It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past. We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow. Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.
In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing. I think he’s dead on with these suggestions. The 6 things are:
- Address learner motivations to get engagement
- Be relevant
- Get your channels right
- Manage cognitive load
- Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
- Anticipate and handle the objections
Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.
Anticipate and handle the objections
Marketers and sales leaders spend a lot of time anticipating the barriers to adoption for their brands, products, solutions. In my 15 years of sales work, I spent a huge amount of work digging for potential objections to the productions and services I was selling. In many cases, it’s not the features and functionalities of a product or service that makes or breaks a buying decision. Objections may be emotionally based. We need to anticipate that there will be resistance to change.
Twelve years ago in my first meeting with an IT colleague who was a key stakeholder to L&D’s success I was promoting the “new” concept of workflow, just-in-time learning. This dialogue was a part of that meeting:
HIM: “To be honest with you, Dave. The only training I go to is the training I can’t get out of.”
ME: “So, I assume you are coding in a different language than what you were taught in college. Where did you learn the language you use today?”
HIM: (looking at me a bit puzzled) “On the job.”
ME: “In other words, learning in the workplace as you needed it.”
Because I anticipated his objection (training is boring and irrelevant) I was able to address it and I eventually won him over.
Now, it’s seldom that a stakeholder will be so upfront and as clear about their objections to your project or idea as my colleague was. It usually requires an amount of trust before they are willing to share with you at a level where objections can be uncovered. As I mentioned above, objections are often emotionally based. In many cases, emotions that they may not want to surface in the workplace. Perhaps they wanted your job (whether they applied for it or not) and are jealous you got it. This has happened to me twice. Once I was blindsided and my proposal went down in flames. The second time, I overcame this objection by building trust with her by involving her in the project planning.
As I mentioned above, objections are often emotionally based. In many cases, emotions that they may not want to surface in the workplace. Perhaps they wanted your job (whether they applied for it or not) and are jealous you got it. This has happened to me twice. The first time, I was blindsided and my proposal went down in flames. The second time, I overcame this objection by building trust with her by involving her in the project planning.
Maybe they are afraid their objection is petty (I just don’t want to deal with one more change.), will place them in a position outside the majority (I know this is exciting, but should we really be spending our limited resources in this way?) or make them look stupid (I barely understand what you are talking about so how can I support it.). Ironically, they might be holding back their objection for fear that they might hurt or offend you (yeah, because they actually like you).
In other cases, it may be a legit business concern (cost, it doesn’t address their issues, concerns about the reaction of their employees, will it be effective in meeting their operational goals, etc.).In either case, they need to trust that you will take their objection seriously before they will share it, even indirectly, with you.
It takes time to uncover objections. Building trust takes time. Time for conversations with them. Time for them to process the proposal. Time for you to listen to the grapevine. They might have shared their objection with their boss or a colleague – sometimes actually wanting it to get back to you. If you have a strong Needs Assessment practice, you may already be doing some of the necessary work to uncover all aspects of your stakeholder’s needs. If you aren’t hearing objections, then look at revising your questions. Make sure you are asking probing questions about their goals. Get to know their motivations. Ask questions like: Where do you think this proposal will run into resistance? Do you think I have all my bases covered? What else do you need to know/have included for you to be supportive of this project?
Uncovered Objections are IEDs
Why spend all that time looking for objections? If you fail to uncover stakeholder objections they can end up acting like an IED (Individual Explosive Devise) along your project path. They can do massive damage to your proposal if not found and handled. They could be the deciding vote in a decision. If they voice their objection in a meeting, they could shut down further discussion until you present on the objection at next month’s meeting. They will look for “legitimate” issues with your proposal that they will then try to influence others with those concerns (rather than expose their emotionally-based objection).
Ultimately, anticipating and handling objections is a matter of really getting to know your stakeholders – those people who will have influence – formal or informal – on the success of your proposal or project.
What do you think?
- Have you ever been blindsided by an unanticipated objection? What could you have done to overcome it had you known about it?
- What are good questions you use to uncover objections?