, it has to be in the business interests - don't discount just for the sake of increasing bookings. Ultimately, it can devalue what you are providing - both for the trainer, the content and their knowledge. Clients talk, confer, cross notes. Previous customers could get angered if they find your offering has been found cheaper than what they've paid!
Price is only an objection or issue in the absence of value.
If you're looking to fill your classroom courses in 2021, the first thing you need to do is ensure that your training venues are . Going above and beyond to plan for every interaction with delegates can go a long way to settling nerves for clients and encouraging the return, coupled with health and safety questionnaires sent out well in advance of course start dates.
Without in-person events, tradeshows and conferences, using image and video on social channels and your website can be a powerful way to help you increase brand awareness, position your business as experts and educate potential customers on your offering. Whether this is through developing your personal brand with helpful tips and explainers, announcing a webinar schedule or creating a number of basic animations and illustrations - when this is paired with an effective social media strategy (particularly on LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram), you're set up for success.
When trying to increase course bookings, knowledge is power. You need to be where your customers are and be able to demonstrate the ROI that your classroom courses can deliver them - and it has to be more than just a certificate or qualification at the end of their training.