Selling has evolved. Training and facilitation is next. The dynamics of a rapidly changing world are disrupting several professions. There is a parallel between the disruption in professional selling and what is currently happening in professional corporate training.
Disruption in the Sales Discipline
In the 1960s, salespeople focused primarily on products and services. The motto at the time was ‘buyer beware’, which was appropriate guidance since the seller usually had more knowledge than the buyer. The advent of consultative selling disrupted this paradigm in the 1990s. Consultative selling was designed to respond to increasing complexity in both the buyer’s organization and the buyer’s needs. In consultative selling, the focus was on questioning. Salespeople were taught to develop their ability to ask questions in order to uncover organizational pain; the salesperson then provided a solution to the problem in the form of their goods and services.
To effectively compete in the global economy now and in the future, salespeople must bring insight to address common organizational issues and to challenge their clients’ thinking. The salesperson must do more than simply pitch and probe. The mantra now is to create value—not just communicate it—by challenging their customers’ points of view and the status quo to help clients reach new levels of performance.
Disruption in the Facilitation Discipline
The old model of trainer as teacher is also a relic of the 1960s. This learning model held that the trainer controlled the knowledge and participants were there to listen and absorb. This approach was replaced in the 1980s by the facilitative model where the trainer was challenged to facilitate more and ask questions in service of the participants’ self-discovery toward the best path forward.
Today, in order to help clients reach new levels of performance, the facilitator, like the salesperson, must cultivate insight to the most common people performance problems and provoke inventive, creative, and transformative solutions.
It is time (perhaps overdue) for the facilitator to act as provocateur—an agent whose works, ideas and classroom activities can be regarded as a challenge to accepted values or practices. Provocation doesn’t come in a single flavor. In the case of learning, provocation means challenging and changing existing perspectives and behaviors. It means respecting not only the wisdom that comes from outside the classroom, but also respecting the wisdom and insight the participants bring as fully formed adults.