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Ask a Trainer: Clients Are Asking Me to Cut Corners

Tuesday, February 11, 2020
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Dear Tim,

I work at a small firm that clients hire to design and deliver training sessions. I’m having a problem with clients who want us to cut corners with our content but still reap the benefits from it. For example, some of our clients want to spend less money and have us deliver a shorter session than what we recommend, but they don’t want us to get rid of any content, and they still want there to be a significant behavior change or business impact after the training.

I’ve tried explaining what we can realistically cover in a short timeframe along with candidly sharing the minimal impact they can expect from a 60-minute training, but I still have clients whose expectations for what we can deliver are completely out of alignment with reality.

Do you have any suggestions for how I can help clients understand why I can’t cram a full day’s worth of content into a one-hour training?


This is a tough one, and I’ve had my fair share of these types of clients who are looking for a “quick fix.” The challenge is that they’re looking for a solution that is a combination of good, cheap, and fast. The problem with this mindset is that this combination rarely exists.

When corners are cut, there’s always a tradeoff:

  • Cheap and fast means it won’t be good.
  • Fast and good means it won’t be cheap.
  • Good and cheap means it won’t be fast.

So, the challenge is helping your clients understand their priorities and the “price of entry” for what they’re asking. Be honest, communicate the realities of what is and is not possible, and let the cards fall where they may. However, a couple of strategies can help you achieve this task.

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Take the Time to Understand Their Constraints

When clients make unreasonable requests with unreasonable expectations, it’s easy to assume they’re simply trying to cut corners to save money. However, it’s important to ask a few questions and uncover if there are other reasons they’re seeking to deliver a shortened workshop. You may discover that it’s a challenge for them to bring together their staff for a full day of training or something similar.

Be Willing to Offer Alternatives

Once you’ve taken the time to understand why they’re asking what they’re asking, offer alternatives that can help them meet their goals. For example, if they can only get their team together for an hour at a time, suggest breaking the session into multiple, one-hour sessions. If you take the time and invest the effort to find a middle ground while still achieving most of their goals, they’ll be more open to your suggestions.

Show Them What They’re Asking For

Finally, rather than telling your clients why their unreasonable requests won’t work, show them why it won’t work. For instance, if your client wants you to deliver a full days’ worth of content in a one-hour webinar, whip out the course outline and invite them to help you alter and cut it down. They’ll quickly realize the impracticality of what they thought was possible.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. The reality is that there will always be clients who want to cut corners and find a quick fix. But don’t let it get you down. Keep pushing for what you know is right.

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Best of luck!

Tim


Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to askatrainer@td.org. Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.


We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

2 Comments
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Excellent content CXM and business perspective .
Thanks, Anand!
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