For institutions seeking to establish training partnerships or degree programs with corporations, navigating the complexities of a consensus purchase presents challenges. For corporations, the likelihood of agreeing on large purchases dwindles as more stakeholders become involved in the decision. Large purchases at corporations often require sign-off from five or more officials—often with differing viewpoints within HR, learning and development, and finance. As a result, university administrators struggle to close partnership deals quickly. But by leveraging the university’s expertise in assessing competency and knowledge, your institution can proactively guide employer partners towards what they need, speeding up the sales cycle in the process.
One cause of consensus delay: employers inaccurately diagnose talent problems
Employers’ difficulty diagnosing the true causes of inefficiency or poor performance can drag out the long sales cycle for corporate training programs. Long-standing separation between departments within large corporations mean that even C-suite leaders will approach organizational problems from the perspective of their own functional areas.
The challenge begins with a CEO presenting a fundamental organizational challenge: “How do we fix our productivity problem?” Perhaps sensing an opportunity to gain scarce resources, numerous stakeholders offer solutions that involve investment in their own functional areas. The chief technology officer promises that investments in technology will make workers more efficient, while the learning and development officer suggests investment in training will solve the underlying problems. Competing visions for improvement often delay consensus on how to move forward with an educational partner.
Depending on the CEO’s decision, the organization’s articulated need will vary hugely. For university partners, misaligned programs present the risk of turning potential renewable business with a large employer into an expensive and unhelpful one-off engagement. Training programs designed around misidentified needs do little to change the status quo or promote themselves as vital partners driving business outcomes. How can universities filter through the noise to arrive at a partnership proposal that meets an employer’s most urgent needs and speeds the decision to purchase?
Advance the sales process by proactively assessing employer training needs
Most university corporate education efforts lack true assessment tools, assuming that employers correctly self-diagnosed problems and that assessment is too time-consuming to fit within a consumer-responsive sales strategy. In reality, assessment of corporate training needs is an essential component of an employer outreach strategy. Assessment can surface key details for program design and provide a platform for internal discussion that quickens consensus on university partnership.
At the University of California, Irvine’s Division of Continuing Education, corporate training staff members share an assessment document with prospective employer partners. Usually shared with a contact in HR, the assessment document contains guiding questions to facilitate internal discussion about how to articulate existing skill gaps, training needs, and appropriate educational solutions.
For university staff, the assessment more clearly outlines the program beyond training topics, giving insight into current performance levels and how competencies can be better aligned with performance expectations. The assessment also uncovers key influencers, who act as stakeholders who need to buy into a training program to speed the purchase decision. UC Irvine staff found that using the assessment shortened the sales cycle because the curated questions facilitated insightful discussion, and prevented a lot of back and forth with university staff. Employers were often ready to sign a contract during their first face-to-face meeting. In addition, training design improved, leading to satisfied partners and a steady renewable business.
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