Monday, June 10, 2013

Understanding employer grants are good, understanding employer needs are better – Five (5) Phases of the Hourglass CNA

Federal, State and Local grants are helpful in providing employers the opportunity to receive dollars in training and developing their employees, but it can be a necessary evil.  If you understand how to navigate through the grant requirements and have the resources (administrative) to effectively support these requirements, it’s a good way to begin a client relationship.

The question about anything that is free, have both of you (provider and employer) invested the time to capture need(s) that will help an employer grow his or her business, improve employee productivity, employee morale, etc. and has the employer done the succession planning to properly use these funds to ensure a valued strategic partnership?

Education institutions, Workforce Development agencies and employers can get lulled into practices that lean more toward “spending the dollars” that are available. Competition for these dollars also becomes high and competition in the field is many. 

So what do we do, we become a government approved vendor, we offer these grants to businesses, we list our courses and assist them in the application process – securing the dollars.  As a result, educational institutional revenue trends go through peaks and valleys.  When government grant monies are high and relatively available, revenue tends to be good.  When these grants dry up, what happens with the client-partner relationship?

My experience with employers is to keep the grants as the last alternative and focus more on the Client Needs Analysis (CNA).  Below are the Five (5) Phases of the Hourglass CNA:

1.       Rapport
• Make a personal connection, establish some rapport.
• Repeat your pre-call Contracting (clarify expectations—yours and theirs).
• Brief Agenda (make reference to the VBR you used to set the meeting).
• Discuss how we do business (use your PMR and/or capabilities brochure, if appropriate).
• Ask some easy-to-answer, not-risky Needs Analysis questions to continue establishing your credibility.

2.       Needs
• Probe for a broad range of potential needs, problems, challenges, and opportunities, some of which could turn into good assignments.
• Use the Needs/Notes steno-pad note-taking system. 
• Circle those needs that may be an Assignment. It’s an Assignment if it registers well on the Prospect’s Richter Scale (it’s important enough to lose sleep over and spend money to solve) and on Our Richter Scale (it’s a problem in want of a solution we could deliver).
• Needs Phase may be complete when you have 2 or 3 promising Assignments.

3.       Assignment
• Summarize the needs you noted on your page.
• Ask if anything is missing from list.
• Ask prospect to prioritize them. Which is most important, most urgent? Focus on the most important need you have the capabilities to address. Try not to reach beyond the second biggest.
• Test the emerging “Assignment” by asking questions about ROI measurement, already-existing plans, potential spending to solve the problem, and how soon the prospect wants to see potential solutions.
• Agree on one (or more!) Assignment. This is something the prospect wants help on and wants to work shoulder-to-shoulder with you on.

4.       Analysis
• Open up the questioning again. Now your intent is not to learn about a full range of potential needs, but to get in-depth information about the Assignment or Assignments uncovered.
• Ask these types of questions (you may want to use a few of these and then draft some of your own as well). What makes this need important? What has prompted it to go to the top of your priority list? What makes it tough? What would success look like? What are some of the things you would need to see in the ideal solution? Why don’t you have a solution already?
• Floating Preliminary Ideas and Trial Balloons is a natural part of this process. You’re not necessarily trying to solve the problem right then and there; rather, you’re using these devices to learn more.

5.       Contracting
• Ask the prospect, what else should we be talking about? — Plus do you have any questions for me?
• Agree on the next steps in the process. Announce your tasks. Leave the prospect with at least one task.

Sure receiving free dollars for employer training are very helpful… However by getting involved with the employer practices and their critical needs, the employer will always value your ideas and you will be well positioned within their company as a preferred provider, grant dollars or not.

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