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I love a good deal. Craigslist, Goodwill, Tag Sales, and best of all…Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales! I have my lists ready at all times (I use an app to keep track of my gift giving ideas and what I need around the house) so that I can pounce when I find a great bargain! As I was preparing my attack scheme to check off my “gifting” list this weekend, I thought about how the same tactics that make me a certified black belt in bargain shopping are quite similar to those needed when planning & executing corporate training.

1.  Make a List. When I hit the stores, I never go without my lists. Without my list, I will become distracted. Clever marketing people know how to display the items I do not want – or need - to make them appear to be a perfect bargain! The same applies to training. Starting with a needs analysis, the first thing you need to do is make a list. What specific audience do you need to reach? Once you know your audience, what do your learners need to Know (knowledge transfer)? What do they need to Do (behavioral change)? What must they Believe (tend to the motivation)? Most importantly, how will you know when your training is successful: What do Learners need to Achieve (measures of success)? Good corporate trainers are just like Santa – We make our list and we check it twice!

2.  Figure out your budget- Ahead of Spending. I’m a fan of budgeting. If I have my list in hand of what I need, and I have the specific amount I can spend already set aside, I am much less likely to get a nasty surprise when the next credit card bill arrives. Same goes for training! The second step should be to look determine your budget. How much can you spend per student? What time period do you need to affect change and have you set aside enough money to make the desire impact? The key here is to maximize the impact to the organization from the budget you can comfortably spend on training.

3.  The 5 Ps: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance - Do your prep work! Who is most likely to have the items you want? And, at the price you are willing to pay? Long before a shopping trip, I take the time to look through the sales flyers, the coupon areas, the eBates website and the ShopSavy app. By knowing what the different stores are offering, and at what price I can expect to pay, I can decrease my actual “feet on the ground” time and use my resources more efficiently. Again, the same goes for creating great corporate training! Do your homework before selecting a partner. What will their services cost? What do they will bring to the table? Do you need it fast (speed in delivering is most important) or is a specific experience or expertise important? Doing your homework and researching available outsource partners ahead of time will greatly improve your ability to make an informed decision when the time to buy presents itself.

4.  Ask a friend. Not only is it more fun to shop with someone whose opinion you trust, it can help point you in the right direction (and avoid walking around in something you really SHOULD NOT be walking around in). If you are unsure about a product, getting trusted advice (especially from someone who has tried the product before) can be invaluable. Same holds when planning a new training project- hit up your network list of like-minded professional contemporaries for training companies that have helped them in the past. A good recommendation can save you time and frustration. If you do not have anyone in your network to ask for a recommendation – be sure to ask for references from the outsource partners you are considering. Past performance is an indication of what you can expect in the future!

5.  Check Your Timing…and Have a Back-up Plan. I’ve had shopping experiences where I did everything right. I made my list, I decided how much I could spend, I did my background prep and I had a trusted confidant with me…and then my much-pursued item just did not materialize for some reason. It could be out of stock. It might be a weird color in person compared to online. On the other hand, maybe, it just felt wrong and my timing was off for this particular product. Although I had done everything I could to make sure it would be the perfect acquisition, it just wasn’t. When I am in a gift-buying mode, I always make sure to have a few other ideas on my list as back-ups. The same thing rings true for planning and purchasing custom training. If your timing doesn’t work out the way you were expecting (delays in production, tight bottle-necks in approvals, etc.), have a back-up plan in place to still make sure you reach your goals.

Even if you are not a “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” shopper, you still can use these five tips to put together a more successful Corporate Training Plan.

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