How to Sell Your Ideas in eLearning

Does the idea of selling make you feel cold and clammy?

Do you think of salespeople as heartless people without conscience?  

Well, time to wake up You’ve been selling all your life.   As a baby you cried and persuaded your mother to pick you up, cuddle you, and nurse you. As a youngster you justified your opinions with passionate and creative arguments.  And later you persuaded your first boss to hire you.  

Many people in the training community look at me like I’m some sort of worm when I suggest they should sell their training ideas.  

When you’re training in the classroom or through eLearning you sell your ideas.  You persuade learners to listen to you, to believe in you, to trust you, and to follow your teaching.  

That’s what sales is.  

And you can learn a writing technique to boost your persuasive powers.  This trick is not manipulative.  The opposite is more true; this trick makes you feel more human, natural and humble.   And what’s more, this trick is as simple as using more questions in your material.

In his book ‘To Sell Is Human” Daniel Pink describes how questions outperform statements when trying to persuade others.

“Robert Burncrant and Daniel Howard of Onio State University  tested the potency of a series of short pitches to a group of undergraduates.  At issue was whether universities should require seniors to pass a comprehensive exam as a condition of graduation.  When the researchers presented strong arguments for the policy as questions (e.g. “Will passing a comprehensive exam be an aid to those who seek admission to graduate and professional schools?), the participants were much likelier to support the policy than (…) when presented with equivalent arguments as a statement.”  

A question makes your learner think and process your message more intensely.  You make them feel independent.  They can make up their own mind which confirms their conviction.   

Questions, however, don’t always work better. Here’s Daniel Pick again: When the underlying arguments were weak, presenting them in the interrogative form had a negative effect.”

A question is more persuasive than a statement … only if the learner is convinced, so choose your questions carefully.  

Don’t you do the same in face-to-face situations?  When I don’t know what to say in a social setting, I ask a questions.  

I often start modlettes with questions:
Want to make your sales pitch more effective?Want to avoid conflict in disciplinary interviews?Why you might want to set short term goals?  

Learners don’t want to be sold to.  They want to be engaged.  And they want to make their own mind up.  

Once learners have answered your question with a yes, they’re more likely to read on and engage with your learning narrative.  Psychologists call this the consistency principle…  We don’t like to be inconsistent with ourselves, so once we say yes, we’re more likely to say yes to a follow-up question.

In the past, course objectives were set out in terms such as, “After completing this course you will be able to …”  Learners felt there was no option and they were being bullied.  

But with more sophisticated learning methods learners have choices.  If they don’t like the way you sell your training package they can always turn to Google or some other more friendly option.

Pushy sales people use exclamation marks.  Good conversationalists use question marks.  

Asking questions is one of the most important conversational tools.  When talking.  And when writing.`  

But be clear about who you’re having a conversation with. What questions would he like to ask?  And get you to answer. Which questions make her so curious she feels compelled to follow your training.  

Don’t risk too many questions or the inappropriate ones.  Don’t be condescending and don’t sound like an old-fashioned school master testing your learner’s knowledge.  The best learning conversations are with people who empathise with you, who challenge you, and who know what questions to ask.